This section of songs from my ongoing musical theater adventure includes the poignant ('It Would Have Been Wonderful') and the silly ('As We Stumble Along') It also has both the traditional ('Summertime') and the modern ('Always Starting Over.') I tried to come up with a coherent theme that I could talk about, but the fact is this group is as varied as my taste. I can say though, that this entry includes both what I think is Will Chase's most underrated solo and my nomination for Idina Menzel's best vocal performance.
I hope you enjoy them all.
136. 'It Would Have Been Wonderful' from Annie Warbucks (Marguerite MacIntyre
as Grace) Original Cast Recording (1993)
I was never a fan of the musical Annie and probably as a result of this, I barely registered that a sequel musical existed. Then, during a musical theater class, I heard this song for the first time, and I was struck by how beautiful it was. It's a plaintive song about what might have been, and it could work in any context, so I think it's one that more people should pull out for use in concerts or auditions. Listen here.
137. 'Always Starting Over' from If/Then (Idina Menzel as Liz)
Original Broadway Cast (2014-2015)
If/Then is an ambitious musical that follows a character named Elizabeth down two potential roads in her life (one where she is called 'Liz' and one where she is called 'Beth'.) In 'Always Starting Over' the Liz version of her character confronts the perpetual changes life throws at you (including, specifically, the death of a loved one) and how difficult it can be to constantly feel like you have to restart and rebuild. As the song reaches its crescendo, I always get swept up in it and I would argue that 3:40 to the end of the song is Idina Menzel's best on-stage vocal performance ever. Yes, I know that is a big thing to say, but there it is, I said it. Watch here.
138. 'The Butterfly' from The Story of My Life (Will Chase as Thomas)
Goodspeed version (2008) The Story of My Life didn't last long when it came to Broadway, which I found disappointing. In particular, I felt this way because of Will Chase's wonderful turn as Thomas, and his performance of this song, 'The Butterfly.' In it, Will's Thomas is sharing a story that he wrote for his college application. It tells the story of a butterfly who muses that it is, "Trivial and small/And, in the greater scheme of things/I don't mean much at all" but that doesn't turn out to be the case. It learns that the motion of its wings impacts the movement of the air and, as such, has a great impact on everything else. Ultimately the butterfly realizes that there are a lot of ways to bring change to the world and gets to realize its dreams. It's sweet, and I am love few things as much as I love story songs, so I was excited to share it. The version here is from the pre-Broadway run, because I was happy to find a proper video of the song in context. Watch here.
139. 'Along the Way' from Edges (Aaron Tveit)
Zipper Concert (2008)
If you are ever looking for a song that is simple and silly and bound to make you smile, turn to 'Along the Way.' I remember back in 2008 when I first saw this performance of it by Aaron Tveit on YouTube. I couldn't believe he was singing about the unfortunate fate of Jorge, his grade school class' pet, as a way of talking about how mistakes/bad things will happen, but life goes on. Then, when the song concluded, I couldn't stop thinking about it and humming it to myself. Now, I'm sharing its oddball delight with you. Watch here.
140. 'Don't Rain on My Parade' from Funny Girl (Linda Eder)
Linda Eder: Greatest Hits (2007)
The current Broadway production of Funny Girl has been caught in a tornado of drama almost from the moment it opened. It had me thinking about the famous belt-tastic anthem 'Don't Rain on My Parade' and I realized that my favorite version of it actually came from Linda Eder. Her power and command fill me with joy. Listen here.
141. 'City Lights' from The Act (Liza Minnelli as Michelle Craig)
Tony Awards Performance (1978)
Thinking about 'Don't Rain on My Parade' led me to thinking about belting in general. When I was first learning how to belt in my early 20s, my amazing voice teacher handed me the sheet music to 'City Lights' to work on. I hadn't realized that it was a song that Liza Minnelli sang in a role that won her a Tony. However, as soon as I found it, I understood why. Watch her hold the audience in the palm of her hand as a once-famous star now trying to make it in Vegas. Watch here.
142. 'Madame Guillotine' from The Scarlet Pimpernel (Company)
Original Broadway Cast (1997-2000)
July 14th is France's National Day (also known as Bastille Day) and so I wanted to celebrate it by showcasing a musical that was extremely influential in developing my love of French history. Based on a novel, The Scarlet Pimpernel tells the story of an English man's secret life rescuing French people from the possibility of death during the French Revolution of the late 1700s. Although it is a very serious topic, the stage production expertly balanced humor and drama, and used stunningly beautiful music to do so. It did, however, also go through many incarnations. The one I'm using here is the original Broadway production, known as version 1.0. Although I also saw several of the revised versions, none will ever hit my heart the way the original still does. I considered many songs for this tweet, because the truth is it is one of the rare cast albums where I never feel like I have to skip a track, but I went with 'Madame Guillotine' because it sets the tone for the musical in the show itself, and is a great introductory song. Listen to it to feel like you have been pushed back in time to a period of infamous unrest with a song that will draw you in immediately. Listen here.
143. 'Save the People' from Godspell (Hunter Parrish as Jesus and Company)
Broadway Revival Cast (2011-2012)
I didn't know who Hunter Parrish was before the 2011 revival of Godspell but as soon as I heard him lead 'Save the People' I knew it was my favorite version of the song. His light but passionate touch on lyrics asking 'When wilt thou save the people?/ Oh God of mercy, when?" is exactly what I feel like the song needs. Watch here.
144. 'As We Stumble Along' from The Drowsy Chaperone (Beth Leavel as the Drowsy
Chaperone) Original Broadway Cast (2006-2007)
The Drowsy Chaperone is a true love letter to musical theater and its fans. Narrated by a character known only as Man in Chair, sharing his favorite musical (a fictional one called The Drowsy Chaperone, said to be from the 1920s) with the audience. As the musical unfolds, Man in Chair shares anecdotes about both the show itself and the drama behind the scenes. In 'As We Stumble Along,' the character of the Drowsy Chaperone has her giant anthem moment, which we are told was put in the show at the insistence of the actress who played the character. It is a show-within-a-show scenario along the lines of Kiss Me, Kate, and with just as much entertainment to be enjoyed. There are a number of great songs in this show, but I've always particularly appreciated Beth Leavel playing a fictional actress playing a fictional character known for her alcohol-fueled power number. Listen here.
145. ‘An Old-Fashioned Wedding' from Annie Get Your Gun (Bernadette Peters as
Annie Oakley and Tom Wopat as Frank Butler) Broadway Revival Cast (1999-2001)
One of my favorite Young Theatergoer memories was seeing Bernadette Peters on stage for the first time as she squared off against Tom Wopat in this classic show. She was sassy, she was funny, and she owned the stage. 'Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better' is the standard song pulled from this show because, well, it's an awesome example of one-upmanship. However, for me, the real fun has always been in 'An Old-Fashioned Wedding' where Annie and Frank go all out to let us know what they envision--and how different they still are. Bernadette's Annie energy is contagious and I can't hear this song without dancing around. Listen here.
146. 'Love You Till the Day' from It Shoulda Been You (Montego Glover as Annie and
Nick Spangler as Greg) Original Broadway Cast (2015)
It Shoulda Been You is a comedic musical set at a wedding where nothing is what it seems. My favorite part of it was seeing Montego Glover on stage again. I had loved her in Memphis and I continued to find her to be a delight here, so I decided to feature this duet. In it, her character (Annie) and Nick Spangler's character (Greg) perform the song at a wedding but it serves as a secret message for their respective secret love interests. You won't find any spoilers more than that from me, but you can definitely listen here.
147. 'Summertime' from The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess (Audra McDonald as Bess)
The Rosie Show (2012)
There are certain songs that live at the core of the awareness of a classical soprano, and one of those is 'Summertime.' Its soaring high notes and its evocative lyrics (my personal favorite is the figurative language around spreading one's wings and taking to the sky) not only establish the connection between a mother and her baby to set the stage at the top of the production, but are also perfect to be performed in concerts and cabarets. Although I knew the song for many years, Audra McDonald's turn as Bess was the first time I saw the song performed in context. It is beautiful and has become the defining version in my mind. Watch here.
148. 'On Broadway' from Smokey Joe's Cafe (Adrian Bailey, Frederick B. Owens, Ken
Ard, and Victor Trent Cook) Tony Awards Performance (1995)
I was thinking a lot about classic songs during the second half of this section, and there aren't many that are more classic than 'On Broadway.' Smokey Joe's Cafe was a revue that I always wished I got to see in person, but I have only ever seen the filmed version--and this Tony Awards performance. The joy, swagger, and smoothness on display here mixed with that perfect blend of voices makes it a must-enjoy. Watch here.
149. 'Turkey Lurkey Time' from Promises, Promises (Donna McKechnie as Vivien
Della Hoya, Margo Sappington as Miss Polanski, Baayork Lee as Miss Wong, Company) Tony Awards Performance (1969)
When I was growing up (and I like to think it is still the same way now) you would've lost your membership in the League of Musical Theater Fans (not a real thing) if you didn't know 'Turkey Lurkey Time.' It is simultaneously one of the dumbest songs to regularly appear on stage and one of the best choreographed. The head bops alone should make you a fan of these fabulous dancers. Watch here.
150. 'Oom-Pah-Pah' from Oliver! (Sally Dexter as Nancy, Company)
London Palladium Cast Recording (1994)
There are lots of songs from Oliver! that are famous, perhaps none more so than Nancy's 'As Long As He Needs Me.' However, I was in a peppy mood after the pure fun that was 'Turkey Lurkey Time,' so I went with a song that I actually enjoy more than 'As Long As He Needs Me.' 'Oom-Pah-Pah' is a rousing number Nancy sings with the tavern patrons before her life turns extremely dark and it always makes me want to dance with abandon. Listen here.