Monday, June 3, 2013

Top 100 Showtunes: 10-1

My apologies for not posting anything on Friday. I had an arthritis flare-up and couldn't type much of anything. Here, finally, are the very last 10 songs in my list of Top 100 Showtunes of All Time.

#10. "On the Willows" from Godspell. I like my religious music tinged with a dose of melancholy, and that's absolutely the case here. The song is sung as Jesus is saying goodbye to his disciples shortly before his death. It's a truly touching scene and a hauntingly beautiful song. The lyrics are taken straight out of Psalm 137, a lament of deep loss. There are a lot of video versions floating around online, but most of them had icky sound, so I just went ahead and got a Broadway revival cast version. So lovely, so sad, so beautiful.

#9. "Schadenfreude" from Avenue Q. And this is not lovely or sad or beautiful. It's just fun. It's incredibly satisfying to sing along to on a bad day, and I love how cheerfully the song accepts that "the world needs people like you and me who've been knocked around by fate / 'cause when people see us, they don't want to be us, and that makes them feel great!" It's hands down my favorite song from Avenue Q, which has had many, many songs in this list so far and many others that I really enjoy. This particular video syncs a live bootleg video with the cast recording audio, letting you both get a sense of the visuals of the song and hear the words clearly.

#8. "The Spark of Creation" from Children of Eden. When I first discovered this song, I fell completely in love with it. Children of Eden has since become one of my favorite shows, but this song especially stays at the top of the list. It perfectly encapsulates my worldview on how art and faith coincide. The song is sung by the Biblical Eve and is a glorious tribute to how creating things is a reflection of God's creative spirit. If I could choose a single song to represent who I am, it would be this one.

#7. "The Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha. There's something almost unbearably beautiful about this sentiment, to me, and about the whole story of Don Quixote. It's incredible and noble and argues that fighting for justice and righting wrongs is worth striving for, even when it cannot be fully achieved. The best part here is that it's not hyperbole, Don Quixote fully believes it, and is entirely "willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause." The song may be overused now as an inspirational piece, but in the context of the original show, I think it really is one of the most inspirational showtunes of all time.

#6. "A Little More Homework to Do" from 13. 13 is not one of Jason Robert Brown's most well-loved classics. I think it's a fantastic show, but, yes, a lot of the songs are a little younger, a little less substantial, than some of his other work. But this little gem is, in my opinion, one of the best songs JRB's ever, ever written. It does an incredible job of capturing the confusion and uncertainty of growing up, whether just entering adolescence as these kids are, or finishing high school, or finishing college and having to really-for-real-now become an adult. The melody is gorgeous, the lyrics are perfect, and it always manages to get to me on an emotional level.

#5. "Will I?" from Rent. Sometimes the most powerful songs are the ones with the fewest lyrics. This song has a total of fifteen words, repeated over and over again, but watching the clip as I prepared to write about it, I began tearing up. I think this cry of, "Will I lose my dignity? Will someone care?" is in a lot of people's hearts, and as the characters fill the stage, all hoping the same thing, the song grows and grows until it's a chorus of hurting people's prayers.

#4. "The Music of the Night" from The Phantom of the Opera. This used to be my #1 favorite showtune, back in high school when I was pretty much obsessed with this show. It has dropped to #4, but I still think it's absolutely gorgeous. I sorted through several versions to find the one I wanted to showcase, but I ended up going back to one of my favorites, the great Hugh Panaro. He puts a great deal of tenderness into the song, truly luring Christine and the listener in to the beauty of the music. It's gorgeous, it's seductive, it's one of my favorite songs to this day.

#3. "Stars" from Les Miserables. Oh, Russell Crowe, I am never going to forgive you for ruining this, one of the most beautiful showtunes ever written. (Just like Gerard Butler will never be forgiven for ruining my #4.) I have loved this song from when I first started loving Les Mis. It's the moment when we finally see a human side to Javert. We see a little bit what makes him tick, and we see his passion and dedication, and suddenly he's not so fully a villain. My favorite Javert, Philip Quast, does an incredible job in this clip of really bringing life into the character and making this song sound gorgeous.

#2. "Being Alive" from Company. I love this song. I love everything about it. I think it is a perfect, perfect ending to the show, especially in contrast to the act one closer, Marry Me a Little (also on my list). It starts off as a list of reasons not to get married ("someone to crowd you with love, someone to force you to care") and, as it goes on, Bobby realizes that he really genuinely wants someone to break into his life, even if it means sacrifice and giving up his independence if it means that someone can help "make [him] aware of being alive." I've seen three different versions of this musical, and Raul Esparza does by far the best rendition of this song.

#1. "Shiksa Goddess" from The Last 5 Years. If you've been a good friend of mine at any point in the last, oh, probably seven years or so, then you've probably heard this song. Because I make everyone listen to it. Because it is awesome. To be honest, though, I'm not sure what I love about it so much, that is so consistently ends up at the top of my list. Its music is fascinating to listen to (sometimes I try to tune Norbert out - hard as that may be - to just hear the piano because it sounds so cool). It's infectiously happy. The lyrics are funny and honest and cute. It's my favorite Broadway love song, and it's my favorite Broadway song, period, and it's probably not going anywhere, guys. I've embedded the live version of the song, but you really should have a chance to really hear the lyrics, so check out this audio-only clip from the cast recording as well.

And that's it, folks. That's the end of the list. We made it all the way from #100 to #1, and hopefully any of you who have been actually reading this have found a couple of new ones you liked as well. Now I have to figure out what else I'm going to be blogging about this month. Hmm.

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