365 Days of Musical Theater: 166-180
When I set out on this project of sharing musical theater songs for 365 days in a row, I knew I had to spread out some of my favorite music. If I didn't, I would be digging myself a hole where all of my favorites were used quickly and there would be sections of the year where I was only using enjoyable songs from my second or third tier of preference. Here, days 166 to 172 showcase a cluster of some of those favorites that I'd held back in the early days of this list. I decided to use them now because they were originally tweeted the week of my birthday.
The remaining songs here are two off-Broadway productions that I thoroughly enjoyed but did not receive released cast albums and then a mixture of old songs and new. The last group includes some that were either connected in some way ('The Telephone Hour' and 'The Smartphone Hour (Rich Set a Fire)') and others that I just consider to be enjoyable or classics.
These songs were originally tweeted between August 7, 2022 and August 21, 2022.
166. 'Goodbye' from Catch Me if You Can (Aaron Tveit as Frank Abagnale, Jr.)
Original Broadway Cast (2011)
In 'Goodbye,' Frank Abagnale, Jr., played by Aaron Tveit but based on a real-life con artist, talks about leaving that all behind and walking off into the sunset ("There's no more magic up my sleeve/There's no more Ieft to act up here/I'll take my bow and disappear") at the close of the show. I love a good 11 o'clock number and this is one of my favorites. (Catch Me if You Can actually has another powerful ballad I love in it, too, 'Fly, Fly Away') I chose it for two reasons: it is a song I put on when I want to sing along to something strong and powerful and I thought it was amusing to tweet something about leaving things behind on the eve of my birthday. Listen here.
167. 'Run, Freedom, Run' from Urinetown (Jeff McCarthy as Officer Lockstock,
Spencer Kayden as Little Sally, Hunter Foster as Bobby, Company)
Tony Awards Performance (2002)
I planned what song I would use for my birthday well in advance. I wanted something fun and funny and featuring one of my favorite performers. I quickly decided that it would be the perfect time to feature Urinetown, the quick-witted and utterly special musical about what happens when there is such a drought that a company decides to monetize people's ability to use the restroom. Spencer Kayden (as Little Sally in this clip) is a comedic genius who I've always considered the best of the best. While I actually love every song in this show, it was important for me to share something from it that allows people to watch their brilliance in person. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Watch here.
168. 'Back to Before' from Ragtime (Marin Mazzie as Mother)
Original Broadway Cast (1998-2000)
I believe I've mentioned here multiple times that Marin Mazzie has been a massive influence on me. Her turn as Mother, the turn-of-the-century woman whose world opens up as she realizes there is life outside of her role of wife and mother, was the catalyst for that. In this song, she realizes who she used to be, who she is now, and how the latter can never be the former again. It is one of the most gorgeous female solos of all time and no one has ever done it better. Ragtime cemented her as an icon in my mind and even when, as an adult, I learned the song myself, she was always in my mind. Her voice is undeniably dynamic with infinite layers and she manipulated it masterfully. If this song doesn't move you, I don't know that we could be friends. I will miss seeing hearing her sing live forever. Listen here.
169. 'What Say You Meg?' from The Last Ship (Aaron Lazar as Arthur)
Original Broadway Cast (2014-2015)
'What Say You Meg?' makes my heart sigh. The Last Ship, with a score written by Sting, is about a man from a shipbuilding community who has been gone for over a decade and returns to find his beloved Meg (the Meg of the title of this song) has long been with someone else. This stunning ballad doesn't belong to the returning 'hero' of the story, but to the man who has been with Meg in his absence: Arthur, as played by Aaron Lazar. Although Arthur certainly doesn't end up the most sympathetic of characters, this moment of proposing a beautiful future together is touching, wistful, and downright romantic. Listen here.
170. 'It's a Godsend' from Doctor Zhivago (Paul Alexander Nolan as Pasha,
Original Broadway Cast (2015)
There isn't a lot of upbeat music in Doctor Zhivago. In truth, this may be the most jaunty number in the whole production, and its primarily sung by the character who ends up the story's villain. Paul Alexander Nolan's Pasha may be newly married to the infamous Lara at the center of the plot, but this doesn't stop him from being cynical and mocking, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Indeed, it was the show's highlight for me. Listen here.
171. 'Letters' from Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812 (Company)
Original Broadway Cast (2016-2017)
You may have figured this out by now, but I am an absolute sucker for period musicals. I like them whether they are done in the style of the era they depict or a have a modern twist. Great Comet falls into the second category and its take on War and Peace is simply brilliant. I had the opportunity to see it twice during its various pre-Broadway runs and then again when it opened on Broadway, and I loved it every time. This song begins by intoning, 'In 19th-century Russia we write letters, we write letters' and that self awareness alone would have hooked me on the production if I wasn't hooked by earlier songs already. It's an intricate song that weaves seamlessly from character to character updating the audience on the thoughts of the various characters all while a continuous, monotonous, and yet compelling, beat makes you start bopping your head in time. I think about this song often, because I love how it embraced the traditional form of communication for conveying information on stage. Listen here.
172. 'Hard to be the Bard' from Something Rotten (Christian Borle as Shakespeare)
Broadway.com Music Video (2015)
Christian Borle has been one of my favorites since I saw him as Willard in Footloose on Broadway when I was in high school. I've always admired his commitment to his characters, especially when they require being at least a little absurd. His 2015 turn as a version of Shakespeare who has a hilarious number about the difficulties of being famous was exactly the sort of top-notch performance I'd come to expect from him. I remembered when this music video for 'Hard to be the Bard' came out and was happy to find it online to share it with you. Watch here.
173. 'She's So High' from Clueless (Dove Cameron as Cher, Dave Thomas Brown as
I am a big Disney fan, and I developed a love of Dove Cameron from watching her as Mal (daughter of Maleficent and Hades) in the Descendants franchise. Because of this, when it was announced that she was going to play Cher in an off-Broadway production of Clueless, featuring pre-existing pop music, I knew I had to go. It was the perfect confluence of an actress I loved being in a musical of a film that was a classic when I was growing up. I went and it didn't disappoint. The show was full of energy and fun and she was spectacular in it. Unfortunately, the world was not treated to a cast recording, but at least there are official clips like the one below that allow us to see bits of it. Watch here.
174. 'The Journey to Us' from Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (Jennifer Damiano as Carol)
There are two reasons that I had to feature Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice on this list. The first is that as a lifelong die-hard Natalie Wood fan, I absolutely adore the film with its late-1960s look at two couples who consider experimenting with each other. The second is because this stage adaptation (where Jennifer Damiano plays the role originated by Natalie Wood) was the last professional production I saw before the world shut down in 2020. It was an interesting take on the film, and I enjoyed that it was done in an intimate space, with respect for the original material. Watch here.
175. 'It's a Perfect Relationship' from Bells are Ringing (Faith Prince as Ella)
Broadway Revival Cast (2001)
It may seem like a strange segue, but thinking about a film from the 1960s for Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice for the entry above caused me to recall musicals from the past that I hadn't yet featured. Bells are Ringing is originally from the 1950s and it tells the story of a woman named Ella who works for a telephone answering service. In this song (and I chose the revival version, performed by Faith Prince, because it was the recording I listened to when I was learning the song in high school), which comes early in the musical, Ella talks about the 'perfect relationship.' What this means is that she has decided she's in love with a man she speaks to at work constantly, but he's never seen her and she has never seen him, so he can be whatever she imagines him to be. It's a lovely song about the fun of the unknown and, honestly, you could probably update it today to being about someone you only know via email or social media. Maybe someone will do that one day, if they haven't already. Listen here.
176. 'The Telephone Hour' from Bye Bye Birdie (The Teenagers)
Original Broadway Cast (1960-1961)
When I was little, I loved to watch the film of Bye Bye Birdie (in which a teen idol, Conrad Birdie, in Elvis-like fashion, must give up his career to join the military) and pretend I was Ann-Margret, dancing around and singing like lovestruck teenager. One of the highlights of that film and its musical counterpart is 'The Telephone Hour' where teenagers embark on an elaborate maze of phone calls spreading the gossip that Kim (Ann-Margret in the film) is now 'going steady' with a boy named Hugo. It perfectly encapsulates teen drama and how networks light up the minute something interesting happens. Listen here.
177. 'The Smartphone Hour (Rich Set a Fire)' from Be More Chill (Tiffany Mann as
Jenna, Katlyn Carlson as Chloe, Lauren Marcus as Brooke, Girls)
Original Broadway Cast (2019)
I had intended to continue this section with songs from classic musical theater, but at this point in my tweeting I was reading the graphic novel Be More Chill. I'd missed the musical when it was in New York but I wanted to know what it was about (it essentially follows the story of a high school student who thinks he needs help from a drug/item called SQUIP that controls how he presents himself in order to be with the girl he wants to date). This process led me to learning about the song 'The Smartphone Hour (Rich Set a Fire)' which is a direct descendant of 'The Telephone Hour' and follows news of a fire spreading through the tech-savvy community. Listening to them back to back, as I hope you will when reading this blog, is a great example of adapting old classics for modern audiences. Listen here.
178. 'Wouldn't It Be Loverly?' from My Fair Lady (Julie Andrews as Eliza)
The Ed Sullivan Show (1961)
After my brief detour to the modern, I decided to do one more classic musical theater song and, as I have done before, I drew from my singing past. My voice teacher was the first person I ever heard sing this song, when she used to record the music for me to help me learn it. I was a young teen, but I loved learning and singing this one. It had so much more personality than 'I Could Have Danced All Night' (which I also eventually had to learn). I knew that for most people Julie Andrews was the first Eliza they encountered so I decided to share her version even though (and I'm as surprised as you are) I think looking up her version led to the first time I had ever actually heard it. Watch here.
179. 'Someday' from Memphis (Montego Glover as Felicia)
Broadway.com Music Video (2011)
The year that Memphis won its Tony Award for Best Musical, it will surprise no one to hear that I was pulling for American Idiot. However, my allegiance to that production doesn't mean that I didn't appreciate some things about the show that won. I thought the song 'Memphis Lives in Me' was wonderful and I was entranced by Montego Glover as Felicia. When I remembered that a music video of Montego singing 'Someday' had been released, I knew I had to share it. It felt obvious to me that music video created for a musical about a woman who becomes a famous singer (singing this song!) was the perfect choice for this entry. Watch here.
180. 'Keep on Standing' from Rocky (Andy Karl as Rocky)
Original Broadway Cast (2014)
Rocky is one of those shows that I wish more people got to experience live. I had no attachment to the film (I don't think I've ever actually seen it in full) but the stage production was an epic visual experience. When it came time for the big fight, the boxing ring came out over the audience, requiring those sitting the closest to move. It was a phenomenal piece of theater, but due to such focus on the visuals the music was, I think, somewhat ignored. This was my chance to shine a light on it, even if it's just for a minute. Listen here.