At one of my former jobs in the music-selling business, we used to listen to new releases and re-issues in the office when they were sent to us from record labels. One such package contained a remastered CD edition of Jesus Christ Superstar, and I jumped past the latest Drivin N Cryin and Shawn Colvin discs to spin this gem from my youth. Working away at my desk, papers spread around me, probably with “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” pouring out of the speakers, I was focused and blissfully so, until a co-worker strode through the door, noticed what was playing, and hastily replaced JC Superstar with some half-hearted new release by Terence Trent D’Arby or some other artist that we’ve all already forgotten.
“We don’t listen to Broadway shows in here,” he stated with the authority of the terminally hip.
I think that Broadway musicals get a terrifically unfair rap these days, mostly by uneducated and fearful people whose only context for them is their perceived glorification by the gay community. They probably don’t realize that a very large percentage of popular songs in the first half of the twentieth century began life on the stage of a theatre.
In my childhood home, my parents balanced out the musical spectrum by adding classic country albums (Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, for instance, from my father) and classic Broadway musicals (Camelot, The Sound of Music, from Mom) to the family collection. To me, the standards of musical theatre are every bit as essential to a well-rounded musical palette as are songs from the Grand Old Opry, or The Beatles, or Beethoven.
Here are some of my favorites.
Approximate playing time: 77 minutes.
- “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story (1957)
- “I Got Lost in His Arms” from Annie Get Your Gun (1949)
- “I Whistle a Happy Tune” from The King and I (1951)
- “Gary, Indiana” from The Music Man (1958)
- “I’m an Ordinary Man” from My Fair Lady (1956)
- “It’s a Perfect Relationship” from Bells Are Ringing (1956)
- “Sorry-Grateful” from Company (1970)
- “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar (1970)
- “The Heather on the Hill” from Brigadoon (1947)
- “If I Loved You” from Carousel (191947)
- “Then You May Take Me to the Fair” from Camelot (1960)
- “Impossible / It’s Possible” from Cinderella (1957)
- “The Hostess with the Mostes’ on the Ball” from Call Me Madam (1950)
- “Some People” from Gypsy (1959)
- “What a Waste” from Wonderful Town (1958)
- “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid” from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962)
- “I Can Cook, Too” from On the Town (1959)
- “Too Darn Hot” from Kiss Me, Kate (1949)
- “I Cain’t Say No” from Oklahoma! (1943)
- “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific (1949)
- “I Guess I’ll Miss the Man” from Pippin (1972)
- “Ol’ Man River” from Show Boat (1962)
- “The Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In)” from Hair (1968)
The late Michael Jeter pays homage to the great Ethel Merman (who is amply represented in this playlist) in Terry Gilliam’s 1991 The Fisher King: