Celebrities are subjected to a lifetime of scrutiny, no matter what happens. Whether they make a living selling records, starring in films, or otherwise leaving their mark on society and pop culture, there is always going to be talk about their lives even long after they’re gone. And sometimes, they’re even immortalized, along with all their accomplishments through stage musicals.
From Marilyn Monroe to The Beatles, icons of entertainment and history have had their lives written into song for audiences far and wide to hear. Though many of the celebrities weren’t exactly around to see it, and though some of the musicals were more successful than others, they all, regardless, exist as a testament to their subjects’ incredible influence.
15. Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe is perhaps one of the most iconic Hollywood superstars to ever grace this earth, and she’s remembered in countless ways. Through quotes on every sorority girl’s wall, t-shirts and posters, and even through a Broadway musical. Marilyn ran for just 34 performances in 1983, according to the Internet Broadway Database, so it apparently wasn’t exactly a long-lasting, smash hit. But never fear, Marilyn fans — the legend is coming back to the stage with a Las Vegas production called Marilyn! The New Musical, which will be at the Paris Las Vegas starting on May 23.
14. The Beatles
Everyone who’s heard music anytime in the past 60 years knows who The Beatles are. Arguably the most famous band that’s ever existed, The Beatles had unparalleled popularity when they first hit the scene, and it went on to foster solo careers for the members of the group, especially Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Let It Be, which ran starting in 2012 in London’s West End theater district, followed the group from their conception to their breakup, and featured some of the music. It moved to Broadway in 2015 and even had a tour that traveled the UK for a time.
13. John Lennon
Speaking of John Lennon, there was also a musical focused solely on his life after The Beatles. The show, Lennon, closed after a short run in 2005, after what Independent UK reported was a $7 million loss of its entire budget. Yikes. Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, was heavily involved in the production of the musical, and it was largely told in all Lennon’s own words. The paper stated, though, that her influence was felt a little too much, and some critics said it was a story “filtered through the protective, selective, later-life self-interest of Yoko Ono Lennon.” You know how some Beatles fans feel about Yoko, though – so take it with a grain of salt.
12. Coco Chanel
According to the Internet Broadway Database, Coco opened on Broadway in 1969 and ran for just under a year. It was a star-studded cast right off the bat, as the legendary Katherine Hepburn played the famous fashion designer in the original run of the show. Though the musical didn’t achieve the notoriety of other bigger productions, or of the designer herself, it does still have a cult following of sorts. Lujon Magazine describes it as “a wonderful anomaly, hovering in indexes of biographies and dusty PlayBill archives; CoCo is a gilded, glittering curiosity lost in showbiz antiquity, residing in demi obscurity.”
11. Jackie Robinson
Anyone who’s even remotely knowledgeable about baseball knows that Jackie Robinson is one of the most important figures in sports history. He was the first black baseball player to ever play on a team in Major League Baseball, and it eventually lead to the integrated MLB we know today. A story as history-making as that can definitely make for a compelling Broadway show. The First opened in 1981 and closed later that year after 37 performances and 33 previews.
10. Charlie Chaplin
Chaplin was a Broadway show documenting the real-life story of Charlie Chaplin, the cinema icon, from his very first performance to his 1972 Academy Award acceptance speech. A Newsday review said that the show and the people behind it embody “more than seven decades of Chaplin’s life with a focused, altogether believable mix of gravity and light.” Chaplin closed in 2013 after 24 previews and 136 regular performances. Mindy Rich said on behalf of the show’s producers that they were “so disappointed” to close the show, but they were “moved by the countless theatergoers” who found meaning in the show.
9. Boy George
Taboo, the Broadway show based on Boy George, closed more than a decade ago, but it’s still remembered as one of the most compelling stories to take place on the stage. It was originally produced by Rosie O’Donnell, and Boy George himself wrote the score for the musical. He was even nominated for a Tony award for it! The show focused on both Boy George himself and performance artist Leigh Bowery, who tragically died from AIDS far too young. The name “Taboo” from the show comes from the name of a London club, where the majority of the events of the musical take place.
8. Bonnie & Clyde
Okay, so Bonnie and Clyde aren’t exactly celebrities in the traditional sense, but they’re definitely huge figures in history that have been immortalized over and over in pop culture. Bonnie & Clyde on Broadway follows the famous outlaws as they fall in love, focusing more on the relationship between the two of them and the personal issues that lead them to crime more than the specifics of their actual misdeeds. The show doesn’t turn a blind eye to the pair’s more notorious crimes, but it also provides an air of romance in a hugely dramatic situation. It only ran for a month in 2011, but it certainly made an impression.
7. Bill Clinton
This one was an off-Broadway run, but we’re still going to count it. Clinton: The Musical ran from March 25, 2015, to June 21 of the same year, and was at the New World Stages in New York City. There are plenty of Bill Clinton punchlines to throw around, but apparently, this show focused on the two different sides of the former President of the United States. One persona, “WJ,” was the wholesome, presidential alter ego, and “Billy” acted as the ladies’ man wild card, according to the same website. The comedy may have been short-lived, but sustained interest in a political figure that continues to fascinate people today.
6. Susan Boyle
Susan Boyle stunned audiences on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009 when she unleashed an unlikely and fierce voice onto the judges. Even Simon Cowell, a notorious grump, couldn’t find any way to deny the talent. The performer was a caliber all of her own, and she became an overnight sensation. I Dreamed a Dream, which follows the journey of the Scottish singer, debuted in 2012. It includes no original songs, but instead featured pop songs from the past decades – called a “jukebox musical.” It follows Boyle’s early life that lead her to Britain’s Got Talent, and doesn’t shy away from big musical numbers.
5. Emilio & Gloria Estefan
On Your Feet! allowed Gloria Estefan fans to become even closer to the iconic singer and the life that lead to her fame. At the time of its closing on August 20, 2017, it played 746 regular performances and 34 previews, which is nothing to scoff at. The musical’s life didn’t end after it closed on Broadway, either — the show went overseas to the Netherlands, and even scheduled a US tour. It was a financial success, too, and The Hollywood Reporter reports that the musical made $74.5 million after 86 weeks.
4. Annie Oakley
Reba McEntire has always been a superstar, but it was taken to a whole new level when she stepped into the role of Annie Oakley. In 2001, the country star took the titular role of Annie Get Your Gun and brought new life to the original 1946 production. Another Broadway legend, Bernadette Peters, played the same role in the late 1990s, and it’s clear that the story of the gun-wielding icon appeals to audiences. The original production ran from 1946 to 1949, and totaled more than 1,100 performances, according to the Internet Broadway Database. And if the multiple revivals are any indication, the story can be told for years to come.
3. PT Barnum
Long before Hugh Jackman took on the role of PT Barnum in this year’s smash hit, The Greatest Showman, there was another musical documenting the circus showrunner’s legendary life. Barnum ran for two years in the early 1980s for a total of 26 previews and 854 performances. The musical focuses on the very beginnings of his career in 1835 to his time with “The Greatest Show On Earth.” Huge stars like Glenn Close helmed the production, and it serves as a worthy predecessor to all circus-focused pop culture that came before it.
2. Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons
Everyone knows that Jersey Boys has been a staple of musical theater for years, and part of its longevity is its dedication to telling the real-life story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. The show was a huge hit on Broadway — it even earned the people behind it some Tony Awards. The production won best musical, as well as best lighting design, and best performance by an actor in a featured role at the esteemed ceremony. After the real-life 1960s band made such a splash on the scene with its radio hits, it’s only appropriate that a nostalgic musical documenting their journey would earn some of the same notoriety.
1. The Supremes
Though it’s not exactly confirmed that Dreamgirls is modeled solely after the Supremes, that’s largely been the rumor that people have believed since the show debuted in 1981. Regardless of if the show wants to try and remain exactly factual to the story of this musical group, their influence on the production is undeniable, even if the goal was simply to portray the tone of the entertainment industry for women of that era. The show also made it to the big screen with the hit movie of the same name, and Jennifer Hudson also nabbed a post-American Idol Academy Award win for her role as Effie White.