“The Street Where You Live” – My Fair Lady
I usually try not to pick outright favorites in my top ten lists, but to be perfectly honest, My Fair Lady is unquestionably my favorite musical. The whole film is snappy and clever, and the music is phenomenal. There are so many great songs to choose from: “Get Me to the Church on Time” is a hilarious song about impending marriage, and it’s got lyrics like “girls, come and kiss me/show how you’ll miss me/but get me to the church on time!” However, my favorite song from My Fair Lady has to be “The Street Where You Live.” It’s a sweet little song about a man who is smitten with Eliza Doolittle, though she refuses to see him. He sings about even though she is not with him, he is happy just knowing that she is near. I’m not big on love songs, but this is just adorable: “people stop and stare; they don’t bother me/for there’s nowhere else on earth that I would rather be/let the time go by; I don’t care if I/can be here on the street where you live.”
“Hot Patootie” – The Rocky Horror Picture Show
There’s so much to love about The Rocky Horror. The costumes (fishnets and stilettos, mostly) and the cast fit so perfectly, and the audience participation is hysterical! Every Halloween, I do my best to make it to the midnight showing; who can resist a movie where they actually encourage you to throw toast when a character proposes a toast? Choosing my favorite song from this movie was incredibly difficult; “Dammit Janet” is fantastic, and who doesn’t love dancing along with “The Time Warp”? But just because I have a soft spot for Meatloaf, “Hot Patootie” remains my favorite song. Plus, he plays a mean tenor sax and rides around a laboratory on his motorcycle.
“Edelweiss” – The Sound of Music
The Sound of Music was the first musical I ever saw, and I’m sure it was thanks to my Grandma Lorraine. I watched it countless times over summer days spent at my grandparents’ house in Brookings, and I was just enthralled. As I got older, my tastes in musicals expanded, but I’ve never forgotten the one that started it all. “Edelweiss” is probably not the first song you think of when you think of this movie, but it’s my favorite. It is the national anthem of Austria, and it’s poignantly sung by a proud Austrian (Captain Von Trapp) who is about to be forced to leave his beloved homeland.
“It Sucks to Be Me” – Avenue Q
“What do you do with a BA in English?” asks the first line of this song. As a holder of a BA in English, I’ve found myself asking the very same question. Avenue Q is about a recent college graduate trying to find his place in the world. As a rather recent college graduate myself, I feel his pain. “It Sucks to Be Me” addresses the abrupt switch from the optimism of college (“somehow I can’t shake/the feeling I might make/a difference to the human race”) to the cruel reality of life after graduation (“I can’t pay the bills yet/cause I have no skills yet”). Don’t worry, though: it’s got a happy ending! That means there’s hope for the rest of us, right?
“Good Morning Baltimore” – Hairspray
In case it wasn’t clear from Rocky Horror, I should mention that I enjoy a good drag queen. Divine was fantastic in the original Hairspray, and John Travolta was even ok. Hairspray is about how being different is just fine, as Tracy Turnblad will gladly tell you. “Good Morning Baltimore” contains Tracy’s never-ending optimism, even when the “rats on the street/all dance around [her] feet.” I’ve never been to Baltimore, but I’d like to think that its citizens begin their days by singing this song.
“Singin’ in the Rain” – Singin’ in the Rain
Even if you’ve never seen the movie, you’ve almost certainly heard the song. The song is sung by a man who has just fallen in love, and even the pouring rain can’t dampen his spirits. The movie is from 1952, and it’s really quite funny. Singin’ in the Rain is set in the 1920s, just before the dawn of the talking movie. It focuses on a group of silent actors and the zany (yes, zany) ways they make the transition from silent movies into “talkies.”
“Defying Gravity” – Wicked
This is pretty pathetic, but the first time I heard this song was on Glee, back when Glee was still good. Last summer, I finally saw a live production of Wicked in Minneapolis with my mom, and it was outstanding. The sets were stunning, and the voices on the performers probably could shake buildings. “Defying Gravity” is, as the title might suggest, accomplishing the impossible. Wicked is the story of the Wicked Witch of the West as told from her point of view, and she’s got a lot of gravity to defy.
“One Song Glory” – Rent
Honestly, I’m Rent-ed out. I (like most teenagers and young adults) was obsessed with the soundtrack, and then obsessed with the movie. I listened to the whole rock-opera soundtrack SO many times when I would drive back and forth from college, and I watched the movie SO many times. I did finally see the play two years ago in Denver, and it was great. Since then, though, I’ve been more or less Rent-free. I’m sure I overdosed; it was way too much of a good thing. “One Song Glory,” though, was always my favorite song. It’s about a more-or-less washed-up rock star who is questioning his mortality, and he desperately wants to leave behind something for people to remember him by. It’s a sad thought, but no one ever called Rent a feel-good story.
“I’ve Got a Golden Ticket” – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
I covered this movie already in my childhood movies article, and I also mentioned how much I love this song. It’s so happy and cheerful, and Grandpa Joe can magically walk again because of a golden ticket to a chocolate factory. According to Grandpa Joe, that golden ticket doesn’t just allow them into the factory, but oh so much more: “suddenly half the world is mine/what an amazing thing!”
“Pretty Women” – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
I had never heard of this musical until my mom took me to it when I was a young highschooler. The production was at a nearby college, and my very own cousin played the role of Antony Hope. We went to see him, of course, but I just loved the play. I had never seen a musical that dark, and I have yet to see one that quite compares. It’s about a barber who was wrongly imprisoned many years ago, and he returns to seek his revenge on the corrupt judge who ruined his life. “Pretty Women” is a duet that Sweeney Todd sings while shaving the judge’s face with a straight-edge razor – the judge does not recognize that Sweeney Todd is the man he wronged so many years ago. Sweeney Todd just plays with the judge, and “Pretty Women” just builds and builds suspense – you don’t know when Sweeney Todd is going to make his move, but you’re completely on edge while waiting for it. Also: super catchy.
So there you have it: my top ten songs from my top ten musicals. I skipped the musicals where I loved the music but didn’t love the rest of if (West Side Story, Tommy, Mamma Mia!) and the films that involve plenty of singing, but usually aren’t categorized as musicals (The Muppet Movie, This Is Spinal Tap). I was left with the best of the best, in my humble opinion. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to figure out how to get all of these songs out of my head.