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Music Lists, Soundtracks and Theater

Top 100 Classic Broadway Songs

Classic Broadway Shows
Posted: December 18, 2016 at 7:27 pm   /   by   /   comments (1)

by Ronaldo Tumbokon

Many beautiful songs that are now considered classics, or are called “standards” actually come from Broadway musicals.  Broadway musicals or musical theater are plays with parts that are performed as songs and dances instead of just dialogues.  The songs, also called showtunes, are sung by the characters or the chorus to orient the audience to the conventions of the play, evoke atmosphere, move the plot forward, provide commentary, show what the character is thinking and feeling, or reveal character traits.

When the songs are remarkably good and the public likes them, they acquire lives of their own outside the musical.  Usually they are recorded by popular singers and become recording hits, sometimes they become themes of shows outside Broadway, and sometimes they are even adapted to T.V. and radio ads.

Many of the classic Broadway songs are love songs.  Among the best ones are “If I Loved You“, “If Ever I Would Leave You“,  “All the Things You Are“, and “Some Enchanted Evening“.

So,  here they are – a list of top classic showtunes (from the 30’s to the 80’s) the context when they are sung in the play, as well as some hints on why they are so good that they stand the test of time.  If you have any favorite that are not listed, add it to the comments:

  1. If I Loved You – Carousel
    One of the most beautiful duet in the Broadway repertoire.  In the play, the brash Billy Bigelow meets the shy Julie.  They find themselves in love, but Julie’s shyness and Billy’s pride would not allow a direct declaration of their true feelings:  “If I loved you, words wouldn’t come in an easy way, round in circles I’d go.  Longin to tell you But afraid and shy.  I’d let my golden chances pass me by.”
  2. You’ll Never Walk Alone – Carousel
    This very popular hymn-like song is meant to comfort and inspire Julie who just lost her husband Billy in a botched robbery.  Nettie, a friend, sings to Julie about being strong despite being in dark despair:  “Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain though your dreams be tossed and blown.  Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone.”
  3. Soliloquy – Carousel
    “Soliloquy” is one of the longest song conversation of a character with himself.  After learning of his impending fatherhood, Billy dreams of his future child and how he would raise him – or her. He feels very excited and proud, but is also anxious because he might not be able to fulfill his responsibility to his child, given his sorry past:  “She’s got to be sheltered and fed and dressed in the best that money can buy!  I never knew how to get money, but, I’ll try, I’ll try! I’ll try!  I’ll go out and make it or steal it or take it or die!”
  4. I Whistle A Happy Tune – The King & I
    Anna sings this bright, cheerful tune to her son Louis to help him conquer his fear after they arrive in a strange land called Siam to serve the King.  If you sing this to yourself when you are nervous, it might actually work:  “While shivering in my shoes, I strike a careless pose and whistle a happy tune and no one ever knows I’m afraid.  The result of this deception is very strange to tell, for when I fool the people I fear, I fool myself as well.”
  5. Hello, Young Lovers – The King & I
    Oh to be young again and in love!  This is the theme of this sentimental song that sounds a bit forlorn with the remembrance of romance past.  It is one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most famous songs.  This is sang by Anna when she tells the wives of the King of Siam about her late husband, and again when she expresses sympathy with the plight of Tuptim, the Burmese slave girl, who is gifted to the King but is in love with another man, Lun Tha.:  “Hello young lovers whoever you are, I hope your troubles are few. All my good wishes go with you tonight, I’ve been in love like you”
  6. Getting to Know You – The King & I
    It sounds like a children song because of its simplicity, as it should, because Anna sings it to King’s children and his wives, in her effort to create a warm and loving relationship with them.  At the same time, it is meaningful because it is about reaching out and understanding people from a different culture:  “Haven’t you noticed, suddenly I ‘m bright and breezy.  Because of all the beautiful and new things I’m learning about you day by day.
  7. We Kiss in a Shadow – The King & I
    In this song, the ill-fated lovers Tuptim and Lun Tha declare their love for each other in secret for fear that the King of Siam will learn of it, and they will be severely punished.   This touching and heartrending song is about the pain of secret love longing for freedom:  “Alone in our secret, together we cry for one smiling day to be free.  To kiss in the sunlight, and say to the sky, behold and believe what you see.  Behold how my lover loves me.”
  8. I Have Dreamed – The King & I
    In contrast to their other duet “We Kiss in a Shadow”, this other song of Lun Tha and Tuptim is more hopeful as they prepare to escape from the King’s Palace.  The lovers sing about how they dreamed of their true love blossoming:  “In these dreams I’ve loved you so.  That by now I think I know what it’s like to be loved by you.   I will love being loved by you.”

  9. The Sound of Music – The Sound of Music
    The title song for the most popular musical play is also one of the most popular in the repertoire.  Maria, the main character, sings this in the opening of the play as she walks through the nearby mountainside, missing the beautiful hills with nature sounds that’s music to her ears back home.  It is a fitting introduction to the play where music and performing music is an important plot element:  “The hills are alive with the sound of music wWith songs they have sung for a thousand years.  The hills fill my heart with the sound of music.  My heart wants to sing every song it hears.”
  10. My Favorite Things – The Sound of Music
    Maria sings about the things she loves and what she thinks about when times are bad and she feels sad.   Although upbeat, this is actually not a happy song as it is written in minor key.  Only at the end of the song when she sings “I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad” does the harmony takes the turn to the major key, and becomes a release of negative emotion:  “When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorites things, and then I don’t feel so bad”.
  11. Do-RE-Mi – The Sound of Music
    One of the most popular song that comes from a Broadway musical.  Maria uses this song to teach the Von Trapp children the notes of the major musical scale, even though their father expressly forbid them to sing.  Each syllable of the tonic sol-fa syllable appears in the song lyrics, described with a mnemonic, and sung on the pitch it names.  In the second half of the song, Maria assigns a musical tone to each child, and the children sings the fourteen note starting with “when you know the notes to sing”, with each singing his and her assigned note:  “Doe, a deer, a female deer.  Ray, a drop of golden sun.  Me, a name, I call myself.  Far, a long, long way to run…”
  12. Climb Ev’ry Mountain – The Sound of Music
    Mother Abbess sings this inspirational song to inspire strength in Maria.  It has become famous as a hymn-like song to encourage people to take every step towards attaining their dreams.  It is said that Hammerstein used the metaphor of climbing mountains and fording streams to describe Maria’s quest for her spiritual compass, consistent with one of the themes in the play: “Climb every mountain. Ford every stream.  Follow every rainbow ’till you find your dream.”
  13. Oh, What A Beautiful Morning – Oklahoma
    Curly, a handsome ranch hand sings a song of pure optimism as he surveys the land that stretches before him in a beautiful morning.  The song has an ebullient melody and lyrics that expresses pastoral joy, with images of a meadow that is colored with a bright golden haze, tall rows of corn, and serene herd of cattle.  This is the first Broadway song of the successful team of composer and lyricist Rodgers and Hammerstein:  “Oh what a beautiful morning! Oh what a beautiful day!  I’ve got a wonderful feeling, everything’s going my way.”
  14. People Will Say We’re in Love – Oklahoma
    A clever duet between the two lead characters, Laurey and Curly, who are in love but will not admit their true feelings to each other.  They warn each other not to behave as if there is something romantic between them, lest people misinterpret their relationship.  The song amusingly describe the loving ways they treat each other, and want each other to stop, but not really:  “Don’t throw bouquets at me.  Don’t please my folks too much.  Don’t laugh at my jokes too much.  People will say we’re in love.”
  15. Bali Ha’i  – South Pacific
    In the musical, Bali Ha’I is a mysterious island within sight of the place where the troops are staying.  The troops think of Bali Hai as an exotic paradise but is off-limits except to officers.  Bloody Mary, a matriarch native sings to Lt. Joseph Cable about the island, telling him that the island is beckoning to him, and enticing him to visit it.  The song has an otherworldly, hypnotic melody with a haunting orchestral accompaniment:  “Bali Ha’i may call you any night, any day.  In your heart, you’ll hear it call you.  “Come away, come away””
  16. Younger Than Springtime – South Pacific
    This is sung by Lt. Cable when he makes love to Liat, a pretty island girl who was introduced to him by her mother Bloody Mary.  Lt. Cable praises Liat’s many charms, her profound effect on him, and how he falls in love with her, even though they are of different races:  “Younger than springtime are you.  Softer than starlight are you.  Warmer than winds of June are the gentle lips you gave me”
  17. Happy Talk – South Pacific
    This is a cheerful, pidgin number sung by Bloody Mary to Lt. Cable desperately persuading him to spend his life with her daughter Liat.  Liat performs the song with hand gestures as Bloody Mary sings. Bloody Mary plays up the erotic, playful aspect of Lt. Cable and her daughter’s future relationship to convince him to marry his daughter: “Happy talk, keep talking’ happy talk.  Talk about things you’d like to do. You gotta have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?”
  18. Some Enchanted Evening  – South Pacific
    The song is sung by the leading male character, Emile, in which he describes in a poetic way, love at first sight.  It is a stately, dignified song sung by a mature person who sounds like he has seen it all, but cannot explain how the enchantment of love happens.  All he knows is that once you have found her, you should never let her go:  “ Some enchanted evening, when you find your true love, when you feel her call you across a crowded room.  Then run to her side, and make her your own or all through your life you may dream all alone.”
  19. All the Things You Are – Very Warm For May
    This song combines a very beautiful melody with poetic lyrics to make a sublime song that exalts a loved one.  It makes anyone who is sung to swoon with its romanticism.  It was originally sung by a quartet.  Two singers sing as the characters themselves and two singer represents their hearts: “You are the promised kiss of springtime that makes the lonely winter seem long.  You are the breathless hush of evening that trembles on the brink of a lovely song…”
  20. I Could Have Danced All Night – My Fair Lady
    The exhilarating song is sung by Eliza Doolittle, the heroine of the play, a flower girl who is being tutored by Professor Henry Higgins to speak “proper English”.  It is a song that expresses excitement and joy that cannot be held back by sleep when someone she likes actually danced with her: “I’ll never know what made it so exciting, why all at once my heart took flight.  I only know when he began to dance with me. I could have danced, danced, danced all night.”
  21. On the Street Where You Live – My Fair Lady
    This song captures how it feels to be hopelessly infatuated.  It is sung by the young Freddy Eynsford-Hill who is happy just by staying on the street where Eliza, the object of her infatuation, lives – even if she does not want to see him.  The song expresses his giddiness of falling in love and being near his beloved, that the ordinary street becomes something enchanting:  “Are there lilac trees in the heart of town? Can you hear a lark in any other part of town? Does enchantment pour out of every door?  No, it’s just on the street where you live.”
  22. I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face – My Fair Lady
    It is a song sung by a man who is probably in love, but cannot acknowledge his emotions because he is an intellectual.  Professor Henry Higgins is enraged that his pupil Eliza has chosen to leave him.  He tries to be emotionally detached and be analytic about his feeling, yet his song hints at muted despair: “I was serenely independent and content before we met, surely i could always be that way again and yet… I’ve grown accustomed to her looks, accustomed to her voice, accustomed to her face.”
  23. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes – Roberta
    This poignant ballad from Jerome Kern comes from a play about the inheritance of a Paris dress establishment by a young football player, and his subsequent romance with one of the employees.  In the play, Stephanie (who later turns out to be a Russian princess) falls for John, the football star and she muses about love.  The song is about how, when you’re madly in love, you do not see clearly, and when your heart is broken, things will become clear, and you will cry:  “Now laughing friends deride tears I cannot hide.  So I smile and say when a lovely flame dies, smoke gets in your eyes.”
  24. Maria – West Side Story
    The song is sung by the lead character Tony who just met Maria and has hopelessly fallen in love, and has learned her name.  For him, it’s the most beautiful sound in the world, and you can hear his ecstasy with the soaring melody.  Also Tony says the name “Maria” 27 times in the song: “Maria!  I’ve just met a girl named Maria.  And suddenly that name will never be the same to me.”
  25. I Feel Pretty  – West Side Story
    The lively and animated song, sung by Maria sings about being happy and feeling beautiful because she is “loved by a wonderful boy”, while her coworkers tease her about silly behavior.  Ironically, in the play, the happy song has tragic overtones since Maria is not yet aware that her love, Tony, has just killed her brother Bernardo.  Leonard Bernstein’s gives a Latin character to the instrumentation and the chorus, as Maria and her friends are Latina, while Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics captures Maria’s bliss and self-confidence:  “I feel pretty, oh, so pretty, I feel pretty and witty and bright!  And I pity any girl who isn’t me tonight.”
  26. Tonight – West Side Story
    This is a duet sung by the ill-fated lovers Tony and Maria, and is said to be not only Bernstein’s most beautiful song, but all of classic Broadway as well.  In the story, it comes in the famous balcony scene.  It starts with an introductory section and becomes more passionate and dramatic with first appearance of the song’s famous melody.  The intensely emotion duet is then sung quietly in the middle section, then gains its passion again before ending softly and intimately.  The song is also repeated in an amazing quintet with many of the characters expressing their individual emotions but singing in complete harmony:  “Tonight, tonight, it all began tonight.  I saw you and the world went away.  Tonight, tonight, there’s only you tonight.  What you are, what you do, what you say.”
  27. Somewhere – West Side Story
    The song about longing for a place away from a harsh, tragic world is sung by “A Girl” and comes after Tony confesses to Maria that he has killed her brother in a brawl.  The song begins softly as if sweet tones are floating toward a heavenly place.  The song first serenely describes a utopian place then swells as the longing for the utopian place where one can be blissfully together with his or her love intensifies: “There’s a place for us, somewhere a place for us.   Peace and quiet and open air wait for us somewhere.”
  28. If Ever I Would Leave You – Camelot
    The show-stopping ballade is sung by the dashing knight Lancelot when Guinevere tries to get rid of him even though she loves him, because in the first place, she is married to King Arthur .  But Lancelot will not leave her and sings instead of her loveliness that deserves his devotion that will outlast all seasons: “Oh, no, not in springtime, summer, winter, or fall, no never could I leave you at all”
  29. Comedy Tonight – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
    As can be expected from a Stephen Sondheim song, this rollicking, witty introduction to the hilarious Roman farce sets the mood for the bawdy, frenetic comedy that is to come: “Nothing with kings, nothing with crowns, bring on the lovers, liars and clowns.  Old situations, new complications, nothing portentous or polite.  Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight”
  30. Send in the Clowns – A Little Night Music
    The most popular Stephen Sondheim song is a ballad about regret and disappointment.  Desirée, the actress, reflects about her life and relationships, and realizes that she had been a fool:  “Isn’t it rich?  Isn’t it queer? Losing my timing this late in my career.  And where are the clowns? Quick, send in the clowns.  Don’t bother, they’re here”.
  31. Almost Like Being in Love – Brigadoon
    The song is sung by Tommy, one of the two American tourists who found themselves in Brigadoon, a mysterious Scottish village that disappears every 100 years.  Tommy meets Fiona in the village, and he feels so happy and giddy that it’s “almost like being in love”.  The song has a tender melody that soars reflecting the feeling that makes one feel so alive:  “All the music of life seems to be like a bell that is ringing for me!  And from the way that I feel when that bell starts to peal, I could swear I was falling, I would swear I was falling, it’s almost like being in love.”
  32. Put On A Happy Face – Bye Bye Birdie
    A catchy musical call to action for optimism, with melody that makes you want you to dance and indeed be happy.  This is sung by Albert, a struggling songwriter, who advises a sad young girl because she thinks that by the time the rock star Conrad gets out of the army, she’ll be too old for him:  “Gray skies are gonna clear up, put on a happy face.  Brush off the clouds and cheer up, put on a happy face.”
  33. Cabaret  – Cabaret
    The title song of the musical “Cabaret” comes at the play’s climax.  The buoyant song is supposed to be a paean to a carefree life.  Ironically, it is sung by Sally Bowles who by the end of the play is an emotional wreck, and the song becomes a howl of despair beneath the affirmation of a happy-go-lucky life:  “What good’s permitting some prophet of doom to wipe every smile away? Life is a Cabaret, old chum, come to the Cabaret!”
  34. I Don’t Know How To Love Him – Jesus Christ Superstar
    This torch ballad, a high point of the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack, is achingly romantic although sung by a woman who has seen it all.  Mary Magdalene acknowledges that she is unconditionally in love with Jesus, who is unlike any man she had before, and it frightens her: “I don’t know how to take this.  I don’t see why he moves me. He’s a man. He’s just a man. And I’ve had so many men before in very many ways.  He’s just one more.”
  35. The Impossible Dream – Man of La Mancha
    The principal song of the Broadway play is the only one that became a standard.  It is an anthem for idealism, sung, of course, by Don Quixote who sallies “forth into the world to right all wrongs”, becomes mad and battles windmills.  The song is so influential and resonates far beyond the Broadway stage.  Many idealists and movements with causes adapt this as their official song: “To dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe, to bear with unbearable sorrow, to run where the brave dare not go…”
  36. So In Love – Kiss Me Kate
    A romantic song with a beautiful melody and penetrating, almost painful lyrics describing what it is to feel hopeless, unrequited love.    Upon receiving flowers from Fred, Lilli declares her feelings for him.  Unbeknownst to her, the flowers were meant for somebody else.  Kiss Me Kate is Cole Porter sophisticated writing at its best, and this song is a standout for emotional punch: “So taunt me and hurt me, deceive me, desert me.  I’m yours til I die.  So in love with you am I.”
  37. They Call The Wind Maria  – Paint Your Wagon
    This cowboy-flavored ballad is sung by a supporting character and lonely prospectors who miss their home.  Because of the loneliness that even induced them to name the forces of nature, they hunger for their women.  The song, which has a folk quality, has been described as “rousing but plaintive” as well as “haunting”: “Away out here they’ve got a name for rain and wind and fire.  The rain is Tess, the fire’s Joe, and they call the wind Maria.”
  38. Falling in Love With Love – The Boys From Syracuse
    The Boys From Syracuse, based on Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, is about romantic mixups of long-separated identical twins with their servants who are also long-separated identical twins.  This standout song, set to a romantic waltz, is actually a cynic’s take on falling in love.  It is looking about looking at love skeptically:  “Falling in Love with Love is falling for make-believe!  Falling in Love with Love is playing the fool! Caring too much is such a juvenile fancy!  Learning to trust is just for children in school.”
  39. This Can’t Be Love – The Boys From Syracuse
    This clever, swinging song about love actually makes fun of the ways popular songs depict love, and why feeling something can’t be love because it has no malignant symptoms: “.  This can’t be love, because I feel so well, no sobs, no sorrows, no sighs.  This can’t be love, I get no dizzy spells, my head is not in the skies.”
  40. Seventy-Six Trombones – The Music Man
    This showstopper from The Music Man is a rousing marching tune played by the full orchestra, and does inspire excitement and invigoration.   In the musical Professor Harold Hill electrifies the townspeople of River City, Iowa by asking them to visualize the time when he saw several famous bandleaders’ bands in a combined performance – with 76 trombones, 110 cornets, more than a thousand reeds and more!  “Seventy-six trombones led the big parade, with a hundred and ten cornets close at hand.  They were followed by rows and rows of the finest virtuosos, the cream of ev’ry famous band.”
  41. Till There Was You – The Music Man
    The song is a popular love ballad sung by Marian the librarian to Professor Harold Hill describing how she feels about him.  It is beautiful in its simplicity and romanticism:  “There were bells on the hill but I never heard them ringing.  No, I never heard them at all till there was you.”
  42. One – A Chorus Line
    This is the finale number of the play when the dancers after a grueling and emotionally draining audition dance the chorus number for an unnamed and unseen star.  The tune is catchy and rhythmically irresistible. The dancers are all wearing the same uniform, and after revealing to us their individual and interesting characters, they become anonymous and looks the same in the chorus line dance.  As such, the song is a masterpiece of style and irony:  “One singular sensation, every little step she takes.  One thrilling combination, every move that she makes.  One smile and suddenly nobody else will do.  You know you’ll never be lonely with you-know-who.”
  43. What I Did For Love – A Chorus Line
    The remaining dancers in the audition are asked what they would do if they can no longer dance.  Diana Morales, in reply, sings this anthem that considers the loss philosophically.  She is aware that her dancing ability, no matter how great, will only be temporary and would someday be gone.  She declares that she does not regret doing all the hard work and the tears in pursuing her talent because it is what she loves.  A love that is never gone:  “Kiss today goodbye, and point me toward tomorrow.  We did what we had to do. Won’t forget, can’t regret what I did for love.”
  44. There’s No Business Like Show Business – Annie Get Your Gun
    This infectious, exuberant song from Irving Berlin is a slightly tongue-in-cheek salute to the very exciting life in show business, despite the hardships show people experiences.  In the show, it is sung by the members of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in an attempt to persuade Annie Oakley to join the production.  The song is commonly used, most of the time ironically, as soundtrack of many showbiz related shows:  “There’s no business like show business like no business I know. Everything about it is appealing, everything that traffic will allow.  Nowhere could you get that happy feeling when you are stealing that extra bow.”
  45. They Say It’s Wonderful – Annie Get Your GunThe song describes romance the way somebody who has not known romance imagine it to be – and with a longing melody becomes one of the most beautiful romantic Broadway tune: “They say that falling is love is wonderful.  It’s wonderful, so they say.  And with the moon up above, it’s wonderful. It’s wonderful, so they tell me”
  46. Anything You Can Do – Annie Get Your Gun
    A fun, comic duet about oneupsmanship.  In the play, Annie Oakley and Frank Butler get into an argument over who is the best at various skills including sharpshooting, archery and singing higher.  The song becomes funny when Annie and Frank try to demonstrate his and her superiority by singing it, and when they find themselves doing self-deprecation:  “I can knit a sweater.”  “I can fill it better” “I can do most anything” “Can you bake a pie?” “No” “Neither can I”
  47. Heart – Damn Yankees
    The coach of the loser team Washington Senators gives a much needed pep talk to his players.  He emphasizes that the most important element for the team to win, even more important than skill or genius, is to have “heart” – or fighting spirit: “You’ve gotta have heart.  All you really need is heart.  When the odds are sayin’ you’ll never win, that’s when the grin should start.”
  48. What Kind Of Fool Am I – Stop The World I Want To Get Off
    A regret song, the character Littlechap sings it after his wife Evie dies, and he is forced to look back to his life.  He realizes that the only person he has ever loved was himself, and he is now longing for a human, emotional connection with someone: “Why can’t I fall in love till I don’t give a damn.  And maybe then I’ll know what kind of fool I am.”
  49. How Are Things in Glocca Morra – Finian’s Rainbow
    The song is sung by Sharon who feels nostalgic and homesick about her village in Ireland with leaping brooks and weeping willow trees.  The melancholy melody expresses the longing for any news about the simple, bucolic  village that she misses: “So I ask each weepin’ willow and each brook along the way, and each lass that comes a-sighin’ too ra lay.  How are things in Glocca Morra this fine day?”
  50. Old Devil Moon – Finian’s Rainbow
    This jazzy duet is sung by Woody Mahoney and Sharon McLonergan when they were looking for Finian but are distracted by the moonlight and each other.  They sing about the bewitching power of the moon and their love for each other.  The juxtaposition of the familiar and the exotic, the heat and light imagery, and the increasing passionate repetitions in its lyrics makes the magically romantic:  “I look at you and suddenly something in your eyes I see soon begins bewitching me.  It’s that old devil moon that you stole from the skies.  It’s that old devil moon in your eyes.”

  51. People – Funny Girl
    In the play, the main character Fanny is falling in love with Nick, who has a shady past and the song acknowledges their growing vulnerabilities.  The song is Fanny’s introspection about how people who love others and not emotionally cut off from them are the luckiest people in the world.  The song became Barbra Streisand’s signature song:  “With one person, one very special person.  A feeling deep in your soul says you were half now you’re whole.  No more hunger and thirst but first be a person who needs people.  People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”
  52. Don’t Rain on my Parade – Funny GirlThe bouncy song with percussive feel and dramatic tempo changes is sung by the character Fanny Brice who declares her determination to marry Nick, despite his gambling past.  She also sings it at the end of the play, when although she is heartbroken, she resolves to pick up her life again.  It is a song of personal emancipation and freedom. Singing the song involves being able to do deft phrasing and tempo changes: “Don’t tell me not to live, Just sit and putter.  Life’s candy and the sun’s a ball of butter.  Don’t bring around a cloud to rain on my parade.”
  53. Hello Dolly – Hello DollyDolly makes her grand, triumphant return to the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant in this show-stopping production number sung in style by the staff: “   Oh, hello Dolly, well, hello Dolly, iIt’s so nice to have you back where you belong.  You’re lookin’ swell, Dolly, I can tell, Dolly, you’re still glowin’, you’re still crowin’, you’re still goin’ strong.”
  54. Baubles, Bangles and Beads – KismetThe song, like most of the songs in the musical Kismet, is based on a melody composed by the Russian classical music composer Alexander Borodin.  This song, based on his String Quartet in D, is transformed to pop music by changing the rhythm, but preserving the exotic and beguiling melody.  The song’s gorgeous score borders on novelty.  It is sung in the play by Marsinah who is looking at the merchandises that merchants are offering her:  “Baubles, bangles, hear how they jing, jing-a-ling-a, baubles, bangles, bright, shiny beads.”
  55. Stranger in Paradise – KismetIn the musical play, Marsinah is admiring the garden when the Caliph slips in, and pretending to be a gardener, introduces himself to her.  They fall in love on the spot.  The lovers’ duet describes the transcendent feeling that love brings to their surroundings: “I saw your face and I ascended out of the commonplace into the rare.  Somewhere in space I hang suspended until I know there’s a chance that you care.”
  56. And this is my Beloved – KismetMarsinah and her father reconcile, and she tells him of her lover and asks him to find him. At the same time, the Caliph, in the next room, orders the Wazir to find his love (“And This Is My Beloved”).  The quartet with a captivating exotic melody and harmonious interplay of voices and emotions is based on music composed by Alexander Borodin (String Quartet in D).  The lyrics is appropriately poetic:  “Dawn’s promising skies, petals on a pool drifting.  Imagine these in one pair of eyes.  And this is my beloved”.
  57. Ol’ Man River – Showboat
    In the play, this is sung by a deep South black dock worker aboard the river boat named Joe.  When his advice was sought by Magnolia, an aspiring performer in the show boat, Joe mutters that she ought to ask the river for advice.  Joe and the other dock workers sing about the “Ol’ Man River” who doesn’t seem to care about the world’s trouble.  The song is an expression of both hope and despair.  According to Murray Horwitz, “As in the best of musical theater works, what’s happening in the music tells you something different than what’s happening in the lyric. “Because even though the lyric is somewhat despairing, the music is absolutely exultant in the end. And so even though the character Joe is being realistic about his prospects, something inside him is still aspiring, still triumphant. And I think that’s one of the things that makes it a big hit.”: “Ah, gits weary an’ sick of tryin’.  Ah’m tired of livin’ an’ skeered of dyin’.  But ol’ man river, he jes’ keeps rollin’ along!”
  58. Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man – Showboat
    The character Julie sings this ballad about the need to love her man one man until she dies as she tries to comfort the love-struck daughter of the showboat’s captain.  Upon hearing the song, the African-American cook Queenie, asks Julie where she heard that song because it is a black person’s melody and a favorite of her husband, Joe.  Indeed, the song “suggests African-American idioms, with many chromatic “blue notes,” swung rhythms, syncopation, and plucked strings emulating a banjo in the accompaniment,” according to Timothy Dickey of “Tell me he’s lazy, tell me he’s slow. Tell me I’m crazy, maybe I know.  Can’t help lovin’ that man of mine.”
  59. Tomorrow – Annie
    When Annie is brought to Washington D.C. by Warbucks, the man who wants to adopt her, she sings to Franklin D. Roosevelt this song of optimism during tough times and situations.  The President loves it, that he even commands his cabinet to sing the song.  Coming from a child, the optimism seems naïve, but it is just what the country needs: “When I’m stuck with a day that’s grey and lonely, I just stick out my chin and grin and say, Oh!  The sun will come out tomorrow, so ya gotta hang on ’til tomorrow, come what may.  Tomorrow!  Tomorrow! I love ya, Tomorrow! You’re always a day away!”
  60. All That Jazz – Chicago
    The opening song of the musical is a naughty, sleazy, hip shaking, dance number performed by Velma Kelly who has just killed her sister and boyfriend when she found them in bed together.  The song is described as a cynical comment on people who just act simply and remorselessly in their own interest, and unscrupulous conduct is just a part of “all that jazz”:  “Come on, babe, why don’t we paint the town and all that jazz.  I’m gonna rouge my knees  and roll my stockings down, and all that jazz.”
  61. Razzle Dazzle – Chicago
    A tongue-in-cheek song and dance performed by the lawyer Billy Flynn to his client, accused murderess Roxie, explaining his strategy of bamboozling the jury and giving them a good show in order to acquit his client who is obviously guilty.  It is a cynical song about style winning over substance:  “Give ’em the old razzle dazzle.  Razzle Dazzle ’em.  Give ’em an act with lots of flash in it and the reaction will be passionate.”
  62. Being Alive – Company
    This is sung by the bachelor main character, Robert, who after seeing his married friends, “. . . realizes being a lone wolf isn’t all it’s cracked up to be . . . he declares that he wants to take the chance, be afraid, get his heart broken – or whatever happens when you decide to love and be loved,” according to the Washington Times.  The song builds up to expressing a passionate determination to love, be loved, and be alive: “Somebody, crowd me with love, somebody, force me to care, somebody, let me come through, I’ll always be there as frightened as you, to help us survive being alive.  Being alive!  Being alive!”
  63. Don’t Cry For Me Argentina – Evita
    This melancholy ballad with a Latin flavor shows the Webber and Rice songwriting team at their lyrical best.  It is sung by Eva Peron during a speech from the balcony of Casa Rosada.  She tells the people of Argentina that despite her initial goal of being famous as an actress, she realized that her true calling is to serve the people of her country.  She needs their love, as much as she loves them:  “Don’t cry for me Argentina.  The truth is I never left you.  All through my wild days, my mad existence, I kept my promise, don’t keep your distance.”
  64. If I Were a Rich Man – Fiddler on the Roof
    Tevye, the main character, reflects about his life and dreams about being rich.  It is written in a Jewish klezmer style, that is, having a folk-like tune found in traditional eastern European Jewish music.  It also contains cantor-like chanting, although made up of nonsense syllables.  Tevye’s mussings are part funny, and part profound:  “If I were a rich man, daidle deedle daidle, daidle daidle deedle daidle dum.   All day long I’d biddy-biddy-bum, if I were a wealthy man.  I wouldn’t have to work hard, daidle deedle daidle Daidle daidle deedle daidle dum.  Lord who made the lion and the lamb, You decreed I should be what I am.  Would it spoil some vast, eternal plan, if I were a wealthy man?”
  65. Sunrise, Sunset – Fiddler on the RoofThe deeply moving song is performed at the wedding of Tevye and Golde’s eldest daughter.  The two parents sing about how they can’t believe their daughter has grown up, while Hodel and Perchik sing about whether there may be a wedding in the nearby future for them.  It is a heart-wrenching song, haunting and emotional, when parents could not believe the quick passage of time as their kids turn to adults almost overnight: “Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the days.   Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers, blossoming even as we gaze.”
  66. I Enjoy Being a Girl – Flower Drum Song
    The cheerful, sprightly song is sung by the character Linda Low, a thoroughly Americanized Chinese as she prepares to have a blind date with Wang Ta, a young traditional Chinese bachelor.  The song is about feeling great about being a girl because she can use her beauty and make up to entice men, and her dream is to find a man who enjoys a girl like her: “I’m strictly a female female and my future I hope will be in the home of a brave and free male who’ll enjoy being a guy, having a girl like me.”
  67. You Are Beautiful – Flower Drum SongAnother beautiful Rodgers & Hammerstein love song sung by Wang Ta to a small, shy pretty girl he never really met back in China, after he discusses with his aunt the problems of finding a wife in the States.   It is a song of longing and lovesickness:  “While your flower boat sailed away, gently your eyes looked back on mine, clearly you heard me say, “You are the girl I will love some day.”

  68. I’ll Know – Guys and Dolls
    Sky Masterson, a happy-go-lucky shady gambler, meets the Salvation Army conservative lass, Sarah Brown.  He bets that he can make any girl fall for him, but Sarah proves to be a challenge.  In the song, Sarah tells him in no uncertain terms that he is not the kind of man that she will fall for, and that when the right man comes along, she’ll know.  A breezy song that is also romantic: “ I’ll know, I won’t take a chance, I know he’ll be just what I need, not some fly-by-night Broadway romance.  Until then, I shall wait.  And till then, I’ll be strong.  Oh, I’ll know when my love comes along.”
  69. If I Were a Bell – Guys and Dolls
    Sarah, the conservative Salvation Army lass gets very drunk after Sky Masterson somehow was able to take her to Havana.  Her social inhibitions fall away and she realizes she has fallen in love with Sky.  The appealing song with clever, wistful lyrics appears to be an expression of a long restrained emotion suddenly unleashed:  “Ask me how do I feel, little me with my quiet upbringing.  Well, sir, all I can say is if I were a gate, I’d be swinging.  And if I were a watch I’d start popping my springs.  Or if I were a bell I’d go ding dong, ding dong ding”
  70. I’ve Never Been in Love Before – Guys and Dolls
    Sky Masterson who dates the conservative Sarah just because he had a bet that he will be able to make her fall in love with him, suddenly finds himself actually falling in love with her too.   The romantic, introspective song of a tough guy who suddenly found his tender side:  “I’ve never been in love before, now all at once it’s you, it’s you forever more.   I’ve never been in love before.  I thought my heart was safe.  I thought I knew the score.”
  71. Small World – Gypsy
    In the song, Rose flirts with Herbie, a former agent, and dangles the prospect of a romantic engagement between them so that Herbie will agree to be the agent of her daughters.  She convinces him that they have so much in common that it is but natural for them to work together.   It is a persuasive song that is not very subtle:  “We have so much in common, it’s a phenomenon.  We could pool our resources by joining forces from now on.  Lucky, you’re a man who likes children, that’s an important sign.  Lucky, I’m a woman with children, small world, isn’t it?”
  72. All I Need is a Girl – Gypsy
    This song starts the heartbreaking chain of events that eventually transforms the awkward Louise into the burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee.  It is duet between Tulsa, one of the chorus boys, as he shows Louise what he can do when he has his own act, but she needs a girl to pull it off.  Louise is developing a crush on him, and is quietly dreaming that she can be that girl.  It’s a swinging dance number reminiscent of Fred Astaire-style dance tunes: “Got my tweed pressed.  Got my best vest.  All I need now is the girl.  Got my striped tie.  Got my hopes high.  Got the time and the place and I got rhythm. Now all I need is the girl to go with ’em.”
  73. Everything’s Coming Up Roses – Gypsy
    In the play, the stage mother Rose is stunned that her “star daughter” June has left her, and instead of being defeated, she looks at her awkward daughter Louise as the next star she’s going to create.  The stage mother Rose sings this “big, brassy paean to the power of positive thinking”, but is actually more of “a chilling illustration of blind ambition mixed with megalomania”.  She sings this to Louise with intensity, as if she is venting her anger: “You’ll be swell! You’ll be great!  Gonna have the whole world on the plate!  Starting here, starting now, honey, everything’s coming up roses!”
  74. Aquarius – Hair
    The show opens with the chorus singing about astrological imagery and the effects of the moon and the planets coming together to bring about the dawning of a “new age” where there is no war, no deceptions and derisions.  It is a lively introduction to the culture of the tribe of the main characters of the play, the hippies, and sets the tone and the theme of the play as well.   The song is very evocative of the pop songs of the 60s:  “When the moon is in the Seventh House and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars.  This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius.”
  75. My Cup Runneth Over – I Do! I Do!
    The sweet, waltz tune is a paean to one’s better half.  Michael and Agnes, the two characters of the show, reflect on the dreams and regrets of their early married years. Agnes asks Michael if he is disappointed, and replied that he is not, singing to her about his love for her through the years:  “Sometimes in the mornin’ when shadows are deep, I lie here beside you just watching you sleep. And sometimes I whisper what I’m thinking of.  My cup runneth over with love.”
  76. Any Dream Will Do – Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
    The biblical Joseph’s song about dreams.  It appears in the beginning and end of the play.  The lyrics are not that easy to decipher, much like the dreams that Joseph has no problem interpreting, although they may have something to do with foreseeing biblical things to come.  Nevertheless it is an appealing song that stands out from an otherwise lightweight but still very enjoyable musical: “I closed my eyes, drew back the curtain to see for certain what I thought I knew.  Far, far away, someone was weeping but the world was sleeping.  Any dream will do.”
  77. I’ll Be Seeing You  – Right This Way
    This song from the obscure 1938 musical is a moving farewell song.   The marriage of melody and lyrics has an enormous emotional power and much loved during World War 2 when it became an anthem for British and American soldiers who served oversees.  It start as a casual farewell mentioning places that hold memories, but climaxes with the parting one’s declaration that the one he will leave behind will always be a part of his life: “I’ll find you in the morning sun and when the night is new, I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing you”.
  78. Mame – Mame
    The rollicking title song is the first-act curtain finale, when the main character Mame is serenaded by a chorus of smitten Southern aristocrats.  It is a song that celebrates the well-loved, wealthy, fun-loving woman who has a flare for life, and invokes the culture of the 20’s south: “You coax the blues right out of the horn, Mame.  You charm the husk right off of the corn, Mame.  You’ve got the banjos strummin’ and plunkin’ out a tune to beat the band.  The whole plantation’s hummin’ since you brought Dixie back to Dixieland.”
  79. We Need a Little Christmas – Mame
    Mame, the main character, sings this upbeat song after she lost her fortune in the Wall Street Crash of 1929.  She tries to lift her spirit by reminding herself of Christmas and recalling everything about the holiday that makes her joyful, even though the holiday is still far off.  The song became a well-known Christmas song and a seasonal standard:  “Yes, we need a little Christmas right this very minute.  It hasn’t snowed a single flurry, but Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry”
  80. If He Walked Into My Life – Mame
    Mame sings this lament after her adopted son, Patrick, seems to reject her kind of lifestyle and the friends she keep.  Mame wonders what she has done wrong with the way she raised Patrick, and if she could do better if she’s given another chance.  The song is poignant and heartbreaking:  “Though I’ll ask myself my whole life long, what went wrong along the way.  Would I make the same mistakes if he walked into my life today?”
  81. I Want to be Happy – No, No, Nanette
    The cheerful song is sung many times throughout the 1925 musical, since the running theme of the play is the attempts of various characters to please others.  It is first sung by the character Jimmy to his ward Nanette.  The light-hearted song suggests that the way to be happy is to make your mate happy too: “I want to be happy but I won’t be happy till I make you happy too.  Life’s really living when we are mirth giving.  Why can’t I give some to you?”
  82. Tea for Two – No, No, Nanette
    This tune has a simple melody and almost the same rhythmic pattern throughout.  It borders on the monotonous, yet it turns out to be delightful.  It is sung by Tom who meets up with Nanette, and they resolve their quarrel, fantasizing about being happily married one day:  “Picture you upon my knee, just tea for two, and two for tea.  Just me for you and you for me…alone”
  83. Where is Love – Oliver!
    The orphan Oliver sings this song after being thrown into the cellar of a funeral parlor for getting into a fight with another servant of the undertaker.  The heartbreaking song is about longing for love, coming from an innocent child who has been exploited and treated cruelly, but never loved: “Every night I kneel and pray, may tomorrow be the day when I see the face of someone who I can mean something to.  Where…?  Where is love?”
  84. As Long as He Needs Me – Oliver!
    The torch song is sung by Nancy who expresses her love for her criminal boyfriend Bill Sykes, despite his violence and cruel treatment of her.  She has just been slapped and humiliated by Bill, and yet appeals for our understanding about her unrequited feelings.  Although it is a love song, it is sad and tragic: “As long as life is long, I’ll love him right or wrong.  And somehow I’ll be strong, as long as he needs me”
  85. Consider Yourself – Oliver!
    This rambunctious showstopper with a marching tune is a welcoming song sung by the Artful Dodger to Oliver.  It is an enthusiastic gift of friendship from Dodger, warmly assuring the orphan Oliver that he is now “one of the family”.   In the play, this is usually sung with the Victorian London street crowd dancing and singing along:  “Consider yourself at home.  Consider youself a one of the family.  We’ve taken to you so strong.  It’s clear, we’re going, to get along.”
  86. I Could Write A Book – Pal Joey
    This is sung by Joey, a self-promoting entertainer in a Chicago nightclub, who tries to impress the young and naïve Linda.  It is a romantic song that could win the heart of the person being courted.  In the play, the two lovers are not well-educated and writing a book is the best way to describe the loftiness of Joey’s feelings for Linda:  “If they asked me, I could write a book about the way you walk, and whisper, and look.  I could write a preface on how we met, so the world would never forget.”
  87. Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered – Pal Joey
    The song is described a “sensuous soliloquy by an older woman musing on the debatable charms of her kept lover”.  In the play, it is sung by Vera Simpson, a wealthy but bored, society matron who uses her husband’s money to spice up her life. She sings the song after he meets Joey, a cynical nightclub entertainer, whom she intends to treat as a plaything, yet she is enraptured by his charm and sex appeal:  “I’m wild again, beguiled again, a simpering, whimpering child again.  Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I.”
  88. Corner of the Sky – Pippin
    Pippin sings to scholars about his dreams of finding where he belongs.  It is a passionate, self-motivational song sung by a young man who wants to escape from a stifling environment and longs to be free, to find himself, and have a life that will make a mark on the world.   Many young, idealistic person can easily relate to the song:  “Rivers belong where they can ramble.  Eagles belong where they can fly.  I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free.  Gotta find my corner, of the sky.”
  89. Big Spender – Sweet Charity
    The song is a bluesy “bump-and-grind” slow swing chorus, with a beat typical of striptease music.  It is sung by the Fandango Dance hostesses in the ballroom.  In the play, it reveals the milieu where the main character Charity works, with her jaded co-workers going through the motions of pretending to be turned on by rich, prospective customers: “So let me get right to the point, I don’t pop my cork for every guy I see.  Hey big spender, spend, a little time with me.”
  90. If My Friends Could See Me Now – Sweet Charity
    In the play, the title character Charity leads a less than happy life and has a string of bad experiences – having a job where she dances with strange, groping men for meager pay, and having men constantly mistreating her.  When she had a break for the first time –  being friends and going to bed with the film star Vittorio, she is ebullient.  She thinks of her friends who will not make fun of her anymore.  She sings of her good fortune with this bravura song that’s brimming over with joy:  “All I can say is, wow! Hey, look at where I am!  I’ve landed, pow!  Right in a pot of jam!  What a setup, holy cow!  They’d never believe it.  If my friends could see me.”
  91. Try To Remember – The Fantasticks
    This is the first song, and the most memorable, in the show.   It prepares the audience to use their imagination a lot in the sparse set of the play.  The song is sung by the mysterious El Gallo, who begins to explain the plot of the play.  It is a simple, sweet melody in waltz time, with a folk-like quality, and it asks you to look back when you were young, so you can understand why young people in love behaves like they do.  It captures a sense of sadness, lost innocence, and regret:  “Try to remember the kind of September when you were a tender and callow fellow.  Try to remember, and if you remember, then follow.”
  92. Hernando’s Hideaway – The Pajama Game
    In the play, Sid wants to take Gladys, the company bookkeeper, out so he can get the key to the boss’ books.  He invites her to a dark and secretive place called “Hernando’s Hideaway”, where one can drink, dance and be romantic to one’s heart’s delight.   The song has a tango melody and rhythm, and sung mainly with hush tones, suggesting the subversive nature of the trysting place:  “I know a dark secluded place, a place where no one knows your face.  A glass of wine, a fast embrace.  It’s called Hernando’s Hideaway”
  93. Memory – Cats
    This song is the most tuneful in the musical, where nothing much really happens.  It is sung by Grizabella, the one-time glamour cat, who now looks mangy and lonely as she addresses the gathering of Cats.  The song, passionate and tragic like a Puccini aria, is about remembering her glorious past and the possibility of a new life: “Touch me, it’s so easy to leave me, all alone with my memory of my days in the sun.  If you touch me, you’ll understand what happiness is.  Look a new day has begun”
  94. I Am What I Am – La Cage Aux Folles
    In the play, Albin sings alone in defiance of Jean-Michel, affirming to himself that he is proud of who he is and will not change for anyone.  This song of defiance has become a rallying cry of the Gay Pride movement: “I am what I am, I don’t want praise, I don’t want pity.  I bang my own drum. Some think it’s noise, I think it’s pretty.  And so what, if I love each feather and each spangle?  Why not try to see things from a diff’rent angle? Your life is a sham ’til you can shout out loud, I am what I am!”
  95. All I Ask of You – Phantom of the Opera
    This hauntingly beautiful duet is sung by Christine Daae and his childhood friend Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny when they flee in terror to the roof of the Paris Opera House after a stagehand is found murdered.  Raoul promises to love Christine and keep her safe from the Phantom, and Christine reciprocates Raoul’s declaration of love.  The love duet is rooted in the grand opera tradition, complete with swelling romantic melody and amorous lyrics: “Say you’ll love me every waking moment. Turn my head with talk of summer time.  Say you need me with you now and always.  Promise me that all you say is true.  That’s all I ask of you”.
  96. I Dreamed a Dream – Les Miserables
    The song is a lament about broken dreams, and a life tragically gone wrong.  It is sung by the anguished Fantine, who has just been fired from her job at the factory and thrown onto the streets.  She thinks back to her younger days when she was looking forward to a bright future and a happy life, but her life instead has been the opposite of what her dream has been.  The ending of the song is heart-rending:  “I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I’m living, so different now from what it seemed.  Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.”
  97. On My Own – Les Miserables
    Another tragic and emotional song from Les Miserables, this time sung by Eponine where she expresses her unrequited love for Marius.  She can only dream and pretend that she is at his side, although she knows that he loves Cosette and not her.   A sad song, but very beautiful: “On my own pretending he’s beside me.  All alone I walk with him till morning.  Without him I feel his arms around me.  And when I lose my way I close my eyes and he has found me.”

  98. Greased Lightning – Grease
    The Greaser boys (Danny, Kenickie, Roger/Putzie, Doody and Sonny) sing about how a modified hot rod car will improve their image and help them to impress girls with the lead character Danny on lead vocals.  It is a rock and roll dance tune in the style of Elvis Presley:  “Go Greased Lightning, you’re burning up the quarter mile.  Go Greased Lightning, you’re coasting through the heat lap trialYou are supreme, the chicks’ll cream for Greased Lightning”
  99. Children Will Listen – Into the Woods
    One of the last songs of Into The Woods is sung by the witch, distilling everything that the “fairy tale” characters learn in their journey through the woods.  It is an appropriate meaningful song that caps the musical about storybook characters, but are meant for adults.  The song is about the influence parents’ words and actions have on their children, sometimes unintentional.  It is also about parents’ responsibility to the next generation: “Careful the things you say, children will listen. Careful the things you do, children will see, and learn”
  100. Not While I’m Around – Sweeney Todd
    This is a ballad of devotion sang by a young apprentice to Mrs. Lovett, who, in cahoots with Sweeney Todd, bake pies made from human corpses.  It is a child’s tender song to a surrogate mother whom he pledges to protect.  In the play with a lurid plot, ironically, it is sung before Mrs. Lovett arranges the child’s death: “Demons’ll charm you with a smile for a while but in time, nothing’s gonna harm you not while I’m around.”

Photo courtesy of Randy Lemolne at Flickr

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  • March 15, 2019 at 10:24 am Martin

    These are great musicals and wonderful music. As Bob Hope would say, thanks for the memories.