Musical Lists

60+ Fascinating Musicals Based on True Stories

Do you ever watch or listen to a musical and wonder whether it was based on something that really happened? Well you’re in luck! Here’s a full list of all of the musicals based on true stories from every decade.


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Contents:

Jazz Age Musicals Based on True Stories

Golden Age Musicals

1960s Musicals

1970s Musicals

1980s Musicals

1990s Musicals

2000s Musicals

2010s Musicals

2020s Musicals


Jazz Age Musicals (1920-1939)

Dearest Enemy

Music: Richard Rodgers  Lyrics: Lorenz Hart  Book: Herbert Fields

Musical Type: Jazz Age (1925)

What It’s Based On: American Revolutionary War/Mary Lindley Murray


The Desert Song

Music: Sigmund Romberg  Lyrics/Book: Otto Harbach, Oscar Hammerstein II, Frank Mandel

Musical Type: Jazz Age (1926)

What It’s Based On: The 1925 uprising of the Riffs in Morocco


Golden Age Musicals (1940-1959)

Annie Get Your Gun

Music/Lyrics: Irving Berlin  Book: Dorothy Fields, Herbert Fields

Musical Type: Golden Age (1946)

Who It’s Loosely Based On: Annie Oakley and Frank E. Butler


Call Me Madam

Music/Lyrics: Irving Berlin  Book: Howard Lindsay, Russel Crouse

Musical Type: Golden Age (1950)

Who It’s Loosely Based On: Perle Mesta


Fiorello!

Music: Jerry Bock  Lyrics: Sheldon Harnick  Book: Jerome Weidman, George Abbott

Musical Type: Golden Age (1959)

Who It’s Based On: Fiorello La Guardia


King Kong

Music/Lyrics: Todd Matshikiza  Lyrics: Pat Williams  Book: Harry Bloom

Musical Type: Golden Age (1959)

Who It’s Based On: Ezekiel Dlamini, aka “King Kong”


Post-Golden Age Musicals (1960s)

1776

Music/Lyrics: Sherman Edwards  Book: Peter Stone

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1969)

What It’s Based On: The Signing of the Declaration of Independence


Blitz

Music/Lyrics/Book: Lionel Bart  Book: Joan Maitland

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1962)

What It’s Based On: Lionel Bart’s Memories of WWII


Coco

Music: André Previn  Lyrics/Book: Alan Jay Lerner

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1969)

Who It’s Based On: Coco Chanel


Funny Girl

Music: Jule Styne  Lyrics: Bob Merrill  Book: Isobel Lennart

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1964)

Who It’s Based On: Fanny Brice


George M!

Music/Lyrics: George M. Cohan  Lyrics: Mary Cohan  Book: Michael Stewart, John Pascal, Francine Pascal

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1968)

Who It’s Based On: George M. Cohan


Jennie

Music/Lyrics: Arthur Schwartz, Howard Dietz  Book: Arnold Schulman

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1963)

Who It’s Based On: Jennie Malone and James O’Connor


Jimmy

Music/Lyrics: Bill Jacob, Patti Jacob  Book: Melville Shavelson

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1969)

Who It’s Based On: NYC Mayor Jimmy Walker


Kean

Music/Lyrics: Robert Wright, George Forrest  Book: Peter Stone

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1961)

Who It’s Based On: Edmund Kean


Maggie Flynn

Music/Lyrics/Book: Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore, George David Weiss  Book: Morton DaCosta

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1968)

What It’s Based On: The New York Draft Riots of 1863


1970s Musicals

Evita

Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber  Lyrics: Tim Rice

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1976)

Who It’s Based On: Eva Perón


Goodtime Charley

Music: Larry Grossman  Lyrics: Hal Hackady  Book: Sidney Michaels

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1975)

Who It’s Based On: Joan of Arc/The Dauphin of France


Mack & Mabel

Music/Lyrics: Jerry Herman  Book: Michael Stewart

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1974)

Who It’s Based On: Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand


Rex

Music: Richard Rodgers  Lyrics: Sheldon Harnick  Book: Sherman Yellen

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1976)

Who It’s Based On: King Henry VIII


They’re Playing Our Song

Music: Marvin Hamlisch  Lyrics: Carole Bayer Sager  Book: Neil Simon

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1978)

Who It’s Based On: Carole Bayer Sager and Marvin Hamlisch


Thomas and the King

Music: John Williams  Lyrics: James Harbert  Book: Edward Anhalt

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1975)

Who It’s Based On: Thomas Becket and Henry II


1980s Musicals

Barnum

Music: Cy Coleman  Lyrics: Michael Stewart  Book: Mark Bramble

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1980)

Who It’s Based On: P. T. Barnum


Chess

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1984)

Music: Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus  Lyrics: Tim Rice  Book: Richard Nelson

What It’s Loosely Based On: The 1972 Fischer-Spassky Chess Match


Dreamgirls

Music: Henry Krieger  Lyrics/Book: Tom Eyen

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1981)

What It’s Based On: R&B success stories of the 1960s/70s


Mayor

Music/Lyrics: Charles Strouse  Book: Warren Leight

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1985)

Who It’s Based On: NYC Mayor Ed Koch


Sarafina!

Music/Lyrics/Book: Mbongeni Ngema  Music/Lyrics: Hugh Masekela

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1987)l

What It’s Loosely Based On: The Soweto Uprising in South Africa


The Biograph Girl

Music/Lyrics: David Heneker  Lyrics/Book: Warner Brown

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1980)

What It’s Based On: The Silent Film Era


The Rothschilds

Music: Jerry Bock  Lyrics: Sheldon Harnick  Book: Sherman Yellen

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1970)

Who It’s Based On: The Rothschild Family


Yours, Anne

Music: Michael Cohen  Lyrics/Book: Enid Futterman

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1985)

What It’s Based On: The Diary of Anne Frank


1990s Musicals

A New Brain

Music/Lyrics/Book: William Finn  Book: James Lapine

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1998)

What It’s Based On: William Finn’s experiences


First Lady Suite

Music/Lyrics/Book: Michael John LaChiusa

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1993)

What It’s Loosely Based On: First Ladies Throughout History


Floyd Collins

Music/Lyrics: Adam Guettel  Book: Tina Landau

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1994)

What It’s Based On: The story of Floyd Collins


Harmony

Music: Barry Manilow  Lyrics/Book: Bruce Sussman

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1997)

Who It’s Based On: The Comedian Harmonists


Jelly’s Last Jam

Music: Jelly Roll Morton, Luther Henderson  Lyrics: Susan Birkenhead  Book: George C. Wolfe

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1992)

Who It’s Based On: Jelly Roll Morton


Kat and the Kings

Music: Taliep Petersen  Lyrics/Book: David Kramer

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1996)

What It’s Based On: The memories of Salie Daniels


Parade

Music/Lyrics: Jason Robert Brown  Book: Alfred Uhry

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1998)

What It’s Based On: Leo Frank’s 1913 Trial


Side Show

Music: Henry Krieger  Lyrics/Book: Bill Russell

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1997)

Who It’s Based On: Daisy and Violet Hilton


Spend Spend Spend

Music/Lyrics/Book: Steve Brown  Lyrics/Book: Justin Greene

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1998)

Who It’s Loosely Based On: Viv Nicholson


Titanic

Music/Lyrics: Maury Yeston  Book: Peter Stone

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1997)

What It’s Based On: The RMS Titanic


The Civil War

Music/Book: Frank Wildhorn  Lyrics: Jack Murphy  Book: Gregory Boyd

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1998)

What It’s Based On: The American Civil War


The Will Rogers Follies

Music: Cy Coleman  Lyrics: Betty Comden, Adolph Green  Book: Peter Stone

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1991)

Who It’s Based On: Will Rogers


2000s Musicals

A Class Act

Music/Lyrics: Edward Kleban  Book: Linda Kline, Lonny Price

Musical Type: Contemporary (2000)

Who It’s Based On: Edward Kleban


Bonnie & Clyde

Music: Frank Wildhorn  Lyrics: Don Black  Book: Ivan Menchell

Musical Type: Contemporary (2009)

Who It’s Based On: Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow


Catch Me If You Can

Music/Lyrics: Marc Shaiman  Lyrics: Scott Wittman  Book: Terrence McNally

Musical Type: Contemporary (2009)

Who It’s Based On: Frank Abagnale


Chaplin

Music/Lyrics/Book: Christopher Curtis  Book: Thomas Meehan

Musical Type: Contemporary (2006)

Who It’s Based On: Charlie Chaplin


Grey Gardens

Music: Scott Frankel  Lyrics: Michael Korie  Book: Doug Wright

Musical Type: Contemporary (2006)

Who It’s Based On: Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale and Edith Bouvier Beale


Lizzie

Music/Lyrics: Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Alan Stevens Hewitt  Music/Lyrics/Book: Tim Maner

Musical Type: Contemporary (2009)

Who It’s Based On: Lizzie Borden


LoveMusik

Music: Kurt Weill  Lyrics: Various  Book: Alfred Uhry

Musical Type: Contemporary (2007)

What It’s Based On: The lives of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya


Memphis

Music/Lyrics: David Bryan  Lyrics/Book: Joe DiPietro

Musical Type: Contemporary (2002)

What It’s Based On: Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips


Road Show

Music/Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim  Book: John Weidman

Musical Type: Contemporary (2003)

Who It’s Based On: Addison and Wilson Mizner


Scandalous

Music: David Pomeranz, David Friedman  Lyrics/Book: Kathie Lee Gifford

Musical Type: Contemporary (2005)

Who It’s Based On: Aimee Semple McPherson


The Hatpin

Music: Peter Rutherford  Lyrics/Book: James Millar

Musical Type: Contemporary (2008)

Who It’s Based On: Amber Murray


The Immigrant

Music: Steven M. Alper  Lyrics: Sarah Knapp  Book: Mark Harelik

Musical Type: Contemporary (2000)

Who It’s Based On: Haskell Harelik


The Likes of Us

Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber  Lyrics: Tim Rice

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age/Contemporary (1965/2005)

Who It’s Based On: Thomas John Barnardo


The Pirate Queen

Music/Book: Claude-Michel Schönberg  Lyrics: John Dempsey  Lyrics/Book: Alain Boublil, Richard Maltby, Jr.

Musical Type: Contemporary (2006)

Who It’s Based On: Gráinne O’Malley


2010s Musicals

21 Chump Street

Music/Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Musical Type: Contemporary (2014)

What It’s Based On: “What I Did For Love” from This American Life


Allegiance

Music/Lyrics/Book: Jay Kuo  Book: Marc Acito, Lorenzo Thione

Musical Type: Contemporary (2012)

What It’s Based On: World War II/Internment of Japanese Americans


Amazing Grace

Music/Lyrics/Book: Christopher Smith  Book: Arthur Giron

Musical Type: Contemporary (2012)

Who It’s Based On: John Newton


Calendar Girls

Music/Lyrics: Gary Barlow  Book: Tim Firth

Musical Type: Contemporary (2015)

What It’s Based On: The Fundraising of the “Calendar Girls”


Clinton: The Musical

Music/Lyrics/Book: Paul Hodge  Book: Michael Hodge

Musical Type: Contemporary (2012)

What It’s Based On: The presidency of Bill Clinton


Come From Away

Music/Lyrics/Book: Irene Sankoff, David Hein

Musical Type: Contemporary (2013)

What It’s Based On: The town of Gander on September 11, 2001


Diana

Music/Lyrics: David Bryan  Lyrics/Book: Joe DiPietro

Musical Type: Contemporary (2019)

Who It’s Based On: Diana, Princess of Wales


Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Music: Dan Gillespie Sells  Lyrics/Book: Tom MacRae

Musical Type: Contemporary (2017)

Who It’s Based On: Jamie Campbell


First Daughter Suite

Music/Lyrics: Michael John La Chiusa

Musical Type: Contemporary (2015)

What It’s Loosely Based On: First Daughters Throughout History


Half Time

Music: Matthew Sklar  Lyrics: Nell Benjamin  Book: Bob Martin, Chad Beguelin

Musical Type: Contemporary (2018)

What It’s Based On: The New Jersey Nets’ first 60+ dance team


Hamilton

Music/Lyrics/Book: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Musical Type: Contemporary (2015)

What It’s Based On: The Life of Alexander Hamilton


Made in Dagenham

Music: David Arnold  Lyrics: Richard Thomas  Book: Richard Bean

Musical Type: Contemporary (2014)

What It’s Based On: The 1968 Ford sewing machinists strike


Mrs Henderson Presents

Music: George Fenton, Simon Chamberlain  Lyrics: Don Black  Book: Terry Johnson

Musical Type: Contemporary (2015)

What It’s Based On: Laura Henderson and London’s Windmill Theatre


Nevermore

Music/Lyrics/Book: Jonathan Christenson

Musical Type: Contemporary (2010)

Who It’s Based On: Edgar Allan Poe


Newsies

Music: Alan Menken  Lyrics: Jack Feldman  Book: Harvey Fierstein

Musical Type: 1992 Film/Contemporary Musical (2011)

What It’s Based On: The 1899 Newsboys Strike in NYC


Queen of the Mist

Music/Lyrics/Book: Michael John LaChiusa

Musical Type: Contemporary (2011)

Who It’s Based On: Annie Edson Taylor


Six

Music/Lyrics/Book: Toby Marlow, Lucy Moss

Musical Type: Contemporary (2017)

Who It’s Based On: The six wives of Henry VIII


Starry

Music/Lyrics: Matt Dahan  Lyrics/Book: Kelly Lynne D’Angelo

Musical Type: Contemporary (2019)

Who It’s Based On: Theo and Vincent van Gogh


Stephen Ward

Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber  Lyrics/Book: Don Black, Christopher Hampton

Musical Type: Contemporary (2013)

What It’s Based On: The 1963 Profumo affair


The Hello Girls

Music/Lyrics/Book: Peter C. Mills  Book: Cara Reichel

Musical Type: Contemporary (2019)

What It’s Based On: The telephone operators during WWI


The Scottsboro Boys

Music/Lyrics: John Kander, Fred Ebb  Book: David Thompson

Musical Type: Contemporary (2010)

What It’s Based On: The Scottsboro Boys Trial


The View UpStairs

Music/Lyrics/Book: Max Vernon

Musical Type: Contemporary (2017)

What It’s Based On: The 1973 attack at the UpStairs Lounge


Witness Uganda

Music/Lyrics/Book: Matt Gould, Griffin Matthews

Musical Type: Contemporary (2014)

What It’s Based On: Matthews and Gould’s experiences


2020s Musicals

A Beautiful Noise

Music/Lyrics: Neil Diamond  Book: Anthony McCarten

Musical Type: Contemporary (2022)

Who It’s Based On: Neil Diamond


Get Up Stand Up!

Music/Lyrics: Bob Marley  Book: Lee Hall

Musical Type: Contemporary (2021)

Who It’s Based On: Bob Marley


How to Dance in Ohio

Music: Jacob Yandura  Lyrics/Book: Rebekah Greer Melocik

Musical Type: Contemporary (2022)

What It’s Based On: The documentary How to Dance in Ohio


The Little Big Things

Music/Lyrics: Nick Butcher  Lyrics: Tom Ling  Book: Joe White

Musical Type: Contemporary (2023)

Who It’s Based On: Henry Fraser


Tokyo Rose

Music: William Patrick Harrison  Lyrics/Book: Maryhee Yoon, Cara Baldwin

Musical Type: Contemporary (2021)

Who It’s Based On: Iva Toguri D’Aquino


We Won’t Sleep

Music/Lyrics: Ari Afsar  Book: Lauren M. Gunderson

Musical Type: Contemporary (2020)

Who It’s Based On: Jeannette Rankin


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Do you know of any other great musicals based on true stories?

Or have you seen/listened to any of the musicals based on true stories above? Let us know in the comments below! And if you like these types of lists, check out the musical database. That’s where you’ll find musicals sorted by composer, theme, setting, and more!


Stacy Karyn, Author of Musicals Based on True Stories.
Author: Stacy Karyn

Stacy Karyn is the founder of Theatre Trip, author of The Thespian’s Bucket List, and creator of The Cast Album List. She holds a BA in theatre, a TESOL drama certificate, and has worked and interned with Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters.


 

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