Thursday, June 11, 2015

Katie's Top Ten List of Musical Theatre Love Songs

"Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought." - E.Y. Harburg, American lyricist. Known for many things, including The Wizard of Oz and Finian's Rainbow.

You may remember in my last top ten list where I posted my favorite geeky love songs. Well, there is one fandom that hits me deep in my heart: musical theatre. I have been a musical theatre geek for almost 8 years now and I was a T.A. for musical theatre history in college for two semesters. One of the common plot threads in a musical is the love story between two characters, and that has created an unlimited supply in gorgeous, beautiful songs about love and marriage and attraction and... god, I love musicals. I know for fact that at least a few of the songs on this list are going to be played at my own wedding because they mean so much to me.

Today, I am here to provide my personal top ten musical theatre love songs. Keep in mind that this list is opinion based and is by no means comprehensive.

1. This Only Happens in the Movies - composed by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater, performed by Kerry Butler.



Okay, so I cheated with this entry. This song was written for the ill-fated prequel to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and remained unreleased until 2008 when Tony- nominated actress Kerry Butler included it on her debut album Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust (one of my favorite albums, if you enjoy acoustic covers of Disney songs, you will love this album too.) I included it because everything about this song, the A A B A verse structure, the orchestrations, the simple, but powerful lyrics, takes direct inspiration from popular songs (and by that token, musical theatre songs) of the 1930's and 40's. It feels like a song that would've been sung by Ginger Rogers or Fred Astaire, and that is why it belongs on this list. Just imagine: it's the wedding reception, the sky is clear, the stars are sparkling, and you're slow dancing with your beloved to this song. It would feel like something out of movie and that is the genius and perfection of it. I love this song so much and I hope you love it too. You can buy Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust HERE.


2. Suddenly Seymour - from Little Shop of Horrors, composed by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman, performed by Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Tichina Arnold, Michelle Weeks, and Tisha Campbell.



Before going on to work with Disney and creating the music for The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, Menken and Ashman worked on this little off-Broadway musical based on the 1960 Roger Corman film of the same name. The musical premiered in 1982 and the film, directed by Frank Oz, was released in 1986. I adore this song and I think it is one of the genuinely sweetest love songs written for the theatre. When I was in high school, I had a huge crush on Seymour and would frequently reference the phrase "forget Prince Charming, I want my Seymour Krelborn." At this point in the show, without getting too spoilery, Audrey is feeling survivor's guilt for wishing her ex-boyfriend dead and Seymour is there to reassure her that everything is okay and that he loves her just the way she is. Everything about this show oozes sweetness and hope, and that's what makes this song one of my favorites... well, okay, everything except Seymour's very strange and interesting plant. You can buy the album for the original off-Broadway cast, the film cast, and the Broadway cast HERE.


3. Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful? - from Cinderella, composed by Richard Rogers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, performed by Brandy Norwood and Paolo Montalbon.


For those unaware, Rogers and Hammerstein II were THE song writing team in the 40's and 50's. When Oklahoma! premiered in 1943, it was a smash hit and launched the Golden Age of Musicals. Everyone knows The King and I, South Pacific, and The Sound of Music, but my favorite musical by them was their retelling of Cinderella, written for and broadcast on television in 1957, starring Julie Andrews in the title role. In 1997, 40 years after the initial tele-broadcast, Cinderella graced TV screens once more with Brandy Norwood in the lead role. Hammerstein II's claim to fame was the simplicity in his lyrics; he could say so much by saying so little. This song is maybe 4-6 lyric lines long, give or a take a word or pronoun change, but in those 4-6 lyric lines, he conveys so much emotion. I truly believe that Cinderella is a very under appreciated musical, particularly when paired up with other Rogers and Hammerstein II works. It's not earth shattering, but it is a solid show and lots of fun. You can purchase the soundtrack to the film, soundtrack to the touring cast, or the soundtrack to the recent Broadway revival cast HERE and the DVD for the 1964 and 1997 films HERE.


4. I'll Cover You - from RENT, composed by Jonathan Larson, performed by Jesse L. Martin and Wilson Jermaine Heredia.


In 1996, the evening after the show's creator, composer, and life bringer Jonathan Larson had passed away from an aortic dissection, RENT opened off-Broadway. The modern take on the opera La Boheme took the world by storm and made the Broadway Musical relevant and cool to a brand new generation of audiences. If you get me alone in a room, I will go on a long, well educated rant about how RENT changed the landscape of Broadway and of theatre for the better, but that is not what this post is about. The reason "I'll Cover You" is one here is because it is such a hopeful song. There is no way anyone can listen to this song and not leave with a skip in their step and without a smile on their face. I've had so many fantasies about performing this scene with my future spouse, running down the streets of New York City and dancing with each other the same way Martin and Heredia dance with each other here. It's such a touching, sweet song and is the perfect love song for any and all lovers. You can purchase the soundtrack to the original Broadway cast and the film cast as well as the movies HERE .


5. Night and Day - from The Gay Divorcee, composed by Cole Porter, performed by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.



One of the greatest American songwriters who ever lived, Cole Porter, wrote "Night And Day" for Fred Astaire in the 1932 play, The Gay Divorce. When the film based on the play, The Gay Divorcee, was released in 1934, Fred Astaire brought the song with him and performed it with his impeccable on-screen partner Ginger Rogers. (If you've never seen an Astaire and Rogers film, remedy that. Not only are those films an important part of American cinema/musical theatre/history/pop culture, but some the films still hold up pretty well and are genuinely fun to watch). The thing that I adore about Cole Porter is that he was always the most "risque" or "scandalous" of the songwriters. No other songwriter at the time would've written the lyric "'till I've spent my life making love to you." That's not even subtext, that's just plain text. And it is fantastic. Also worth noting in the video is how beautifully Astaire and Rogers compliment each other on screen. And don't even get me started on Rogers' dress, because I have so much dress envy. The song has been covered many times throughout the years, artists include Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Eartha Kitt, and countless others. My boyfriend's favorite cover of it is by U2, which can be found HERE. You can purchase a copy of The Gay Divorcee HERE.


6. Sunrise - from In The Heights, composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, performed by Christopher Jackson, Mandy Gonzalez, and the cast of In The Heights. (There is no film recording of In The Heights as of yet, so there is no visual component to this video. Just the song and album cover.)


 In 2008, Lin-Manuel Miranda broke the musical theatre sound barrier and brought a hip-hop, salsa, musical about Latinos living in the barrio of Washington Heights to Broadway. Much like Miranda's inspiration RENT, the show was a major success and even now one can see the landscape beginning to shift again. But I digress. I love this song. I love that she is teaching him Spanish and that they sing in both languages. One of the main things in a relationship is being able to communicate with one another, and she is teaching him how to communicate with her and her parents. This show is fantastic all the way around and Lin-Manuel Miranda may be the most important composer working in Broadway today. He is a national treasure and should be protected at all costs. I mean this seriously. (His Twitter account is also filled with gems. You can find it HERE.) You can purchase the In The Heights soundtrack HERE.


7. Love Is Here To Stay - from The Goldwyn Follies, composed by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, performed by Kenny Baker.


In 1938, shortly after George Gershwin passed away, The Goldwyn Follies graced American movie screens. "Love is Here To Stay" became a standard and has been recorded and re-recorded thousands upon thousands of times by a multitude of different artists. It was the last song that the Gershwin brothers wrote together and that adds a certain poignancy to the song, but what I love about it is that basically, the moral of the song is "the world is awful, but what we have is great. The apocalypse could occur, but I don't care, because we have each other." That is very beautiful sentiment, and especially when you consider how different our society is today than it was in the 1930's, the song is still relevant. What better way to celebrate your special day than to dance to a song that affirms how strong your bond with each other is. The world could end tomorrow, but you don't care because your love is here to stay. You can purchase a copy of The Goldwyn Follies HERE.


8. Love Song - from Pippin, composed by Stephan Schwartz, performed by William Katt and Leslie Denniston.



In 1972, Stephan Schwartz's Pippin opened on Broadway with the legendary Bob Fosse at the helm as director and choreographer. This self-aware little ditty takes place in the second act as Pippin continues to search for meaning in his life. He comes across a widow named Katherine and her son. He works on her farm and they grow feelings for one another. In this song, they describe the process of falling in love and the weird quirks it brings (silly pet names, lavender lotions, etc.), but through that process, fall in love themselves. The style of the show is a play within a play, so watching the actors play actors play characters falling in love is all sorts of delicious meta that I enjoy. The song is very sweet and will play nicely at any kind of wedding. You can click HERE to purchase the soundtrack for either the original Broadway cast,  the revival Broadway cast, or the made-for-tv recording of the stage production.


9. I Could've Danced All Night - from My Fair Lady, composed by Frederick Loewe, lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, performed by Marni Nixon (singing voice for Audrey Hepburn) and the cast of My Fair Lady.


In 1913, George Bernard Shaw wrote a play called Pygmalion and received bad reviews because it didn't have a "happy ending." Lerner and Loewe, after receiving a blessing from Rogers and Hammerstein II, went forward and attempted to turn Pygmalion into a musical. In 1956, My Fair Lady was born with Julie Andrews playing the lead role. In 1964, the film adaptation of My Fair Lady premiered with Audrey Hepburn as its star (with Marni Nixon providing her singing voice). My favorite thing about this song is that it expresses the intense adrenaline rush one gets when they fall in love or feel infatuation, but at no point during the song does she say "I love you", she just says "I could've danced all night" and leaves it to the audience to understand and comprehend her emotions. This is a fantastic song to dance to not only at wedding receptions, but also in your apartment when you're home alone. You can purchase a copy of the soundtrack and the film as well as the Broadway recording HERE.


10. Tonight - from West Side Story, composed by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephan Sondheim, performed by Marni Nixon (singing voice for Natalie Wood) and Jimmy Bryant (singing voice for Richard Beymer).


I figured it would make sense to end this list with a song from a show that was literally an updated version of Romeo and Juliet. West Side Story opened on Broadway in 1957, the film was released in 1961, and West Side Story has gone on to become a classic and is, arguably, one of the best musicals ever written. It follows the tragic love story between Tony, ex-leader of the Jets, and Maria, sister of the leader of the Sharks, two rival clans out to claim the other's territory. The song Tonight was inspired by the balcony scene in Shakespeare's original play. Marni Nixon's and Jimmy Bryant's voices sound perfect together and despite what Sondheim says about his lyrics, they fit the story perfectly and reflect the passion these two character have for one another. You can buy the soundtrack to the original Broadway cast, the film, and the subsequent revival casts HERE and HERE. If you're going with a revival cast, I recommend the 2009 revival cast because Lin-Manuel Miranda, of In The Heights fame, was hired by Stephen Sondheim himself to translate all of the Sharks songs into Spanish and it sounds amazing.


And that is my top ten musical theatre love song list. What musical love songs do you enjoy? Which ones will play at your wedding? Post them in the comments below. :)

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