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Soundtracks and Theater

Top Broadway Musicals

Top Broadway Musicals
Posted: April 28, 2014 at 10:34 pm   /   by   /   comments (1)

Broadway musicals and their show tunes are fun to listen to. Those who are fond of stories (or concepts) in their music are drawn to musicals or songs of the musical theater. Needless to say, people who have seen the actual musical performed on Broadway or any other stage will enjoy listening to the music more.

The music in Broadway musicals are usually rousing and danceable, passionate and romantic, or clever and comic. The genre of music can range from classical and operatic, to jazz, pop, to rock, occasionally mixed together. Many of the songs become top popular hits, sung or adapted by popular singers, but it is always best to hear the songs in their actual musical stage context.

Here are the top Broadway musicals, many of which has gone on to become classics:

1. West Side Story (1958) – A retelling of the Romeo and Juliet tale set in the background of New York’s racial gang warfare.  All of the music of this Broadway musical are consistently good and inspired – some are full of passion  (Tonight, Maria, One Hand, One Heart, Somewhere), some are rousing (America, Tonight Quintet), and some funny (Gee, Officer Krupke, I Feel Pretty).  When seen with the dancing, it’s one of the most memorable experience!

2. My Fair Lady (1957) – This witty, funny, very delightful musical is a classic that defined a generation (early 60’s).  Story of a dirty flower girl whom an English professor taught to speak proper English until he was able to pass her off as a princess in a ball.  Great music includes “I Could Have Danced All Night”, “On The Street Where You Live”.  Other delightful music that Rex Harrison as the original professor half-sang and half-recited include “Why Can’t The English”, “A Hymn to Him” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face”.

3. The Sound of Music (1959) – Famous for the wildly popular movie version starring Julie Andrews, this was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s last musical. It is about a young Austrian woman studying to become a nun but was sent as a governess to the seven children of a retired naval officer. Every song from the movie version is a classic – “Do-Re-Mi”, “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”, My Favorite Songs”, among others. “I Have Confidence” and “Something Good” are movie version songs that replaced “An Ordinary Couple”, “How Can Love Survive?” and “No Way To Stop It” from the original Broadway version.

4. Camelot (1960) – this Broadway musical takes you to the time of King Arthur and tells the story of how love can destroy a “brief, shining moment that was known as Camelot”.  “If Ever I Would Live You” has become a classic.  Other enjoyable songs include the comically self-confident “C’est Moi”, the comically self-deprecating “I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight”, Guenevere’s melodious songs “The Simple Joys of Maidenhood”, “The Lusty Month of May, and “Before I Gaze at You Again”.

5. The Music Man (1958) – Meredith Wilson’s musical is a high school musical staple The story is set in Iowa, about a con man who sells musical instruments but gets caught because of his love for Marian the librarian.  Every number is a delight – from the opening “The Traveling Salesman” to “Goodnight My Someone” to “Ya Got Trouble” and “Seventy Six Trombones”.  Even the quaint “Lida Rose”, sung by a barbershop quartet is delightful.  And of course, “Till There Was You” is so good the Beatles even recorded it!

6. Chicago (1975) – This cynical musical from Kander and Ebb set in the 1920’s is a satire on how society turns criminals into celebrities.  Every song is a vaudeville number – “Cell Block Tango”, “All that Jazz” and “Razzle Dazzle” are showstoppers.  It is currently the second longest-running musical in Broadway history and became famous for the movie adaptation winning Best Picture of 2002.

7. Grease (1972) – A fun romp full of  50’s inspired music about the youth of the 50’s  discovering love, friendship, class conflict and pregnancy.  You’ll love it for the toe-tapping choruses “We Go Together”, “Greased Lightning” and “Born to Hand Jive”, as well as the love song “Hopelessly Devoted To You”.

8. Fiddler on the Roof (1965) – a tuneful musical about a Jewish father whose traditions are being challenged by his five daughters and the changing world.  The best songs in this musical are “Sunrise, Sunset”, “If I Were A Rich Man”, and “Matchmaker, Matchmaker”.  “To Life” and “The Bottle Dance” are rousing, while “Tevye’s Dream” and “Tradition” are fun.

9. Gypsy (1959) – This often-revived Broadway musical from Laurents, Styne and Sondheim is referred to as the greatest American musical by many critics and writers. It is often cited as the “King Lear” of musicals because many top singer-actresses covet the role of Rose. It is loosely based on the 1957 memoirs of the famous striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee. Excellent songs that became standards includes “Everything Coming Up Roses”, “Small World”, and “All I Need is the Girl”. “You Gotta Get A Gimmick” is a comic showstopper.

10. Company (1971) – This musical differs from the traditional musical in that it is comprised of vignettes (linked by Bobby’s 35th birthday) instead of a straightforward plot.  Sondheim’s clever music and cleverer lyrics are not immediately accessible, but they grow on you.  You will also empathize if you’re into marriage and relationships.  Favorites include “Being Alive”, “The Ladies Who Lunch” (two songs made famous by Barbra Streisand), “You Could Drive A Person Crazy” and “Side by Side by Side”.

11. Kismet (1954) – The musical is full of wonderful, tuneful, exotic music based on themes by the Russian composer Alexander Borodin.  All of the songs are excellent, with “Stranger in Paradise” and “Baubles, Bangles and Beads” becoming classics.  My personal favorites are “Fate” and the beautiful quartet “And This Is My Beloved”.

12. Oklahoma (1943) – Oklahoma, the granddaddy of them all – the first musical with depth and psychological complexity – is as fresh as when it was created by the genius of Rodgers and Hammerstein.  All songs are memorable from the classic opener “Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin” to the rollicking “The Surry with the Fringe On Top” to the beautiful  “Out of My Dreams”, the bitter “Lonely Room” to the rousing title song “Oklahoma”.

13. Carousel (1945) – Richard Rodgers of the iconic Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote that Carousel was his favorite of all his musicals. It is about a Carousel barker whose life was changed by the thought of having a daughter.  “If I Loved You” is to many one of the best Broadway song ever. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” became a classic hymn of faith. “Soliloquy” is a one of a kind 8 minute song of a father who has dreams about what his son would be, then realized that he might have a daughter.

14. Hello, Dolly (1964) – very delightful musical with a farcical plot about a widow who puts her hand on matchmaking penniless clerks.  Rousing numbers include “Put on your Sunday Clothes”, “Before the Parade Passes By”, “Elegance”, and of course, the title song “Hello, Dolly”.  “It Only Takes A Moment” is a beautiful ballad.

15. Kiss Me Kate (1948) – this Broadway musical from the witty tunesmith Cole Porter is about the production of a musical version of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Two romantic stories intertwine. It is Cole Porter’s first attempt to make the music and lyrics integrated with the script, and it became his biggest hit. “So in Love” is a classic romantic love duet. Other classic songs include “From This Moment On” and “Another Op’nin, Another Show”.

16. South Pacific (1949) – The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical set in a South Pacific island during World War II has a strong anti-racial prejudice theme that was controversial at that time, especially in the Southern U.S. Unforgettable songs include “Some Enchanted Evening”, “Happy Talk”, “Bali Ha’I”, “Younger Than Springtime” and “This Nearly Was Mine”.

17. Guys and Dolls (1950) – The brash musical with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows is based on two short stories of Damon Runyon and is about gangsters, gamblers, and other characters of the New York underworld. It is brimming with standards that include “I’ll Know”, “If I Were a Bell”, “I’ve Never Been In Love Before”, Luck Be a Lady” and the title song “Guys and Dolls”

18. The King and I (1952) – Rodger and Hammerstein’s fourth musical is about the experiences of Anna, a British schoolteacher in the 1860’s who was hired by the King of Siam to teach his children and modernize his country. Tunes range from the delightful “Getting to Know You” and “I Whistle A Happy Tune” to the more dramatic “We Kiss in a Shadow”, “I Have Dreamed”, and “Hello Young Lovers”.

19. The Pajama Game (1954) – The Adler and Ross musical is about the labor troubles in a pajama factory where worker demands for a seven and a half cent raise. The head of the grievance committee and the new factory superintendent falls in love in the process. “Hernando’s Hideaway” and “Hey There” are now standards. Other stand-outs are “Steam Heat” and “I’m Not At All In Love”

20. How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (1961) – The Frank Loesser musical is a satire on climbing your way to the top in the business world. It is about a young, ambitious man who rises from window washer to chairman of the board with the help of a book. Except for “I Believe in You”, there is hardly a song that became popular outside the theater, but like the best musical theater songs, are best enjoyed in the context of the plot.

21. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962) – This very funny farce set in ancient Rome tells the story of a slave who attempts to win his freedom by helping his master win the heart of the girl next door. The songs, typical of Sondheim, are clever and witty, including “Comedy Tonight”, “The House of Marcus Lycus”, and “Pretty Little Picture”.

22. Oliver! (1960) – The British musical from Lionel Bart has a great plot because it is based on Charles Dicken’s novel “Oliver Twist” about an orphan boy’s experience with the shady characters of London slums. But what makes this musical become a well-loved classic are the outstanding songs that include “Where Is Love”, “I’d Do Anything”, As Long As He Needs Me”, “Who Will Buy”, and “Consider Yourself”.

23. Man of La Mancha (1964) – the Darion and Leigh musical introduced “The Impossible Dream” to the world. It is structured as a play within a play, with Miguel de Cervantes in prison telling the story of Don Quixote, the idealistic “mad knight” and his faithful squire Sancho Panza.

24. Cabaret (1966) – this Kander and Ebb Broadway musical is set in 1931 Berlin when the Nazis are starting to rise to power, and two unlikely couple, a cabaret performer and a young American writer were caught in the turmoil of the political developments. The Kit Kat Klub, the setting of the musical, is a metaphor for the moral decay of Weimar Germany. The title song “Cabaret” is a classic. “Wilkommen”, sung by the amoral Master of Ceremonies, is also popular. “Maybe This Time” is from the multi-award winning movie version.

25. Les Miserables (1980) – the sung through musical by Boublil and Schoenberg is based on Victor Hugo’s novel set in 19th century pre-revolutionary France about a French peasant who escaped prison and seek for redemption, but was relentlessly pursued by a police inspector. Great songs include “I Dreamed A Dream”, “On My Own”, “Master of the House”, “Bring Him Home” and “One Day More”.

26. Jesus Christ Superstar (1970) – This once controversial rock musical about the last days of Jesus actually contains music in a variety of genre.  It’s mostly rock of course, but there’s also pop (I Don’t Know How To Love Him) classical (John 1941)  charleston (King Herod’s Song) and opera (The Last Supper)!  Other favorites are “Gethsemane” and “Everything’s Alright”.  A feast for the ears!

27. Follies (1991) – the other pastiche Sondheim musical with theme about relationships has many wonderful, classy, intelligent songs that are surprisingly tuneful.  The best of Sondheim songs here include “Losing My Mind”, and “I’m Still Here”.    Many can relate to “The Road You Didn’t Take”.  “Broadway Baby” is a guilty pleasure.

28. Damn Yankees (1955) – This Adler and Ross hit musical is about a Washington Senators fan who sold his soul to the devil and transformed himself into the baseball player Joe Hardy to win the pennant. “Heart” and “Whatever Lola Wants” are two popular songs.

29. Bye Bye Birdie (1960) – This satirical musical is about an Elvis Presley-like rock and roll superstar who got drafted in the army, and the effect it has on teen-agers in small-town Ohio. The best known song is “Put on a Happy Face”, immortalized by Dick Van Dyke who played the original role of Albert, the manager. “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” is also a standard.

30. Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat (1982) – The story of the Biblical David the Dreamer with enjoyable songs that parody many genres – French Cafe (Those Canaan Days) country (There’s One More Angel in Heaven), calypso (Benjamin Calypso) and Elvis (Seven Fat Cows)!  This early Rice and Webber is a lot of fun to listen to.  Famous for “Any Dream Will Do.”

31. Mame (1966)
32. Funny Girl (1964)
33. Annie (1977)
34. 1776 (1969)
35. A Little Night Music (1973)
36. A Chorus Line (1976)
37. Ain’t Misbehavin’(1978)
38. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979)
39. Evita (1980)
40. 42nd Street (1989)
41. Cats (1983)
42. La Cage aux Folles (1984)
43. The Phantom of the Opera (1988)
44. City of Angels (1990)
45. Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993)
46. Rent (1996)
47. The Producers (2001)
48. Hairspray (2003)
49. Jersey Boys (2006)
50. The Book of Mormon (2011)

1. Spring Awakening
2. In the Heights
3. Billy Elliot the Musical
4. Memphis
5. Fosse
6. Contact
7. Once
8. The Lion King
9. Sunset Boulevard
10. Passion
11. The Will Rogers Follies
12. Jerome Robbins’ Broadway
13. Titanic
14. Big River
15. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
16. Nine
17. Monty Python’s Spamalot
18. The Mystery of Edwin Drood
19. Thoroughly Modern Millie
20. Crazy For You
21. Kinky Boots
22. Applause
23. Wonderful Town
24. Avenue Q
25. Fanny
26. Peter Pan
27. Plain and Fancy
28. Silk Stockings
29. Pipe Dream
30. Bells Are Ringing
31. Candide
32. The Most Happy Fella
33. New Girl In Town
34. Oh, Captain!
35. Jamaica
36. Redhead
37. Flower Drum Song
38. La Plume de Ma Tante
39. Fiorello!
40. Once Upon a Matress
41. Take Me Along
42. Do Re Mi
43. Irma La Douce
44. Carnival!
45. Milk and Honey
46. No Strings
47. Little Me
48. Stop the World – I Want to Get Off
49. High Spirits
50. She Loves Me
51. Golden Boy
52. Half a Sixpence
53. Oh, What a Lovely War
54. Skyscraper
55. Sweet Charity
56. I Do! I Do!
57. The Apple Tree
58. Walking Happy
59. The Happy Time
60. How Now, Dow Jones
61. Illya Darling
62. Promises, Promises
63. Zorba
64. Coco
65. Purlie
66. The Me Nobody Knows
67. The Rotschilds
68. Two Gentlemen of Verona
69. Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death
70. Follies
71. Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope
72. Pippin
73. Sugar
74. Raisin
75. Over Here!
76. Seesaw
77. The Wiz
78. Mack & Mabel
79. The Lieutenant
80. Shenandoah
81. Hallelujah Baby
82. Bubbling Brown Sugar
83. Pacific Overtures
84. Happy End
85. I Love My Wife
86. Side by Side by Sondheim
87. Dancin’
88. On the Twentieth Century
89. Runaways
90. Ballroom
91. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
92. They’re Playing Our Song
93. A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine
94. Barnum
95. Sugar Babies
96. Sophisticated Ladies
97. Tintypes
98. Woman of the Year
99. Dreamgirls
100. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
101. Pump Boys and Dinettes
102. Blues in the Night
103. Merlin
104. My One and Only
105. Baby
106. Sunday in the Park with George
107. The Tap Dance Kid
108. Grind
109. Leader of the Pack
110. Quilters
111. Big Deal
112. Song and Dance
113. Tango Argentino
114. Me and My Girl
115. Rags
116. Into the Woods
117. Romance/Romance
118. Sarafina!
119. Black and Blue
120. Starmites
121. Aspects of Love
122. Grand Hotel
123. Meet Me in St. Louis
124. Miss Saigon
125. Once on This Island
126. The Secret Garden
127. Falsettos
128. Five Guys Named Moe
129. Jelly’s Last Jam
130. Blood Brothers
131. The Goodbye Girl
132. The Who’s Tommy
133. A Grand Night for Singing
134. Beauty and the Beast
135. Cyrano: The Musical
136. Smokey Joe’s Café
137. Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk
138. Chronicle of a Death Foretold
139. Swinging on a Star
140. Juan Darien
141. Steel Pier
142. The Life
143. Side Show
144. The Scarlet Pmpernel
145. Ragtime
146. The Civil War
147. It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues
148. Parade
149. James Joyce’s The Dead
150. Swing!
151. The Wild Party
152. A Class Act
153. The Full Monty
154. Jane Eyre
155. Mamma Mia!
156. Sweet Smell of Success
157. Urinetown: The Musical
158. Amour
159. A Year with Frog and Toad
160. Movin’ Out
161. The Boy from Oz
162. Caroline, or Change
163. Wicked
164. The Light in the Piazza
165. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
166. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
167. The Color Purple
168. The Drowsy Chaperone
169. The Wedding Singer
170. Curtains
171. Grey Gardens
172. Mary Poppins
173. Cry-Baby
174. Passing Strange
175. Xanadu
176. Next to Normal
177. Rock of Ages
178. Shrek the Musical
179. American Idiot
180. Fela!
181. Million Dollar Quartet
182. Catch Me If You Can
183. The Scottsboro Boys
184. Sister Act
185. Leap of Faith
186. Newsies
187. Nice Work If You Can Get It
188. Bring It On: The Musical
189. A Christmas Story: The Musical
190. Matilda the Musical
191. After Midnight
192. Alladin
193. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
194. An American in Paris
195. Fun Home
196. Something Rotten!
197. The Visit
Also see Top 100 Show Tunes

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  • October 20, 2014 at 9:00 pm Hannah

    Les Mis should have been number one, or at least made the actual list!