Hello my lovelies!
Last night I found myself descending into another YouTube spiral. We’ve all been there, when you are vaguely aware that you should have been in bed over 3 hours ago, but you just can’t stop, as you sip on a pint of tea and your eyes glaze over with concentrated fascination. The corner of the Internet I found myself dabbling in, to make a change from hardcore porn, was the one covered in glittery cobwebs, and dry ice quivering under collective vibrato: Musical Theatre. I’m sure we all get lost in this sometimes, and it is a joyful experience. Musicals are fabulously camp and therefore downright essential in my existence. I’ve compiled a list of my top 15 favourite songs from musicals, as 10 would have been bloody impossible. I have not witnessed all of these productions live – though I would love to – but I indulge in hasty bootlegs and cinematic versions to my heart’s content, in the meantime. May I just say there are many honourable mentions that did not make the cut, but I still love you all!!! *sobs into an embroidered hanky and storms off into the wings*
ALL THE LIGHTS DIM. YESSSSS!!!
(You love this fucking moment as much as I do, admit it.
15. Maybe This Time – Cabaret
I have a weird relationship with Cabaret, in that I didn’t particularly care for the film, but certain set pieces and musical arrangements just knocked me for six. One of which is Maybe This Time. This is a song of bravery teetering on heartbreak, with an imminent crescendo of I WILL SUCCEED DON’T YOU FUCKING WORRY! Sally Bowles is a complex leading lady as she takes us shakily by the hand and promises to give us an experience like no other. It’s impossible to not feel a compulsion to follow your heart’s desires a la Edith Piaf, once you’ve listened to this song.
14. Mister Cellophane – Chicago
At the risk of the wrath of Chicago purists, the 2002 film is one of my favourites of all time. At its cultural premise it basically has my name written all over it, and I can understand its widespread appeal – all the writhing stockings and spilled liquor – but to me it always has this underground/speakeasy cult vibe, as this all of this is for your eyes only: a 1920s peep show, the subject being 1920s melodrama. John C. Reilly absolutely nailed his performance of Mister Cellophane, in my opinion. Amos Hart is fundamentally, someone who doesn’t belong on stage, yet here he is, with one of the most poignant explorations of identity in musical theatre.
13. My Man – Funny Girl
Because, Barbra Streisand. Vaudeville heartbreak. This performance. Just, goddess.
12. The Windy City – Calamity Jane
You’d be hard-pressed to find a singer with a more wholesome, confident, warm-apple-pie voice, than Doris Day. She utterly cracks me up in Calamity Jane, just the sheer cartoonish enthusiasm in her performance, and her dusty slacks. One of the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard, you’ll probably find me humming along on a windy day. And if the city you live in happens to have three syllables, please feel free to substitute the final “Illinois” for it.
11. Find Your Grail – Spamalot
Finally after all that brooding isolation, an ensemble number! It’s incredibly difficult to pinpoint my favourite song from Spamalot, but I think this is in my top 3. (I’m being rather dandy and only including a particular musical once in my list, oh how quaint.) The Woodstock vibe, the mounting of imaginary horses, the genuine holy-grail casting of the original Broadway ensemble…absolute genius. Sara Ramirez won a Tony Award for her performance as the Lady of the Lake back in 2005, despite being constantly replaced by Britney Spears. Britney Spears!!!
10. Easy Street – Annie
There’s something incredibly charming about a trio of greedy sleazebags prancing around and singing about their imminent fortune. I think I was initially drawn in by Tim Curry as the monstrous Rooster in the original film. Everybody loves a villain.
9. Feed the Birds – Mary Poppins
This had to make an appearance as it’s one of my favourite songs of all time, regardless. This little old lady shares the stage with silhouettes of her birds, and the audience is enraptured. Such a beautiful, and simple, and mournful song.
8. There’s a Fine, Fine Line – Avenue Q
Kate Monster, in true Sesame-Street-Tugging-Ironically-At-Your-Heartstrings form. Your eyes flicker from the performer to the puppet, and the sadness is palpable. Julie Atherton’s version will always make me well up.
7. Mama Who Bore Me – Spring Awakening
The Spring of Spring Awakening was indeed a short one. A very brief run in the West End before its early demise, though it has appeared in various other countries since. How I wish I could have seen it! The appeal of it is rather a narrow plain, but for me it explores the concept of innocence in quite a dark yet relatable manner. Charlotte Wakefield opened the West End show with her rendition of Mama Who Bore Me, and sorry Lea Michele but I just don’t think your yodelling can compete.
6. Quiet – Matilda
There is definitely a brooding theme so far isn’t there? Roald Dahl’s immensely sinister world in Matilda is a perfect specimen for the stage, particularly Tim Minchin’s examination of an introverted mind in “Quiet”. Like the sound of a page being turned in a book.
5. Oom Pah Pah – Oliver!
In contrast! A tankard-sloshing belt-busting knockout of a song. It is pretty much permanently stuck in my head, I’m pretty sure it has replaced some important information regarding a password for something but I am glad it’s there. It’s oddly comforting, like you’ve finished a hearty meal. The fact that it’s used to cover up Oliver’s escape, is doubly impressive. Here we have Sam Barks, in the role she should have won!
4. Make ‘Em Laugh – Singin’ in the Rain
My favourite film. This is the song that makes me smile the most – well, obviously. Going back to that idea of holy-grail casting, the trio of Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor (may they all rest in peace) is an absolute delight, and I feel such love for them on screen together. The work that they put in to make this, and their fabulous chemistry together, is everything to me. I’m being very ineloquent here I do realise, but it’s hard to put into words how much I love this song.
3. Something Wonderful – The King & I
To this date, I still have an enormous crush on Yul Brynner, specifically Yul Brynner as The King of Siam in the 1956 film. Absolutely gorgeous. The soundtrack holds a lot of winners, but Lady Thiang’s “Something Wonderful” has the most profoundly moving quality, as she sings of love despite all. Utterly beautiful.
2. Sweet Transvestite – The Rocky Horror Picture Show
I remember singing this on the karaoke when I was on holiday with my friends in Magaluf. IS THERE MORE OF A BELTER THAN THIS I THINK NOT. In terms of Atmosphere, I don’t think Rocky Horror can be beaten. Sexy, disturbing, indulgent and hilarious. Everybody should have a go at performing this in suspenders, it really is most liberating.
1 . Point of No Return – Phantom of the Opera
Alright, you knew this was coming. There’s no need for me to come out as a Phan, it was just implicit from the day I was born. And it is inherently a guilty pleasure, dripping with 80s riffs and a very questionable Beauty and the Beast story with added father issues. But it’s just SO COOL, the score is incomparably brilliant. (Let’s just ignore the following: 1) The Gerard Butler film, Jesus Christ what happened with the casting here, and 2) The fact that there is a sequel that exists called Love Never Dies. Okay, it has a couple of vaguely good songs, but that does not dignify its existence!) The reason this song has reached the number one spot, beyond Music of the Night, is that it is a fabulously drawling-tango operatic masterpiece, which is about sex. There are many songs in musical theatre about sex, but this one is so indulgently sensual that it gets away with it, with bells on. The feast behind them, the blatant groping, the innuendos, the drama. Siiiiilence. Siiiiiiilence. Siiiiiiiiiiiiilence.
Let me give a few honourable mentions to those that nearly made the cut! Basically everything in Les Mis! Especially At the End of the Day (but not the film version)! For Good from Wicked! Being Alive from Company! Solidarity from Billy Elliot! Ahhh, too many to name! You are all my babies, at the end of the day.
Let me know what your favourites are!