by Barry Walters | October 21, 2013
In the beginning, Broadway and rock 'n' roll sat on opposite ends of the musical spectrum. The former accentuated tunefulness, proper diction and old-fashioned entertainment, and the latter required abandon, slurry slang and innovation. But starting in the '60s with musicals like Bye Bye Birdie and Hair and hit rock operas like The Who's Tommy and Andrew Lloyd Webber's [Jesus Christ Superstar], Broadway and rock began coming together in the theaters, on Top 40 radio and on critically acclaimed albums.
Hard-rocking musicals like 1973's The Rocky Horror Picture Show were at first a novelty. But as Webber kept pumping out hits like Evita and the original rock generation got older, Broadway and rock met more often in the middle. Jukebox musicals with story lines written around pre-existing hit songs had existed in movies since the '40s, but with 1999's ABBA musical Mamma Mia!, their popularity exploded.
This playlist includes hit cover versions of Broadway melodies ("Hair," "Easy to Be Hard"), rock stars with obvious musical theater roots (Meat Loaf), smash musicals indebted to rock (The Book of Mormon), Broadway shows with original tunes created by rock singer-songwriters (Duncan Sheik's Spring Awakening, which showcased Lea Michele pre-Glee; Cyndi Lauper's Kinky Boots), rockers who've embraced Great American Songbook standards (Bryan Ferry, Rod Stewart) and other Broadway/rock fusions both famous and unjustly obscure.