Back in April, Mark Evanier linked to someone’s Top 100 Broadway Songs of All Time from 2020. Some took great umbrage with the list, especially with EIGHT songs from Hamilton, and SEVEN from The Book of Mormon. Plus there was a dearth of songs from Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, and Kurt Weill.
In honor of what would have been the month for the Tonys, I’m going to, instead, pick my favorite numbers from musicals. Moreover, and this will be difficult, I’m going to limit it to one song per show.
I’m not going to worry if it was a song added to the movie version of the Broadway productions. You’re the One That I Want from Grease can be considered. Heck, someone put Over the Rainbow on a list. But nothing from Jersey Boys, or Tina, or Mamma Mia, or Summer, songs that were pop tunes long before the musical.
I recognize that I too would, without discipline, would lean heavily towards the songs in my lifetime. Most of the earlier ones I associate as part of the Great American Songbook. Whereas the later tunes I recognize, mostly from the movie versions of musicals and I have a specific PERFORMANCE in my mind’s ear.
Springtime for Hitler (The Producers, 2001) – the stunned silence of the audience from the 1968 movie at 2:25 is delicious.
Send in the Clowns (A Little Night Music, 1973) – I know this largely from the version by Judy Collins.
Some Enchanted Evening (South Pacific, 1949) I used to intentionally come up with the mondegreen Sam and Janet Evening
I Dreamed a Dream (Les Miserables, 1985) – it’s terribly schmaltzy, in a good way
Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered – (Pal Joey) – I opted for Ella.
Close Every Door (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, 1972) – I always thought Joseph was a thin album, but this was the strongest piece by far. Yes, Donny Osmond.
It’s a Hard-Knock Life (Annie, 1977). This became a pop song in the 1990s, as I have it on one of those compilation discs.
Oklahoma (Oklahoma!, 1943). If I didn’t know how to spell the 46th state, I do now. Oh, What a Beautiful Morning and More were considered.
All that Jazz (Chicago, 1975) I also like Cell Block Tango.
Summertime (Porgy and Bess, 1935)- SO many versions, several on the same album.
More Rodgers and Hart
Falling in Love with Love (The Boys from Syracuse, 1938). A song from the Supremes Sing Rodgers and Hart. I could have picked This Can’t Be Love, or Sing for Your Supper, covered by the Mamas and the Papas, from this show.
Circle of Life (The Lion King, 1997) – I’ve seen this at least four times, not counting the animated version. Twice a Broadway-level performance at Proctors in Schenectady, once at a high school, and once in a church production featuring my daughter
Don’t Rain on My Parade (Funny Girl, 1964). Barbra’s like butta.
Mack the Knife (The Threepenny Opera, 1928). Of course, it’s the Bobby Darin version, but I like the original too.
Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat (Guys and Dolls, 1950). About 1960, my father worked on a production of this show for Binghamton Civic Theater.
Money makes the world go round – Cabaret. I saw the movie with Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey when it first came out. The title track is probably a better SONG, but this resonated more.
Superstar (Jesus Christ Superstar, 1971) A pivotal album for me as I went to college. Perhaps I Don’t Know How To Love Him or Heaven on Their Minds could have been chosen.
Edelweiss (The Sound of Music, 1959). This was such a convincing song that people actually thought it was a real folk tune And it’s the reprise that gets to me.
The Flesh Failures/Let the Sunshine In (Hair, 1968) – the reprise of Manchester, England, not the jaunty first version but an anguished one gets to me.
The Time Warp (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1973) The bass vocal line is right in my vocal range.
Who’s gonna pay…
Seasons of Love (Rent, 1996) – higher math.
And I’m Telling You (I’m Not Going) from Dreamgirls. This is your basic showstopper.
Alexander Hamilton (Hamilton, 2015). Leslie Odom Jr. said he decided he wanted to do this show after hearing 21 seconds of this song. I could have picked My Shot, Wait for It, or a number of others, but this sets the table.
Tradition (Fiddler on the Roof, 1964). The fact that this story translates into so many languages and cultures is a sign of its enduring strength. I could have picked If I Were A Rich Man or Sunrise, Sunset, but this too sets the table. My second favorite musical.
Tonight/ Quintet (West Side Story, 1957) – when I heard this in the 1961 movie, I practically cried. You can do multiple melodies like that. This is why this was my favorite musical. Oh, and the other songs too, such as Somewhere and America.
What’s on your list?