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10 Musicals that Took Their Songs From Popular Music

Jersey Boys by Andrew James under CC BY 2.0

Sometimes a musical theatre song will reach such heights of popularity that you begin to hear pop covers of it. “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, “The Story of Tonight” from Hamilton, and “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz are a few that jump to mind. But sometimes it works in reverse. Musicals that took their songs from popular music, aka jukebox musicals, often have mass appeal. Jukebox musicals sometimes center around the true story of the popular artist (as in Jersey Boys) and other times revolve around an original fictitious story woven around the song selection (as in Mamma Mia). These shows are a great reminder that as musical theatre performers, we need to be well versed in a wide variety of vocal styles, everything from classical, to pop and rock, to singer-songwriter. Here are 10 jukebox musicals that took their songs from pop or rock music.

1. Jersey Boys

The wildly popular Jersey Boys got its soundtrack from music by The Four Seasons. You can’t miss that reinforced falsetto!

2. Beautiful

Beautiful is the Carole King musical. It uses the songs and singer-songwriter vocal stylings of the great Carole King.

3. American Idiot

More in the pop-punk vein, American Idiot is based on the Green Day American Idiot album, where you’ll recognize such unforgettable songs as “Wake Me Up When September Ends” and of course the title song.

4. Movin’ Out

Billy Joel music and Twyla Tharp choreography is a pretty unbeatable combo.

5. We Will Rock You

Who doesn’t love Queen?

6. Mamma Mia

One of the best known jukebox musicals because of the long-running Broadway show and the popular Meryl Streep movie, Mamma Mia is based on the catchy music of ABBA.

7. Million Dollar Quartet

This is a 4-for-1. Million Dollar Quartet draws from the immortal jam session involving Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins.

8. Xanadu

Roller skating, music by Electric Light Orchestra…. What more can you ask of a musical?

9. Rock of Ages

We go full-on 80’s rock (glam metal in particular) with this fun one, featuring music by Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, and others.

10. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert uses a wide variety of pop songs for its score, everything from Cyndi Lauper to Madonna.

What are some of your favorite jukebox musicals? Let us know in the comments section below. We love hearing from you!

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