Historical events

10 best musicals based on historical events


Musicals often use real people as inspiration for their stories, such as Something rotten, which is based on the fictional exploits of William Shakespeare, and Ma Rainey’s black stockings, which was inspired by the real Ma Rainey but told a mostly fictional story.

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However, sometimes musicals directly adapt an actual event from the story. Some may take major liberties with the source material, but others ensure that the narrative has taken care to portray real people as sensitively and accurately as possible.

ten Come from afar

Come from afar tells the true story of the week after the 9/11 attacks when 38 planes were rerouted from their intended destinations and forced to land in Gander, Canada, to ensure their safety. The people of the small town of Gander welcomed and helped the 7,000 plane passengers who suddenly showed up in their town, getting to know them and sharing what they could.

Gander is not the only city affected by the crisis. Hundreds of planes, around 255, were diverted from their destinations and forced to land in cities across Canada, pressuring city dwellers to share their resources. Additionally, Beverley’s character in the musical is based on the real-life Beverley Bass, the first female captain of American Airlines.

9 Jersey Boys

four men in red blazers and blue pants in Jersey Boys, smiling at the audience

The rock band Four Seasons enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame, which turned into a musical, Jersey boys, in 2005. The musical follows the creation of the group, using a jukebox format to include classic songs such as “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, as well as exploring complications among the members and their personal lives. .

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One of the most significant events in the life of this band was their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, reuniting the band one last time before their final split. A film adaptation of Clint Eastwood was released in 2014 with very mixed reviews, but the musical has enjoyed substantial success over the years.

8 Diane

Charles and Diana in the musical Diana, sitting in red chairs next to each other

The musical 2021 Diane has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the production is chock-full of engaging songs and performances, despite the empty theater in which it performed. Each Diana song in the music soundtrack brings a unique perspective on the life of Princess Diana, exploring how she was viewed by audiences, as well as the role and perspective of Queen Elizabeth and Charles.

Many significant events are depicted in the musical, such as the birth of Prince William and Diana’s growing fame as she is hunted down by the paparazzi. The iconic wedding is shown in all its glory, along with some of Diana’s iconic outfits.

7 21 Chump Street

Naomi laughs and watches Justin sing to her at 21 Chump Street

Another stellar musical from Lin Manuel Miranda, 21 Chump Street is a short production telling the lightly fictionalized story of Justin, a teenager who falls in love with a new girl, Naomi. Unbeknownst to Justin, Naomi is an undercover cop, and he is manipulated into supplying her with drugs, before being arrested by the girl he thought he loved.

Names and details have been changed for sensitivity, but the story was real to the core. The musical features iconic Lin Manuel Miranda songs, such as the energetic “What the Heck I Gotta Do”, where Justin tries to convince Naomi to go to the ball with him.

6 Everybody’s talking about Jamie

Jaime and his classmates singing in a band in Everybody's Talking About Jamie

Everybody’s talking about Jamie is a brilliant musical based on a real documentary, Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, who followed a young Jamie Campbell as he stepped out as drag queen Fifi at her prom. While Jamie is uncertain about the future and faces bullies and opposition from all around him, he’s determined to live his truth and be the best he can be.

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In addition to being based on an actual event, Jamie’s homecoming prom, the musical addresses the impact of discrimination on the LGBTQ + community, as well as the struggles young people go through to truly define and express their feelings. sexuality.

5 Hamilton

Mulligan, Lafayette, Laurens and Hamilton sing together in Hamilton

One of the most famous musicals in the world, Hamilton follows Alexander Hamilton as he ventures to New York and becomes a prominent soldier of the American Revolution, ultimately becoming an imperfect and disgraced politician. All Hamilton the character has a distinct personality which makes them easy to root for, even villains and the titular antihero himself.

Hamilton is based on the American Revolution, just like his musical colleague, 1776, who explored the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Hamilton goes further, however, and portrays real life and the secrets of the Founding Fathers that many members of the public may not have known before.


Anne Boleyn sings and Catherine of Aragon shocked in SIX

A fun and fast-paced musical featuring a diverse cast led by women, SIX depicts the six wives of King Henry VIII, who have all come back to life to share their stories and make their stories their own. The queens debate who should be the leader of their girl group, SIX, and decide whoever has had the worst life with Henry will become the lead singer.

SIX encompasses many historical events, such as the beheadings of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, as well as Henry’s excommunication and the start of the English Reformation. These events are portrayed in a fun and colorful way, without losing the sensitivity required by their subject.

3 Evita

the main character singing on a balcony in Evita

The iconic musical Evita follows the life of Eva Perón, one of Argentina’s most influential first ladies, who has worked for many charities and feminist organizations. Although at the start of the musical Eva wanted to be an actress, she quickly became a spiritual leader and found her “true calling” to help the people of her country.

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The main event of this musical is the death of Evita, which opens and closes the show. The iconic and heavily parodied song “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” is sung at the beginning of act two, when Eva acknowledges her duty to her people and her country, and she swears her loyalty to her people, even on her bed. of death at the very end.

2 The greatest showman

PT Barnum in the middle of a performance in The Greatest Showman

With an incredible cast including one of Zendaya’s friendliest characters, The greatest showman is a highly fictionalized version of PT Barnum’s life story. In real life, Barnum was a famous showman known for his hoaxes and inaccurate performers, but he was also a slave owner and avid business owner. The musical, however, portrays Barnum as a cheerful family man who just wants to put on a fun show and earn money to feed his family.

Jenny Lind’s performances really did take place, although the film twists the narrative and is about Lind seducing Barnum, rather than showing what really happened. The musical also omits many historically confirmed events that would have made Barnum a villain, such as the various autopsies he performed and the marriage of “Tom Thumb”.

1 The king and me

the main characters of The King and I dance together

The king and me follows British housekeeper Anna, as she travels to Siam to care for and teach the children of the King of Siam, ultimately falling in love with the King himself. The central story of The king and me has a long history of adaptation for stage and screen. The musical is based on a novel, itself based on the true memories of Anna Harriette Leonowens. Anna’s memoirs were themselves heavily fictionalized, and details of Siamese culture were added to the novel to create an authentic atmosphere.

However, while the characters themselves may be fictional and there is no historical evidence that Anna was in love with the king, the fact is that Anna served as governess to the king’s children, and when the king died, his successor wrote a thank you letter to Anna for his services.

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