Between the success of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and shows featuring the catalogues of Carole King, Donna Summer and the Go-Go’s lighting up Broadway (with The Cher Show soon to join them), it’s safe to say: jukebox musicals are here to stay. Artists ranging from Buddy Holly to Tupac Shakur to Patsy Cline have all been memorialized in shows.
The unexpected success of the Mamma Mia sequel is sure to inspire more stabs at the genre. Not only were the film and its soundtrack commercial hits, but ABBA’s Gold — Greatest Hits album re-entered the Billboard 200, hitting a new peak of No. 25.
With jukebox musicals back in the spotlight, we asked seven Billboard staffers to dream up their own Broadway-ready show. Check out their imaginative pitches below.
If there’s any cult classic overdue for a Broadway-sized retelling, it’s the 2003 fact-based club kid drama Party Monster. And who better to soundtrack it than Mother Monster herself?
Based on legendary club kid James St. James’ must-read memoir Disco Bloodbath, the film recounts the rise and fall of the infamous New York City party promoter Michael Alig. Like the movie, Party Monster: The Musical would open with St. James introducing small-town outcast Alig to the “rules of fabulous” -- set to a mashup of any combination of deep cuts like “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich,” “Manicure,” “Teeth” or “Fashion.” After Alig lands a gig at The Limelight (“Marry The Night”), he falls in love with his club scene notoriety (“Applause”), ventures on a cross-country trip to recruit a band of misfits, including Freeze, Angel and Gitsie (“Born This Way”) while he descends further into drug abuse (“Edge of Glory”), eventually spiraling out of control (“Bad Romance”).
The show culminates in a gruesome murder scene (“Monster”), as Alig and Freeze attack drug-dealing Angel (is “Angel Down” too on the nose?). Finally, we cut to Alig reflecting from prison (“Perfect Illusion”), while St. James delivers a rousing “Speechless.” At curtain, the cast bops around to “Just Dance,” as it would be criminal not to include Gaga’s breakout hit. Between the NYC setting, the over-the-top costuming and its true crime originals, this show has the potential to capture headlines the same way its source material did. -- PATRICK CROWLEY
The story follows a late-20s man named Bob, explaining how he met the love of his life, Mary. As a kid, Bob was secretly in love with his best friend Lucy. Unfortunately, she put Bob firmly in the friendzone for years, but on the night of their junior prom, she sees him in a different light. ("FutureSex/LoveSounds.") Bob then narrates their romance ("LoveStoned/I Think She Knows") and time together ("Summer Love") that ends when she cheats on him. Lucy begs for him back ("Cry Me a River") but he refuses. However, his devastation over her betrayal ("Drink You Away") leads to his reckless behavior with women ("Pusher Love Girl") and he becomes set in his womanizing ways through college. ("Sexy Ladies.")
After one particularly hazy night with a woman whose name he can't remember, he encounters her roommate Mary on his walk of shame. It's love at first sight for Bob ("That Girl"), but Mary, despite her attraction, knows of Bob's reputation and tells him she just wants to be friends. When Bob confesses to Mary ("Amnesia"), about the true reason behind his act, she relents. And they fall madly in love. ("Strawberry Bubblegum"). They move to the country ("Living Off the Land") and he becomes a man of the woods ("Man of the Woods"). Bob and Mary wed ("Mirrors") and walk off into the sunset together. ("Can't Stop the Feeling.") -- DENISE WARNER
Here's the three things you most want from an artist's catalog when it comes to deciding jukebox musical-worthiness:
1. More hits than you realize
2. Dramatic songs that describe specific situations
3. Enough variety that it doesn't feel like you're singing along to the same song for two hours.
When it comes to the discography of one Usher Raymond IV, that's check, check, and double-check. Almost 20 years of beloved hits, the majority of which are already more theatrical than most showtunes: Imagine the torrid tale of young romance that could be set to the likes of "You Make Me Wanna," "U Got It Bad," "My "DJ Got Us Falling in Love," "My Boo" and "Same Girl"? (OK, maybe not "Same Girl.") You could a couple extremely uncomfortable love scenes set to "Lil Freak" and "Love in This Club" (and then a reprise set to Pt. II)! You could have a divorce scene set to "Papers," one of maybe four pop songs in history actually written about the subject of divorce! You could have a climax that's literally called "Climax"!
Confessions! The Musical -- produced by Lil Jon and Jermaine Dupri, directed by Director X, choreographed by Ciara. Let it burn, baby. -- ANDREW UNTERBERGER
Carly Rae Jepsen
Our heroine is an elementary school teacher named Emotion: A hopeless romantic who, when she’s not helping her students break down new vocabulary words into syl•la•bles, dreams of finding Mr. Right (“Cut to the Feeling”). When her coworkers tease her for being too sweet and innocent to put herself out there in bars or on the apps, Emotion decides to prove them wrong by calling up her BFFs and hitting the club ("I Didn't Just come Here to Dance"), where she has a meet-cute with bartender ("Call Me Maybe") and soon finds herself falling ("I Really Like You").
Crushing hard, Emotion gets a little ahead of herself ("Gimmie Love") and drives to the bartender's house in the middle of the night, where she discovers she's the other woman ("Your Type"). Emotion is devastated (“Tonight I’m Getting Over You”/“Boy Problems”), but she refuses to hear out the bartender when he stops by to explain ("I Know You Have a Girlfriend"), even though staying away is a battle for her too ("When I Needed You"). One day, she arrives at work and finds her classroom covered in tiny little bows ("Tiny Little Bows," yes, the other kind of bows) -- it's the bartender making a grand gesture, which also involves a PowerPoint presentation about how, in a big misunderstanding, she's not actually the other woman and thinks she's all that ("All That"). Emotion realizes she's found true love, and the two run away happily ever after ("Run Away With Me"). -- NOLAN FEENEY
Throughout her record-breaking career, Beyoncé has not only shown that she is the creator of some of the most iconic music of the last decade, but that she is a storyteller. Every element needed for a successful Broadway score are inherent to the Houston-born singer’s iconic catalogue -- show-stopping numbers (a la “End of Time,” “Love on Top,” etc.), beautiful love ballads (“1 + 1,” “Halo,” “XO”), moments of heartbreak (almost anything off Lemonade) and dance-ready big-budget songs (“Single Ladies,” “Get Me Bodied,” etc.)
The plot is basically already there -- even if you don’t want to tell the already fascinating story of the artist herself, there is so much material ready for the picking about a “Grown Woman” quickly rising her way through the throes of modern patriarchy while handling the pressures of a rocky relationship. The musical would come from a strong, black female point of view, have a grade-A score and be yet another achievement in Queen Bey’s already iconic career. -- STEPHEN DAW
The Notorious B.I.G.
Rap music has such a rich history of storytelling that it’s already a grave oversight that Broadway and beyond haven’t honored some of the genre’s finest as inspiration for a jukebox musical. Among the pantheon of foundational raconteurs like Slick Rick and Nas stands Notorious B.I.G., whose music and narratives were consistently vivid across solo releases, guest verses and the sole group album he had with Junior M.A.F.I.A. The musical his life and rhymes could inspire? Perhaps something rooted in the stories he weaved from his personal life into his music, from selling drugs as a teen outside of his mother’s watchful purview and his pronounced womanizing to his ascent to stardom and the paranoia that came with it. His story may have come to a tragic end, but it's one that still feels full of life with every listen. -- STEVEN J. HOROWITZ
Our lead, a confident young IKEA employee named Robyn Konichiwa (opening number "Cobrastyle"), reveals her attraction ("Be Mine!") to one of her coworkers, urging him to break up with his significant other ("Call Your Girlfriend") while telling off her boss who warns her to back off ("Don't Fucking Tell Me What to Do"). The two get together ("Love Is Free") but it's a short-lived victory – the lingonberry-slinging kitchen manager catches his eye ("Call Your Girlfriend [Reprise]") and convinces him to dump Robyn.
After falling into despair ("Missing U") and watching her ex's newfound happiness ("Dancing On My Own"), Robyn Konichiwa swears off romance ("Love Kills") but finds herself wooed by the stockboy ("Show Me Love") and decides to give love another go ("Indestructible"/"Do It Again"). Via an engagement ring hidden in a meatball, the stockboy proposes; after Robyn agrees to marry him, he reveals he's secretly the heir of IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad. Closing the show, the two celebrate their wealth, nuptials and passion for ready-to-assemble furniture ("Honey"). -- JOE LYNCH