The first half of this installment is for people like me, who love winter and the weather and holidays that come with it. For these songs, most of which were originally shared in December, I embraced the winter theme wholeheartedly. However, if that isn't your thing, just skip down to number 307, where I go back to my regular assortment of random songs chosen based on my mood at the time. Down there you'll find songs from shows like Seussical, Saturday Night, Bridges of Madison County, and Is There Life After High School?
301. 'Always Together' from Soul Doctor (Eric Anderson as Shlomo and Amber Iman
NYT In Performance (2013)
This musical is based on the life of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach (who passed away in the 1990s) and uses music he wrote as part of the story. In life, he was a controversial person, but in the musical his positive attributes were the focus. One of the most interesting aspects of it, though, was that it highlights his real-life friendship with famed singer Nina Simone. Here, I feature one of the songs that Eric Anderson's Shlomo and Amber Iman's Nina Simone sing together in the show. Watch here.
302. 'A Christmas Song' from Elf (Sebastian Arcelus as Buddy, Amy Spanger as
Original Broadway Cast (2010-2011)
I have friends who love Elf, the Will Ferrell film, an extreme amount. I admit that I could never reach their level of fandom for it, but I do enjoy it and I think Sebastian Arcelus really captured Buddy's essence. In this song, Buddy is trying to convince Jovie that (as established in the film) the best way to spread Christmas cheer is 'by singing loud for all to hear.' It's good, pure fun. Listen here.
303. 'Welcome Christmas' from Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (Citizens
World Premiere Cast Recording (2013)
In the film version of Grinch that I grew up with (the animated one, which is the definitive version in my world) when the citizens of Whoville sing 'Welcome Christmas' it really makes me feel festive and joyous. When they adapted the story for the stage, I was glad to see that classic remained and with the same wonderful enthusiasm from its performers. Listen here.
304. 'Counting Down to Christmas' from A Christmas Story (Tom Wopat as Jean
Shepherd, Clarke Hallum as Ralphie, The Parkers)
World Premiere Recording (2012)
I wasn't sure how I felt about the beloved film A Christmas Story becoming a musical. I didn't think the vibe could truly be captured with songs, and I usually think everything can be musicalized. Still, I was driving through North Carolina when it played there pre-Broadway and decided to see it. I was pleasantly surprised. It may have been a little brighter than the film (that my family watches every single year without fail) but it retained some of the quirky appeal. The show has had various versions of certain songs, so don't be surprised if you see it and this one isn't performed or is different than this recorded version. Nevertheless, if you like this song, you'll probably like the show in any form. Listen here.
305. 'White Christmas' from Holiday Inn (Bryce Pinkham as Jim, Lora Lee Gayer as
Broadway HD (2017)
I cheated a little bit with this one. Holiday Inn is not the same as White Christmas but it shares some key elements, like the song 'White Christmas'! As someone who absolutely loves that song (and the film of the same title) I decided to use the Holiday Inn version of it so that I could free myself up to feature another song that I love from White Christmas for number 306 on this list. Winter is my favorite season and I spend all year hoping that we will have a snow-covered Christmas, so this song is always up my alley. Watch here.
306. 'Snow' from White Christmas (Stephen Bogardus as Bob, Jeffery Denman as
Phil, Kerry O'Malley as Betty, Meredith Patterson as Judy)
Original Broadway Cast (2008-2009)
As mentioned above, I cheated a bit in order to get this song included. White Christmas is one of my favorite holiday films and the song 'Snow' always makes me laugh, as the foursome at the story's core sing about the delight that occurs when it snows. I also love the title song, and choosing between the two was hard, so I just didn't do it. I remember when the film was first adapted for the stage, I thought, "If they don't keep 'Snow' in the show, I'm going to riot." They did and I was very happy about it. Listen here.
307. 'First Impressions' from First Date (Zachary Levi as Aaron, Krysta Rodriguez as
One of my closest friends is a huge Krysta Rodriguez fan, and we were talking about her fandom at this point in the year, so it caused me to look for a way to incorporate her into this list in as a front-and-center singer. The first show that came to my mind was First Date, which follows (in detail) the first date of Krysta's Casey and Zachary Levi's Aaron. This song, which appropriately comes early in the story, is literally about the first time you meet someone who could be your next romantic partner. Watch here.
308. 'So Many People' from Saturday Night (Lauren Ward as Helen, David Campbell
Original New York Cast (2000)
I was hooked on this slow, beautiful ballad from the my moment I heard the lyric, "I said the man for me/Must have a castle." It continues to talk about how the singer is shocked to find the man she loves more than she ever thought possible has none of the trappings she once thought were non-negotiable. She reflects that the person is more important than what they have and ultimately the song is a wholehearted declaration of the feeling of utter luck that comes with being in love. I am a fan of every moment of it. Listen here.
309. 'Almost Real' from The Bridges of Madison County (Kelli O'Hara as Francesca)
Kelli O'Hara has been featured a lot recently on this list and I'm not sorry about it. I feel like I've been seeing her on stage forever, in a great way. This one is very different from the last time I talked about her, when she was in The Pajama Game with Harry Connick, Jr. That song was playful and fun while this one was more aligned with her time in (my favorite Kelli show) The Light in the Piazza. Here, she stars as an Italian woman who grows incredibly unhappy in her marriage and life in middle-of-nowhere USA. I picked this song not only because there was a lovely video where you could Kelli sing it, but also because it's where she explains her character's backstory and I love a good backstory. Watch here.
310. 'What You'd Call a Dream' from Diamonds (Philip Quast)
Live at the Donmar (2002)
Philip Quast has one of my favorite voices, and it isn't heard in the USA enough (for real, his 'Stars' from Les Mis is the definitive version to me). Something else that isn't heard in the USA enough is the musical Diamonds, which has nothing to do with gems and everything to do with diamonds of the baseball variety. Given that baseball is my favorite sport and I've already stated my bias in favor of Philip Quast's sound, of course I had to share it. It's a song about wanting to be the hero of the game, and it's awesome. Listen here.
311. 'Nothing Really Happened' from Is There Life After High School? (Lisa Brescia)
If It Only Even Runs a Minute (2010)
Of all the songs I've mentioned in this list recently, this one hit me in the heart the most. It's almost never heard, which makes me sad, and it was hard to find a good recording of it, but I found this one by the wonderfully-voiced Lisa Brescia. It isn't a loud song or a flashy one, but it is incredibly introspective and the subject matter is significant for me, so I'm hoping it is for someone else out there. It's about a woman remembering when she was younger and spent a night with a boy where 'nothing really happened' but the potential for what could have and how she felt remains a core memory. She wonders if she should reach out to him and, if she did, would he even remember it? Every time I think about it, my mind goes into nostalgic, emotional overdrive for hours after. I knew from the day I decided to create this list that it would be included. It's time has finally come. Watch here.
312. 'Love Changes Everything' from Aspects of Love (Michael Ball)
Andrew Lloyd Webber's Royal Albert Hall Celebration (1998)
The first time I ever heard 'Love Changes Everything' was when Audra McDonald slayed it as part of the Andrew Lloyd Webber love trio in the My Favorite Broadway: The Leading Ladies concert. That gorgeous version will forever be my favorite, but because it is entwined with other songs there, I felt I should pick a version where the lyrics get to shine on their own. If you ever wanted an anthem about the way love can alter the whole world for you, now you've got a true classic. Watch here.
313. 'Whistle Down the Wind' from Whistle Down the Wind (John Barrowman)
Aspects of Andrew Lloyd Webber (1998)
Despite having heard 'Whistle Down the Wind' approximately a billion times in my life, I somehow have never seen the actual show (probably because it's not exceedingly popular...) Of all the versions I've heard, John Barrowman's is my favorite. His notoriously smooth voice glides over the notes in a way that elevate the song from sweet to powerful without being overbearing. It's a song that promises protection and solidarity and calls for bravery in the face of darkness, and its melody is both soothing and encouraging. Listen here.
314. 'Struttin' from Shuffle Along...(Joshua Henry as Noble Sissle, Brandon Victor
Dixon as Eubie Blake, Brian Stokes Mitchell as F.E. Miller and Billy Porter as Aubrey Lyles)
Tonys Sampler (2016)
I started to write a whole big description for this show, but then I realized the important thing is this: Joshua Henry, Brandon Victor Dixon, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Billy Porter all exist on this track together. If that combination of talent isn't enough to get you to listen, nothing will be. Listen here.
315. 'The One Feather Tail of Miss Gertrude McFuzz" from Seussical (Janine
LaManna as Gertrude McFuzz)
Original Broadway Cast (2000-2001)
One of my funnier memories from my teen years is that I was upset when Seussical opened because, in my mind, it was going to be a stupid show and it was responsible for my beloved Footloose closing so it could take the theatre. My teenage feelings were real, and not entirely logical. Anyway, the show is beloved by many friends of mine, but I didn't listen to it until well after the Broadway run. This quirky little number is about Gertrude McFuzz and her self-consciousness about her tail, which she thinks isn't good enough to make her catch the attention of her crush, Horton the elephant. Listen here.