Tuesday, August 29, 2023

40 Years of Broadway: 1983-1993: Favorite Songs and Scores

40 Years of Broadway: 1983-1993:
Favorite Songs & Scores

Still looking at that first decade (August 20, 1983 - August 19, 1993), I've been thinking of my favorite songs and scores from that decade. There's been some really great stuff from then - trend-setters, hidden gems from flops, now-classics - and, of course, some real clunkers. This decade includes scores from La Cage aux Folles (August 21, 1983) through Kiss of the Spider Woman (May 3, 1993), plus the scores from three shows I saw during the period that opened earlier: A Chorus Line, 42nd Street, and Cats. What I've learned from going back is that my tastes have changed and that I've come to appreciate much more music as I've grown.

Pre-1983: A Chorus Line, 42nd Street, Cats

Maybe my favorite score of all-time from my favorite show of all time.
Music: Marvin Hamlisch Lyrics: Edward Kleban
Favorite Opening Number: "I Hope I Get It"
Favorite Group Number: "At the Ballet"
Favorite Finale: "One"

Hopelessly old-fashioned, but with some seriously decent production numbers.
Music: Harry Warren Lyrics: Al Dubin
Favorite Group Number: "We're In the Money"
Favorite Finale: "42nd Street"

You can't beat the lyrics, the orchestrations are thrilling, and it gave us one of the greatest show tunes of all time. Another of my all-time favorite scores.
Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber Lyrics: T.S. Eliot
Favorite Opening Number: "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats"
Favorite Instrumental Number: "The Jellicle Ball"
Favorite Ballad: "Memory"

Favorite Songs (1983-1993):
If I was going to make a playlist of songs from cast recordings without playing the whole thing, these are the songs that would be on it.

Andrew Lloyd Webber Lyrics: Don Black & Charles Hart
Favorite Opening Number: "Love Changes Everything"
Favorite Solo Number: "Hand Me The Wine and the Dice"

David Shire Lyrics: Richard Maltby, Jr.
Favorite Opening Number: "We Start Today"
Favorite Ballad: "The Story Goes On", "Patterns"

Music and Lyrics:
Willy Russell
Favorite Duet: "Long Sunday Afternoon/My Friend"
Favorite Finale: "Tell Me It's Not True"

Michael Gore Lyrics: Dean Pitchford
Favorite Opening Number: "In"
Favorite Solo Number: "And Eve Was Weak"
Favorite Duet: "Unsuspecting Hearts"

Benny Andersson & Bjorn Ulvaeus Lyrics: Tim Rice
Favorite Ballad: "Where I Want to Be", "Someone Else's Story", "Pity the Child"
Favorite Group Number: "One Night in Bangkok", "A Model of Decorum and Tranquility"

George Gershwin Lyrics: Ira Gershwin
Favorite Group Number: "Slap That Bass", "I Got Rhythm"

Music and Lyrics:
Irving Berlin
Favorite Solo Number: "Mr. Monotony"
Music: Leonard Bernstein Lyrics: Betty Comden & Adolph Green
Favorite Group Number: On The Town Suite
Music: Leonard Bernstein Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Favorite Group Number: West Side Story Suite

Claude-Michel Schonberg Lyrics: Herbert Kretzmer
Favorite Opening Number: "Prologue/At the End of the Day"
Favorite Ballad: "I Dreamed a Dream", "A Little Fall of Rain"

Claude-Michel Schonberg Lyrics: Richard Maltby, Jr. & Alain Boublil
Favorite Ballad: "The Movie in My Mind"
Favorite Group Number: "The Morning of the Dragon"

Charles Strouse Lyrics: Richard Maltby, Jr.
Favorite Group Number: "A Busy Night at Lorraine's", "Detectiveland"

Andrew Lloyd Webber Lyrics: Don Black
Favorite Ballad: "Tell Me On a Sunday"
Favorite Instrumental Number: "Variations"

Music and Lyrics:
Stephen Sondheim
Favorite Duet: "Move On"
Favorite Group Number: "Sunday", "It's Hot Up Here"

Marvin Hamlisch Lyrics: David Zippel
Favorite Solo Number: "Elliot Garfield Grant"
Favorite Duet: "Paula (An Improvised Love Song)"
Favorite Group Number: "A Beat Behind"

Andrew Lloyd Webber Lyrics: Charles Hart
Favorite Duet: "The Phantom of the Opera"
Favorite Group Number: "Masquerade"

John Kander Lyrics: Fred Ebb
Favorite Solo Number: "Chief Cook and Bottle Washer"
Favorite Duet: "The Apple Doesn't Fall"

10 Favorite Complete Scores^ (1983 - 1993):
These are scores that contain few or no "skips" from me. These are also scores that to this day I still listen to with regularity. All the way through... These are arranged in New York Times Theater Index order.

^ - I have not included scores from revues (Jerome Robbins' Broadway, for example) or catalog musicals (Crazy For You, for example), though I enjoy them very much.

Music and Lyrics:
Roger Miller
Standout Songs: "Do You Want to Go to Heaven?", "Waiting for the Light to Shine", "Muddy Water", "River in the Rain", "The Royal Nonesuch", "Worlds Apart", "Free at Last"

This was the perfect blend of country music and Broadway show tunes. Pleasing to the ear, with sharp as a tack character driven lyrics, the score complements the classic story, and doesn't shy away from the themes of Twain's epic novel.

Cy Coleman Lyrics: David Zippel
Standout Songs: "What You Don't Know About Women", "Everybody's Gotta Be Somewhere", "You're Nothing Without Me", "You Can Always Count on Me", "It Needs Work", "Funny"

This is a brilliant score - jazzy and smart, tongue in cheek, and achieves what must have looked impossible on paper: a film noir detective mystery and a struggling Hollywood writer trying to write that film noir detective mystery. It makes sense from start to finish, and the lyrics are as smooth as a gulp of whiskey - sharp and satisfying.

Music and Lyrics:
George Forrest, Maury Yeston and Robert Wright
Standout Songs: Would it be cheating to just say the whole thing? Nevertheless: "The Grand Parade", "At the Grand Hotel", "Who Couldn't Dance With You?", "I Want to Go to Hollywood", "What She Needs", "Love Can't Happen", "Happy", "We'll Take a Glass Together"

I remember like it was yesterday, hearing the elegant yet sinister first notes of the opening number, and then sitting there completely captivated by the seamless intertwining of story, staging and music. With almost no place to applaud after the opening, I was completely mesmerized, losing my sense of place, focused solely on the stage. I don't think I breathed for nearly two hours.

Music and Lyrics:
Stephen Sondheim
Standout Songs: "Prologue: Into the Woods" "I Know Things Now", "It Takes Two", "Agony", "Last Midnight", "No One Is Alone", "Children Will Listen"

The first Sondheim show I ever saw before it was finalized, this holds a special place in my heart (and for many of you, too, I'm sure). I have seen this show dozens of times, and have listened to it probably hundreds of times, and literally every time I see &/or hear it, I catch something new. Every time is an epiphany. 

John Kander Lyrics: Fred Ebb
Standout Songs: "Dressing Them Up/I Draw the Line", "Dear One", "Where You Are", "Gabriel's Letter/My First Woman", "Gimme Love", "Anything For Him", "Kiss of the Spiderwoman", "Only In the Movies"

Here's a show that I sat, mouth agape from start to finish, willing my senses to capture everything to memory. Like the show itself, this ravishing score is both epic and intimate, dangerous and funny. One of the best of my lifetime to date.

Music and Lyrics:
Jerry Herman
Standout Songs: "We Are What We Are", "A Little More Mascara", "With You on My Arm (reprise)", "La Cage aux Folles", "Song On the Sand", "I Am What I Am", "Look Over There"

Definitely the most traditional sounding score on my list, but with (at the time at least) the least traditional content. Today, stories like these are commonplace (thank God) to the point of trite, but back then, this was very progressive. A closeted gay teen at the time, I felt empowered by it. Walking in like maybe I was doing something risky (there were loud placard-carrying protesters outside the Palace Theatre), but feeling a euphoric sense of understanding, belonging and freedom. We say "representation matters," and it does. Even back then, I knew what it was to feel seen. Tears of joy running down my cheeks as George Hearn stormed up the aisle in triumphant defiance. What this score does is make difficult themes accessible and fun without losing any of its importance.

Music and Lyrics:
Rupert Holmes
Standout Songs: "There You Are", "Two Kinsmen", "Moonfall", "No Good Can Come From Bad", "Don't Quit While You're Ahead", "Off to the Races", "The Writing on the Wall"

I love this entire show so much! It tickles me, intrigues me, and holds me captive every time I see it and every time I listen to it. Full of toe-tappers and witty, beguiling lyrics, it is fun and clever. And I love all of the endings, too! When I want to feel good and sing along, this is the cast recording I put on.

Lucy Simon Lyrics: Marsha Norman
Standout Sings: "I Heard Someone Crying", "Lily's Eyes", "Race You to the Top of the Morning", "Wick", "Come to My Garden"

Here is another no skip score for me. The music is captivating, mysterious and beautiful, the lyrics like fine poetry, equally artistic and grounded. The imagery it evokes is lovely, and its emotions are heart-on-your-sleeve rich.

Music and Lyrics:
Pete Townshend
Standout Sings: "Overture", "Underture", "See Me, Feel Me", "Sparks", "Amazing Journey", "Pinball Wizard", "Sensation", "I Believe My Own Eyes", "Listening to You"

I find the entire enterprise to be brilliant. Theatricalizing a beloved rock album was unheard of pretty much until this came out. Perhaps, I was at an advantage the first time I heard it because I had never heard a single note of The Who's version, but I was riveted. The sheer force of it bound me to my seat. And even today, I enjoy the cast recording as much as the first time I heard Townshend's masterwork.

Cy Coleman Lyrics: Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Standout Songs: "Will-a-Mania", "Give a Man Enough Rope", "Presents for Mrs. Rogers", "Favorite Son", "Never Met a Man I Didn't Like"

Showbizzy, clever and full of memorable tunes, this is the ultimate feel good musical. The songs are honest, simple and insightful, as one might expect from a show about Will Rogers. When I want to think about an America that has hope and optimism, with a healthy dose of reality checking, this is the show I think of. My only regret is that the score is not preserved in its complete form.

Contest Question #2:
Of all the scores referenced above, how many were written by people known for their singing careers before they wrote for Broadway?

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