Considering the amount of attention the Favorite Showtunes list got me, I figured I would take advantage of the fact that the blog exists to simply throw more of my thoughts out there into the world regarding showtunes that I really love.
I decided that I am still going to follow the same formula more or less, BUT the big difference is that I am going to make a list of 75 split up into threes, so that way, I have a list 100 showtunes total counting the first round.
Also, since I have this in mind and I know 75 is a big number, I am just going to list 25 songs in alphabetical order and not do a ranking. I feel like just discussing them will suffice.
So, the following are 25 more of my favorite showtunes, with another set of 25 to come out over the weekend more than likely. ENJOY!
Almost Real from THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY (Jason Robert Brown)
-Despite the fact the show never found an audience and was shut out from the Tonys in most of the major categories, the show still managed to net a win for Jason Robert Brown’s score, which I have to say is incredibly well deserved…although the score contains a few filler songs that pale in comparison to the fantastic compositions given to Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale. I will probably include a couple of other songs from the musical on my remaining lists so I won’t discuss others here…but this one is a very emotional ballad in which O’Hara’s Francesca gets to show off every inch of her luscious soprano range while she tells Pasquale’s Robert of her life in Italy until she was discovered by her soon-to-be husband who was serving in WWII and brought her back as a war bride. I think it is a shame that Kelli O’Hara didn’t won the Tony for this performance because she has quite possibly never been better…but thankfully she is still young and I am waiting for the day she comes full circle and plays Margaret in THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA.
A Call from the Vatican from NINE (Maury Yeston)
– I think my love for this song stems more from the concept and what actresses have done with the material more so than the music/lyrics…and that isn’t to knock either of them, because it is a very memorable and sexually charged song. I once heard, though haven’t been able to find it since, an audio recording of the first Broadway preview of NINE in 1982 in which you can hear the audience reacting to Anita Morris’ cat-like seduction routine, and as the song ended, you heard two men conversing gleefully with one saying “What’s the name of that song?!” and the other bemusedly says among the audience’s applause “A Call from the Vatican!”. The main premise of the song is tortured film director Guido Contini is being tempted over the phone by his mistress Carla while his wife Luisa just so happens to be sitting near him….and once she notices his stunned demeanor, she asks him what is wrong, and he replies: “It’s about my film. It’s from the Vatican”…and then into the phone “Go ahead, Monsignor”…and the continuation of Carla’s phone sex seduction culminating in her piercing orgasm is something to behold. Video does exist of Anita Morris’ take on the song which I personally think is legendary and something I would’ve been honored to witness. I did, however, have the pleasure of seeing Jane Krakowski’s Carla and her bedsheet entwined, gravity defying depiction was quite remarkable in its own right.
Come Back with the Same Look in Your Eyes from TELL ME ON A SUNDAY (ALW/Black)
– I actually included an Andrew Lloyd Webber song on a list of mine that involves FAVORITES?! Well, that isn’t too shocking as I am the first to admit that the man has written some good catchy music in his earlier years. Even though I feel EVITA is his best overall musical, I have always felt TELL ME ON A SUNDAY was his best overall score. It is sort of trapped in that late 70s/early 80s Easy Listening/Light Rock milieu and he actually manages to add some Tin Pan Alley flair to it. This song, in particular, is kind of forgotten at the expense of a couple of other songs from the piece but I have always found it to be a nice simple, jazzy tune about a woman who is longing to find a connection with a man and can’t get them to fully commit. Both Marti Webb and Bernadette Peters have lovely renditions of this song…Sarah Brightman does not.
Franklin Shepard Inc. from MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG (Stephen Sondheim)
– The first appearance of Sondheim on this list…and it won’t be the last…and he will be on the others. I have said before that I consider his most underrated score to be that of MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG. Sure, the show itself has been rewritten multiple times and has had wildly varying results but even at its worst and with its flaws showing, there is a musical that I just simply find so compelling and intriguing in front of me. I discussed its history in my top 25 musicals list so I won’t do it here, but as for this particularly song, it represents a genre that I seem to be drawn to: the character actor breakdown song. Charley is not happy with his best friend and writing partner Frank, who has become consumed with the greed and business dealings of the entertainment world, and while on television during an interview, he basically lets out all of his feelings in a chaotic and messy number that are those two adjectives in the best way possible. Charley has always been one of my dream roles (and sadly I am on the cusp of being too old to play him) and his arc (which is told backwards in the musical) is definitely heartbreaking to see his hope and wonder during his youth to the crushed soul he will become.
I Think I May Want to Remember Today from STARTING HERE, STARTING NOW (Shire/Maltby)
– This song was a quirky little highlight from STARTING HERE, STARTING NOW…a song cycle that is not very well remembered today but was always one of my favorites. This song (along with a couple of others) would be a staple for me to recommend to various female singers while I was in my Musical Theatre Voice class in college. Most people knew I adored musicals and could rattle off song ideas for hours, and I would recommend this song for any girl who wanted something sweet and perky. It is also a theme that is very relatable: a girl is writing in her journal how she wants to “remember this 10th of October” because her childhood friend Albert has confessed his love for her. The other brilliant thing about the song is it is written in a way where the actress could sing it completely sweet and subtle or she can use the appropriate moments to belt to show a stronger singer range, which could be more ideal in an audition setting. It is one song that always makes me smile when I think of it and that is certainly a pretty good feat in its book.
Maybe This Time from CABARET (Kander/Ebb)
– While it technically was first heard in the movie version and wasn’t added till the much later revival, I always considered this to be Sally Bowles’ number (although the title number is certainly iconic for all the right reasons). I’ve noticed multiple times how I seem to be choosing songs that are actually quite basic in terms of their melody and lyric structure, but it also just goes to show how the right tone and atmosphere of a song can go a long way…and the idea behind hoping that out of all the stresses in life, maybe THIS time will be the time you find the person who will make your life better…or to take it further, finding the perfect job after ages of applying for applications. It is another song where the core of it is highly relatable and with that, it gives the song all the more power…and it can also be sung with more hope or with more heartbreak.
The Miller’s Son from A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC (Stephen Sondheim)
– Sondheim himself has always said that he felt this was one of his best compositions, and I would definitely agree with him. Sung by Petra, Anne’s maid, she sings of the possibilities of what will happen if she were to marry, but that “in the meanwhile…a girl ought to celebrate what passes by”. There are a lot of the pattered lyrics that Sondheim loves to write along with the music, which is very lush and almost unpredictable. First, the song starts offslow and steady, then builds to almost running surge forward, and then plateaus to a more grand waltz feel before returning back to its slow steady pace. A lot of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC contains some of Sondheim’s most beautiful and luscious compositions and I think this song in particular is a prime example of that.
Mister Snow from CAROUSEL (Rodgers & Hammerstein)
– I feel like you can’t deny the importance of R&H…or perhaps more so just Hammerstein…when it comes to the advancement of musical theatre. Still, I am never fully drawn to all of their shows and I feel like a lot of their contemporaries built upon their eventually tired structure of “Leading couple; secondary couple; villain; wise mentor”. However, a lot of their individual songs can be consider prime early examples of what musicals could be capable of…and with CAROUSEL, it does feel lopsided that I am more intrigued by Carrie Pepperidge and Enoch Snow more than I am Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan…no matter though, because I will gladly take the songs they give me. Carrie gets the great gem Mister Snow in which she tells Julie about the man she loves, who just happens to be “an upstanding man…who can’t seem to lose the smell of fish”…but hey, love is love, and now “fish is [her] favorite perfume!”. The version of this song that I was first introduced to was that of a young Audra McDonald, or as she went by then, Audra ANN McDonald, for which she won her first of SIX Tony Awards. I can’t imagine anyone truly topping the magnetic glory that she found in this role.
Not A Day Goes By from MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG (Stephen Sondheim)
–Sondheim yet again…and the return of MERRILY. In the multiple different incarnations of this musical, Not a Day Goes By has been bounced around from various singers and reprises have been added…but in the original version, it was a big song for the character of Frank, our male lead.In more recent years, it has become a brilliant and emotionally charged addition to the brilliant concert repertoire of the one and only Bernadette Peters, who basically was sobbing less than 10 seconds into singing it and brought me down with her when I saw her do it live. It falls right in line with that recurring theme of songs that seem so simple and yet are so profound and moving and have that hook that just gets to me. It has been a proud inclusion in my own repertoire if I ever need a ballad for an audition.
Putting it Together from SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE (Stephen Sondheim)
-God, Sondheim and I need to get a room apparently…and I don’t necessarily mean his supposed sex dungeon…haha. I think the marvelous thing (out of many) regarding this particular Sondheim musical is that if you don’t have knowledge of the full show in advance, you might be thrown off when at the end of Act One, Georg finishes the painting. Where does one go from there? Well, we fast forward 100 years and meet his great-grandson George who is now an artist of his own sort…and in the freewheeling more modern era, he will do whatever it takes to schmooze and get the funding for his next project. The main lyric that always stood out from this song aside from its title, of course, is that of “Art isn’t easy”…It stuck with me so much in its blunt simplicity that I even made it my username years ago on my OkCupid profile….it was an easy way for the artsy people to know where I stood. Aside from being a great solo for the actor playing George, we get a lot of fun interactions from the actors in the ensemble with whom George is trying to interact with and learn who can be a good benefactor for him. A lot of what makes SUNDAY so beloved by artists is that even though it is about a painter or “sculptor” as the modern George briefly calls himself, the main idea of creating art is all the same in many ways, and this song is a major example of speaking to the idea of what it all takes to make something happen.
The Room Where It Happens from HAMILTON (Lin Manuel-Miranda)
– Speaking of making things happen, I suppose listing a song or two from the modern phenomenon that is wide and vast was bound to happen. My favorite song from HAMILTON in terms of “it’s stuck in my head again!!” has got to be this one (although I will acknowledge another song in my next batch that is probably my favorite from the show from a story/structure standpoint). Having said that, HAMILTON has been praised and talked about so much lately that even I am burnt out by it…so for now, I will leave it at that.
Run Away with Me from THE UNAUTHORIZED AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF SAMANTHA BROWN/THE MAD ONES (Kerrigan/Lowdermilk)
– From a small musical that only appeared off-Broadway and has had a couple of identity changes, this song came into my life in my early college days when I first met my ex, who introduced me to the song. Certain songs speak to you, especially if they catch you at just the right time, and with this song, the idea of having a whirlwind romance and wanting to just run away from everything you ever knew to be with this new person in your life was EXACTLY how I felt when I heard this song as a 20 year old who was finally accepting he was gay and had a new lover in his life that he didn’t want to be apart from…and was too afraid to face anything else. Aside from the emotional resonance I felt from it personally, I feel the composition itself is very beautiful and heartfelt and to this day, I revisit it often.
Send in the Clowns from A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC (Stephen Sondheim)
– And now for something completely expected. Sondheim just won’t go away!! So be it I guess…and as for this song, it is certainly his biggest success in terms of what is known to the masses. While never a blockbuster charting hit, it was frequently covered by every singer you could imagine and even netted a Grammy win for Song of the Year thanks to the most famous cover done by Judy Collins. For me though, I specifically gravitate to the original version sung by Glynis Johns. Most musical fanatics know the story behind why this song was written: Sondheim originally intended for the scene to have a song sung by Frederik but then he shifted the focus to Desiree…and considering Johns had a deliciously husky, though breathy, voice that couldn’t really sustain notes, he drafted the song with short phrases and a taut musical structure. He meant the song as a throwaway, but instead, it became one of his most indelible efforts. A lot of people have also criticized the use of the word “clowns” in the song and even questioned what it means or that the use of the word was improper. Frankly, I have always been immensely baffled by this because the whole point of the song is that Desiree feels foolish about the whole affair with Frederik and how desperately she wants him even though he is married to a much younger woman now. Other versions of the song are still quite good…particularly the acting by Judi Dench in her version.
She Loves Me from SHE LOVES ME (Bock & Harnick)
– When it comes to the type that is “The Leading Man”, I know that I am never going to be in the running for such a role…and frankly, I am more than okay with that. I often find that their songs are boring and don’t have much to make me interested except for in rare cases where the lead actor is a more character-actor based role like a Seymour in LITTLE SHOP or, perhaps, Georg Novack in SHE LOVES ME, whose neuroses and humor could make sense to cast someone who is less of a matinee idol and maybe someone that is more eccentric. Even though Georg still leans more towards a traditional leading man style role, it is the only one of its kind that I personally would love to play. SHE LOVES ME is the epitome of fluffy musical theatre for me and it is close to perfection…and this title song is one of the most joyous proclamations of love that you can possibly imagine. Each major version to be done on Broadway has been wonderful, but my favorite is actually the most recent revival in which Zachary Levi played Georg. He sang well but also added a lot of quirks that the original Georg, Daniel Massey, had…while having the flourishes of the remarkable 1993 Georg, Boyd Gaines.
Someone to Watch Over Me from OH KAY! (George & Ira Gershwin)
– It’s kind of surprising to me that I am just now talking about a Gershwin tune…and I think a lot of the reason I haven’t is because I’ve always kind of separated him from everyone else. When it comes to composers, especially those from the first half of the 20th century, NO ONE beat Gershwin. When it comes to the Great American Songbook, only Irving Berlin would come close to having a list of classics that are truly a marvel to behold. This song in particular has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and I’ve always associated it with the splendor of New York City, primarily due to its use in the famous moment from MANHATTAN where Woody Allen and Diane Keaton watch the sun rise while sitting next to the East River/59TH Street Bridge…and, on a personal note, I found a glorious orchestral version of the piece and after I moved to the city several years ago, I used to go walk along the water and listen to this song (among other Gershwin tunes) thinking about how I was a part of this glorious city now. Of course, that has nothing to do with the song itself…for the lyrics, George’s brother Ira certainly may have drawn criticism from Sondheim for structural purposes but he nailed it with this song to be sure.
Some People from GYPSY (Styne/Sondheim)
– There is no denying that GYPSY is filled with classic song after classic song, but I definitely want to acknowledge the number that REALLY introduces us to Madame Rose (since she is never actually called Mama Rose in the text, as author Arthur Laurents always loved to point out). Some People is a brassy uptempo number that lets us know firsthand that this Rose woman is no one to mess around with…and it is early enough in the show that we can admire her determination before she gets too engrossed in the greed and fame. Also, I feel like Some People is a song in which even some of the most debatable Roses have excelled. While many bashed Tyne Daly for not being a strong singer, all of the videos I have seen of her doing this song have been stellar…and it is also probably my favorite song of Ethel Merman’s take on Rose.
The Streets of Dublin from A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE (Ahrens/Flaherty)
– God…the sound of Steven Pasquale’s voice, here in its full Tenor-y glory and an Irish brogue to boot, is downright fantastic. After their success of RAGTIME and their colossal failure and eventual cult rise of SEUSSICAL, Ahrens and Flaherty minimalized and brought us this musical based on the small 1994 film of the same name. It revolves around a man named Alfie who runs a theatre group in Dublin and the objections he receives for wanting to stage a production of SALOME at his church…and he encounters the character of Robbie, who sings this song as a protest to the artsy world that Alfie is trying to get him to join, but he would rather drink with lushes. Normally I would not be thrilled with someone looking down on the arts, but the mood that they capture with this song is truly infectious.
Suddenly Seymour from LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (Menken/Ashman)
– One of the ultimate duets in musical theatre, no question, and it is also the example of the good guy (and geek, for good measure) finally getting the girl of his dreams…that is, before his current project will lead to the death of not just his adopted father, but this same girl and also, himself…and…well…everyone. Thanks Seymour. After watching Audrey put up with her abusive dentist boyfriend (who is now dead and has been fed to the plant by Seymour), we know that she does share feelings for Seymour based on what she told us during Somewhere That’s Green…and Seymour’s admiration for her has been telegraphed as much as humanly possible. This duet represents a brief snapshot in time where Audrey and Seymour find happiness before it will all truly go to hell.
A Summer in Ohio from THE LAST FIVE YEARS (Jason Robert Brown)
– There are certain musicals that I like or did like, but become so overdone and are talked about so frequently that I just grow tired of them. One of those has to be THE LAST FIVE YEARS, the two-hander about a young couple whose relationship builds and dissolves over a five year periodwhile the female (Cathy) has her version told from the end to the beginning while the man (Jamie) has his told from beginning to end, having them only truly at sync right in the middle of the show. While this song isn’t directly related to their love affair as strongly at others, I have always loved it for how it shines a lot on how hilariously painful it can be doing Summer Stock theatre surrounded by crazy people who perhaps shouldn’t be playing both Tevye or Porgy…also, the bouncy tune is instantly up my alley as sounding like something from the Porter or Gershwin or Arlen catalog.
Ten Minutes Ago from CINDERELLA (Rodgers & Hammerstein)
– Out of all of the musicals on this particular list, this is the only one that I actually highly dislike. I still remember the disappointment when I was in college when the rights were pulled for our production of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (which admittedly wasn’t my ideal show either even though I love it) and they said we were doing CINDERELLA instead. It was like an instant feeling of disgust. Having said all of that, I distinctively remember seeing a production of CINDERELLA when I was, maybe, 11 or 12 years old and I was certainly not particularly fond of it…but THIS song, for whatever reason, stayed with me. I found the melody of it to be absolutely beautiful and it also didn’t hurt that it was in ¾ time which I’ve always been a sucker for. Even though I knew I would never be cast as the Prince, part of me wanted to play him just so I could sing this song…but then that also meant I would’ve sang the redundant Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?….yeah, no thank you. So, yes, even shows you hate can have a song or two you love…and I think this song in particular might be the biggest example of how the right confectionary melody can make all the difference.
They Were You from THE FANTASTICKS (Schmidt/Jones)
– For nearly 42 years at the Sullivan Street Playhouse and a little over a decade at the Jerry Orbach Theatre, this off-Broadway legend just seemed to go on and on. While most people who saw it recently felt like the show had become hopelessly hokey and docile, I think the original cast recording with the likes of Jerry Orbach, Rita Gardner, and Kenneth Nelson was an absolute delight. The show has a defining standard in Try to Remember but I think one of the loveliest songs has got to be the subtly sweet 11 o’clock number sung by our two lovebirds: Matt and Louisa, after they realize that perhaps their greed for more during act two was uncalled for and that their love is worth continuing. I think it also helps that the very simplistic orchestrations add to the beauty of the moment as all we have are the piano and the harp…and it is the latter that gives the song its soul.
Vanilla Ice Cream from SHE LOVES ME (Bock & Harnick)
– It has become one of those songs that sopranos love to trot out if they are wanting to show off a stellar high note and be both uptempo and peppy…and some have grown sick to death of the song….those people can go suck a lemon. I have always adored this song for its charm and humor as we watch Amalia realize this man that she “despised” has turned “into a man [she likes]” while trying to write a new letter to her pen pal and admirer “Dear Friend” who just so happens to be the same man she is now falling for, Georg. The song is so engrained in my mind that I cannot buy or eat or walk past or mention ice cream without singing the song either in my head or, depending on who I am with, out loud to their probable consternation. Oh well, they, too, can go suck a lemon.
What More Can I Say? fromFALSETTOLAND/FALSETTOS (William Finn)
– This is easily one of the sweetest and most human examples of how one might express love when they aren’t fully sure if what they are expressing is even enough. Usually I will tear up when I hear it…which I often end up doing during the FALSETTOLAND portion of the trilogy…and cheesy as it may be…what more can I say? I just want to leave it at that and recommend looking up the song. For reference, the two most known and recorded versions are by Michael Rupert and Christian Borle.
You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow/Love Will See Us Through from FOLLIES (Stephen Sondheim)
– And for now, we end this round with Mr. Sondheim yet again. This quartet, which begins as two separate duets with different but compatible melodies before merging, is simultaneously both joyful and infectious but also kind of depressing…only with Sondheim. The musical is set around the reunion of the Weissman Girls (much like the Ziegfeld girls) at their old theatre before its set to be torn down. In the most basic of synopses, we primarily follow two of the middle-aged, retired girls: Phyllis and Sally along with their respective spouses, Ben and Buddy. However, Phyllis is incredibly unhappy in her marriage with Ben while Sally is actually in love with Ben…despite the fact Buddy actually adores her. As their relationships all crumble, we get this glimpse back to their youth where younger versions of them (that we’ve seen previously in songs like Waiting for the Girls Upstairs) sing about their future…in fact, you could say Sondheim would capture this tone again with the hopeful finale of MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG called “Our Time” where they all sing at their high school graduation but we know they will all end up miserable and unhappy. Here, these four seem at ease and full of wit and charm and passion…but the context of which it is placed in the show is absolutely brilliant.
And there we are! 25 more songs to add to my list of 100 Favorite Showtunes. I hope to put up another list of 25 sometime this weekend, but we will see where life takes me.
So long, farewell….