Friday, March 1, 2013

Top 100 Showtunes: 90-81

Last time we left off with #91, the silly but forever catchy "Terminal Illness" from 13. Moving on to the next ten!

#90. "So Much Better" from Legally Blonde. I can't watch this clip or listen to this song and not smile. At this point in the show, Elle has just learned that she's made it into an internship she really wanted, and she takes the opportunity to celebrate. The song is a triumphant anthem about finally achieving something and feeling like you've done something right.

#89. "Defying Gravity" from Wicked. This song may be insanely overperformed, but there's a reason. It's fantastically powerful. I was fortunate enough to see it in New York with Idina Menzel (though Kristin Chenoweth had left the show by then) and I still remember the incredible moment when she flew up into the air and belted out, "So if you dare to find me, look to the western skies." It's breathtaking. An incredible anthem to going against the status quo.

#88. "Sunset Boulevard" from Sunset Boulevard. I just hear those opening notes, and I'm hooked. This is Andrew Lloyd Webber's last great show, in my opinion, and a severely underrated one. It's based on Billy Wilder's classic noir film about a screenwriter who finds himself tangled up in a bizarre relationship with an aging film star determined to make a comeback. The whole cast recording is wonderful, but this title song is such a great tune and seems so fitting to the show that I admit I miss it whenever I watch the 1950 original (non-musical) movie.

#87. "How Can I Call This Home" from Parade. I always identified with this song as an introvert ("I live in fear they'll start a conversation"), and then I lived in South Carolina for seven months and I really identified with this song. :-) It's a great song about someone trapped in a place where they just don't fit and realizing that they'll never really feel at home there.

#86. "Ya Got Trouble" from The Music Man. I wrote about this pretty in-depth last August when I shared my favorite Music Man songs, so I won't go into much more detail. It's just a delight to watch how easily con man Harold Hill whips up his audience into a frenzy about the evil lying in wait in their community. As I said in August, "I love how quickly the words go by, certainly imitating the slick, fast-paced talk of an experienced con man, who knows that the more he keeps talking, the less time people have to process what he said and find the holes in it."

#85. "A Miracle Would Happen" from The Last Five Years*. When I first heard this song, I couldn't stop listening. I listened to the first half of it probably ten or eleven times in a row, fascinated by the weird speak-sing rhythm and the conversational lyrics. It was also one of the earliest introductions I had to one of my celebrity loves, the incredible Norbert Leo Butz. I've embedded the cast recording version because it is absolutely vital to hear the lyrics, but if you want to watch a live version starring the original actors, you can view that here.

#84. "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from Jesus Christ Superstar. One of the other quintessential unrequited love showtunes. (There are three. The third one's coming later.) It is one of Lloyd Webber's greatest love songs, covering the confusion and frustration of unrequited love... especially when you keep chiding yourself for even feeling that way in the first place. The song's been performed everywhere, but here I have found a performance by the wonderful Lea Salonga.

#83. "It Sucks to Be Me" from Avenue Q. Another song that just makes me smile whenever I listen to it. Avenue Q is like a very adult version of Sesame Street, with both puppets and humans as characters, and the show is full of songs that sound cheerful and wholesome until you listen to the lyrics. This song isn't obscene, but it cheerfully details how horrible everybody's lives are and why it sucks to be them - not exactly a child-friendly theme. I am all about happy sounding songs about sad things... so obviously I think this song is fantastic.

#82. "Stranger to the Rain" from Children of Eden. Children of Eden became one of my favorite shows after seeing a stellar live performance of it a couple of summers ago, and this song is one of the most heartbreaking moments. This act of the play is a retelling of Noah's Ark, and this song is sung by Yonah, who is in love with Noah's son but will not be allowed on the ark because she is a descendant of Cain and is therefore cursed. The song is strong but also terribly sad, as no matter how many trials Yonah's been through before, she's not going to survive a worldwide flood. Stephen Schwartz's melody and lyrics are gorgeous, though, and it's one of the show's highlights.

#81. "Fragile as Love" from Long Story Short. This is one of my very, very, very favorite cast recordings for a show that has never actually been staged anywhere officially. (I still can't believe I found a video for this song.) It was written by Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda of Groovelily and it follows a couple through their relationship. It is full of beautiful and honest songs about love.

I haven't been sharing lyrics, but I just want to share my favorite section of lines from this song, because I think they're beautiful. It's one of my favorite descriptions of awkwardly stumbling through relationships, trying to figure out how to make it all work because there really aren't any helpful road maps.

What about marrying somebody else?
Just to figure it out, just to get into practice
Then clean the slate, try again, you and me
With my ducks in a row, I'd be much better at this

Who the hell knows what love actually is?
OK, I only know what I see in the movies
Sexy and quirky and dancing all dirty
I know that behavior would never behoove me

Montages in picnics in parks in the rain
And you can't hear a word they say over the music
And we have to bumble along in real time
No montages, no music, just plain me and you

I don't know how people promise forever
Till death do us part, yes I do, do or die
'Cause there's nothing in life that is ever for certain
So all I can say is I promise to try

Next week, showtunes #80-71... heading toward #1 slowly but surely!

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