Broadway's Four Seasons memoir Jersey Boys is being hailed as the finest example yet of the jukebox musical, an increasingly popular from of stage entertainment in which songs by a specific recording artist are interwoven into a thin, often shamelessly contrived plot. Past examples have included tributes to Elvis, John Lennon and, of course, ABBA; here are some further jukebox musicals scheduled to hit the boards sometime in the coming year.
Bastard! Hip-hop gets its Pippin in this all-singing, all-dancing, all-probation-violating revue based on the sad and triumphant life of Ol' Dirty Bastard. The exact lyrical content may be indecipherable, but the boastful theme of "Got Your Money" is as unmistakable as the Kevlar-wrapped charm of breakout star Devon "Waita Hata" Jones (a newcomer picked to impersonate ODB after talent scouts spotted him in line at OTB.) A Tony sweep is in the bag, thanks in part to the tender duets Jones gets to perform with a Mariah Carey lookalike who's been plucked from the lunchtime lineup at the nearby Scores gentlemen's club. Lucky ticketholders will instinctively recoil as deafening rounds of blanks are fired at chorus boys dressed as traffic cops; all the while, an enormous bag of crack placed ominously upstage grows larger before everyone's eyes. Producers Fran and Barry Weissler are positioning Bastard! as a franchise-builder the first of an estimated 87 musicals themed to various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.
How to Succeed in Sis-ness Without Really Trying The Ashlee Simpson songbook is the impetus for this celebration of little sisterhood in all its passionate, deluded glory. In the story, a pudgy nymphet yearns to break free of her sibling's shadow, but her best strategy for doing so is to warble some unfortunate fourth-generation mall punk over a malfunctioning audio track that provides numerous moments of levity for the audience (and sweet vindication to the striking musicians walking a picket line out front). In keeping with the show's theme of perpetual junior-ness, performances will be held not at the Winter Garden Theater as several season previews had indicated but at the discount camera shop around the corner.
Stapp the World, I Want to Get Off The music of Creed forms the soundtrack to this high-decibel, noncommittally Christian revue, best described as what Jesus Christ Superstar might be like were everyone dressed in distressed leather and the rhythm section never to exceed 50 beats per minute. But Stapp is more than a nostalgic return to a time when America's impressionable radio listeners had their arms (and their shirts) wide open. As the between-song pantomimes and interpretive dances suggest, it's a classic cautionary tale, taking its winkingly nameless protagonist from initial success to a precipitous decline to whatever chronic batterers consider redemption. In a reversal of traditional ticket pricing, the most expensive seats will be those in the balcony, as they afford the clearest view of actors whose roles call for them to get massively loaded and lie down on the stage.
Damn Yankees In the first jukebox musical that's also a revival of a Broadway classic, ‘90s supergroup Damn Yankees reinterpret a story that once showed a team of baseball also-rans striking a pact with the devil. This time, it's Ted Nugent surrendering his soul to unwholesome forces, sailing up the river Styx in search of his first bona fide hit in years. Terrible Ted gets his wish, but in the show's tragic second act he realizes that, for the rest of his life, the world is going to flash back to the ridiculous sight of him trilling "High Enough" every time he opens his yap to preach the manliness of bowhunting. American Idol's Bo Bice plays Nugent; Faith Ford tackles the difficult role of Tommy Shaw.
All 4 Love The exquisite harmonies. The spiffy, colored suits. The melodic genius. The charisma. The backstage fights. The drugs. The madness. Relive the social phenomenon that was Color Me Badd in this stem-to-stern recreation of their 17-week heyday, performed nightly by the up-for-anything members of Rockapella. Audiences will fall in love all over again with the timeless hits that we're pretty sure were actual records and not Hardee's jingles; meanwhile, the probing script will delve into the indelible personalities of the Badd boys, including the guy who looked like Kenny G and the one who was black or maybe Hispanic. After six months, the setup will flip-flop, with the real Color Me Badd playing Rockapella in the curiously similar musicale Us Neither, Huh?
The Only Show in Town Florida tourists needn't worry about mastering arcane local customs and jargon while on their trips to New York. By ducking into the Belasco Theatre, they'll be able to sustain their immersion in the soothing, sun-baked iconography of slacker guru Jimmy Buffett. An ersatz Carousel for middle-aged marijuana users, the show advances the simplest of plots: Boy meets girl, boy and girl score key, high jinks ensue. The hits are packed end-to-end "Margaritaville," "Cheeseburger in Paradise," "I Hate Myself and I Want to Die" while the elaborate set affords the priceless thrill of watching a working cargo plane loaded with sinsemilla buds pitch and roll into the mezzanine. (Or maybe it's just you.) Rapturous crowds will do the shark dance until they bust a hip, certain that nothing on Broadway beats a night of Buffett! Includes buffet.
Mamma Mia Mania! The first-ever tribute to a jukebox musical, the downright fun Mamma Mia Mania! harkens back to the era when Lisa Stokke, Eliza Lumley, Melissa Gibson and the other household names in the original Mamma Mia! cast came together to set the London theater scene on its ear. So what if the story is threadbare, following a confused Mancunian who thinks she's witnessing the Swedish touring production of Cats? The point is to hear those irresistible ABBA classics yet again, this time without having to spring for a wedding present. Pending litigation has necessitated the temporary alteration of a lyric or two; highlights include "Son of Fernando," "The Lawyer Takes It All" and, of course, the big show-stopper, "If They're Falling for This Crap, Think What We Can Do With Air Supply."
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