Are there too many “jukebox” musicals these days?

by Ben MacDonald

As local musical fans have enjoyed the show based on the life of Buddy Holly at the King’s Theatre in Glasgow this week, the argument for there being too many “jukebox musicals” continues.

The latest to open on Broadway, the Alanis Morissette-inspired Jagged Little Pill, has had critics turn their heads as the show doesn’t rely on the songs to entertain audiences, but also has a good story that keeps theatre goers enthralled.

With productions dedicated to the works of iconic acts like The Kinks, Gloria Estefan and Meat Loaf all touring the country over the next 12 months, both theatre fans and actors have differing views on the matter.

AJ Jenks, who plays the lead role in Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, thinks that there may be too many in circulation. Jenks said “There’s a lot. I’m getting a bit sick of it. A jukebox musical tends to tell the story through its songs whereas Buddy tells the story of the songs and how they were made.”

“I would like to see more plays come to the West End. There are so many shows on tour which are either musicals or jukebox musicals, but there are no plays which makes me a bit sad. It’s how it works, musical theatre always changes. It has its own fashion.”

Lauren Humphreys runs the Glasgow Theatre Blog website and feels that they are essential for the trade. She says “There’s undoubtedly a place for jukebox musicals, and I love a few myself. They put bums on seats, and not necessarily your regular theatre-going audience’s bums on seats as well as bringing in much-needed revenue. Producers are reluctant to take a chance on anything new. A proven money-spinner will always win over a risky subject matter or an unknown writer.”

With shows like Hamilton and Waitress wowing audiences on London’s West End, it does seem like a gap has formed for new productions to impress theatre goers. As legendary musicians continue to unveil shows featuring their iconic works however, the jukebox musical looks set to stay.

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