Musicals That Have the Same Plots

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Musicals That Have the Same Plots

Musical theater quiz
Musical theater quiz.

They say that there are only really seven basic plots in literature. Everything else is just variations on those essential themes. This, of course, applies to musical theater. As I'm fond of telling my students at The Boston Conservatory, everything has been done before. What matters is the quality of the execution. I mean, did Shakespeare ever have an original plot in his entire career? (Well, he did, but you get my point.) What follows is a quiz of sorts, challenging you to come up with more than one show that fits each of the plot descriptions. (A warning: Some of these shows are pretty obscure.)

Good luck! 

02
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?????

Musical theater quiz
Musical theater quiz.

Plot: A charming conman comes to town to try to trick the citizens into purchasing his services. The townspeople buy into his flimflam, except for the local spinster. Predictably, the conman and the spinster fall in love, and all is well with the world. 

03
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The Music Man, 110 in the Shade, and Leap of Faith

Music Man, 110 in the Shade, Leap of Faith
Music Man, 110 in the Shade, Leap of Faith.

I remember sitting in the theater watching Leap of Faith, the sorely underrated and short-lived musical that premiered on Broadway in 2012, and suddenly thinking, "Hey, this is The Music Man." And then thinking, "Hey, it's also 110 in the Shade." I happen to be a fan of all three musicals, and the fact that they share the same essential plot doesn't bother me at all.

04
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?????

Musical theater quiz
Musical theater quiz.

Plot: In a large American city, a larger-than-life widow encourages two young couples to defy a rich merchant by having a merry night out at a fashionable restaurant. Complications arise when the merchant also shows up at the restaurant and is stuck with their bill.

05
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Hello, Dolly! and A Trip to Chinatown

A Trip to Chinatown and Hello Dolly!
A Trip to Chinatown and Hello Dolly!.

Talk about a plot that has made the rounds. This story began as a one-act farce in 1835, then reappeared in 1891 as A Trip to Chinatown(A now-forgotten show, during which, curiously, no one ever actually goes to Chinatown.) The show did produce at least one popular standard, the lovely "After the Ball," which Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern interpolated into Show Boat some 36 years later. Thornton Wilder later used the plot in The Merchant of Yonkers (1938), and again in significantly revised form in The Matchmaker (1955). Finally, in 1964, Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart used The Matchmaker as the basis for their monster hit, Hello, Dolly!

06
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?????

Musical theater quiz
Musical theater quiz.

Plot: A woman who has had intimate relations with three different men many years before is surprised when all three show up demanding to know who is the father of the woman’s daughter.

07
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Mamma Mia! and Carmelina

Carmelina and Mamma Mia
Carmelina and Mamma Mia.

People are often surprised to hear that the plot of Mamma Mia! has been used before, at least twice. It began as Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell, a 1968 film comedy starring Gina Lollobrigida, Phil Silvers, Peter Lawford, and Telly Savalas. Then in 1979, Alan Jay Lerner used it as the basis for his unsuccessful musical, Carmelina(Lerner repeatedly denied basing his show on the movie, although the specificity of the plot makes his protestations rather dubious.) 

08
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?????

Musical theater quiz
Musical theater quiz.

Plot: A Jewish-American girl dreams of a life on the stage. She's a bit unconventional looking, but she's got a great personality, and she pluckily makes her way into show business, eventually landing a starring role in The Ziegfeld Follies. Along the way, she survives a couple of disastrous marriages.

09
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Funny Girl and Sophie

Funny Girl and Sophie
Funny Girl and Sophie.

Believe it or not, both Sophie (1963) and Funny Girl (1964) appeared on Broadway within a year of each other. The latter was based on the life of Sophie Tucker, who had a story not unlike that of Fanny Brice, both in terms of success and personal difficulty. Sophie had songs by TV show host and comedian Steve Allen. Allen even appeared on The Judy Garland Show and sang a medley of songs from the show with Judy. Even so, the show ran a dismal 8 performances and faded into obscurity. 

10
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?????

Musical theater quiz
Musical theater quiz.

Plot: A theatrical producer puts on a deliberately tasteless, supposedly money-losing Broadway musical, which surprisingly turns out to be a hit. 

11
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The Producers and Face the Music

The Producers and Face the Music
The Producers and Face the Music.

Some 60-plus years before The Producers became a ginormous hit, a show called Face the Music appeared on Broadway with a markedly similar story line. In Face the Music, a bunch of crooked policeman are trying to get rid of some of their ill-gotten gains, and decide to invest it in a money-losing Broadway show. The show unexpectedly becomes a hit, thanks to some salacious material added to the show and the attendant publicity about same. The show featured a book by Moss Hart, direction by George S. Kaufman, and a score by Irving Berlin that featured the now-standard "Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee." 

12
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?????

Musical theater quiz
Musical theater quiz.

Plot: In act 1, the characters selfishly seek and receive what they’re looking for. In act 2, they deal with the consequences.

13
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My Fair Lady, Into the Woods, and The Fantasticks

My Fair Lady, Into the Woods, The Fantasticks
My Fair Lady, Into the Woods, The Fantasticks.

OK, so this one is a bit on the general side, and could arguably apply to many more shows than I've listed here. But the three that unquestionably fit the description are My Fair LadyInto the Woodsand The Fantasticks. If you stretch it, you might also include Wicked and Little Shop of Horrors, but it's sort of hard to fit Elphaba and Audrey into the "selfish" category. A Little Night Music might also work, as could Follies, in a pinch. 

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Caggiano, Chris. "Musicals That Have the Same Plots." ThoughtCo, Aug. 22, 2016, thoughtco.com/musicals-that-have-the-same-plots-3219555. Caggiano, Chris. (2016, August 22). Musicals That Have the Same Plots. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/musicals-that-have-the-same-plots-3219555 Caggiano, Chris. "Musicals That Have the Same Plots." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/musicals-that-have-the-same-plots-3219555 (accessed November 22, 2017).