What is the future of Jukebox musicals?
The difference between a Jukebox musical and a normal musical is that Jukebox musicals use songs that are already known and usually popular. Where as a normal musical will only have original songs that have been written for that musical. The first jukebox musical was an Opera named ‘The Beggar’s Opera” and was first performed on January 29th 1728. It was a very uncertain production, because at the time only very wealthy upper class people went to go and see opera’s; the show is about a beggar as well which was very strange for an Opera, because people watched them to escape the harshness of reality and the massive divide between the classes. However this show was very popular considering the topic and ran for 62 performances which is a large amount, considering the average that most run currently is 25 performances. It was a Jukebox musical because even though it was written by John Gay, he used music by Benjamin Britten. When I first discovered this was the first ever jukebox musical I did find it ironic, because it’s technically not a musical as is an opera.
I found an article that stated what they thought were the positives and negatives of a jukebox musical. The author Ken spoke about how there are more being written compared to the amount of normal musicals partly because jukebox musicals are easier to write. You already have the music and if you choose a specific artist then you have really narrowed down the options of songs and you really know what you’re working with. Also you then just need to write a story line to fit the music in, if you chose to base the musical on the musician then it’s a musical about their life story with their songs added in. In my opinion I think that’s a much easier job in some ways compared to writing a brand new musical from scratch, because you have all the material ready to use, although I do know that you may need to change some lyrics for it to make more sense I know that “We Will Rock You” did that with many of their songs. That then could be a small challenge but again not seriously difficult.
As much as I love jukebox musicals and musicals in general I needed to understand why some people didn’t like them as much. The blog critics magazine article was about why we don’t need jukebox musicals in theatres. In some ways I can understand, the author was angry, because they thought that they were taking up space in theatres instead of having venues that were free to host original shows. Of course I didn’t completely agree with the factor that jukeboxes were not original, yes their songs are not new but everything else about them is. Also in some musicals they change the lyrics to fit the storyline more, so technically they are also original, because the audience won’t even know it. They also talk about the reason for their occasional unpopularity as this may be because the songs were not originally written for a musical, I also think that the musician at the time and even a few years after writing the songs didn’t expect them to end up in a musical either. So they may seem out of place at times, especially if the storyline may be basic and not well written. At the end of the article the author Ken says a statement which I just can’t agree with, he says “I’m afraid I don’t care too much for these jukebox musicals. I regard them in the same way as revivals. They occupy theatres that should be showcasing new works. Without a healthy infusion of new musicals, in the long run, musical theatre will slip further into decline.”(Ken, 12 November 2005) I think he feels this way about musicals because as you can see the article was written many years ago and of course there were not as many successful jukebox musicals at the time. For example there was Elvis Presley’s Jukebox “All shook up” which did not become very popular or successful, as well as “Good Vibrations” which only ran for 94 performances and even less was the jukebox musical was “The Look Of Love” which ran for 49 performances; even “We Will Rock You” didn’t start so well. They were awful compared to Mamma Mia’s 5758 performances in 2001 . Therefore other than Mamma Mia there were a lot of rubbish jukebox musicals and so the only knowledge he had at the time was that there were more rubbish ones being produced and performed than there were successful musicals. However if you look now at Jukebox musicals and how they’re nearly just as popular as normal musicals maybe even more so, he might have a different opinion. If you look at “Beautiful”, “Jersey Boys” and also “We Will Rock You” (after it picked up more sale prices) There are so many popular and successful jukebox musicals that are bringing in money, which also means more funding for the arts and shows. If he were to write another article now I feel his view and judgement may be a little different as times have changed since 2005.
I have written a survey to see what opinions people have on jukebox musicals. Whether they like them or to even see if they know what they are. I also wanted to try and find out whether people thought they might be a waste of space in theatres right now and to know if some of the public wanted them gone. I managed to get 11 answered surveys, which is not much and does not show an averaged opinion of England or even Suffolk. However these are results mainly from people who are interested in theatre, as they are aware of what a jukebox musical is and the difference between a normal and a jukebox musical. The age range of the respondents does vary slightly, but the majority of the responses came from teens and young adults. Although I do have a small amount form adults of different ages, is it clear to me as to who the adult answers are compared to the younger audience. For example I had a question that asked if they could name a jukebox musical. Many of the answers in fact nearly all of them said Mamma Mia. This could be because many of the responses are from young people and therefore there is a lack of knowledge on jukebox musicals. Or perhaps it’s because Mamma Mia is deemed to be a very popular show and has been running for a long time in theatre times.
I had another question that asked, out of which style of musical do people prefer? Again nearly every single answer replied both. It would have been helpful if they gave a reason as well like I had asked as very few people did, however this has told me that the people I have asked clearly don’t have a preference and like both a jukebox and normal musical, possibly because they are similar as they are both still musicals.
Lastly the main thing that stood out to me out of the answers from my survey is that were no answers that stated jukeboxes negatively. I had a question, which stated “ Do you think we need them in the performance industry? Why?” I did get a variety of comments. Some people talked about how they’re just as good as musicals except you will know the songs before you go. I also got answers mentioning how jukebox musicals are definitely not a waste of space, and they’re still bringing money in and supporting the arts. Therefore people shouldn’t have such an issue with them. However everyone likes to share their views and act like a critic, but even critics get it wrong sometimes. After all Les Miserables was completely slammed by critics and yet it’s still very well known, it has a film and is still running in theatres today.
I have discovered a lot throughout my research. I couldn’t believe how many articles I found on peoples opinions on jukebox musicals. However to make my survey more relevant to the majority of peoples views I could have had more responses definitely. It would have been difficult even if I shared the link to more places, because unless someone visits the theatre, or was interested in musicals; they may not have even known what a jukebox musicals was. Therefore not helping me in my research, as they may give me inaccurate answers that wouldn’t benefit me. Although saying that it would have shown that maybe there are a lot of people who don’t go to the theatre or have no understanding of it. I did not find many articles or answers portraying jukebox musicals in a negative light, in fact it was quite difficult find many at all. This factor however has helped partially in my research, because if they were deemed unpopular by a wide variety of people, then there would be more written about it. For example a lot of the public in many countries really hate Donald Trump and you don’t stop hearing about it, I don’t think you can go one day without hearing about him on the news or in a newspaper. After all the public love moaning about things they don’t like.
I think the future of the jukebox musicals are in safe hands. I believe that of course some may still get bad reviews because they are poorly written and produced, but it’s the same for any other type of musical. I don’t believe they will become more popular, but simply run side-by-side as they have done and currently do. As long as there are musicians and pop stars there will always be jukebox musicals. Then people who despise them can stop being so pedantic about them, because the differences between a jukebox musical and a normal one are so small compared to the similarities that it’s not worth the time or effort.
- Justin Cash(2016), Jukebox Musical, http://www.theatrelinks.com/jukebox-musical (02/01/17)
- Hal Gladfelder(2013), The First Jukebox Musical, http://blog.oup.com/2013/05/the-beggars-opera-first-jukebox-musical/ (17/01/17)
- Kevin Michael Jones, Musical Theatre Resources, https://musicaltheatreresources.com/2015/11/17/confirmed-broadway-jukebox-musicals-are-plentiful-but-not-always-profitable/ (04/01/17)
- Ken(2005) Jukebox Musicals, http://blogcritics.org/jukebox-musicals/ (02/01/17)
- Sophia Lerigo(2017), Do you think Jukebox musicals are just as successful as normal musicals?, https://www.surveymonkey.com/home/ (15/01/17)