Top 10 Broadway Musicals Based On A True Story



Top 10 Broadway Musicals Based On A True Story

VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
These are the best Broadway musicals based on a true story! Well, we don't think they were singing through it in real life, but these musicals were based on true stories. For this list, we'll be looking at Broadway musicals that are directly based on a specific true story like “Jersey Boys” and “The Sound of Music”. Therefore, plays like “Chicago” that took inspiration from, but were not directly based on a true story will not be included. Join MsMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Broadway Musicals Based on a True Story!

Top 10 Broadway Musicals Based On A True Story

Well, we don’t think they were singing through it in real life, but these musicals were based on true stories. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Broadway Musicals Based on a True Story.

For this list, we’ll be looking at Broadway musicals that are directly based on a specific true story. Therefore, plays like “Chicago” that took inspiration from, but were not directly based on, a true story will not be included.

#10: “Jersey Boys”

“Jersey Boys” is a famous Tony and Olivier-award winning musical that dramatizes the start and subsequent rocky career of The Four Seasons, a pop rock group that was popular in the 60s and 70s. The production started when Four Seasons member Bob Gaudio thought to make a fictional musical centered around his band’s songs, similar to ABBA and “Mamma Mia!” However, book writer Marshall Brickman thought it would be more interesting to chronicle the personal lives of The Four Seasons themselves. While the musical may seem poised to attract middle-aged audiences, it was an enormous success that ran for over 4,000 performances, proving that a good story can transcend demographics.

#9: “Titanic”

Now what could a show called “Titanic” be based on? Like the movie that followed only eight months later, “Titanic” was a critical success, and it swept the 1997 Tony Awards. But unlike the movie, “Titanic” does not contain a mixture of fiction and history. The characters are real, from Captain Edward Smith and his officers to first-class passengers like John Jacob Astor, and their stories are taken directly from historic accounts. It tells a much deeper and more accurate story than the movie, even if the production design and visual effects don’t quite stack up (you know, it being a stage musical and all).

#8: “Catch Me If You Can”

“Catch Me If You Can” is based off the famous Steven Spielberg movie, which in turn was adapted from the autobiography of Frank Abagnale Jr. Frank Abagnale was a young con man who was active in the 1960s. He began his life of crime by impersonating an airline pilot and forging checks before becoming a chief resident pediatrician and an attorney, just because. When he was finally captured, he was sought in twelve different countries. And while he was sentenced to twelve years in the United States, he served less than five before working with the federal government as a fraud investigator. It’s a fascinating story, and it’s just as much fun on the stage as it is on the screen.

#7: “Gypsy”

“Gypsy” was originally performed on Broadway back in 1959, but has found new success through the 2015 West End production, which won the Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival. The musical is adapted from the memoir of burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee, who was known in New York for her erotic striptease. However, the musical does not follow Gypsy Rose, but her mother Rose Hovick. Rose was an awful stage mother who forced her daughters into the performing arts, and it led to the dissolution of her marriage. The musical is a harsh but illuminating look into stardom and fame, and the ridiculous lengths that some people will go to achieve it. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, its story and themes remain relevant to this day.

#6: “The King and I”

By this point, everyone knows the story of “The King and I.” But that wasn’t the case in 1944, when the source novel “Anna and the King of Siam” was released. The novel was based on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, a British woman who traveled to modern-day Thailand to teach Western customs to the family of King Mongkut. She proceeded to teach Mongkut’s 39 wives and 82 children (yes, those are the real numbers) for six years before Mongkut’s death in 1868. The musical was a runaway success and has since been revived and adapted into several movies, one of which won five Academy Awards in 1957.

#5: “Funny Girl”

Like “The King and I,” “Funny Girl” is an all-time classic. It’s in the Grammy Hall of Fame, it was nominated for eight Tony Awards, and it made Barbra Streisand a phenomenon. The musical chronicles the relationship of singer Fanny Brice and Nicky Arnstein, an infamous gambler and con man who caught the adoration of Fanny. The musical was originally conceived as an autobiography titled “The Fabulous Fanny,” but the work was scrapped and turned into a movie script. The script was then read by stage actress Mary Martin, who proposed that it be adapted into a musical. Producer David Merrick agreed and recommended that Jule Styne compose the music. The rest is history.

#4: “Come from Away”

“Come from Away” is an amazing modern musical that proves just how delightful Canadians can be (humble brag). Immediately after the September 11 attacks, numerous airplanes over Canada were ordered to land in accordance with Operation Yellow Ribbon. 38 of these planes landed in the town of Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, a small community of about 9,000 people. However, the town couldn’t accommodate a sudden influx of 7,000 people, as it effectively doubled the population. Enter the townsfolk, who brought the stranded passengers into their homes, fed them, and even made them honorary members of the town. It’s a beautiful story of human kindness and community, and it acts as a soothing balm against the turbulent political chaos of the day.

#3: “Evita”

“Evita” is another classic musical from the minds of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The story chronicles the life of Eva Perón, who served as the First Lady of Argentina from 1946 to 1952. Born into poverty, Eva moved to Buenos Aires to pursue an acting career, and it is here that she met future husband and President Juan Perón. While serving as First Lady, Eva championed both labor and women’s rights and ran a charity called the Eva Perón Foundation. Tim Rice first learned of her storied history after listening to a radio program and subsequently became obsessed with her life. He and Webber then created a concept album and took it to director Harold Prince, who helped adapt it into the musical we know today.

#2: “The Sound of Music”

Did Maria von Trapp live an eventful life or what? Maria, also known as Baroness von Trapp, was a prospective nun who took to teaching the children of Austro-Hungarian naval officer Georg von Trapp. She proceeded to marry Georg out of the love she had for his children, and the family later escaped from Nazi-invaded Austria. Along the way, they met Hitler at a Munich restaurant, and their extravagant house became the headquarters of Heinrich Himmler. Maria later wrote the memoir “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers,” which in turn was adapted into a film called “The Trapp Family.” After seeing the movie, director Vincent J. Donehue got the ball rolling on a musical version, which of course became “The Sound of Music.”

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“On Your Feet!”

“Annie Get Your Gun”

“Bonnie & Clyde”

“The Boy from Oz”

“War Paint”

#1: “Hamilton”

Yep, it’s “Hamilton.” Who knew a musical about the founding fathers would become such a cultural phenomenon? Other musicals have been made about American history, such as “1776” and “The Civil War,” but none have been so captivating and popular as “Hamilton.” The story, of course, follows the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of America, the first Secretary of the Treasury, and the creator of both the Federalist Party and the US Coast Guard. Lin-Manuel Miranda became obsessed with Hamilton after reading Ron Chernow’s biography and quickly began work on what would become “The Hamilton Mixtape.” Six years later, the musical had its Broadway premiere at The Richard Rodgers Theatre.