Friday, February 22, 2013

Top 100 Showtunes: 100-91

Several years ago, on my Facebook, I did a countdown of my all-time favorite showtunes. Since then I have discovered quite a few new shows and new songs, and I figured it was time for an update. So for the next several Fridays, I'll be counting down my all-time favorite showtunes from #100 to #1.

Before we start, first of all, I'm only including songs that came from musicals that were produced on the stage. As much as I love the musical numbers from Singin' in the Rain, Moulin Rouge!, and the vast selection of Disney movies, they belong on a different list.

Secondly, I want to quickly give some honorable mentions... er, mentions, to the many shows that are very solid (and have solid cast recordings) but never made it onto this list because they didn't have any songs that really blew me away on the level of these other songs. My sincere apologies to Bat Boy, Bye Bye Birdie, Cabaret, Camelot, Catch Me If You Can, The Evil Dead, The Fantasticks, Fiddler on the Roof, In the Heights, Into the Woods (I'm as surprised as you are none of the songs quite made the cut), Miss Saigon, Oliver!, Once On This Island, Promises, Promises, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Side Show, Sweeney Todd, Urinetown, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and 1776.

All right. All that being said, and all those lovely musicals having been acknowledged... On to my top 100!

(* after a song title indicates there is adult language in the song.)

#100. "Through the Looking Glass" from Wonderland. I've said before that my love for this show is very, very difficult to explain, so I'm not going to work too hard. There's just something about the music here that is very moving to me. I enjoy triumphant battle cry type songs, and even though this is a very mellow poppy kind of battle cry, it still makes me smile every time I hear it. But I can't really justify my love for it, so it chills out here at the bottom of the list.

#99. "I'm Not That Girl" from Wicked. Even though my love for this show has waned a little bit, I still really enjoy it, and I still think this is one of the quintessential unrequited love showtunes. (The others will all be in my list later.) I really enjoy the simplicity of the tune, and I like that it stays stoic instead of getting melodramatic. Elphaba chooses to ground herself in reality, trying to remind herself that she's just not that kind of girl and never will be... as much as it hurts.

#98. "Just One Step" from Songs for a New World*. The first of many songs by the phenomenal Jason Robert Brown on this list. It's a hilarious, furious song sung from the POV of a spoiled rich woman protesting that her husband won't buy her a fur coat. The music is fantastic, and it is ever so fun to sing along to. The version I present here is excellently acted but the piano often drowns out the voice, so if you want to hear it more clearly, this is the cast recording version.

#97. "Transylvania Mania" from Young Frankenstein. This musical is based on the movie of the same name. At this point in the show, the villagers have come to investigate Frederick Frankenstein's house, worried that he's building a monster just as his infamous grandfather did (which he is). Frederick's helpful assistants Igor and Inga try to distract the villagers with a sudden dance sequence, and it almost works, until the end. Besides the fact that it's so creative about rhyming words with "Transylvania" and "mania," this song is just fun to watch, listen to, or sing along with.

#96. "Legally Blonde" from Legally Blonde. There's an upbeat reprise of this song later, but this one is just gorgeous. Based on the movie, it tells the story of blonde, flighty Elle Woods' journey to law school, initially to win back her ex, but then she discovers she actually loves studying law and thinks she might be good at it. In this scene, she's just found out that she only won a prestigious internship because the professor wanted to sleep with her. She's devastated and thinks maybe she was never cut out to be anything important anyway, maybe she should just go home and hang out on the beach with her friends and be mindlessly pretty forever. It's the flip side of "I'm Not That Girl" - a heartbreaking song about resigning yourself to what seems to be your destiny and not trying to push for anything else.

#95. "Ol' Man River" from Show Boat. My taste in showtunes leads toward the modern, and a lot of the classic musicals or songs from them just don't move me that much. This song, however, is incredible. It's sung several times throughout the show, using the Mississippi River as a metaphor in its commentary on oppression and hardship. The melody and lyrics are both absolutely haunting. Such a beautiful song.

#94. "One Knight" from Wonderland. And to follow up that deep and poignant song, we have this, one of the silliest songs on this list. It's a boy band parody sung by the White Knight to Alice, asking her to let him be her guide through Wonderland. The thing is... I have such a weakness for boy bands. I love them. A lot. And even though this song is deliberately ridiculous and cheesy and the choreography is hilarious... as I'm giggling at it, I'm also a little melted by it. This song was definitely one of my obsession songs in 2012, and although I'm sure this will eventually slip out of my favorites list, for now it still belongs.

#93. "Screwed-Up People Make Great Art" from Striking 12. And here we have the first of many entries by the band Groovelily, many of whose songs are impossible to find on YouTube and I'll have to link you directly to their own music page for an audio-only experience. This song is from their New Year's Eve-themed show that creatively tells the story of The Little Match Girl, interspersed with the story of the depressed guy reading about her. This song gives us a little background on Hans Christian Andersen as the author of The Little Match Girl. It's funny, clever, and entertaining... and it taught me all sorts of fun facts about how twisted poor HCA's life was.

#92. "Bye Room" from john & jen. john & jen is a fantastically interesting musical about a woman's relationship with her brother and then her son, who is named after her brother. This song features her and her son as he is getting ready to head off to camp for the first time and is saying goodbye to everything in his room. I love the song's cheerfulness and playfulness and it's still one of my favorite songs to listen to.

#91. "Terminal Illness" from 13, which starts at about 2:42 into this clip. I've always had a fondness for cheerful-sounding songs about terribly morbid things, and this one certainly is that. The plot here is a bit complicated, so let's just say that the main kid singing is Evan, who is the new kid at school and is trying to do everyone favors to get on their good side. Right now he needs to get a bunch of tickets to an R-rated movie, and he recruits Archie, who has muscular dystrophy, to play on his illness to get the tickets. The song cheerfully suggests that if you have a terminal illness, you can get away with just about everything, because "no one says no to a boy with a fatal disease." The video below is from the Broadway cast but the audio is sometimes terribly muddled, so once again, here's a clearer audio-only option.

Next Friday: #90-81! Nine more weeks to go!

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