Which Bands or Artists Could Create A Musical?
When you think about what’s made musical theatre so wonderful over time, one of the real keys is how many different kinds of source material can be (and have been) turned into musicals. Films, works of literature, historical events, and completely original concepts can all work on a musical theatre stage, and while we don’t talk about it as much, popular music can too.
Some of the best examples in this category of “jukebox musicals” include Jersey Boys, Movin’ Out, and even American Idiot, a sort of self-proclaimed rock opera based directly on the album of the same name by Green Day. These are just three musicals, but they actually illustrate rather well the scope of theatre that’s based on popular music and famous musicians, which is worth considering when you think about what other bands or albums might be worthy of this sort of adaptation.
Granted, “worthy” is a bit of a subjective qualifier in this context. But these are some bands, past and present, that could create or inspire one heck of a musical.
U2 has a bit of an unfortunate history on Broadway already, thanks to the failure of the surefire musical Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, for which U2’s Bono and The Edge did the music. It may be the main factor that would prevent anyone from trying a U2 musical, even if the band itself really wasn’t the reason the Spider-Man production crashed. One hopes someone will try a musical based on the band’s extensive collection of wonderful and influential music, however, and the really ambitious project would be The Joshua Tree. This most famous of U2’s albums is rich with depictions of an America at odds with itself, contrasting ideals with reality, and hopes with disappointments. While it doesn’t tell a concrete narrative in and of itself, it could certainly be weaved into a tale of a person, or even a country attempting to find itself.
John Mayer is a bit of a polarizing figure, simply in that people seem to either love or hate his music. Whether or not it’s your personal taste though, it’s easy to listen to him and admit that he’s one of the more thoughtful lyricists and direct storytellers in modern music. You can actually find suggestions online that his breakthrough album Room For Squares be turned into a musical, but we’d opt for 2009’s Battle Studies, one of the most effective album-long explorations of personal romantic heartbreak in modern history.
There have actually been reports of a Michael Jackson musical being planned for 2020, so we don’t need to devote too much time to this suggestion. We simply want to note that it’s high time this happened. Jackson has about as good an argument as anyone for being the most influential musician of the 20th century, his hits make people get up and dance even if they’re not fans of his, and there’s plenty of potential plot material to work with.
It’s hard to think of an album more tailor-made for musical adaptation in recent years than Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Already released with an accompanying cinematic experience on HBO, it’s an album that’s meant to be explored and learned from in a variety of ways, and it’s one that could very easily be spun into a story about an individual, or perhaps even a community. With themes of black identity, faith, infidelity, perseverance, and family, it’s a rich and fascinating article, and that’s before you even touch on the critically acclaimed quality of the music itself. Perhaps more than any suggestion on this list, Beyoncé, and Lemonade in particular, could turn into a smash Broadway sensation.
Guns N’ Roses comes to mind not necessarily because of any one album but because the band has proven almost shockingly relevant in the last few years. It actually started somewhat subtly with a casino-style video game online, and specifically a GNR-themed slot machine. Slots are described as being among the most sought-after games in this category, and what that means is basically that millions upon millions have seen and played the Guns N’ Roses slots, and gotten familiar with the band’s hits all over again. This led right into an actual comeback for the band, which promptly went on a lucrative international tour for about two years. With so much excitement surrounding the classic rock icons, the time is right for an attempt at a high-energy rock musical flush with recognizable hits. It could just be a blast.
Sticking with more high-energy ideas for a moment, Blink-182 might be a stealthy option for a band that could create something of a sensation on Broadway. Now, there would undoubtedly be those who would be against the idea. Blink-182 has inappropriate lyrics, an outlook some would consider juvenile, and was at one point famous for playing parts of concerts in the nude. They’re not a band one thinks of as fitting in on Broadway. At the same time however it’s been about 20 years since the band’s heyday, and a generation of people who grew up with Blink-182 representing the ideal pop-rock party music is now into adulthood. A well-constructed musical, perhaps putting forth a nostalgic story about growing up at the turn of the millennium and infused with the band’s catchiest hits, might just bring out young audiences in droves.
David Bowie already has a musical in some sense, given that he did most of the work on the relatively recent project Lazarus. This is even being turned into a film, and should make for a nice tribute to the late pop star. However, what we’re talking about here is the idea of a musical based on existing musical material, rather than a musical specifically written by an artist. Basically, the idea of a theatre production based on some of Bowie’s dreamy but inspiring themes from his heyday could be an excellent, if challenging idea.
This is an idea we wouldn’t have thought of, but a list of ideas for indie albums that could produce musicals identified the beloved album Transatlanticism as a perfect candidate, and it’s hard to disagree. Telling the tale of a long distance romance, it’s a gorgeous album with a fairly cohesive narrative built in, and with tracks that would strike a chord of nostalgia with some, excite others through pure quality. It would be a lovely musical.