I was in the mood for a theme when I was putting this batch of songs together and the theme that spoke to me was all songs performed by women. Liza Minnelli, Chita Rivera, Kristin Chenoweth, Anna Uzele, Donna Murphy, Hailey Kilgore, Capathia Jenkins and more really bring it here. I hope you'll give these songs a listen and think about the wide variety of magic created by these fabulously talented women.
316. 'Waiting for Life' from Once on This Island (Hailey Kilgore as Ti Moune)
Broadway Revival Cast (2018)
'Waiting for Life' is a gorgeous and vibrant 'I Want' song. In it, Ti Moune (played by the mega-voiced Hailey Kilgore) pleads with the gods to show her the meaning of her life, to give her her purpose, and to help her move from waiting for her life to begin to actually living it. Watch here.
317. 'Where am I Now?" from Lysistrata Jones (Patti Murin)
The Songs of Lewis Flynn (2017)
Lysistrata Jones was such a strange (but entertaining) show and honestly, probably great for introducing people to a classic story. It takes Lysistrata, an ancient Greek play by Aristophanes, and drops it into a modern college. In the original, the women of a region attempt to stop a war by withholding sex from the men until they agree to end a war by negotiating peace. In the musical, college girls withhold sex from the athletes there, in order to get them to finally win a basketball game. This song is Lysistrata Jones' big Act I finale number where she looks at what she's started and wonders how everything got quite so messy. Watch here.
318. 'Just a Housewife' from Working (Susan Bigelow as Kate)
Original Broadway Cast (1978)
When I spent my summer at CAP21, my friend Samantha was assigned this song. It was the first time I ever heard it and a beautiful exercise in controlled emotion and understanding nuance. This slow song is a magnificent depiction of the frustration of being a woman who runs the home without an outside job, who knows what she does is essential and important but has been made to feel less-than in a time when out-of-the-home employment is being lauded for mothers. The lyrics 'What I do is out of fashion/What I feel is out of date" show just how much societal changes can weigh on someone's self-esteem. It's beautiful and a bit heartbreaking and there are many ways to interpret it in performance. Listen here.
319. 'I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City' from Everyday Rapture (Sherie
Original Broadway Cast (2010)
In 2010, Sherie Rene Scott brought her semi-autobiographical show to the Broadway stage. I remember wondering how it would be, as I'd spent years listening to her on the recordings of shows like The Last Five Years, but I didn't know anything, really, about her real life. I loved it, and this song in particular. It's her journey song, taking her from a childhood in Kansas to the bustling, shining lights of New York City. If you aren't already there, it'll make you want to come to New York City, too. Listen here.
320. 'I Sure Like the Boys' from A...My Name is Alice (Randy Graff)
If It Only Even Runs a Minute VII (2011)
A...My Name is Alice is a musical revue from the 1980s that was performed entirely by women and featured all songs about life as a woman. One of the women in it back then was the super-talented theater mainstay Randy Graff. Here, she revisits a song from it, called 'I Sure Like the Boys' which is about exactly what you think it is about--liking boys and how they make her feel. Watch here.
321. 'Kiss of the Spider Woman' from Kiss of the Spider Woman (Donna Murphy)
Kennedy Center Honors for Chita Rivera (2002)
Donna Murphy can sing absolutely anything. A true chameleon, there is nothing she can't do. In this tribute to Chita Rivera, she took on one of Chita's iconic performances and sang the title song from Kiss of the Spider Woman. Seeing this on television was the first time I ever engaged with this musical and I remember thinking, "I have no idea what this is about, but I am now obsessed with the idea of seeing Donna Murphy in it." Turned out, it's about the fantasies of an imprisoned man, which include a Spider Woman whose kiss literally kills you, but even without that knowledge, this performance is thrilling. Watch here.
322. 'This Place is Mine' from Phantom (Meg Bussert as Carlotta)
American Premiere Recording (1993)
This Phantom is, yes, the same story as in the long-running musical The Phantom of the Opera, but it has a different composter: Maury Yeston instead of Andrew Lloyd Webber. The result of this is a show that feels unique despite the shared plot. This song, 'This Place is Mine' is my favorite one in it. It features the opera diva Carlotta showing her extreme vocal power and personality (she is a force of nature!) as she flies through the lyrics with speed and passion, reminding everyone that everything about the opera house revolves around her and her stardom. It's fun to listen to and fun to sing. Listen here.
323. 'How Glory Goes' from Floyd Collins (Kelli O'Hara)
I've lost count of the amount of men I know who think 'How Glory Goes' is the ultimate man's solo. It was this fact that made me choose the song and just this week (well after this song was initially tweeted) my friend Eric commented about his love of the song to me, so I know this is still a popular opinion. Ironically, he said to me as we were waiting to see Kelli O'Hara in Days of Wine and Roses. I told him that I'd known full well it was a favorite song among men, which is exactly why I picked this version, I like to shake things up. I think it's beautiful no matter who sings it. The show tells the story of a real man named Floyd Collins who, in 1925, lost his life after a cave exploration went wrong. 'How Glory Goes' sees him consider his fate and wonders about what comes next. Listen here.
324. 'A Big Black Lady Stops the Show' from Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me
(Capathia Jenkins, Company)
Original Broadway Cast (2006-2007)
Fame Becomes Me was a weird catch-all sort of show that was basically just a showcase for Martin Short's comedy. However, he was surrounded by an extraordinarily talented ensemble that included Capathia Jenkins. Despite Martin being the headliner and center of it all, it was Capathia's show-stopping number that is my biggest memory from it. 'A Big Black Lady Stops the Show' is a marvelous send up of the popular musical theatre trope of having a Black woman bring down the house in the final portion of a show. Listen here.
325. 'Screw Loose' from Cry-Baby (Alli Mauzey as Lenora)
Original Broadway Cast (2015)
When Cry-Baby was on Broadway, I went to see it because my friend Jess was a huge fan of the film version, which was also a musical. Unfortunately, the stage production did not capture the vibe of the cult classic film the way many people hoped. It's a classic bad boy/good girl story but with a John Waters-style twist, yet somehow most of the music on stage wasn't memorable. A key standout, though, was 'Screw Loose,' in which a supporting character named Lenora (played perfectly by Alli Mauzey) leans into the commentary that she is of the off-kilter variety while also making it a love song. It's her total commitment to the absurdity that really sells it. Listen here.
326. 'Love and Love Alone' from The Visit (Chita Rivera as Claire)
Original Broadway Cast (2015)
The Visit is a very, very strange and dark little show about Claire, a wealthy woman who wants her former lover killed. There are two things about it that stuck the most in my mind: first, that it was sadly Roger Rees' last Broadway appearance, and second, that Chita Rivera's stage presence is always as top notch as people say it is. Here, the legendary Chita depicts Claire in a moment of introspection. It's about the pain and long-lasting damage love with the wrong person can cause, and it's moving. Listen here.
327. 'A Quiet Thing' from Flora the Red Menace (Liza Minnelli as Flora)
Original Broadway Cast (1965)
Liza Minnelli made her Broadway debut as Flora in this show and it made her a Tony winner. In the early 2000s when my voice teacher assigned me 'A Quiet Thing,' I never really gelled with it. It's about how when your dreams come true or good things happen, there aren't alarms and cheers and applause and fireworks to signal it. No, it happens quietly and intimately and you have to notice it without fanfare. Young me never really loved it or did well with it, but young Liza? She hit it out of the park and it's a great listen for those who want to hear what she sounded like before she went fully bombastic in later years. Listen here.
328. 'West End Avenue' from The Magic Show (Joan Ryan)
Joan Ryan (1997)
The Magic Show was on Broadway well before I was born so I didn't learn about it until 'West End Avenue' appeared in a song anthology I used for voice lessons and my teacher suggested it. The show is literally about a magician and, while it's not one that you see performed all that often, songs like 'West End Avenue' appear every now and then. There's good reason for this one to keep popping out, too: it's great. It's about what happens when you're sure you're better than where you're from...and when you realize you are going to go back there, because it's home. Listen here.
329. 'I Don't Need Your Love' from Six (Anna Uzele as Catherine Parr)
Original Broadway Cast (2020/2021- )
Six is a modern musical styled like a rock concert that features the six (thus, the title) wives of King Henry VIII. Each Queen gets her own song, in a unique style. I decided to feature the song performed by Anna Uzele as Catherine Parr here because she is my favorite of his wives. This song isn't about how great Henry is, no, it's about what she had to give up when it became clear she had to marry him and what she's accomplished--and how little of it had to do with her royal husband. Listen here.
330. 'My New Philosophy' from You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Kristin
Chenoweth as Sally, Stanley Wayne Mathis as Schroeder)
Tony Awards (1999)
If I was aware of Kristin Chenoweth before this Tony Awards performance, I don't remember it now. This is the oldest thing that pops into my brain when she is mentioned. I chose it entirely because I feel like we can all use a bit of cheerful nonsense sometimes and that's exactly what this is, Kristin embodying Sally from the Peanuts comics and brining boundless youthful exuberance, much to the chagrin of Stanley Wayne Mathis' Schroeder. Watch here.