Ever since I did batch of songs as part of this adventure that were Disney themed, I had pondered doing another theme. Finally, it came to me. It's easy to dismiss 'jukebox musicals' -- that is, musicals that utilize pre-existing music by one or more artists. They're often seen as lazy and/or uncreative, and I when I had featured a few before now (like my beloved American Idiot), I wondered if those following along with me thought I wasn't using 'legitimate' songs. Ultimately, though I decided it was a good idea to include these shows.
Because no matter how good a song might sound on the radio, it will be different on stage. Adapting a song for Broadway can include creating new orchestrations, casting singers different than the original artist, and morphing a stand-alone number into one that serves a plot. Not every jukebox musical featured in this selection will have been a hit, but they are (to me) a good representation of decidedly non-theater songs that have made it to the stage. I hope they give you a new perspective on some music you might know from the radio.
151. Medley: 'Get Ready'/'Dancing in the Street'/'I Want You Back'/'The Love You
Save' from Motown (Company) Tony Awards Performance (2013)
This medley from the 2013 Tony Awards does a great job of showing you what it was like to see Motown, the jukebox musical centered on the creation and development of the famous record label of the same name. It was a celebration of phenomenally catchy music by incredibly talented artists and the performers challenging these figures from music history truly embodied them to where you felt like you were watching the original people. The show contained a dizzying number of songs from the label's catalog so a lot of them don't get featured in their full form (see my comments on Rock of Ages below to find out how I feel about that trend) but the music and energy are infectious and you won't regret taking the time to watch this performance. Watch here.
152. 'Believe' from The Cher Show (Stephanie J. Block as Star, Teal Wicks as Lady,
and Michaela Diamond as Babe, Company) Tony Awards Performance (2019)
Stephanie J. Block is a powerhouse musical theater performer and I was so happy for her when she finally won a Tony Award, which happened for her turn in The Cher Show. I wasn't able to see the production, but I have certainly listened to it, and her interpretation of the legendary singer was fabulous. As she did with Liza in The Boy from Oz (which I featured earlier in this series), Block slays depicting a famous performer without making it a cartoon or mockery. I chose this clip entirely because 'Believe' is one of my favorite Cher songs. Watch here.
153. 'Pleasant Valley Sunday' from Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Sara King as
Marilyn Wald, Jake Epstein as Gerry Goffin, Ensemble) Original Broadway Cast (2014-2019)
I'm a die-hard Monkees fan, and have been since I was little, but I always knew they didn't write the fabulous 'Pleasant Valley Sunday' and I was thrilled that it was included in Beautiful. It was great not only to see a dramatization of the song's creation but also to hear a woman sing it--in fact, I distinctly remember thinking, 'this is what I've always wanted to do, sing Monkees songs, and now I know what it could sound like in a woman's voice.' Listen here.
154. 'I've Been Everywhere' from Ring of Fire (Company)
Original Broadway Cast (2006)
Ring of Fire took the music of Johnny Cash and gave it to a talented ensemble that had no character names. The core of it was performed by three pairs (one man and one woman each) depicting life at three stages: youth, mid-life, and old age. However, at the start of Act II is the number I remember most vividly. The full cast (including the super fabulous Randy Redd, who I would later have as a teacher) joined together for 'I've Been Everywhere,' playing guitars and sharing the spotlight to showcase what an ensemble the production really was. Although I couldn't find an official video of it, you can at least listen here.
155. 'Jailhouse Rock' from All Shook Up (Cheyenne Jackson as Chad, Prisoners)
Original Broadway Cast (2005)
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know I love Cheyenne Jackson. He's featured in several of my selections because of the appreciation I've developed for him. However, I have a confession, I did not love All Shook Up. I thought everyone sounded great, but the show ultimately left me cold. In fact, my biggest memory of it is the feeling of the balcony shaking from the thunderous applause on opening night, not even the show itself. That said, my second biggest memory is enjoying Cheyenne and the ensemble's performance of 'Jailhouse Rock', so of course, that's what I've chosen. I hope you find the recording of this number as fun as I did. Listen here.
156. 'Fun, Fun, Fun'/'Little Honda'/'Help Me, Rhonda'/'Surfin' USA' from Good
Vibrations (Tituss Burgess as Eddie, David Larsen as Bobby, Brandon Wardell as Dave, Ensemble) The View (2005)
I don't think anyone loved Good Vibrations as much as my father. He could have watched this musical based on the music of the Beach Boys every day and been perfectly happy with his life. However, the rest of the theater-going world didn't seem to share his delight. The show ran just under 100 performances before closing without a cast recording. I remember it being a bit on the cheesy side, but also enjoying the wonderful harmonies and simple fun of it all, so I was excited to find this medley from when the cast performed on The View. While my father loved it because of it bringing some of his favorite music to the stage, for me the biggest highlight was that it introduced me to the fabulous voice of Tituss Burgess, who features on this list multiple times as a result of the appreciation of his sound that I developed from this show. Watch here.
157. 'Reach' from On Your Feet! (Company)
Original Broadway Cast (2015-2017)
In 1996, Gloria Estefan sang 'Reach' at the Atlanta Olympics and I became obsessed with the song. To this day, whenever I listen to it I am transported to that time. When the musical based on her life came to Broadway it was the one song that I hoped would be included. In the show, though, the Gloria character didn't sing it. It was reimagined as a company solo performed at the time when Gloria was recovering from severe health problems. It was sentimental in a wholly different way from how I was used to, but I appreciated it, and so I chose it. Listen here.
158. 'See You Later, Alligator' from Million Dollar Quartet (Levi Kreis as Jerry Lee
Lewis) Original Broadway Cast (2010-2011)
Million Dollar Quartet is about a specific night in music history when Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded together at Sun Studios. It's a dramatization of course, but the production made the audience feel like a fly on the wall during that 1956 session with great impact. Although I felt like the whole cast was great, I could not take my eyes off of Levi Kreis. He was pure energy and so although I could've used a group number, I needed to feature Levi, because his performance is the one that has stuck with me the most. Listen here.
159. 'Heaven'/'More Than Words'/'To Be With You' from Rock of Ages (Amy Spanger
as Sherie, Constantine Maroulis as Drew, Savannah Wise, Ensemble) Original Broadway Cast (2009-2015)
One of my biggest peeves with jukebox musicals is when they give you a list of awesome songs that are included in the show and then each one is only a snippet, as was the case with much of Rock of Ages. As the increasingly inebriated audience around me cheered their faces off, I sulked. So, you get this medley because I was stoked to hear 'To Be With You' and then this was all I got of it. Listen here.
160. 'Walk Like a Man' from Jersey Boys (John Lloyd Young as Frankie Valli, J. Robert
Spencer as Nick Massi, Daniel Reichard as Bob Gaudio, Christian Hoff as Tommy DeVito)
Original Broadway Cast (2005-2017)
My primary memory from when I saw Jersey Boys early in its run was being shocked by the reaction of the audience. Never before had I seen people scream and stand up and dance at a Broadway musical as if it was a true concert. I even recall thinking, 'do these people realize these actors aren't the real Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons?' It was surreal, and a tribute to the performers that they made audience members feel so thoroughly like they were seeing the real thing. I chose 'Walk Like a Man' to represent this show because it has my favorite falsetto musical line of all their music. Listen here.
161. Medley: 'Ain't Too Proud to Beg' / 'Just My Imagination (Running Away with
Me)' / 'I Can't Get Next to You' from Ain't Too Proud (Derrick Baskin, James Harkness, Jawan M. Jackson, Jeremy Pope, and Ephraim Sykes as The Temptations, Company)
Tony Awards Performance (2019)
Thinking of Jersey Boys immediately led me to thinking about Ain't Too Proud. I very much wanted to see this show about The Temptations but unfortunately was never able to. However, I loved their Tony Awards performance (the voices! the choreography!) so I chose that so you can see it, too. Watch here.
162. 'Water No Get Enemy' from Fela! (Sahr Ngaujah as Fela, Saycon Sengbloh as
Original Broadway Cast (2009-2011)
Fela! explores the life and music of Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, whose name I admit was not familiar to me before this production. When I attended, although I didn't know enough to consider the veracity of the story it depicted, I was completely impressed by the strength of the tone and enveloping nature of the production. It blended Fela's musical life and the political climate of Nigeria in the 1970s, making the show feel like both a concert and a partial biopic. 'Water No Get Enemy' is a great example of what it felt like to watch the production and I am glad it has an official video. Watch here.
163. 'Material Girl' from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Nick Adams as Felicia, The
Original Broadway Cast (2011-2012)
It took several years for the stage production of the film Priscilla, Queen of the Desert to make it to New York after it debuted in Australia, but when it did many of my friends were ready. They either loved the original movie or what they had heard about the stage production (which used a wide array of pop music). It didn't resonate with me like it did with them (and I found the much-discussed 'Pop Muzik' scene a little gross), but I am always up for some 'Material Girl,' so you for this entry you get Nick Adams performing it. Listen here.
164. 'Duke of Earl' from Baby It's You (Geno Henderson as Gene Chandler, Christina
Sajous as Shirley, Erica Ash as Micki, Kyra Da Costa as Beverly, and Crystal Starr Knighton as Doris)
Original Broadway Cast (2011)
At the center of Baby It's You is the story of Florence Greenberg, her record label (Scepter), and the phenomenal girl group The Shirelles. However, it also featured other popular artists and songs from the 1960s, and I have always had a serious weakness for the song 'Duke of Earl.' I thought Geno Henderson did a hell of a job as Gene Chandler singing this signature number and could not help but pick it as the song to represent this show. Also, I will not lie: I listened to it four times in a row before I posted it, that's how much I enjoy it. Listen here.
165. 'Murder in the City' from Swept Away (Stark Sands and Adrian Blake Enscoe)
World Premiere Preview (2021)
I was so excited when I learned that Stark Sands (one of my absolute favorites) was going to be part of a new musical featuring the music of the Avett Brothers and based on a historical event (the 19th-century sinking of a whaling shop). It felt like it was made for me, only first COVID postponed it and then when it finally did happen, I wasn't feeling safe enough to travel across the country to California to see it. I was incredibly disappointed. When the production released this video of Stark and his castmate Adrian Blake Enscoe singing 'Murder in the City' from the show, my desire to see it grew as did my sadness that I wouldn't get to. I had to include it here because I appreciate it so much and still hope that one day this cast will do the show on the east coast. Watch here.