From the time I was in my first production of Tom Sawyer: The Musical (Yes, it exists) in 3rd grade, I’ve loved theatre. I’ve been in 14 musicals in my lifetime, and I miss them more than anything. So sometimes, I like to jam out to some of my favorite show tunes. Here is my Top 10(ish) list of my favorite songs from musicals (which is in no way a critical look at Broadway but just some of my favorites to listen to):
One of my top favorites is a classic sung by one of the Queens of Broadway, Patti LuPone. I had the pleasure of singing this song in a high school production of Anything Goes, and listening to it just brings me back to one of my favorite times in high school. And nobody can belt it like Patti.
For my sixth birthday, I received a VHS tape of the 1999 movie, Annie, and I fell in love. For most theatre kids, Annie is a drag (and having been in it in grade school, I understand why), but this movie soundtrack really brings me back to my childhood. This song was what started my obsession with another Queen of Broadway (and the record-holder for performer with the most Tony Awards), Audra McDonald. (The movie also has an all-star cast, including Kathy Bates, Victor Garber, Alan Cumming, and Kristin Chenoweth.)
I was lucky enough to see this Best Musical-winning show twice (no pun intended) on Broadway before it closed, and this song was definitely the most magical. Each of the performers played their own instruments, and the a cappella version really highlights the chilling and beautiful harmonies in the song.
Despite its lack of success, Catch Me If You Can is one of my favorite musicals, and I was overjoyed to see it performed in Philadelphia. This song made me fall in love with the ever-perfect Aaron Tveit, who had previously performed in Next to Normal and went on to play Enjolras in the movie version of Les Miserables. The note at the end of “Goodbye” blows me away every time I listen to it.
I’ve never actually seen Songs for a New World, but I got to perform this song in a charity event during my sophomore year in high school, and it’s one of the most powerful songs from a musical I’ve ever heard. The deliberate lyrics and striking harmonies were so empowering to sing, and I hope that one day I’ll be able to see it performed live.
I saw my brother perform in [title of show] at his college, and this song definitely hit home for me. It’s not a big soprano song (which as an alto, I appreciate), but it has all the force of one, yet with a more casual vibe. In the song the character, Heidi, tells a story about growing up, losing touch, and then finding what you needed in the end.
I also saw my brother perform in Next to Normal, which is the most realistic and important show I’ve seen about the struggles of family life and mental illness. I adore this song, mostly for its unusual time signature and its flowing melody. The song also highlights the complex relationship between a perfectionist daughter and her grieving mother.
Joseph is just about every theatre kid’s least favorite show, but I grew up watching a DVD of Donny Osmond singing with a choir of children while dancing around in a rainbow coat and a wig of long, flowing locks. Needless to say, “Close Every Door to Me” is the most intense song in the show. Donny Osmond is sufficiently dramatic as he belts with his beautiful voice while dressed in an awkward white loin cloth. (Is that what prisoners wore in biblical times?)
When I saw my local public high school’s performance of Aida, it became one of my all-time favorite musicals. (So I couldn’t pick just one song!) I cried watching the performance of “Gods Love Nubia,” a beautiful, anthemic hymn beginning as a cappella and rising in volume to include the whole chorus and orchestra. “Easy as Life” has to be one of the most powerful Broadway songs ever written, with its tone of desperation in choosing between heritage and passion.
Who would have guessed that Wicked is my favorite musical?! That’s not typical at all!!! But honestly, I love Wicked so much, I couldn’t even choose my favorite among three of its songs. It was the first musical I ever saw on Broadway, and I’ve been dying to see it again ever since. “The Wizard and I” captured my thirteen-year-old heart and still has it for keeps, with Idina Menzel’s youthful yet dynamic voice and foreshadowing hiding in every corner of its lyrics. “No Good Deed” projects important messages about the dichotomy between charity and selfishness and is the ultimate becoming-a-villain song. And “Defying Gravity”? There’s no need to explain. The song sings for itself.
What are your favorite show tunes? Do you agree with my list of favorites? Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for reading!!