Seven jukebox musicals in limbo
While "Jersey Boys," "Rock of Ages" and "Mamma Mia" continue to do business around the world, theater producers have largely put the brakes on jukebox musicals, effectively shunting them into theater limbo.
Looking to buck that trend is the Randy Newman musical "Harps and Angels," which opens Sunday (11/21) at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. It marks the fourth musical to feature Newman songs. But not one of the others -- a revue, a bio-tuner and his "Faust" -- have made it beyond the regional stage, where Broadway-bound musicals are often birthed.
Newman is far from the only superstar name to meet rejection from Broadway. After receiving poor to mixed reviews and mediocre box office results for shows featuring the music of Bob Dylan, John Lennon, the Beach Boys and Elvis Presley, theatre producers are now a bit gun shy of rock 'n' roll musicals. That has resulted in several shows featuring rock 'n' roll classics being placed on the back burner.
Every once in awhile, a show based on popular music will break through, like the Ray Charles story being told in "Unchain My Heart," which started at the Pasadena Playhouse and is slated to open in the spring at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway.
Still in development are an untitled Woodstock musical and two Broadway shows based on the music-heavy films "Once" and "Pure Country." Time will tell if they make it to the Great White Way.
In the meantime, here is our list of seven jukebox musicals trapped in theatrical limbo. At one point, they all appeared to have Broadway potential; all but one of them have since disappeared.
7. The Shirelles. "Baby, It's You."
Mostly the biography of Scepter Records founder Florence Greenberg -- she discovered the Shirelles and created a label on which to record them -- the musical got its start at the Coast Playhouse in West Hollywood, CA, and was then staged at the Pasadena Playhouse in the fall of 2009. Producers are eyeing a winter 2011 opening on Broadway, but nothing is set in stone. The musical also features songs made famous by the Isley Brothers and Dionne Warwick, as well as a rendition of "Louie, Louie."
6. The Doors. "Celebration of the Lizard."
It ran for two months in early summer 2000 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, but has not been heard from since. The show featured more than 40 Doors songs, but never found a second home.
5. The Kinks. "Come Dancing" and an untitled work.
"Come Dancing," which features the title track, two other Kinks tunes and about 20 new Ray Davies compositions, was mounted at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in London in 2008. Davies played the narrator in a story set in the late 1950s. Less than two years after its short life, Davies said he was writing another musical, this one with Kinks songs. No further details have come out.
4. Hall & Oates. Untitled work.
A staged reading of an untitled Daryl Hall and John Oates musical with 22 of the duo's songs was presented in New York City in June 2009. Bob Garrett and Christian Taylor wrote the book for the musical. Besides the hits, the musical included "Forever for You," "Head Above Water" and "Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid." There has been no news since then.
3. "That Thing You Do."
The story of the fictional band the Wonders was being adapted for the stage in 2001 by Tom Hanks' Playtone, the company that produced the 1996 film. Judging by the reception of the "High Fidelity" musical -- it only lasted for 14 performances on Broadway in late 2008 -- don't expect to see this anytime soon.
2. Pete Townshend. "Floss."
In August 2009, the Who's songwriter and guitarist used his own blog to announce that he was working on a new musical in the vein of "Tommy" and "Quadrophenia." It would have surround-sound "soundscapes" and some of the musical's songs would be featured on a new album from the Who that was supposed to be released this year.Townshend has not said anything further about "Floss" since the initial announcement.
1. Motown. "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."
With much fanfare, Motown founder Berry Gordy announced in 2006 that a musical filled with Motown hits would receive its world premiere in the summer of 2007 at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles, CA. It was "postponed" for a year, but was quickly forgotten after it did not show up on any theater's schedule in 2008 or '09.