Saturday, May 25, 2013

The 100 Greatest Broadway Songs - Part XVII

"Luck Be a Lady"
from Guys and Dolls
Music & Lyrics by Frank Loesser
sung by Sky Masterson & Gamblers
This is probably Frank Loesser's most famous song (and that's pretty much thanks to Sinatra!).  With its fast and tremulous riffs and its snake-oil gambling imagery, the song taps into that seedy underbelly of Damon Runyon's world.  The song is sung by ultimate gambler Sky Masterson as he tries to convince a bunch of his fellow low-life gamblers to attend a prayer meeting at the Mission, where the woman he loves works.  The title has gone down into the canon of American colloquialisms as people say it on their way to either Nevada or Atlantic City.  The song is even an unofficial anthem that is used in Films and Television shows in which the characters travel to Vegas!

from Oklahoma!
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
sung by Curly McLane, Laurey Williams, Aunt Eller & Company
One of the most popular title songs in Broadway history (and yet it is NOT the highest ranking title number on this list!).  But like "Ol' Man River" before, this song is quite representative of the changes in the American Musical.  The overall metaphor of the show is that change is coming for everyone in the territory as it journeys towards statehood.  So when Curly and Laurey (the feuding lovers of the show) finally marry, it is a reminder to all the other characters of the new horizons on the brink with this "brand new state."  Mixed with Hammerstein's depiction of rural Oklahoma prairies is Richard Rodgers' use of choral singing in the background (something he worked on with his longtime orchestrator Robert Russell Bennett).  The choral singing leads right into that famous moment when the entire cast spells out (in iambic rhythm!) "O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A" with such a force.  It is no wonder the actual state of Oklahoma officially adopted the song as their state anthem 10 years after the show opened on Broadway (making it the only official state song from a Broadway Musical!).

from A Chorus Line
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Lyrics by Edward Kleban
sung by The Company
Yet another song that has become an anthem for Broadway and its high-strutting numbers.  While that signature vamp is definitely a tribute to the late Marvin Hamlisch and his composing genius, the success of this number can be directly attributed to director Michael Bennett's inventive original staging and choreography.  Every step in this number is what was considered typical "chorus-style" dancing (especially the Tiller kicks at the end!).  The song also served as the overall metaphor for a show about dancers who are part of a virtual assembly line and, in their audition for the "show-within-the-show," are for the first time recognized as individuals and very different people.  It's the kind of perfect elements that make a great long-running Broadway hit.

Tomorrow, we step into the Top 3 of the 100 Greatest Broadway Songs of All-Time!

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