In 1968 the free-love musical Hair forever changed the face of Broadway. The revolutionary production marked the first time a full rock and roll score was featured on the Broadway stage. Through the 80s with the rock-synth hits of Andrew Lloyd Webber leading up to the premiere of the ABBA musical Mamma Mia in 2001, musical theatre has drawn more and more inspiration from rock music much to the delight of audiences. With their undeniable energy and irrepressible melodies, musicals featuring rock and pop scores offer entertaining opportunities for audiences to not only be entertained or learn the stories behind their favorite artists, but to also hear some of music’s greatest anthems performed live with the talent and professionalism that only Broadway can provide. This month we take a look at some of Broadway’s most rocking shows.
School of Rock (Winter Garden Theatre, 1634 Broadway)
There’s perhaps no greater example of a rock and roll musical currently running on Broadway than the crowd pleasing hit School of Rock. The high-octane new musical features an electrical score including hits from the movie as well as new music from theatre legend Andrew Lloyd Webber whose rock savvy can be heard in musicals such as Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita. The musical follows the same plot of the hit film made famous by Jack Black. Looking to pick up a few extra bucks, deadbeat and down and out rocker Dewey Finn pretends to be a substitute teacher at a prim and proper prep school. There, he decides to throw out the curriculum and teach what he knows best: rock and roll. Zany high-jinks ensue in the creation of a student led rock band ultimately leads to a life lesson teaching the transformative power of music. With a hilarious book by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and a breakout performance from star Alex Brightman, School of Rock is the show to see for a rocking good time on Broadway.
On Your Feet! (Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway)
Featuring an irresistible latin-pop infused score including the songs of one of music’s most iconic legends, the new musical On Your Feet! is an infectious Broadway experience. The musical is the story of singer Gloria Estefan and her relationship with her husband Emilio as they rise to the top of the charts with hits such as “Conga,” “Rhythm is gonna get you,” “1, 2, 3.” and of course, “Get On Your Feet.” In addition to Estefan’s greatest hits, the musical offers a behind-the-scenes look at the Cuban American couple’s journey from humble beginnings to international super-stardom. The rousing new production features the same undeniable passion and energy for which the Grammy Award winning artist is known. Two-time Tony Award winning Director Jerry Mitchell (Hairspray, Kinky Boots) is at the helm with explosive choreography by Serigo Trujillo (Jersey Boys). Leading lady Ana Villafane, as the unstoppable Estefan, leads a talented ensemble in this inspirational story about the passionate power of love and music.
Jersey Boys (August Wilson Theatre, 245 W 52nd St.)
An instant classic when it premiered in 2005 nabbing the Tony Award for Best Musical, Jersey Boys is another crowd pleasing hit with a rock and roll score. The energetic show is the rags to riches story behind the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons featuring some of their greatest hits including “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man,” and “Can’t Take My Eyes O You.” The show captures all the triumphs and setbacks of the music world while highlighting the spirit of the American dream as it follows the blue collar singing group’s meteoric rise to fame. The ashy production includes the group’s signature harmonies as well as its infamous dramas including tempestuous love affairs, run-ins with the mafia, and group in-fighting. This Tony Award winning hit has inspired countless productions worldwide, was adapted into a hit film by Clint Eastwood, and continues to thrill audiences night after night with electric performances of some of pop music’s most beloved hits.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Sondheim Theatre, 124 W 43rd. St)
Another musical biography with a chart-topping soundtrack of cherished hits is Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. A true Broadway blockbuster, the musical tells the story of singer-songwriter Carole King. From her humble beginnings in Brooklyn to her Grammy award winning success, the show is a testament to King’s spirit as she faces life’s trials and triumphs with unwavering spirit and perseverance. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical features some of Carole King’s greatest hits including “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “I Feel the Earth Move,” and “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman.” Re- counting her romantic relationship with Gerry Goffin and friendship with the writing team of Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, this inspiring musical shows how King ultimately found her own voice through love, heartbreak and sharing her musical gifts with the world, becoming the voice of a generation.