Musicals Set in the “Good Ole’ Days”

By Jenna Tonsor

Some consider the 18 years that the Baby Boomers were born from 1946 to 1964 to be “the golden era,” and it has been a source of inspiration for numerous mediums of art, from novels like Stand by Me by Stephen King, to movies like The Sandlot. Theatre is no exception—especially not musical theatre, which has explored a variety of beloved plots and characters, framed by holding hands, milkshakes, and youthful optimism for a better future. A few titles you might recognize include:

Grease: A musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey set during 1959 at a fictional high school, Rydell High. The show is named after a working-class youth subculture from the period known as “greasers.” The story follows two star-crossed lovers and their friends, as they navigate the complexities of being some of America’s first teenagers—dealing with peer pressure, politics, personal core values, and love. Grease has won many awards since its debut in 1972, and has been nominated for a Tony-Award 11 times.

Hairspray: A musical by Marc Shaiman set in 1962 Baltimore, Maryland that follows the life of a plump teenage girl named Tracy Turnblad. Tracy’s dream is to be a dancer on the “Corny Collins Show,” which is based on the real Buddy Deane Show. What starts as a quest for stardom soon becomes a quest for representation and equality—a desire shared with many Baby Boomers who lived through the era—when Tracy fights alongside her peers to integrate the show. In 2003 alone, Hairspray won eight Tony-Awards, and has received many other awards since its debut in 2002.

Memphis: A musical by David Bryan set during the 1950s in Memphis, Tennessee. The musical loosely follows the true story of disc jockey Dewey Philips and his story of becoming one of the first ever white DJs to actively play and advocate for music created by the black community. The musical showcases true golden age jams made up of rhythm and blues, girl groups, and early rock ‘n’ roll. Memphis received such acclaim that in 2010 its rave reviews paid off, and the production received 4 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

The Wonder Years plays in FST’s Court Cabaret starting February 6. To purchase tickets or for more information, click here.