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Addison's WaterTower Theatre has just opened its production of the jukebox musical Smokey Joe's Café, celebrating the many rock and roll hits of composing team Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The show was one of the first big Broadway jukebox revues to be a hit with audiences even though there's no script, no dialogue, no storyline to tie the tunes together the way Mamma Mia! does with all the ABBA songs. The Smokey cast just sings: "Jailhouse Rock," "Hound Dog," "I (Who Have Nothing)," "Spanish Harlem" and 35 more.
Which got us thinking: Which composers, performers and musical genres have not yet been exploited in a jukebox musical? These five came to mind. Get on it, somebody-who-produces-shows.
The Monkees Hey, hey, it's a great idea: A show chronicling the creation of the Fake Fab Four and how they became TV and pop music phenoms.
Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork were the Biebers of the late 1960s, starring in a weekly sitcom on NBC and selling millions of singles and albums. They also did a sold-out national tour that included Dallas. (I was there, I screamed like mad and they were dreamy.) Who was their opening act on that tour? Jimi Hendrix, that's who.
Think of the great moment of psychedelic guitar-playing that would provide in the musical. The score could be stacked with all those bouncy Boyce and Hart songs ("Last Train to Clarksville" and "I'm Not Your Steppin' Stone") and some by Neil Diamond ("I'm a Believer," among others). The nostalgia factor is huge here and three of the four Monkees are still alive to either support or decry it. (Davy Jones died of a heart attack earlier this year.)
Prince The little man from Minneapolis should write his own jukebox show, find a young Prince lookalike to play him and then produce the hell out of it. Get the Cirque du Soleil wizards who designed and choreographed The Beatles Love spectacular in Vegas to make it move and give it a groovy vibe. Two hours of Purple Rain would be guaranteed box office green.
Joni Mitchell There are all sorts of good book possibilities in a show about Joni and her music. She's had a fascinating life -- overcoming polio as a child, giving up a daughter for adoption and then finding her later (shades of Mamma Mia! there), attempting suicide, and having tempestuous relationships with some of popular music's biggest studs, including Leonard Cohen, James Taylor and Jackson Browne. The bonus is the music, all those gorgeous folk-jazz melodies like "Car on a Hill," "Blue," "California," "Big Yellow Taxi" and so many more.
Selena The bio-pic of Corpus Christi's "Queen of Tejano" Selena Quintanilla Perez introduced Jennifer Lopez in what turned out to be a star-making role as the beloved Grammy-winning singer. Why not a Broadway musical about Selena? The music's good -- Tejano with pop gloss -- and a stage musical could even introduce songs that Selena was to have recorded and didn't get to (she was murdered by the head of her fan club in 1995). Or new songs in the Tejano genre. A jukebox-bio-show about her could also serve another purpose in appealing to Latinos, an underserved segment of the musical theater audience. Sadly, the tear-jerking ending writes itself. This is musical theater gold waiting to be mined.
Weird Al Yankovic Don't scoff. It's got to be better than the crummy Ring of Fire musical about Johnny Cash (maybe the worst jukebox show ever devised, just ahead of Disney On the Record). And except for Jersey Boys, few jukebox shows contain any comedy.
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