The Definition of a Jukebox Musical

Wikipedia is wrong.

According to everyone’s favorite online encyclopedia, “A jukebox musical is a stage or film musical that uses previously released popular songs as its musical score.”

I disagree.  And I’d bet another $100 that Hal Prince would too.  Would you want to tell him that LoveMusik was a jukebox musical?

Here’s my definition:

“A jukebox musical is an original stage musical not based on a film that uses previously released popular songs that have no direct relation to the story as its musical score.”

Ok, so I’m no Webster’s.  Let me explain with examples.

Mamma Mia = Jukebox Musical (An original story about a girl searching for her father using Abba music)

All Shook Up = Jukebox Musical (Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night using Elvis tunes)

Jersey Boys = NOT a Jukebox Musical (Four Seasons music telling the Four Seasons story)

See what I mean?  Jersey Boys just doesn’t feel like a Jukebox musical.

Times They Are a Changin’?  Yes.  Movin’ Out?  Yes.  Good Vibrations?  Put another dime in the jukebox, baby.

Lennon?  No.

Lennon is dependent upon that music.  It couldn’t be done with The Carpenters catalog.  Mamma Mia (with a different title), on the other hand, could have been attempted with Lawrence Welk music.  Sure, it would have sucked, but that’s not the point.  Same thing with LoveMusik.  These are Bio Musicals, not jukebox musicals.

Xanadu, Saturday Night Fever . . . not Jukebox musicals.  They are musical adaptations of movies that already had the music integrated.

Here’s what’s crazy . . . both Wiki’s definition and my definition make shows like Crazy For You and Forever Plaid, jukebox musicals.

Maybe we should add something to the definition that states it only applies to shows after 2001 (the year when Mamma Mia hit Broadway).

Any other definitions out there?

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  • Kevin McGowan says:

    Crazy for You is technically a re-working of Girl Crazy with a revised book and the addition of new songs. A pretty radical re-working of it, but a re-working, nonetheless.
    By your definition, Movin’ Out isn’t quite a jukebox musical, since many of the characters are pulled from Billy Joel’s songs (the no direct relation clause in your definition). I think one of the hallmarks of well-thought jukebox musicals is the inspiration of characters from the songs.
    I’d prefer calling a jukebox musical “An original stage musical (not based on a movie, not a revue) that uses pre-existing songs as its musical score, and whose plot has no relation to the original creators of the score.”
    The non-revue clause is a good one to add, since musical revues have been around for over a century. Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Smokey Joe’s Cafe weren’t jukebox musicals, just revues.

  • Blonde Courier says:

    I don’t know why there is so much fuss about jukebox musicals. I’ve seen some that are good and some that are bad. I’m willing to bet that the ratio of good or successful jukebox musicals to bad ones is about the same as the ratio of good to bad musicals in general. Someone must be able to look at those stats.

  • Blake says:

    Songs for a New World?

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  • whole of the UK but of course most of our work is in London .

  • Joy Butler says:

    I am so thankful for what you have shared about its definition. My mom used to sing using a jukebox and her favorite song is Mama Mia. I may not be able to add another definition here, but all I can say is that it is a form or means of music which we can use to express our feelings and emotions.

  • Fred Landau says:

    “Mamma Mia (with a different title), on the other hand, could have been attempted with Lawrence Welk music. Sure, it would have sucked, but that’s not the point.”

    Just tried linking your definition under the Smokey Joe’s Cafe review in the Times comments. But the Lawrence Welk three-dads show could work great as AN’ A ONE, AN’ A TWO, AN’ A THREE.

    (Oddly, the very catchy title credit song of BUONA SERA MRS. CAMPBELL as sung by Jimmy Roselli would be a perfect “Lawrence Welk Show” song, sung of course by the Welk show’s Lennon Sisters.)

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