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Jukebox Musical - A Game of Plots & Writing





Jukebox Musical is a game for any group of people who are into creative writing. It allows the participants to exercise their creative, plot-building muscles outside of the tedium and toil of actual writing, as well as adding a fun, competitive element.

Just how good are your plot-building skills? Here's where you get to find out.

What is a Jukebox Musical?

What do the following musicals have in common: We Will Rock You, Mama Mia!, Daddy Cool, Tonight's The Night, Our House, Movin' Out?

The answer is that they are all what is known as a Jukebox Musical.

A jukebox musical is either a stage musical or movie musical that features a set of pre-released, hit songs by a mainstream artist or artists as its musical score and contextualizes the songs in a dramatic plot.

[Wikipedia entry for Jukebox Musicals]

So the above were based on, respectively, the works of: Queen, Abba, Boney M, Rod Stewart, Madness, Billy Joel.

To do one of these, some poor bastard (typically Ben Elton) has to sit down with a list of greatest hits song titles and lyrics and try and think of a story that could plausibly cause the characters to stop periodically and sing one of those songs.

(I believe the plot of We Will Rock You involves the protagonist, who likes riding his bicycle, travelling across the Seven Seas of Rhye in search of the evil Killer Queen).

The Game

The rules of the game are simple. You get together a group of people to play. You don't play face-to-face - this is a game that will take place over several days, and could be conducted entirely via email or social networking.

All involved take it in turns to pick a particular band or artist. Alternatively, a single band or artist could be picked for all participants in the game.

Once a band (or artist) is picked, and a completion date is picked, everyone then goes away and tries to write a few hundred word synopsis of the plot of their "musical", including each point at which they break for a song (of which there should be between 10 and 15).

Let's take an example. Imagine you had the early eighties band The Untertones as your subjects. Your initial draft at a synopsis might start like this:

Teenage Kicks - The Undertones Musical


The place is inner-city Belfast in the early 1980s. Life is drab, and the threat of violence is ever present. Awkward seventeen year-old Jimmy Clarke is walking home with Julie, a pretty girl from the girl's school next to his school. He is clearly desperately in love with her, but she is cruel and dismissive towards him. After she goes her different way, he sits down on a wall depressed.

[SONG Teenage Kicks, sung slowly and wistfully]

Another girl, pretty but not anything like as glamourous as Julie, comes and sits down beside him. They talk about his longing for Julie. It turns out that she is Mairead, his best friend. She tries to convince him that Julie is bad news, that nothing will ever happen there, and that if it does, it won't end well.

[SONG Julie Ocean]

He then heads home. There, his mother explains that they are going to stay with her sister in Bangor that weekend. He doesn't want to go because he doesn't get on with his cousin Kevin. His mother asks why he doesn't want to go.

[SONG My Perfect Cousin]


The script might then have him actually going out with Julie for a brief period, after which she dumps him and he gets to sing Wednesday Week; having someone singing It's Gonna Happen at him; and then end with him finally realising that Miread is the girl for him, and finding that she was in love with him all along. The two of them will then sing a joyful version of Teenage Kicks - the end! (And of course, somewhere along the way there needs to be an IRA subplot).

And that's the game. I'd love to hear from any of you that try it out, and if you'd like your scripts to get a further outing please either send them to me at, or post something about them on the Critical Miss Facebook page. If I get enough, I'll publish a compilation article of them all in either the next issue of Critical Miss, or on my blog.