Pop music and Broadway have never truly been distinct and separate worlds; Cole Porter topped the charts with his compositions, while The Who wrote the rock opera 'Tommy'.
Developments in popular music informed musicals, with Andrew Lloyd-Webber introducing rock and roll and then synths to his scores.
Scott Whellum, committee member on the Hills Musical Company board, sings the praises and pours scorn on the best and worst Broadway invasions by pop stars, including Elton John’s 'Aida' for which he is the current Production Manager for the Hills Musical Company’s rendition of the show.
'Aida' – Elton John
'Aida' was Disney’s third attempt at a full stage musical and opened on Broadway in 2000. To date it is Disney’s only attempt at a musical not based on a previous Disney motion picture. The show was a spectacle for the ears and eyes with music being supplied by Elton John and Tim Rice, and was very successful commercially and critically (winner of Best Original Score Tony Award) running for over three years with a number of Broadway stars used in the original cast and as replacements. It is a powerful love story of two people that need to choose between following their hearts or leading their people. We might be a little biased but we think this is the number one musical written by a pop star. Add to that an all-star original cast line up of Sherie-Rene Scott, Adam Pascal and Heather Headley and a powerful score by Elton John and Tim Rice... It truly is a stunning musical.
'Kinky Boots' – Cindy Lauper
'Kinky Boots' was the 2013 Tony Award-winner of Best Musical and earned Cindy Lauper the Best Original Score Tony Award and the honour of being the only solo woman to ever win this category. The show is a high energy extravaganza that follows an English shoemaker trying to save his family business by joining a niche market of creating shoes for drag queens. Currently running on Broadway, West End and here in Australia, it shows no signs of stopping any time soon. Definitely a must see show for (almost) all the family and has cemented Cindy Lauper as a pop star and a musical theatre composer.
'Waitress' – Sara Bareilles
Based on the 2007 indie film of the same name, the musical 'Waitress' is the newest musical in the list opening on Broadway in April 2016. It was nominated for four Tony awards but did not win any, however it has won the hearts of fans on Broadway and is currently due to open a national US tour and a West End version of the show in the upcoming months. It’s a modern day love story with an unhappy wife falling pregnant and starting an affair with her gynaecologist (I don’t know why Disney haven’t used this love story yet!). The songs are fun and moving, and as a pop star herself Sara Bareilles has recently taken over the lead role on Broadway. Eagerly awaiting an Australian production of 'Waitress' to be able to see this show and would pay good money to be able to see Sara Bareillis on stage in the musical she has written. Once seen this show may move up the ranks, but currently only makes it to number three.
'Tales Of The City' – Jake Shears from Scissor Sisters
Based on the Armistead Maupin novels around a group of friends living in an apartment building in late 1970s San Francisco, this truly is an adult musical with themes of drugs, homosexuality and promiscuity (not unfamiliar territory for a number of musical theatre fans I would think) but also the universal themes of love, friendship and finding yourself. The songs were indicative of traditional musical theatre composers with rousing chorus numbers, solo ballads and comedy numbers included for good measure. Sadly, the musical never made it to Broadway after its 2011 San Francisco premiere and a cast album was never produced, but for the true musical theatre fans there are a number of demo tracks that were created and leaked on the internet. A worthy effort by Jake Shears to transition from pop star to musical theatre composer... But sadly it is a relatively unknown show unless you were already a fan of the Scissor Sisters, Armistead Maupin or just a complete musical theatre nerd.
'Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark' – Bono & The Edge from U2
'Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark' might actually be famous for all the wrong reasons. It was the most expensive musical ever produced on Broadway and was plagued with issues and delays from the onset and throughout including the death of a producer, issues with the creative team, injured performers and a lack of a decent storyline. Despite all of this though, it was actually playing to full houses and was loved by most of the people that saw it. It was truly a spectacle more than a musical as the main things that people loved were the action scenes, the flying and stunt work and the cartoonish sets, but the music itself was described as a second-rate rock score that was not really memorable. So bad it might have actually been good, sadly not good enough to make it any higher then number five and not really anything to do with the music from U2!
'Aida' plays the Stirling Community Theatre from 5-20 May.