The majority of this entry is my ode to Disney on Broadway, which began at the tail end of my last entry with The Little Mermaid. I did this to coincide with my Walt Disney World vacation, and I thoroughly enjoyed choosing a song from all the various Disney musicals that made it to Broadway.
After that, it is back to our regularly scheduled programming, featuring shows both old (Damn Yankees, Mack & Mabel) and more recent (The Addams Family, Diana) but all more than worth a listen.
121. 'If I Can't Love Her' from Beauty and the Beast (Terrence Mann as the Beast)
Original Broadway Cast (1994-2007)
It is hard for me to contain writing about Beauty and the Beast, and the song 'If I Can't Love Her' specifically, because I am so emotionally attached to it. The film was never my favorite despite Belle seeming like she should be my favorite Disney Princess on paper. However, in 1995, my father took me to see my first Broadway show, and this was it. I found the songs that were added to the stage production but weren't in the film (like 'Me') to be the most interesting, but it wasn't until 'If I Can't Love Her' that I fell in love with Broadway theater. By the time I saw it, Terrence Mann was no longer in it, so my Beast was the also amazing Jeff McCarthy. I will never forget sitting in the right orchestra and staring up at him in awe as he commanded the stage with just his presence and his voice and humanized a character I never liked by ending Act I with this extreme moment of powerful vulnerability. I don't care how old I get, no musical moment will ever be as purely influential on me as that one. As a side note, if you pay attention, you can hear the instrumental version of it play in the lobby of the Be Our Guest restaurant in Disney World's Magic Kingdom, and you can recognize the melody was sped up for the theme song of the television series Galavant. All that said, I'm still upset that it wasn't included in the semi-recent live action Beauty and the Beast film, and to me, the only acceptable version of the story is one that includes the song that solidified my love of Broadway. If there is such a thing as a perfect song, to me, 'If I Can't Love Her' is one. Listen here.
122. 'Let it Go' from Frozen (Caissie Levy as Elsa)
Original Broadway Cast (2018-2020)
I am a sucker for Elsa, and I am also a sucker for Bobby Lopez music (here, of course, he was writing with his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez), so of course, by extension, I love 'Let it Go.' I could listen to it and sing it all day long. Caissie Levy's Elsa was elegant and fierce (everything I hoped she would be!) and each time I saw her perform this famous number she brought down the house. As much as I enjoy the rest of the score, I couldn't imagine using a different song to represent Frozen. Listen here.
123. 'Waiting for this Moment' from Tarzan (Jenn Gambatese as Jane)
Original Broadway Cast (2006-2007)
I've always believed that the music for the Tarzan film is Disney's most underrated, and the score only got better when it was enhanced for the stage. Among the additions was this brilliant song for Jane where she begins naming everything she sees because is finally living out her dream of seeing all the things she studied in real life. It is a number bursting with energy and excitement and has driving percussion that makes you want to dance to it. It's always in my Top Ten List for female solos, and honestly, there were a few times before now that I wanted to use this song, but I knew I'd be going to Disney World and forced myself to keep it for this stretch. I hope you all love it as much as I do, it really needs more appreciation. Listen here.
124. 'The Circle of Life' from The Lion King (Tshidi Manye as Rafiki + Company)
Tony Awards Performance (2008)
Yes, 'The Circle of Life' is probably the most famous song from The Lion King's stage production, because it is where we get swept up in this world created by performance magic and top tier craftsmanship, so I could have gone in another direction. However, in 2008 when The Lion King performed that number at the Tony Awards, I was there in the audience. I think it made a bigger impact on me in that moment than it did when I saw it in its home theater, because I was struck by their ability to transfer the number to such a different venue. So, to represent The Lion King I didn't even choose to go with the original cast recording, I went with this specific Tony Awards performance because I wanted everyone to see it, and because I remember it so well. Watch here.
125. 'Proud of Your Boy' from Aladdin (Adam Jacobs as Aladdin)
In Studio With Alan Menken from "Aladdin" Original Broadway Cast Recording (2014)
The first time I heard 'Proud of Your Boy' was through John Barrowman singing it on one of his solo albums. There are a great many wonderful songs in Aladdin, and my favorite from the film has always been 'Prince Ali', but when it came to the stage production, I was so pleased to see 'Proud of Your Boy' was included that I had to showcase it over one of the flashier numbers. Watch here.
126. 'Watch What Happens' from Newsies (Kara Lindsay as Katherine)
Original Broadway Cast (2012-2014)
The 1992 film of Newsies is, without question, my favorite film of all time. I don't have similar affection for the stage production. In fact, so deep is my love of the film, that it is hard for me to find much that I like about the choices made for the adaptation, except this song. I don't even like that the character of Katherine was inserted into the story, but I can't help but appreciate 'Watch What Happens.' It is peppy and speedy and determined and a lot of fun. I particularly like vocal line on the lyrics, 'Give those kids and me the brand new century and watch what happens.' Listen here.
127. 'Step in Time' from Mary Poppins (Gavin Lee as Bert, Ashley Brown as Mary
Poppins + Company)
Disney on Broadway (2009)
Mary Poppins was never a movie that I loved to the level lots of people I knew did, but the stage version was so beautiful that it moved me more than the film every did. In particular, I loved watching Gavin Lee as Bert and his performance in 'Step in Time' made me gasp with excitement every time. It is something you absolutely MUST watch. Just trust me on it. Watch here.
128. 'Easy as Life' from Aida (Heather Headley as Aida)
Original Broadway Cast (2000-2004)
This was the last day of my amazing Disney World trip. I have a group of friends who absolutely love this show and I considered asking them which song I should choose, since I only saw it once and they saw it many times, but then I decided that I didn't need to. 'Easy as Life' is moving and haunting and Heather Headley sings the hell out of it, ,plus she'd been on my mind because I love her in the show Sweet Magnolias. I saw Aida late in the run and I always wished that I'd seen her, but at least there's always the cast recording. Listen here.
129. 'Underestimated' from Diana (Jeanna de Waal as Diana, Company)
Original Broadway Cast (2020, 2021)
July 1st was the birthdate of Diana, Princess of Wales, and since I love studying the Royal Family, I wanted to mark it with a song from the recent musical about her life. Although I was not certain how I would feel when I entered the theater (and it was the last Broadway show I saw before the pandemic shutdown) I thoroughly enjoyed this interpretation of her world. In particular, I thought 'Underestimated' was a beautiful song that does a wonderful job of setting the tone for a story about Diana's life. In fact, I like it so much that I have a pen from the show that says 'Underestimated' on the side, and it makes me happy. Listen here.
130. 'Pulled' from The Addams Family (Krysta Rodriguez as Wednesday)
Original Broadway Cast (2010-2011)
My dear friend Jill is a major Krysta Rodriquez fan and I spent much of my childhood being called 'Wednesday Addams' due to my pale skin, dark hair, and cheerful (ha!) demeanor. I also enjoy singing this song, which centers on Wednesday feeling like her whole world is changing because she's enjoying the stereotypically happy things she always used to shun. Listen here.
131. 'A Man Doesn't Know' from Damn Yankees (Jarrod Emick as Joe Hardy, Linda
Stephens as Meg Boyd) Broadway Cast (1994-1995)
I had seen quite a few unfortunately-done amateur productions of Damn Yankees that made me sigh at the idea of ever seeing it again. Then, in 2008, Encores! did a production that starred Cheyenne Jackson, Jane Krakowski, Sean Hayes, and Randy Graff. I had to go. I am glad I did. It felt like I was seeing the show for the first time. I was swept away by the tale of an older man who makes a bargain that puts his soul in peril so that he can be a young, successful baseball player, and in particular was attached to songs like 'A Man Doesn't Know', 'Near to You', and 'Two Lost Souls.' I ended up seeing it multiple times and loving it more each one. Unfortunately, that production did not release an official recording. So, I turned to the internet and began to listen to the mid-1990s Broadway revival, and as a fan of Jarrod Emick's voice from other shows, it was natural for this to become my favorite recording, which is why I selected it to showcase Damn Yankees. Listen here.
132. 'Somebody's Eyes' from Footloose (Stacy Francis as Rusty, Rosalind Brown as
Wendy Jo, Kathy Deitch as Urleen + Company)
Original Broadway Cast (1998-2000)
Footloose opened on Broadway at the perfect time for High School Me to fall in love with it. Most notably, at the time I saw it, Christian Borle was in it as the humorous sidekick, Willard, and I immediately became a fan. I listened to the cast recording so frequently that it made it difficult for me to choose which song to share. I considered Willard's big song ('Mama Says') and Ren's early solo number ('I Can't Stand Still') and the excellent 'Let's Here it for the Boy', but I kept thinking about the delightful trio of Rusty, Wendy Jo, and Urleen leading 'Somebody's Eyes'--a song about how in a small town, everyone knows what you're doing, so that is the one I opted to showcase. Listen here.
133. 'Here I Am' from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Sherie Rene Scott as Christine
Colgate, Ensemble) Original Broadway Cast (2005-2006)
It's not every day that I get a spunky, fun Christine character to love. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels may center on a pair of scheming men (played admirably by John Lithgow and Norbert Leo Butz), but Christine Colgate (played by Sherie Rene Scott) had this fabulous number that I loved to listen to, and sing. It's fun and funny and over-the-top jubilant as she celebrates her arrival in the French Riviera. It always puts me in a happy mood and I listen to it every time I travel to France. Listen here.
134. 'Shy' from Once Upon a Mattress (Carol Burnett as Princess Winnifred)
Original Broadway Cast (1959-1960)
After 'Here I Am', I wanted to keep the bouncy, fun times rolling, and 'Shy' popped into my head. The first time I engaged with the comedic riff on The Princess and the Pea that is Once Upon a Mattress, was when Sarah Jessica Parker performed 'Shy' at the Tony Awards in the late 1990s. I thought it was as funny as could be. At this same time, a grade school classmate of mine had developed a major obsession with Carol Burnett, which caused me to look up the Original Broadway Cast Recording, so that I could hear her rendition of the song. 'Shy' is a classic case of someone protesting too much. The more the Princess Winnifred character claims how shy she is, the louder and more outrageous her performance becomes, assuring you that she is not shy in the slightest. It's a great number for anyone looking to work on their comedic timing and a ton of fun. I debated about which version to use for this an ultimately chose Carol Burnett (who I like to call An American Treasure), but in my opinion both she and Sarah Jessica Parker owned the song. Listen here.
135. 'I Won't Send Roses' from Mack & Mabel (Brian Stokes Mitchell)
Broadway.com/Plays With Music (2019)
This one is a strong departure from the joy of the last two days. Many years ago a friend and I were collaborating on a short story about a couple where the boyfriend had convinced himself he could not be the things the girlfriend needed him to be, although he already was them. Not long after, my friend sent me a recording of this song (it was so long ago that I don't remember the performer) because it reminded her of that story we'd written. It's was the first time I engaged with Mack & Mabel in any way, and I found it to be a heartbreakingly lovely song from a show that did truly have echoes of what we wrote but in a very different setting and with a vastly different tone. I knew I wanted to include it here, and of course as soon as I watched this version from Brian Stokes Mitchell, I had to use it. Watch here.