From Tina to MJ, The Boy from Oz to The Cher Show, the bio-musical is without a doubt a staple of modern musical theater. With the familiar sounds of our favorite artists' back catalog of work, the bio-musical can draw in both veteran theater goers and first-time visitors to the world of Broadway. By definition a bio-musical is a show based on an individual’s life and or a historical event. The stories can follow well-known recording artists, political figures, or key moments in history. The real life stories and events brought to the stage have continued to intrigue audiences and break box office records in recent years. As a result, theater makers continue to turn the life and times of our stars, statesmen, scholars and socialites into all singing all dancing tell-alls – and we are here for it!
Our Fav Song: "If I can Turn Back Time”
First in our lineup is a show based on the life and career of the one and only, Cher! The Cher Show is a dazzling production celebrating the queen of comebacks herself, and it will be wowing our Broadway in Akron audiences at E.J. Thomas Hall this season! The show documents the six-decade long career of this music icon, with not just one Cher but THREE! This bio-musical stole the show awards season with two Tonys, three Drama Desk Awards, an Outer Critics Circle Award, and a Chita Rivera Award in 2019. From the magnificent costumes designed by Bob Mackie and the all those ‘Cher-ific” hits that will make you “believe in love” again, this show is hands down a must-see!
Our Fav Song: "ABC"
The smash hit Motown the Musical is based on the autobiography To Be Loved: The Music, the magic, the Memories of Motown by Motown Records founder Barry Gordy, Jr. The production follows the founding of Motown Records (nicknamed Hitsville U.S.A) and the relationships Gordy had in and out of the studio with his fellow artists. The show had four nominations and two wins at the Tony Awards including Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a Musical (Valisia LeKae) and Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Charl Brown). With chart-topping hits from The Jackson Five, Smoky Robinson, and Marvin Gaye, you are guaranteed to be “busting a move” to the sweet sounds of Detroit!
Our Fav Songs: “Proud Mary” and “River Deep-Mountain High”
The next show in our lineup, only recently performed here at Playhouse Square as a part of our KeyBank Broadway Series, is the electrifying Tina: The Tina Turner Muiscal. The production follows the life and career of Anna Mae Bullock - the one and only Miss Tina Turner. With hits like “Proud Mary” and “River Deep-Mountain High”, this show gives audiences an intimate look into the life that made the “Queen of Rock N’ Roll" the star we all know and love. The production is a fitting tribute to the late music icon, one which we know will continue to touch audiences for many years to come.
Our Fav Songs: “Don’t Cry for me Argentina” and “Rainbow High”
Bio-musicals don’t just dramatize the stories from favorite artists, they can also give us an insight into the life and times of important political figures throughout history. What better example of this than Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita?" Telling the tale of the former Argentinian First Lady Eva Perón, the production follows a young a girl from a village in Los Toldos as she becomes an actress, radio personality and finally, the wife of Argentinian president Juan Perón. With a beautiful score by Lloyd Webber and numbers like “Buenos Aries”, “A New Argentina” and “Rainbow High”, is it any wonder why the show has won six Tony Awards, an Outer Critics Circle Award, six Drama Desk awards and two Olivier Awards? Also, who can forget Patti Lupone singing “Don’t Cry for me Argentina"!?
Our Fav Songs: "My Shot” and “The Schuyler Sisters”
Another musical that highlights political figures in history is the phenomenonal Hamilton. The premise of the production centers around the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and how he went from being an orphan from the Carribean to a key Founding Father of the United States. With supporting roles for Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, King George III, and Aaron Burr and, the production perfectly blended hiphop music to world of musical theater and changed the landscape of Broadway forever. This bio-musical has won a whopping 11 Tony Awards, two Drama Desk Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, to name a few!
Our Fav Songs: "This is Not Over Yet" and "You Don't Know this Man"
It may not have the glitz and glamor of some of its fellow bio-musicals on this list, but Parade is truly a worthy addition to this rundown nonetheless. The heart wrenching tale of Parade follows the true events surrounding Leo Frank, a superintendent of a pencil factory in Atlanta, Georgia who was accused and convicted of the rape and murder of his employee, 13-year-old Mary Phagan. Throughout the show, Frank tries to prove his innocence with the help of his wife Lucille. Including the recent revival starring Ben Platt and Michaela Diamond, this production has won a total of four Tony Awards, six Drama Desk Awards, two Outer Critics Circle Awards, and a New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. Notable moments include the heartbreaking song “This is Not Over Yet” that beautifully communicates that message of hope, and Leo’s faith in the idea that justice will prevail.
Our Fav Songs: "Beat It" and "Smooth Criminal"
The final show on our rundown of beloved bio-musicals is the newest production on the list, MJ: The Musical, a theatrical retelling of the life and career of Michael Jackson. MJ, which will be coming to Cleveland as part of our 2023-24 KeyBank Broadway Series next summer, tells the story of how Michael Jackson went from a member of The Jackson 5 to becoming the "King of Pop." The production, which has brought "BAD" to Broadway in the best possible way, has won four Tony Awards, an Outer Critics Circle Award, a Theater World Award, three Drama Desk Awards, and a Chita Rivera Award. With all your favorite MJ hits like “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, and “Thriller”, this show is guaranteed to have you moonwalking down the aisle next summer at Playhouse Square!