Tuesday, November 30, 2010

10 FAVORITES (13) - Sesame Street Songs

Many of those who are around my age or older can pretty much agree that Sesame Street is one of (if not THE) greatest children shows of all-time. And lots of us have memories of the seminal series ranging from the colorful Muppet characters, the frantic animations and the clever writing all wrapped up in the lessons teaching young children (from Nursery Rhymes to the ABC's). One of the most important elements of the show was music and, in particular, songs. They didn't just use "The Alphabet Song" or "Twinkle Twinkle" when it came time to teach children (both onscreen and off). They had brilliant songwriters who managed to capture the energy and fun of music and combine it with the joys of learning. But what are the best songs the now 41-year-old series had to offer? Today's 10 FAVORITES offers up the best songs that I heard as a child growing up watching Sesame Street. Now, when I say the songs I heard growing up, that leaves out a lot of the songs produced after 1990 (which is around the time I stopped watching the series regularly). So, in advance, I apologize to those of younger generations who may not be familiar with the songs featured in today's list. Most of these songs first made their appearance on the show in the 1970's and were reurun several times throughout the following decade (the 1980's, which is my domain!). So, with that out of the way, here are:


The Sesame Street Theme Song
Once you hear this bouncy tune, it is hard to forget it. It always made me happy because I knew that my favorite show was beginning. But it has been pointed out by several of my generation that it is a rather frustrating song. It doesn't really tell you "How to get to Sesame Street." It keeps asking but never answers. Yet the imagery of "Sunny Days" and "Smiling Faces" is so inviting that you just know where "Sesame Street" is.

SONG #10
Rubber Duckie
First appearing in their inaugural season back in 1969, this song is really the one that made their music department famous. Who ever would of thought that a song about a guy and his favorite bath time toy would be a hit record? It helps that Jim Henson's performance as Ernie is so endearing that every child wanted a Rubber Duckie!

Yet another song from the first season, this was a great twist on the classic "Alphabet Song." Big Bird, who in the early years was more like a goofy teenager rather than the 6-year-old we know and love, is talking about the most amazing word he has ever heard. What he doesn't know is what that word really is, but Susan is on hand to explain. Take a look:

Some of you may be saying "Hey, this is from The Muppet Show!" But what some of you may not know is that this fun and jazzy song got its start in 1970 on Sesame Street and was revamped in 1976 for the first episode of The Muppet Show. It is a little jarring if you are used to the latter version, but still the song is just as good as it ever was.

How Do You Do?
I was saddened earlier this year to hear of the death of the jazz legend Lena Horne. So I immediately went on YouTube to find the clip of the first time I saw her, which was this beautiful song she sang to Grover. It is a wonderful song that helps children learn how to meet people (great for kids on their first day of pre-school or kindergarten!). Fairly simple and yet it is extremely poignant and catchy. Plus, it's Lena Horne!

Born to Add
I loved this song as a little kid. I loved it even more as I got older and realized that Sesame Street was a master at parody. As a child of the 1980's, I am a total fan of Bruce Springsteen and the poetry he weaves in great rock tunes (if you don't believe me, just listen to "Born to Run"). So this great song has an even better meaning for kids as they get older and understand that from great things can come great parody.

What's the Name of That Song?
This song has become a favorite of mine more recently because I almost forgot about hearing it on record growing up. But thank you to YouTube (and the Old School Sesame Street DVD's)! It's a silly idea for a song but Muppet songwriting legend Sam Pottle (The Muppet Show Theme) managed to give us a catchy tune with lyrics that say exactly how you feel when you cannot remember the name of a song you cannot stop humming.

Bein' Green
It is Kermit the Frog's eternal anthem. It is a beautiful tune about understanding that you are different and liking yourself for who you are. Everybody (especially these days) needs to sing this song to themselves. There are several versions Kermit (and others) have done over the years, but the two definitive ones come from Sesame Street. One, is the first appearance (back in 1969) that has just Kermit sitting in the swamp singing the tune. The other, done about a year or two later, has Kermit singing the song with the late Lena Horne (where the powerful meaning was never stronger). Below, is the first version.

Sing After Me
Another great frequent guest on Sesame Street who is sadly no longer with us, was the late Madeline Kahn. Ms. Kahn was a phenomenal comedic actress and performer who we all remember from such hilarious film roles like Lily Von Schtupp in Blazing Saddles (for which she earned an Oscar nod!). But this was my first knowledge of her: The lady who sang this fun and silly song with Grover on my favorite show! The interaction between Frank Oz's Grover and Ms. Kahn is absolutely delicious. Together they make a perfect team.

C is For Cookie
I do not care what parents or advocacy groups say today, this song is AWESOME! What better way to help kids learn how to spell than to combine it with one of their favorite snacks? By the time I got to school, I certainly knew how to spell "Cookie" and Sesame Street is very much responsible for that (at least in part).

I absolutely love this song! It is so simple that it is complex. I know that sounds weird but it's true. The song first appeared on the show in the early 1970's and was sung by a bunch of kids. Every year, the show would drag this song out but always find some new way to do it, which made it enjoyable for the audience. My absolute favorite version (which is below) is where Olivia (played by the late Alaina Reed Hall) gorgeously sings the song as Linda (a seminal character herself) shows the audience the beauty that is American Sign Language. Every time I hear this song, no matter what version, I just want to get up and "Sing!"

So there you have it: THE 10 BEST SESAME STREET SONGS. I hope your favorite was on here! Special shout out of thanks to the people at SesameStreet.org for allowing some of these clips to be available on YouTube. If you would like to see more of these kinds of clips, just head on over to the video section of their website where they have several classics available for viewing. Next week, I begin my month-long devotion to Christmas things (Movies, Specials, Carols, etc.). Enjoy!

Monday, November 29, 2010

10 FAVORITES (12) - Villain Actors

First of all, let me apologize to all those who read my blog regularly (if there are any!) and were hoping last week for a new 10 FAVORITES list. Thanksgiving week was a bit of a distraction and things slipped away from me. As a gift to the disappointed readers, I will do two lists of 10 FAVORITES this week (one today and one tomorrow). And next week, I will begin another month-long Holiday edition of 10 FAVORITES (all related to Christmas and New Year's, of course!).

The first of this week's two 10 FAVORITES lists is about actors, but not just any actors. There are many actors who can play all sorts of roles. But there are a limited amount of actors who can play the villains (and play the villains well, I might add!). Yes, there are several specific characters who are villains that we know and love (some people freakishly so!), but it is the actors who make characters like these so good. And some of these actors make their careers out of playing nasties, baddies and thieves (OH MY!). Today, I devote this list to:


Mark Strong
This actor has only fairly recently been snapping up all the good villain roles, fighting Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes and Russell Crowe in Robin Hood all within the last year alone. He first came to my attention in the 2007 so-so fantasy film Stardust, in which his vicious Septimus (below) was a secondary villain to that of Michelle Pfeiffer (someone who also plays villains quite well, see my view of Batman Returns).

David Warner
The great character actor David Warner has almost always played a baddie. In one of his first films, 1963's Tom Jones, he played Albert Finney's nasty and cruel cousin, Bliful. Since then, he has played villains in BOTH film and television including the 1978 miniseries Holocaust (as Michael Moriarty's wicked Nazi commander) and the 1982 cult classic TRON (as the mean corporate raider, his game counterpart Stark and the voice of the evil computer itself). Below is his appearance as a Cardassian interrogator torturing Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) on a 1992 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Miranda Richardson
Ladies, don't hate me, but Ms. Richardson is the ONLY woman to make this list. Maybe someday I will do the "Best Villain Actresses" to make up for it. And sure, women can be just as mean and villainous as the boys because Miranda Richardson is ample proof of that. Her performance in the great NBC miniseries Merlin as the wicked Queen Mab (below) is absolutely delicious. She followed that with a role in the miniseries Alice In Wonderland as, who else, the Queen of Hearts. Whether it is playing the aggravating Rita Skeeter in Harry Potter (not really a villain, just annoying to Harry) or the arrogant mother of Queen Victoria in The Young Victoria (with Mark Strong!) or a murderer in Sleepy Hollow (SPOILER!), she is just one of the best Villain Actresses and worthy to be on a list with the guys.

Christopher Lee
Ah, the great Christopher Lee has had such a career (and a resurgence in the last decade!). He has played evil wizards (in The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and evil Jedis (in the Star Wars prequels). He also had a legendary career in the Hammer Horror films of the 1960's and 1970's as Count Dracula (below). He was the first to tackle the role after Bela Lugosi had made the character so iconic. And, if nothing else, it is his deep tenor speaking voice that makes him so well known and so fitting for a villainous role (see The Last Unicorn where he voices the embittered old king).

Robert Mitchum
My mother was never a fan of the late Robert Mitchum and, based on some of his film roles, there was good reason! He played the evil Max Cady in the original Cape Fear and terrorized Gregory Peck (who was always Atticus Finch to me!) and his family. He also played the corrupt and wicked Reverend in Charles Loughton's The Night of the Hunter (below), which is considered his best and most famous role by many critics.

Christopher Walken
This is probably everybody's favorite crazy bad guy. The timber of his New York-style voice can sometimes make the ickiest of characters feel nervous. Even in one of his earliest stage roles, the Broadway production of the play The Lion In Winter, Walken played the nasty French dauphin. There truly is no one like him and there never will be. Take a look at him as a vicious (Sicilian) mobster brutalizing the late Dennis Hopper in Quentin Tarantino's violent and crazy True Romance.

Gary Oldman
I've said this before and I will say it again: Gary Oldman is one of the most underrated actors. Recently, he has been playing more good guys rather than the bad guys we love him as (see him in Christopher Nolan's Batman films as Jim Gordon or as Sirius Black in the Harry Potter films). But his roles as nasty and wicked bad guys made audiences realize how good an actor he is. See him as Punk's bad boy Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy or as the vicious Senator politically attacking Joan Allen in The Contender (and those aren't the worst of the baddies he's played). Of course, who could forget him as the title character in Francis Ford Coppola's retelling of Bram Stoker's Dracula. And then there is his dastardly role as a terrorist on Air Force One in, well, Air Force One (below), which is one of the finest performances of his career.

Tim Curry
If anyone has made a career out of playing character parts that are mean, dastardly, shady or even flat-out villains, it's Tim Curry. There really isn't much more to say about him. Just take a look at his long list of credits on IMDB. Or, better yet, just look below at his tour-de-force performance in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. His version of the classic "Sweet Transvestite" has never ever EVER been matched. He is forever linked to this role, whether he likes it or not!

Vincent Price
Probably the ultimate master of horror, Vincent Price just dripped with elegance and villainy in any role he played. His credits are too many to list, so like Tim Curry above, go to IMDB and take a look at the long list (literally, almost all horror films and villains!). His iconic laugh is so chilling, it even begins the trailer for one of his most famous films, House on Haunted Hill, the classic horror flick in which Price invites several people to his macabre mansion where things "go bump in the night" and beyond (below).

Ralph Fiennes
One of the best actors around today, Ralph Fiennes has a powerful presence and clear voice to match. Though he is great as a romantic leading man (Wuthering Heights and The English Patient), it is evil and nasty villains that we really love him for. Just remember him as a mob boss after Colin Farrell in In Bruges or the voice of the Pharoah Rameses in the highly underrated animated musical The Prince of Egypt (he even sang!). But it is two villainous roles that Fiennes will forever be noted for. The first he did way back in 1993 for Steven Spielberg in the masterpiece film Schindler's List. His Nazi commander Amon Goethe is one of the most bone-chilling and psychologically masterful performances ever captured on film. However, it is his role as Harry Potter's wizard nemesis Lord Voldemort that Ralph Fiennes will be remembered. As Voldemort, Fiennes brings the same chills and cunning he brought to Schindler's List (just look below at the trailer for the last movie, sorry no clips as Warner Brothers is very protective of the Potter franchise).

Alan Rickman
Hard to believe that Professor Snape would be higher than Lord Voldemort, eh? But Alan Rickman has been frightening (and delighting) audiences as villains ever since playing the evil Hans Gruber in Die Hard in 1988. Since then, he has amassed fans from films like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (below, where he is the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham) and Sweeney Todd (as the cruel judge Johnny Depp's Sweeney is after with a vengeance). And, of course, as Professor Snape in ALL of the Harry Potter films, well let's just say he makes being mean look so good.

So, there you have it: THE 10 BEST VILLAIN ACTORS. It should not be a surprise that almost all of them (save Christopher Walken and the late Robert Mitchum) are British. Maybe "the Brits" just do bad better than "the Yanks." Tomorrow, I will give you all another of my 10 FAVORITES, but it will be a much happier subject: Sesame Street!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

10 FAVORITES (11) - TV's Annoying Neighbors

Television comedies, sitcoms and "dramedies" have delivered some of the most memorable characters in our pop culture history. Out of the pantheon of characters, of which there are many types, there are none more recognizable and sometimes irritatingly endearing as the Annoying Neighbor. This trope has taken many forms and could not be more simple than that of a person in the series whose main existence seems to be nothing more than to annoy, irritate and frazzle the lead character (or characters). But who are the most memorable (or most annoying, as the case may be)? This week's 10 FAVORITES is all about TV's Most Annoying Neighbors.


The Residents of Wisteria Lane, Desperate Housewives
Yes, I'm including everyone that lives in Television's sauciest cul-de-sac, including the leading ladies. I am not saying I hate them or anything, I am just pointing out how irritating it would be to live on the same street with these people (all of whom seem to miraculously look like they stepped out of a Calvin Klein or Victoria's Secret ad...not that there's anything wrong with that).

Phyllis Lindstrom, The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Ah, the great Cloris Leachman, is there anything she can't do? She has an Oscar (for 1971's The Last Picture Show) and countless Emmy awards, including two wins (and many nominations) for this comic gem role as Mary Richards' scatterbrained and pretentious landlady. She certainly annoyed Mary's BFF Rhoda (the delightful Valerie Harper) and made an enemy of Mary's co-worker Sue Anne Nivens (the legend that is Betty White).

Newman, Seinfeld
Everyone remembers Jerry Seinfeld saying (in an irritated tone): "Hello, Newman!." NY mailman Newman (played to perfection by Wayne Knight) seemed to be a nemesis to the titular lead, but since the show was about "Nothing" then that plot point probably shouldn't be applied.

Larry and his brother, Darryl and his other brother, Darryl, Newhart
Ever since the success of The Beverly Hillbillies, TV audiences have adored a country bumpkin (think Cletus on The Simpsons, for you younger folks!). Bob Newhart's highly rated and acclaimed 1980's sitcom (set at a remote Vermont inn) tripled the audience's delight by having a set of brothers (Larry spoke, the Darryls did not) who were as hilarious as they were irritating (and even creepy at times!).

The Residents of Stars Hollow, Gilmore Girls
Gilmore Girls is one of the more popular of the "dramedies" in the past decades (so I may be angering a large group of loyal fans here!). Lead mother and daughter pair Lorelai and Rory Gilmore (played by Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, respectively) were surrounded by a loving yet nosey bunch of neighbors that, though well-meaning, could make one rethink the possibility of buying a house in the town.

Irwin "Skippy" Handleman, Family Ties
He grew up next door to the Keaton family on the acclaimed 1980's sitcom, but Skippy (well-played by Marc Price) was clumsy, nerdy and a little tongue-tied at times. His apprentice-like friendship with older brother Alex (Michael J. Fox) and his adoration of middle daughter Mallory (Justine Bateman) made him a standard within the trope (inspiring another character who went on to even greater notoriety...but we'll get to him in a bit!)

Frank and Marie Barone, Everybody Loves Raymond
Imagine your parents annoy you just when you go to visit them or they come to visit you. Now, imagine this irritation being a daily occurrence, considering they live across the street from you. Ray Romano's successful sitcom took annoying parents to a whole new level by throwing the neighbor quotient into the equation. Marie and Frank (greatly played by Doris Roberts and the late Peter Boyle) certainly made one think violent thoughts.

Mr. Harry Bentley, The Jeffersons
George Jefferson, like his counterpart Archie Bunker, seemed to be annoyed by everyone and everything. But George's across-the-hall neighbor (in "the deluxe apartment in the sky"), Mr. Bentley, frustrated him to no end. Bentley (delightfully played by the late Paul Benedict) was a UN interpreter who walked on people's backs (literally, he walked on backs to soothe back pain) and would find himself in the oddest and most bizarre situations on the series.

Ned Flanders, The Simpsons
For many, Ned seems to be the definition of this trope and that mainly speaks to the dominance of Matt Groening's groundbreaking animated sitcom. Groening and Co. are constantly receiving letters from fans to find more ways to put Homer and his neighbor-nemesis Ned "Flandiddily" Flanders together (and the stories are becoming more increasingly odd, but that's another blogpost altogether!). From his annoying sayings and positive "Can Do!" attitude to his uber-Christian and slightly effeminate behavior, I would be extremely remiss if I did not include Ned near the top of this list.

Gladys Kravitz, Bewitched
Like the ladies on Desperate Housewives know, it is extremely difficult to hide your secrets when you live in the suburbs. Samantha Stephens was trying to do that long before the residents of Wisteria Lane were, yet her results were much more hilarious. Samantha's neighbor Gladys Kravitz would constantly be bewildered and sometimes downright frightened by the magical happenings she would witness from across the street. For Samantha, hiding from Gladys and constantly explaining things had to be a 24/7 job.

Steven Q. Urkel, Family Matters
While Ned Flanders may define the trope, Steve Urkel is most likely the ultimate when it comes to Annoying Neighbors. Flanders only pretty much annoyed Homer Simpson. But Urkel, well, he irritated everyone in the Winslow household from Carl to Eddie to Harriet to that of his "one true love" Laura. The Urkel phenomenon went beyond that of a popular supporting character. He had is own video game, dance steps and cereal! He was so popular that many fans don't believe it when they hear that the character was originally written to ONLY be in one episode. But, of course, response to him was so well-received from audiences that the powers-that-be behind the sitcom demanded he be written in as many times as possible. And the show's focus and dynamic was dramatically shifted from its original intent. But that's TV history for you!

So there you have it: The 10 Most Annoying Neighbors on TV Comedies! Not many surprises, as most of these names popped up immediately when researching this trope. The one thing that most of these characters have in common besides being Annoying Neighbors is that they are beloved by the fans. They each have endearing qualities that make them timeless when watching the shows in reruns. I hope your favorite was on here. If you have suggestions (for future lists) or comments, do not hesitate to drop me a line!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

10 FAVORITES (10) - Board Games

Who doesn't love a good classic board game? The competition, the bright colors and all the fun is what makes board games a standard family activity. Of course, the powers that be at all the major toy corporations have realized that and have been able to utilize those qualities in selling their game products. We've all heard the term "Family Game Night." That marketing strategy just reflects a culture that enjoys a good board game. So, this week's 10 FAVORITES is all about the best games we play with our families, our friends and (nowadays) even online.


This game is great because it combines the elements of Craps and Poker, and who doesn't love that? It's only Honorable Mention because technically it really isn't a "board" game.

You gotta love a game where your main tool was a tweezers that, if handled improperly, could set off a buzz that would drive your parents nuts! Plus, all the hilarious cultural references to body parts (i.e. Funny Bone, Charlie Horse, Achilles Heel, etc.) were educational too.

I know, technically it really isn't a board game, but this game was fun because it was like Checkers meets Tic-Tac-Toe. Plus, I always loved the little lever on the bottom that released and dropped all the pieces (That lever comes in handy when you're losing the game!).

Probably one of the most classic games marketed towards little children (initially), this game is truly timeless. And I have seen every incarnation from "Snakes and Vines" to the more adult versions (Google them, and you'll see what I mean!).

This game, which is basically Parchessi with apologies, is great fun because as you get older you begin to strategize (and even make alliances!). Most people remember the classic Carol Burnett Show sketch with Mama and Eunice playing the game (with the annoying bell!).

This game came out when I was a kid and we just loved it. It's objective was clearly simple but its mechanics were so fun (and easily breakable).

I think what I loved most about this game was the board itself: the cars with the little pegs, all the possible lucrative jobs, the spin-wheel in the center (You knew which spaces were bad and which ones were good!). The downsides to this game was how long the game took AND no one really wanted to be the loser at "The Game of Life."

My parents loved a good mystery and so, this game was always a standard in our home. It was great to theorize, strategize and solve the case (and win the game!). Plus, the characters were just so classic (like they stepped out of Agatha Christie or Dashiell Hammett).

This is probably the most famous board game of all and it derives perfectly from "the American Dream." There have been tons of incarnations from all different franchises (including Star Wars, Harry Potter, Wizard of Oz, The Simpsons and even Spongebob Squarepants).

I love words and I love to play with words. This game is not about intelligence (well, not just about intelligence), it's about possibilities and the working things out (just like the Daily Jumble in the newspaper!).

This is my favorite board game not just because I like it, but because it is a favorite of my family and my friends (maybe that says something about the people I hang with, but anyway...). Not only is it fun to know things (that possibly others don't!), but it is also great to learn things you might not have known before. Plus, look at all the pretty colors!

So, there you have it: THE 10 BEST BOARD GAMES. I hope your favorites are on here. And I am sorry to those who loved games like "Battleship" or "Risk" but they just aren't my cup of tea (which doesn't mean they aren't great!). Next Week, we'll take a look at TV Sitcoms again, but this time at those supporting characters we called: The Annoying Neighbor. Now, go out, buy a board game and have fun!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

10 FAVORITES (9) - "I Want..." Songs

I thought that I would devote this week's edition of 10 FAVORITES to the thing that I love most in this world: Broadway musicals. To make the list more interesting than that of a list of favorite musicals, composers, characters, etc., I thought that I would do something specific. This week, I am listing the best Broadway "I Want..." Songs. "What is an "I Want..." Song?" you ask. An "I Want..." Song is a musical number in a show when the lead character (or group of characters including the lead) sing about their hopes, their dreams and, of course, their wants. You've all heard them before, especially if you've seen a Disney movie in your lifetime (think "Part of Your World" in The Little Mermaid or "I'm Almost There" in The Princess and the Frog).


Before I continue with the list, there is a bit of criteria that goes into choosing a good "I Want..." Song (and there are often exceptions to each rule):
1) The song usually has to appear in the musical within the first 30-40 minutes, which for those of you going by the CD or iTunes track listings means one of the first 3-5 songs. Musicals are usually 2-2 1/2 hours long (including an intermission), so to build a strong lead character, that song has to come early in the evening.
2) The song is most often sung by the lead (or one of the leads). Most musicals have the standard two-person lead, whether it be a male and a female (i.e. My Fair Lady, West Side Story) or two males (i.e. The Producers, La Cage Aux Folles) or two females (i.e. Wicked, Chicago). The "I Want..." Song must be sung by one of these people (if not both).
3) To be a really great "I Want..." Song, it must have a catchy hook in its melody that can often be repeated throughout the rest of the show. For example, "Part of Your World" in The Little Mermaid starts out when Ariel sings to her fish friend Flounder about how she longs to be human (then titled "Part of That World"). The song is later reprised when she meets the handsome Prince Eric and saves his life (making the song "Part of Your World"). A good "I Want..." Song would have an Act II reprise or the melody becomes part of a scene later in the show, becoming the musical's theme or motif.

Now, on with the show...I mean, list!

"Over the Rainbow," The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Music by Harold Arlen; Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg
This song is probably the first song that comes to people's minds when reading the above criteria, and that is mainly because it is from a widely seen and beloved film. What can be better than the young Judy Garland, with her powerful and mature voice, singing this glorious song about dreaming of a place beyond the skies? The only reason it is not in the Top 10 is because it is not from a Broadway musical, it is from a film (though written by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, who were famed Broadway and Tin Pan Alley writers). Below, the very scene with the wide-eyed Judy Garland.

SONG #10
"I Dreamed a Dream," Les Misérables (1985)
Music by Claude-Michel Schonberg; Lyrics by Alain Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer
Long before Susan Boyle wowed audiences with her rendition of the song on Britain's Got Talent, this tune came from the smash-hit musical on both sides of the Atlantic (and around the world for that matter). The song is sung by the supporting character (Yes, I said supporting!) of Fantine as she has just been fired from her factory job in 19th century France. It is one of the most poignant moments in the musical and (thanks to the likes of Susan Boyle) one of the most popular songs from the show. Below, Ruthie Henshall sings the part of Fantine in the 1995 10th Anniversary concert of the show.

"The Wizard and I," Wicked (2003)
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
This song is pretty much an equivalent to "Over the Rainbow," except it is sung by the character we know becomes The Wicked Witch of the West. The blockbuster musical, based on Gregory Maguire's 1995 fantasy novel about Oz from the perspective of green-skinned lady labeled "villain," has been the biggest hit on Broadway in the past decade. In this song, the young Elphaba (the witch's name) is told that her powers can bring her to the attention of The Wizard, who is like a god to the Ozians. Below, the original star Idina Menzel back when the show opened in 2003.

"Goodnight My Someone," The Music Man (1957)
Music and Lyrics by Meredith Wilson
Unlike some of the other songs on this list, this song is actually the sixth musical number in the classic show. But to be fair, the scene in which it appears is the third or fourth AND it is the second song the female lead sings (the first being a mini-duet/exchange with her mother). This song speaks to the heartbreak of the character of Marian Paroo, a woman who (presumably is in her 20's) and is (GASP!) unmarried in her small Iowa town. Below, Shirley Jones in the 1962 film version.

"I'm the Greatest Star," Funny Girl (1964)
Music by Jule Styne; Lyrics by Bob Merrill
When Barbra sang the immortal words "I'm the Greatest Star, I am by far...," audiences were so entranced by her that they believed she meant herself (and not Ziegfeld star Fanny Brice, whom she was playing in the hit musical). The song has become one of the many synonymous with Streisand's legendary career. And let's be clear, this was Babs towards the beginning of her fame, therefore the song might as well have premonition written all over it. Below, Babs in the 1968 film version.

"Corner of the Sky," Pippin (1972)
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
This one is a little bit lesser known than the others (and it is not the most famous song from this musical) but it features a lot of standard "I Want..." imagery in its lyrics and its music is so passionate and hopeful. Stephen Schwartz, right after he was a hit Off-Broadway with Godspell, teamed with the famed Bob Fosse for this award-winning hit in 1972 and this song featured a lot of the youthful exuberance and heart of Schwartz's early career (negative critics would call it naivete, but to each his own). Below, William Katt (of The Greatest American Hero fame) in an Australian production (alongside original star Ben Vereen and Broadway diva Chita Rivera) that was taped for TV.

"Maybe," Annie (1977)
Music by Charles Strouse; Lyrics by Martin Charnin
Probably the most sugary sweet Broadway musical hit and based on the landmark Harold Gould comic strip, Annie told the story of the little orphan girl whose positive attitude saw her (and the nation) through the tough times of the Great Depression. The show basically opens with this heartfelt plea from the titular orphan that her birth parents will someday find her. Though many of you may think of the iconic song "Tomorrow" that Annie sings 15 to 20 minutes later in the show, it is this song that truly fits the "I Want..." criteria. Below, Aileen Quinn in the 1982 film version.

"Some People," Gypsy (1959)
Music by Jule Styne; Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Gypsy is strongly considered to be one of the greatest musicals of all-time and it features the mother of all stage mothers as its lead character. First played on Broadway by the legendary Ethel Merman (for whom the show was written), Mama Rose lied, cheated, stole and physically forced her two daughters onto the stage (even the burlesque stage!). Not the most ideal musical character but yet the most enduring and one of the most iconic. In this song, she literally begs her father for help in getting her Baby June onto the stage (by giving her $88!). Since Merman, the role has been played by a catalogue of dynamic divas including Rosiland Russell, Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Linda Lavin, Bette Midler, Betty Buckley, Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone (just to name a few!). Below, Ms. Peters in a 1999 PBS concert (before she took on the role in a 2003 Broadway revival).

"I Hope I Get It," A Chorus Line (1975)
Music by Marvin Hamlisch; Lyrics by Edward Kleban
The only song on this list to be sung by a group of characters (considering that the landmark musical doesn't have a clear lead character), this dynamic opening number thrills audiences and brings them closer to the dancing ensemble who are dying to get that job and get in that show. Below, the entire original cast (including Donna McKechnie, Priscilla Lopez and Kelly "Emily Gilmore" Bishop) performs the full opening number at the 1976 Tony Awards.

"Something's Coming," West Side Story (1957)
Music by Leonard Bernstein; Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Just the title of the song (like some of the other titles), evoke the feelings that are conveyed in a standard "I Want..." Song. When director-choreographer Jerome Robbins needed a lyricist to accompany composer Leonard Bernstein's beautiful and complex score, they were brought to the attention of a young songwriter whose future was to be Broadway musical history. In "Something's Coming" (the first song Sondheim wrote lyrics to for the show), you can feel the beginning of a prolific and masterful career. Tony, the Romeo lead in the musical retelling of Shakespeare, wants to leave the life of the Jets gang behind and grow-up, yet he feels something important and life-changing is "just around the corner." The rest is musical legend. Below, Richard Beymer plays Tony in the brilliant 1961 film adaptation (though his singing is dubbed by vocalist Jimmy Bryant).

"Wouldn't It Be Loverly," My Fair Lady (1956)
Music by Frederick Loewe; Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
The ultimate "I Want..." Song just coincidentally happens to come from my all-time favorite musical. Whether it is sung by Julie Andrews (below on The Ed Sullivan Show) or by Marni Nixon (dubbing for Audrey Hepburn in the classic 1964 film version), the song's lyrics begin with the words "All I Want...!" Playwright George Bernard Shaw (writer of Pygmalion, on which My Fair Lady is based), may have been one of the wittiest and most intellectual playwrights in history, but he would not have had a problem with his leading lady Eliza Doolittle voicing her hopes and dreams in a beautiful and lilting way.

So there you have it: The 10 BEST BROADWAY "I WANT..." SONGS. Hopefully, this will inspire you to think of your favorite "I Want..." Song, be it from Broadway or Film or TV or what have you. Also, I hope I gave you enough information to spot an "I Want..." Song from a mile away the next time you go to see a Broadway show!