Saturday, May 11, 2013

The 100 Greatest Broadway Songs - Part VIII

SONG #72
"Love Changes Everything"
from Aspects of Love
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Charles Hart & Don Black
sung by Alex Dillingham
After his mega-success that was The Phantom of the Opera, the idea of a romantic love story was still in Andrew Lloyd Webber's mind and he followed his big hit with an intimate chamber-like piece titled Aspects of Love.  Though it was nowhere near the kind of success that Phantom or even Cats was in London, after a year in the West End it transferred to Broadway where (by then) "the British Invasion" had frustrated American Theatre critics enough to pan the heck out of it.  Despite what any of the critics thought of the show (on both sides of the Ocean), that did not stop this opening song from becoming a hit single and making a pop star (especially in Britain) out of original performer Michael Ball.  And its a pretty ambitious opening song.  John Barrowman (who took over the role from Ball in London) called it the "11 o'clock 8 PM!"

SONG #71
"The Ladies Who Lunch"
from Company
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
sung by Joanne
This is yet another song that is as much identified with its performer as it is with the composer or the show.  Elaine Stritch was an actress who had appeared in Plays (Bus StopWho's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) and in Musicals (MameSail Away), but mostly as a replacement or in an ensemble role.  She wasn't really in a leading or prominent role (except maybe in Sail Away, which wasn't a huge success).  Then she met director Harold Prince and composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim.  They tailored the role of the hard-drinking sardonic Joanne in Company specifically to Stritch's personality.  And Sondheim wrote her this big solo number that she has equated to a three-act Play.  Though many ladies have performed the song since (Barbra Streisand, Carol Burnett and Patti LuPone, to name a few!), none have them have touched it in the way Elaine Stritch did.

SONG #70
"Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man"
from Show Boat
Music by Jerome Kern
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
sung by Julie LaVerne with Magnolia Hawks, Queenie, Joe & Company
In Edna Ferber's sprawling novel Show Boat, the character of Julie LaVerne (though a major plot point happens through her) is pretty much a background character to the main conflict of the story.  But in Oscar Hammerstein II's hands, Julie (and her story) became an emotional centerpiece of the Musical.  Her love of her ne'er-do-well husband Steve is so strong that it ultimately leads to her downfall.  And in this song, she plainly states that she "can't help lovin'" him.  Hammerstein even went as far as to establish the song as a typical song of black people, because Julie's secret is that she is half-black.  It was this part of the story that appealed so heavily to Hammerstein and helped him to write (with Jerome Kern) one of the show's most famous songs.

SONG #69
"Let Me Entertain You"
from Gypsy
Music by Jule Styne
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
sung by Baby June, Louise & Newsboys; strip version sung by Louise (Gypsy Rose Lee)
This is one of the few "motif numbers" that appear on this list.  This song appears at three different points within the Musical and is never once referred to as a "Reprise" (like most other shows that repeat songs!).  It first appears when Baby June and Louise are auditioning for a variety show at the beginning of the Musical (titled "May We Entertain You").  It is then revamped for Baby June's first number (with Louise and Newsboys and now titled "Let Me Entertain You!").  But by the end of the show, it is further revamped into "Let Me Entertain You (The Gypsy Strip)" representing Louise's transformation into the glamorous strip star Gypsy Rose Lee.  And believe me, by the end of that number, you never forget it!

SONG #68
"Anything You Can Do"
from Annie Get Your Gun
Music & Lyrics by Irving Berlin
sung by Annie Oakley & Frank Butler
Irving Berlin was never really a fan of the Rodgers and Hammerstein-style book Musicals.  He had great affinity for the shows that were repositories for all kinds of songs (Gee, I wonder why?).  So when Dorothy Fields approached Berlin to write the songs for a Musical about the life of Annie Oakley, he made the bold move of composing tons of songs like he would have for any other show (and they just happened to fit this Musical perfectly!).  And in this song, he does an elegant twist on the typical "love duet."  The rivalry between sharp-shooters Annie Oakley and Frank Butler is at its peak and they couldn't be more in love!  So what else do you do when you're in love?  You brag about how much better you are than the other person, at least according to Berlin.

SONG #67
"What I Did For Love"
from A Chorus Line
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Lyrics by Edward Kleban
sung by Diana Morales & Company
This famous ballad from this landmark show strikes at the very heart and theme of the choreographic Musical wonder.  The basic story is about dancers auditioning for a part in the chorus of an upcoming Broadway show, however they spend most of the audition process pouring out their innermost thoughts, secrets and passions.  And when you are in a career that is full of rejection on all levels or can end with one twist of an ankle, why do it?  That is the question posed to them by the man running the audition and they answer with this poignant song.  A song that has now become a haunting reminder of the popular career that the late composer Marvin Hamlisch had.

SONG #66
"I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'"
from Porgy and Bess
Music by George Gershwin
Lyrics by DuBose Heyward & Ira Gershwin
sung by Porgy
DuBose Heyward's powerful play Porgy was the inspiration for Gershwin's masterful Opera.  And in Porgy's first solo number of the show, Heyward took directly from a line from his play.  When asked how he's feeling that day, Porgy responds with "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin' and nuttin' is plenty fo' me!"  With Ira Gershwin's help, Heyward re-conceived this scene into a whole song for Porgy and George Gershwin's simple twang made the song a palpable hit for audiences.  His simple philosophy just makes you "loves" Porgy all the more!

SONG #65
"Day By Day"
from Godspell
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
sung by Soloist & Company
When Stephen Schwartz was approached by former college friend John-Michael Tebelak to compose songs for a Carnegie Mellon project titled Godspell, one of the first songs he wrote was this one.  He wanted the songs to seem like simple Gospel tunes that one would hear in any church.  And with Gospel songs, words are repeated over and over again until they are imprinted on your heart.  "Day By Day" consists mainly of seven lines/phrases that are repeated several times over.  And with Schwartz' knack for catchy pop tunes, this song became the most popular song from the Off-Broadway hit and was released as a single which reached the top 20 of the Billboard Music Charts.

In the next post, more songs from Rock Musicals, Musical-Comedies and traditional Book Musicals.  We're on our way to the top!


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