PLAYLIST: The Trio
For the past couple of months, I have been completely obsessed with “I’ve Decided to Marry You” from A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. The entire cast recording is fabulous, but that song is such a stand-out. (Thank you, Steven Lutvak and Robert L. Freedman for this brilliantly well-crafted trio!) Each character feels completely essential because they’re all working together to increase the tension in this madcap adventure of a song.
“I’ve Decided to Marry You” manages to expertly tell three individual stories at the same time. (If you’re now thinking, “Well obviously, Lauren. That’s the whole point of a trio,” stay with me!) Giving three different characters with competing story lines a cohesive trio is no small feat. There are a lot of voices to attend to. The magic happens when a composer and lyricist are able to create a memorable moment for each character before (or after) bringing them together.
The trio may not receive as much love from performers as its distant cousin the duet, but people looking for a little something out of the ordinary should give them a try. Trios jazz up cabarets, concerts, and recitals without forcing performers to wrangle up an entire cast for a group number or default back to standard duets. In honor of my oft-repeated trio of the moment, here are a few other gems that prove three may just be the magic number.
1. “Alone” from I Love You Because (Salzman & Cunningham)
This is the When Harry Met Sally of trios if Carrie Fisher’s character worked in a bar… and had a friend who did as well. Marcy is clearly the center of attention in this trio, but her cheerleaders aren’t mere back-up singers. They’re feisty and independent, and like any good support system, they spur her onwards.
2. “Last Night On Earth” from American Idiot (Green Day)
Fair warning, this is a trio with an ensemble, but I just loved it so much, I had to include it. The arrangement is unexpectedly delicate, a nice reprieve in the middle of Green Day’s rock musical.
3. “Getting Married Today” from Company (Stephen Sondheim)
The sheer contrast in this piece makes it instantly memorable. The soaring lyrics lines and romantic reassurances provide a perfect foil for our panicked bride perfectly. “Getting Married Today” immediately establishes relationships, conflict, and expectations. It also features some out-of-this-world speed singing.
4. “At the Ballet” from A Chorus Line (Marvin Hamlisch & Ed Kleban)
Come now, you didn’t think I’d write a piece about trios and not include this piece, right? As the dancers rehash sobering truths from their childhoods, Hamlisch crafts an intricate web of harmonies and burbling accompaniment. Everything may be beautiful at the ballet, but it’s even more so in the unexpected moments of this iconic trio. If you have moment, I highly recommend checking out Seth Rudetsky’s 2012 deconstruction of it.
What are your favorite musical theatre trios? Tell us in the comments!