Showstoppers from Broadway
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There is a magical moment in the theatre when the audience react to a song with such force that it literally stops the show. Not always are these showstoppers the big brassy numbers, they can be quiet, poignant and reflective moments - but whatever their mood, they have that special something which touches the nerve of an audience time and time again and they respond with the glorious sound of long and excited applause. Here is a collection of thirty six such showstoppers from shows which joyously span Broadway’s theatrical history.
The theatre and its stars have often found themselves the successful subject of Broadway shows. Back stage stories have been around for a long time, and this collection includes such wonderful examples as 42ND Street, Follies and A Chorus Line. One of the more recent, Barnum, tells the amazing tale of one of America’s greatest theatrical impresarios, a man who could turn his hand to almost anything to entertain and to make a buck or two. His invitation to the circus is our invitation to this collection of show songs and ‘Come Follow The Band’ could hardly do less than get everyone up on their feet.
But before we continue our voyage through Broadway showstoppers let us reflect upon the song entitled ‘Mr Monotony’ which heads our second CD for it is our one showstopper that almost got away. It was written for Irving Berlin’s film Easter Parade and Judy Garland recorded and filmed it, but its slow sexy jazzy style did not fit the film. Berlin then used it in his stage show Miss Liberty and it was given the same fate - this time because it was a showstopper and did not suit the character of the artist performing it. It was considered for Call Me Madam but only reached the Broadway stage when it appeared in the celebration of choreographer Jerome Robbins’ work called Jerome Robbins’ Broadway. Predictably it stopped the show every night.
There are two other numbers from Irving ‘Mr American Music’ Berlin. One from the previously mentioned Call Me Madam - a show which has more than its fair share of show stopping songs - but for good cheer the production number ‘The Washington Square Dance’ takes some beating. Of all the Berlin’s scores the greatest was undoubtedly Annie Get Your Gun and it is packed with hits. It is the romantic ‘They Say It’s Wonderful’ which captures the spirit here.
Another Broadway solo song writing talent is Jerry Herman. His Hello, Dolly! is one of the all time hits of the Great White Way with a legion of stars having played the title role over the years. Here, to once again prove the point that a showstopper does not have to be an all out smack ‘em-where-it-hurts number we hear the lovely ‘It Only Takes A Moment’. Herman’s Mack and Mabel although not a hit gained huge popularity when its overture was chosen by ice skaters Torvill and Dean for one of their award winning routines. The show’s ‘Time Heals Everything’ shone through to become a classic.
The most lauded man of present day American musical theatre is Stephen Sondheim whose career spans back to West Side Story. This retelling of the Romeo and Juliet story set in the tenement buildings of New York’s lower west side was one of the wonders of the fifties’ Broadway. Much of the show is dance based and exciting, but it is the dramatic moment when the rival gangs prepare for the events of the evening, an evening which if left to just our lovers would remain in the more romantic section of the ‘Tonight Quintet’. Sondheim wrote the lyrics for West Side Story but with Company, his intimate look at the couples of Manhattan, he also wrote the words and this is how he has continued. The theme of the show is relationships and ‘Being Alive’ is the central character’s call from the heart for love. On a lighter note, Sondheim’s ‘Broadway Baby’ from Follies tells of the obsession a life upon the stage can become and how its triumph can overflow to the audience.
If one man epitomises the modern musical it must be Andrew Lloyd Webber. His recently filmed Evita is an amazing piece of musical story telling and in ‘Rainbow High’ we see the rise of Eva Peron as the people’s queen. The title song from Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom Of The Opera can’t fail to stop the show, a fate shared by the title song of his Sunset Boulevard as well - it is the gift of grandeur that Lloyd Webber possesses which brings to the theatre such memorable moments.
Tim Rice was Andrew Lloyd Webber’s collaborator on Evita and he went on to write Chess, a love story between East and West which paralleled the game itself. The ‘Anthem’ from Chess recalls a powerful theatrical experience for those lucky enough to have seen it. Rice moved on to Hollywood to write lyrics for the most recent of the Broadway shows represented here. ‘If I Can’t Love Her’ is from the magical stage production of Walt Disney’s animated film Beauty And The Beast.
Also from the more recent crop of shows comes ‘The Human Heart’ a show stopper from the charming Once Upon This Island, a show with its heart firmly set in the traditions of the Caribbean. The traditions of Los Angeles, which is also known as The City Of Angels, are all set around the moving picture show and this clever show is about just that, half being set in black and white, as on film, the other being the parallel life of the movie’s writer. The film hero and the writer meet in ‘You’re Nothing Without Me’.
As influential as Lloyd Webber in the modern musical world is the producer Cameron Mackintosh. His ear recognised the potential of the French writing pair of Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil. From hearing a French concert recording of Les Miserables he set forth to mount it - and the rest is history. Perhaps the most successful show ever produced, it is packed with memorable moments. We have two here, ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ and ‘On My Own’. The team’s Miss Saigon has proved to be a mega hit as well and from this comes the wonderful ‘The Last Night Of The World’.
The earliest song on this set dates back to the twenties from a show called Good News about American college football. The rousing ‘Varsity Drag’ explodes with youthfulness as it progresses into a dance routine which would stop any show. The ‘Varsity Drag’ is timeless and so is ‘Dames’, a song hardly less old but still bright as a penny. It comes from the Broadway recreation of the all singing all dancing film 42ND Street which poached songs from other Al Dubin and Harry Warren movies of the period. A more recent dance based back stage show was the record breaking A Chorus Line. Its ‘What I Did For Love’ is another anthem to the ‘Broadway Baby’. Returning to the earlier years, there is another show which was originally seen on film but later took to the stage. Singin’ In the Rain looks back at the advent of the movie talkie. From this comes ‘Good Mornin’’ which would stop any show. At the time when film was finding its voice Fanny Brice was proving herself one of the greatest of all comediennes on the Broadway stage. She starred in the Ziegfeld Follies vaudeville and radio but her home life was not so glorious as we found out in Funny Girl with her heart rendering ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’.
Three Broadway musical collaborations over the past half century dominate. The first represented here is that of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe. One of their first major hits was Paint Your Wagon from which ‘Wand’rin Star’ first stopped the show. Their biggest hit was the timeless My Fair Lady and their music hall style ‘Get Me To The Church On Time’ proved to be one of the show’s most magical moments. Gigi was originally written as a film musical but it has since proved successful on stage. Either on stage or on film ‘The Night They Invented Champagne’ has the same joyous effect on an audience.
The second collaboration is that of Oscar Hammerstein 11 and Richard Rodgers and they are represented here with the innocently romantic ‘Happy Talk’ from South Pacific. The third is the only team still writing for the Broadway stage, that of John Kander and Fred Ebb. One of their earliest collaborations was Flora, The Red Menace which made a star of Liza Minnelli but was not a hit in its own right. ‘A Quiet Thing’ is one of the show’s great moments proving that not only hit shows produce memorable moments. Kander and Ebb’s biggest hit was Cabaret and from their revised version we have ‘Don’t Go’, a new showstopper for this talented pair.
Shows about New York have always been popular as seen with the already mentioned West Side Story, Company and 42ND Street. Leonard Bernstein’s On The Town was set in a war time New York where it could appear a ‘Lonely Town’ for any visitor, especially one who was off to war. His Wonderful Town, however, saw New York back in peace time and in a far gayer mood - so much so that ‘Swing!’ is totally appropriate. Two other shows firmly placed in New York are Guys and Dolls and Sweet Charity, the first showing the illegal gambling side of Broadway life and the other the seedy dance hall hostess trade. From the first comes one of the greatest of all Broadway shopstoppers ‘Sit Down, You’re Rocking The Boat’ and the latter ‘I’m A Brass Band’.
Not many opening numbers can be classed as showstoppers and one of the exceptions is ‘Tradition’ from Fiddler On The Roof. This wonderful musical shows the hope in the eye of oppression in Russia. Ireland had its famine problems and so many went hunting their pot of gold in the United States. That hunt is the inspiration of the tale of Finian’s Rainbow which has more than a hint of the blarney about it, although, the thoughts of back home in ‘How Are Things In Glocca Morra?’ are straight from the heart. And its from the heart that all these great moments of musical theatre have come to you.
Rexton S Bunnett
- Tradition (From Fiddler On the Roof)
Company, Jerry Bock, John Owen Edwards, Len Cariou, Sheldon Harnick
- There's No Business Like Show Business (From Annie Get Your Gun)
Company, Debbie Gravitte, Doug LaBrecque, Array, John Owen Edwards, Michael Maguire
- What I Did for Love (From a Chorus Line)
Catherine Porter, Chorus, Edward Kleban, Martin Yates, Array
- The Last Night of the World
Alain Boublil, Array, Joanna Ampil, Martin Yates, Richard Maltby, Jr., Simon Bowman
- Company (From Company)
Andrew Halliday, Deborah Myers, Graham Bickley, Jacqui Scott, James Graeme, Katrina Murphy, Kim Criswell, Martin Yates, Simon
- Love Never Goes Away (From Seven Brides for Seven Brothers)
Al Kasha, Hal Fowler, Joel Hirschhorn, Katrina Murphy, Martin Yates, Paul Manuel
- Anthem (From Chess)
Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus, David Shannon, Martin Yates, Array
- Mister Snow (From Carousel)
Katrina Murphy, Martin Yates, Array, Array
- I Dreamed a Dream (From Les Miserables)
Alain Boublil, Array, Array, Martin Yates, Susan Egan
- Sing for Your Supper (From the Boys from Syracuse)
Christiane Noll, Craig Barna, Debbie Gravitte, Jan Horvath, Array, Array
- The Night They Invented Champagne (From Gigi)
Alan Jay Lerner, Array, Graham Bickley, Lindsay Hamilton, Martin Yates, Sian Phillips
- Sunset Boulevard (From Sunset Boulevard)
Andrew Halliday, Array, Christopher Hampton, Array, Martin Yates
- As Long As He Needs Me (From Oliver!)
Lionel Bart, Martin Yates, Sally Ann Triplett
- The Circle of Life (From the Lion King)
Andrew Halliday, Chorus, Array, Paulette Ivory, Array
- The People's Song (From Les Miserables)
Alain Boublil, Array, Company, Graham Bickley, Array, James Graeme, Katrina Murphy, Kim Criswell, Martin Yates
- All That Jazz (From Chicago)
Company, Fred Ebb, Array, Katrina Murphy, Martin Yates, Paulette Ivory, Sally Ann Triplett
- Maria (From West Side Story)
J. Mark McVey, John Owen Edwards, Array, Array
- Big Spender (From Sweet Charity)
Christiane Noll, Array, Debbie Gravitte, Array, Jan Horvath, Martin Yates
- The Heather On the Hill (From Brigadoon)
Alan Jay Lerner, Array, George Dvorsky, Janis Kelly, Martin Yates
- Oh What a Beautiful Mornin' (From Oklahoma!)
John Owen Edwards, Array, Array, Sal Viviano
- Dames (From 42nd Street)
Array, Company, Craig Barna, Array, Michael Gruber
- Bring Him Home (From Les Miserables)
Alain Boublil, Claude Michel-Schonberg, Array, J. Mark McVey, Martin Yates
- Ya Got Trouble (From the Music Man)
Company, Martin Yates, Array, Michael Maguire
- Memory (From Cats)
Array, Christiane Noll, Debbie Gravitte, Jan Horvath, Martin Yates, T. S. Eliot
- Let Me Entertain You (From Gypsy)
Christiane Noll, Craig Barna, Debbie Gravitte, Jan Horvath, Array, Array
- There Are Worse Things I Could Do (From Grease)
Jim Jacobs, Martin Yates, Sally Ann Triplett, Warren Casey
- Glitter and Be Gay (From Candide)
Katrina Murphy, Array, Martin Yates, Richard Wilbur
- I'd Do Anything (From Oliver!)
Boys, Irfan Ahmad, John Owen Edwards, Josephine Barstow, Julian Forsyth, Lionel Bart, Megan Kelly, Richard South
- Aquarius (From Hair)
Company, Array, Gerome Ragni, James Rado, P. P. Arnold, Stephen Brooker
- One Day More (From Les Miserables)
Alain Boublil, Andrew Halliday, Array, Company, Graham Bickley, Joanna Ampil, Martin Yates, Paulette Ivory, Sally Ann Triplet