Friday, May 3, 2013

The 100 Greatest Broadway Songs - Part III


SONG #97
"I Enjoy Being a Girl"
from Flower Drum Song
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
sung by Linda Low
As promised before, here is the first of 12 songs to appear on this list composed by the legendary songwriting duo of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.  And this one comes from one of their more obscure (yet more notorious and controversial) shows.  Flower Drum Song, a story about Chinese immigrants in San Francisco's Chinatown, has been hit with all kinds of criticism from many different sides.  It has been accused of racism, sexism and (in some cases) pro-communism (don't ask!).  This song is no exception to scrutiny (especially from feminists!).  Yet while the song showcases a woman singing about frivolous and superficial things, some people have failed to understand the context of the song and the character.  Linda Low, the vain star attraction at the Chinatown night club, is preparing for a date and (like other vain people many of us have known!) looks in the mirror and sings about the glory that is her (and the stereotypical things that have been applied to women and their wily ways!).  Despite the criticism, the song has become the most famous number from a show that many people have tried to make audiences forget.  Don't worry, the other 11 Rodgers and Hammerstein songs are from more well-known Musicals!

SONG #96
"Glitter and Be Gay"
from Candide
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Richard Wilbur
sung by Cunegonde
Leonard Bernstein spent most of his career trying to combine three different genres of music.  He was a lover of both Jazz and Classical and he always wanted them to find some convergence within Musical Theatre.  Unfortunately, he never really achieved it in the way he wanted to and Candide is the show that most critics point to as an example of this failing.  Based on Voltaire's 18th Century novel and a mix of Musical-Comedy and Light Operetta, the show opened in 1956 with a book by the famed writer Lillian Hellman.  And, according to many, that was the producers' biggest mistake.  Hellman, one of several writers who railed against "the establishment," adapted Voltaire's work to suit her own political agenda.  Several critics pointed at the disjointedness between Leonard Bernstein's lush score and Lillian Hellman's social commentary.  But it is this song that has survived into legend, becoming a standard aria for young sopranos in both the worlds of Opera and Musical Theatre.  Bernstein's dream has in some way come true, just without him.

SONG #95
"Come Rain Or Come Shine"
from St. Louis Woman
Music by Harold Arlen
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
sung by Della Green
This song has become one of the most popular Jazz standards sung in night clubs and on albums by several different artists.  It was originally written by Harold Arlen (who had written the score to The Wizard of Oz) and Johnny Mercer (who is now more famous for his luxurious southern mansion).  They wrote it as part of the score for St. Louis Woman, which was initially to star their favorite singer Lena Horne (who had been prominently featured in Arlen's hit film Stormy Weather).  Though Horne backed out of the Musical due to creative differences over the show's story, it did not stop her from covering the song and helping to make another Arlen and Mercer score famous.  The show, however, has drifted into obscurity despite legendary performances in its original 1946 production by the likes of Ruby Hill (who replaced Horne), Pearl Bailey and the Nicholas Brothers.

In the next post, a few more shall be revealed including one that has found new fame as being integral to the plot of a successful Disney/Pixar movie.

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