BWW Blog: Elton John's Contribution to Theatre
Last week the book 'Me' was released by the legend Elton John and it got me thinking about Elton's contribution to musical theatre. His book is his first ever official autobiography and gives a wonderful insight into this musician's wonderful career and life full of the highest highs and lowest lows a human being could possibly go through. Elton John has always been one of my favorite musicians and I have seen him four times already, five if you count me being in my mother's belly dancing around at his magnificent show. Songs like "Bennie and the Jets", "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", "I'm Still Standing", "Tiny Dancer", and "Your Song" are just a few of the classics he is known for. He takes the lyrics from different songwriters and can come up with a tune almost instantly. His music and his generous personality have touched millions. His musical fantasy movie Rocketman, that came out earlier this year, based on his life is one of the greatest, in my opinion, films ever made. He has such a passion and love for everything he does and what he has given the magical world of musical theatre is just as extraordinary.
Elton John's first Broadway musical was The Lion King, which premiered in 1997 and is still going strong today in New York and on national tours. He helped compose the music with Tim Rice providing the lyrics in the original Disney film and carried over his classic songs to the Broadway musical, earning a Tony nomination for Best Original Score. Without his wonderful songs like "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" or "Circle of Life" the Lion King would not be the same.
The next musical Elton John worked on was Aida, which ran from 2000 to 2004 and is based on the opera of the same name. Tim Rice also helped Elton with the lyrics for this musical and it even won the Tony for Best Original Score. The story is about a love affair between a star-crossed pair of an Egyptian captain and a captured princess who battle between love and duty. It won a Tony for Best Original Score and many other awards. It also won a Grammy award for Best Musical Show Album.
Lestat was Elton John's next musical project and it ended up being a commercial failure, although it was unique in subject matter and was based of the Vampire Chronicles series by Anne Rice. It only had thirty-three previews and thirty-nine performance in 2006 before closing and Bernie Taupin, John's regular writing partner, helped with the lyrics. Besides this short run, in San Francisco history it was the highest-earning play before entering Broadway but much of it was changed when it transferred, resulting in its commercial failure.
The musical following Lestat may be Elton John's most successful musical besides the Lion King. It was Billy Elliot: The Musical and it ran from 2008 to 2012. It is based on the film of the same name that came out in 2000 and this time Lee Hall helped write the lyrics. It is about a young boy that starts to take ballet lessons and the struggles he faces with identity and that of the community. It even has a DVD live recording that was released in 2014 in the UK and will have a tenth anniversary Australian tour this year. This musical was extremely important due to its discussion of gender roles and acceptance towards those who are different and unique. It won a Tony for Best Musical and was nominated for Best Original Score among many other awards.
Besides the creation of music in these major musicals, Elton John has also helped produce the play Next Fall and has had his songs featured in many musicals such as Rocktopia, Moulin Rouge, and the upcoming Almost Famous musical. He is also currently working on a few new musicals such as The Devil Wears Prada, which is based off the novel and 2006 film of the same name.
Elton John should be recognized for much more than just his rock n' roll discography. He has contributed to so many different charities, events, and theatre. He has dabbled in many different forms of art and that is what makes him a legend in every right and I am so proud to be able to get to write even a small piece on my adoration for him and what he has given to the world. His songs will live on forever and his contributions to the world will never be forgotten.
(Also, please do check out and try to donate if you can to his Elton John Aids Foundation which he founded and runs with his husband David Furnish, who is a wonderful producer, in 1992 in the US and 1993 in the UK. The foundation is used to support HIV prevention, care, and education to those who live with HIV and it has raised over $400 million so far. Thank you.)