Those Who Sing
This is a bizarro musical, but I really have always kind of loved it. All of the love affairs and relations are so twisted and bizarre, and I really felt for young Jenny after she fell for her older cousin / uncle / whatever the hell he is. I mean, she was a teenager, and he was a grown-ass man, and he should have known better, and she pleads with him, and it's really just kind of winning and catchy. I really kind of hate all of these characters, but I am still interested in the weird songs and story that winds all over the place and never really gets anywhere.
No one said that Romeo
I Wish I Could Go Back to College
I love this little song because the three voices are sweet and simple and sure here, because anyone who's ever been to college can relate to it, and because of the little choked sob that my sister let out when we went to see it and Princeton sang wistfully, "I wish I had taken more pictures."
I wish I could go back to college.
Jesus Christ Superstar
I really first fell in love with this song on the Jesus Christ Superstar: A Resurrection recording, on which Emily Saliers plays Mary Magdalene and Amy Ray plays Jesus and some dude named Gerard McHugh plays Pilate, and his delivery of this song is just dead-on chilling. It really shows how Pilate was just kind of like, "Um, hi? Pilate here? And I just did what you wanted? So why is it all my fault? Alert?" This album rocks, and I much prefer it to the original Broadway or movie soundtracks.
I dreamed I met a Galilean
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Close Every Door
My sister played Gad, one of the twelve sons of Jacob, in her high school production. They had a great Joseph, and his rendition of this song made my mother and me both cry profusely in the audience. I have a couple of recordings of this soundtrack, and I am not even embarrassed to say that the Donny Osmond one is far and away my favorite.
For I know I shall find
The Last Five Years
If I Didn't Believe in You
This is my favorite song from this musical that I love so much. Jamie still loves Cathy and is obviously unhappy, but he takes one last stab at reaching out to her and trying to connect with her. It obviously doesn't work, and he ends up cheating on her like a dickhead, but this song always reminds me that once he really did love her, and maybe he really did try to make it work. Norbert Leo Butz, as usual, nails it. It's gorgeous.
If I didn't believe in you
Who Am I
I love this one because it's basically when Jean Valjean breaks down and has his crisis of conscience about coming clean and admitting who he is and what he's done. It's such a turning point so early on the musical and basically sets up the entire rest of the show. Plus, if you can hear a really good Jean Valjean sing this (which we most decidedly did not in London last summer), the beauty! The humility! The inducement of the chills!
How can I ever face my fellow man?
I Still Believe
This was one of the shows I saw on my first trip to New York my junior year of high school when our chorus sang at Carnegie Hall. I sat next to my friend Marie, and we clutched hands and sobbed like inconsolable infants. This song was my favorite when I first saw it, and Lea Salonga and Liz Callaway needless to say sang the hell out of it onstage. I still find it very moving, and if I had to pick a favorite all these years later from this show, this would probably be it. I am still bitter that Liz Callaway never sang the part of Ellen on a cast recording, because I do not care for the London recording Ellen. Or the London recording Chris for that matter. But it's probably time for me to get over this.
Yes, I know that this was years ago
But then … there's this song. It's short and simple, but it's always stood out to me. It's when John comes to tell Kim that Chris knows about her and the baby and that he has come back. And she of course freaks out and stops hearing what he is really saying because she's so over the moon ecstatic and out of her mind that Chris is there, but he's really there to tell her that he's there, but he's married, and he hasn't come for her, but to see the baby and help them however he can. Shit! It's a doozy of a duet.
They don't say
Goodbye, My Love
This is at the very beginning of the story, and we already hear how Mother isn't really satisfied with her life in sunny, happy New Rochelle. It sets up perfectly how she ends up sheltering Sarah and the baby, befriending Tateh, and ultimately finding her own independence even though she's not ready to yet at this point. Plus, Marin Mazzie can deliver an emotional song, whether it's quiet and contemplative or loud and raging, like no one else but Marin Mazzie.
But what of the people
It's just so lovely that the idea of the old and new music is such a metaphor for the way that their lives and the world are changing. When Father asks, "Where have I been? How did we change?" and then, "Was I away too long?" it just squeezes my heart dry. He is so humanized in that moment, and the whole song really underscores the distance between him and Mother, who, of course, can hear the new music. And Father sings, "And I ask myself, why can't I hear it, too?" GOD. So beautiful. Never mind that this song also includes the vocal highlight of the show, Coalhouse's delivery of "Sarah, come down to me."
His fingers stroke those keys,
He Wanted to Say
FORGET IT! My sister and I love this one. We spent hours in Europe last summer trying to remember the damn words to this song and were driving ourselves crazy. This is the one when Little Brother finally grows some balls and offers to help Coalhouse avenge Sarah's death, and Emma Goldman is there kind of narrating the whole thing, and it's an amazing parallel to "Journey On" at the beginning of the show, and you just are so glad that Little Brother has finally found a purpose and that these two men, so different, are bound by this one common thing of trying to right some wrongs even though they're both going about it in kind of a fucked up way.
He wanted to say:
Back to Before
Well, Mother finally realizes that things are different now. It's not that she doesn't love Father, but she has been too changed and touched by everything that has happened ever to go back to how their lives used to be. This is her anthem, and it's awesome.
There was a time
Make Them Hear You
And this, of course, is Coalhouse's anthem. And it is powerful and strong and true and Brian Stokes Mitchell's passionate baritone just makes me come undone.
Your sword can be a sermon
La Vie Boheme
This, along with Seasons of Love, introduced me to this show on the night of the 1996 Tony Awards. My jaw hit the floor, and that was it, I was hooked, and there began an obsession that did not for a moment wane until I finally saw the show with the original cast the next spring and spent one of the most fun and memorable and surreal nights of my entire life camped out on the theater's sidewalk when it was 25 degrees outside. I really do think that if there's any song that made so many young people fall in love with this show almost ten years ago, it's this one. It's so energized and to see them dancing on table and singing about all of the things that they do -- it's like it struck a chord in people around my age -- saying, you're not alone. You're weird, but you're not alone, because weird fucked up people? They're everywhere. And they're surviving. And that's not an original message or idea, but every now and then, some book or song or play or film needs to come along and remind a generation of that. And as dated as it might seem now, and as much of a total cliché that it's become, and as terrified I am of the debacle that the movie promises to be, there was a time when this show meant pretty much the world to me, and I will never forget that.
To everyone out of the mainstream
The first time I sat down and listened to this musical in its entirety was on the CD player in my dad's study. For some reason, this simple little song stood out to me at that time as my favorite. You know how the first time you listen to something, that one song always stands out that you want to go back and listen to over and over? This was it for me. I still really do love it, because it cuts right to the heart not only of one character's feelings but really of the entire show.
Why are entire years strewn
The Secret Garden
I fell in love with this musical in 1996 when I was working at Disney World and discovered the album in my friend Vinnie's CD case full of Broadway soundtrack splendor and I knew instantly that we would be bosom friends that summer. I love all of the duet songs between Archibald Craven and his brother, but this one especially kills me. It captures in a beautiful nutshell why both men are so tortured by the presence of Mary Lennox.
She has her eyes
Race You to the Top of the Morning
It's no secret that I am shameless in my Patinkin love, and this song is just one example of why. It's magical, and somehow he manages to be sweet and tortured and hopeful and brave and terrified all at the same time. He is a genius, and this song is pretty heartbreaking, largely because he sings of a wizard who will slay the dragon who is keeping his son ill, and we all know he's referring to Dr. Craven, his rat bastard of a brother who intends to do no such thing. But Archibald doesn't know this yet; he still believes in his brother to save Colin. Little does he know that it will be Mary and Dicken and the garden.
Would to God I could stay and instead slay your dragon
How Could I Ever Know
Well, this song pretty much lays me out prostrate and makes me lie there immobilized by the sadness and beauty of it all. I mean, I really could just take this entire soundtrack and say, "Here. Here you go. This is perfect." Because really. It really is.
All I need is
The Sound of Music
This song sends my sister into paroxysms of tears. I remember not really getting it as a child, like, what are they talking about, being wicked, being miserable, being good, what in the almighty fuck do they mean, I mean, it really bothered and frustrated me because I think the concept of this song was a little much for a little kid to grasp. But now, of course, I do, and I love it completely, especially knowing that they had to film much of it in silhouette because Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews could not stop laughing.
Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Because of the moment when Maria comes out on the stage to rescue him when the Captain is so overcome that he chokes when trying to perform this song right before he knows he's about to leave the country he loves because he cannot fight for a regime that he hates and anyone with a heart in his or her chest pretty much is bound to weep openly. And don't even get me started on how they talked about this song on pretty much the best thing ever to air on PBS, The American Musical (which I already kind of talked about here in question number fourteen). First it talked about how this was the last song that Hammerstein wrote in the last musical he wrote before he died of cancer and how wonderful it was that he was still able to write a song like this while he was dying. And how the lights dimmed on London's West End in honor of his death but how for the first time in history the lights on Broadway were turned off completely. It was just so goddamn moving to hear Julie Andrews of all people narrating all of this. I neglected to point out that I called my parents' house immediately after this segment aired to find that they had been watching it, too. I just kind of sniffled incomprehensibly, and my dad replied, choking on his own tears and laughing at himself at the same time, "That was awesome. That was just fucking awesome."
Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow
Sunday in the Park with George
Sunday in the Park with George
This opening song sets the scene of the painting and also the love Dot feels for George and the gulf that separates them, and at one moment she's frustrated and sweating and uncomfortable and defiant and the next she's swooning not from the heat but from her affection for him. It's so fun to sing. It's so weird to think about how young they were. Bernadette Peters is important. I always thought she was saying that she loved not his size but his sighs, though.
George's stroke is tender,
Well, shit. I'll admit that much of the second act loses me, but once this song rolls around, just forget about it. It's perfect.
Look at what you want
tick tick boom
Raul Esparza's delivery of this song is haunting. It's about him and his old friend Michael who were once so bound together and are now leading these separate lives; he's still working in a diner and trying to write music (like Jonathan Larson was when he wrote this) and Michael's now living the high life on Madison Avenue. It makes my heart ache. I think it's the best song from this show.
I'm twenty-nine, Michael and I
Cages or Wings
I have ended many mix CDs with this song, because it makes me feel triumphant and brave.
Why does it take catastrophe
The Proposal / The Night Was Alive
This song is the reason we went to see Titanic when we were in New York on my graduation trip in May of 1997. Bryan D'Arcy James and Martin Moran performed it on The Rosie O'Donnell show, and it just left my sister and me dumbsquizzled. It did not disappoint onstage, and I think it's the strongest song in this spotty musical. Bryan is one of those dudes who shovels coal in the bottom levels, and Martin is the telegraph dude, and they sing this amazing duet, Bryan singing to his beloved Darlene that he'll be coming back to her, and the telegraph dude is singing about how he was a lonely, miserable chump until he discovered the telegraph and how it could connect him to other people all over the world. Of course, I think they both ended up biting it in the end.
I was young and shy, detached and sad
The Wizard and I
This is a great soundtrack to sing along with, and this is probably my favorite song with which to do so. I think Idina Menzel has superhuman lungs. She can really belt out a song like nobody else, as first evidenced when she encouraged us as Maureen in Rent that all we had to do was jump over the moon.
And this gift -- or this curse --
Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth tone it down a notch in this one, and it's a welcome shift at the end of this album. This song's lyrics are fundamentally very cheesy even though its overall message is sound, that idea that we come into each other's lives for a reason to give and to take and to learn and we're often left wondering if we're better or worse off for knowing certain people, but the way they sing these two lines at the end gives me chills.
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown
The Book Report Song
This song where the characters are all taking different approaches to writing a book report is clever and hilarious and endears the listener to every last damn one of these kids. Schroeder bangs his out on a computer like he's on his piano, comparing Peter Rabbit nonsensically but passionately to Robin Hood. Linus extemporaneously philosophizes on Mr. MacGregor as both farmer and humanitarian. Lucy says the book is stupid and the rabbit is stupid and keeps using the word "very" many times in succession so she can reach her word count. And Charlie Brown, of course, just wails and moans and gnashes his teeth complaining histrionically about writing it instead of actually writing it which is exactly what I do when I have a speech due, making him in that way as in many others a boy after my own heart.
Why does this always happen
This song makes me cry right along with Charlie Brown every time I watch this stupid cartoon. See, he's a pretty bad baseball player, and his team is really counting on him, and he gets totally distracted by the Little Redheaded Girl and bombs, and he's writing all of this to his pen pal and his tears splash down and smear the ink and OH MY GOD, poor Charlie Brown. How many times have you been so mortified that you just wanted to disappear, run away, never to be seen again? Let me just tell you how many times I have. A lot.
Dear Pen Pal,
Only quite possibly the sweetest, simplest song ever to end a musical. This song is this show boiled down to its essence, which is just living life through its simple moments and trying to hang in there through it all.
And happiness is coming home again …
Happiness is singing together when day is through,
And happiness is those who sing with you.
Happiness is morning and evening,
Daytime and nighttime, too.
And happiness is anyone and anything at all
That's loved by you.
And as if it's not enough that right there is the most awesome definition of happiness in the history of not only musical theater but possibly mankind, it is after the last line that the wretched Lucy decides for once in her godforsaken, miserable life not to demean poor Charlie Brown who clearly has that day, much like Dana Whitaker, seen enough to know that he has seen enough, but to affirm him, to suck it up and admit to him, "You're a good man, Charlie Brown." And it is then that I come wholly unglued. But in a good way.
In short, I've now been alive for thirty years, and I can't remember a single one of them when musicals either in movies or onstage or on records or tapes or CDs haven't been a big part of my life. I think before I could even read books, they were what first really captured my imagination and brought it to life. And I hope that I never outgrow them.
About this time in ...
© Copyright 2005 elb
The list just kept getting longer and longer to the point of being truly maniacal, so I decided to cap the list at thirty because I was turning thirty. (I know.)
So it ended up being totally lopsided and I ended up leaving off all kinds of songs that I love and cutting whole musicals altogether that are among my favorites, like Annie Get Your Gun, Bye Bye Birdie, West Side Story, CAMELOT, for the love of God, and West Side Story, to name a few, and I realized that I'm going to make another list one of these days.
But that day is not today.
So here are just some. That I love. Thirty of them. And there are a whole lot more.
And I realize that I am a sick individual, really I do.