Shotgun Showtunes: Top Ten Favorites of an Innocent Bystander

I listen to a lot of Musical Theater. Fine—I basically only listen to Musical Theater. Okay, okay…Hi, I’m Kevin…and I’m addicted to Musical Theater.

Yes, I have other things on my iPod besides Cast Recordings…like Sara Bareilles albums…and the Frozen Soundtrack. But my love affair with Musical Theater started over twenty years ago when my parents bought me my first CD—the OBC recording of Into the Woods—and I was hooked. From that point on, the soundtrack of my life would be created on the stages of New York and London. Every time I pressed “play,” the stars were performing just for me.

Well, me and my little sister.

When we were little, my older brother and sister had formed a strong bond, before I came along, over coloring—an activity that involved quiet and patience and had nothing to do with singing and pretending. I hated coloring. When my little sister Caitlin came along, I claimed her…and she was definitely going to like singing and pretending. I would make sure of it. So from Day One, I gave my little sister a stellar Musical Theater Education. From movies to Tony broadcasts, through local productions and every car trip (I drive, I pick the music), Caitlin has been beside me through it all; the good, the bad, and the belting.

Since Caitlin was sort of forced to “ride shotgun” on my journey of Musical Theater discovery, I thought that this might be an opportunity to explore what a “normal,” non-obsessed Musical Theater enthusiast would pick as their Top Ten Favorite Musical Theater Songs. Out of a lifetime of exposure to just about everything Musical Theatre, these are the ten showtunes that have left a lasting impression on a casual observer. The songs that stand out to her—and the reasons that they do—shed light on the power of Musical Theater to communicate to a variety of audiences and the messages that resonate with all of us, be you a crazy fan boy with an obsession or a tone-deaf sibling with an amazing amount of patience.

10. “Man of La Mancha,” Man of La Mancha (Linda Eder’s Broadway, My Way Solo Album)

Caitlin: “I love that this was a strong, triumphant song for a man being done by a fierce woman…it transforms it into a Girl Power anthem. She didn’t even change the words; she just sang the song…and nailed it.”

Kevin: Linda Eder became a staple in my CD case from the first moments I heard her on the Jekyll & Hyde OBC Album. Her solo album Broadway, My Way featured this gender-bending powerhouse performance that showcased Ms. Eder’s explosive pipes and fascinating range. A must-have for any Musical Theater enthusiast!

Watch this video on YouTube.

9. “Inútil,” In the Heights (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

Caitlin: In the Heights is still in my rotation of CDs to listen to while getting ready for work (and CDs to dance to while getting ready for work). There are so many great songs from this show, but I chose ‘Inútil” because I love the character development you see in one song. It’s heartbreaking how he doesn’t realize that he’s simply become his Father, forcing his ideas and dreams upon his children…it’s just a great song.”

Kevin: I must admit that I’m blushing with pride at this one. I’ve always been a person that loves the unusual choice and “Inútil” definitely falls in that category. This is probably the one of the most-skipped tracks on the album for the rest of the world, but Caitlin heard the story and the longing in Mr. Gomez’s fantastic rendition. I’ve taught her well.

Watch this video on YouTube.

8. “Yours, Yours, Yours,” 1776 (Movie Soundtrack)

Caitlin: “We used to watch the movie version as children—like multiple times a year—and always on the Fourth of July. As I grew up I became incredibly interested in Revolutionary history and ended up buying a few books that were collections of letters between John and Abigail Adams. The letters are so beautiful; they really loved and respected one another—and now when I listen to this song, I really can hear the honesty in their letters.”

Kevin: This is a fantastic song, and props to my sister for picking a song that was sung in the movie by the actors who originated the roles on Broadway (William Daniels and Virginia Vestoff)…but I must admit my favorite from this show will always be “He Plays the Violin.” In Caitlin’s defense: she only heard Blythe Danner do it in the movie. If she’d heard Betty Buckley she might be humming a different tune.

Watch this video on YouTube.

7. “All I Ask of You,” Phantom of the Opera (Original Cast Recording)

Caitlin: “We saw this around Christmas one year…and it was good. It was really good. But was it better than our version in our ‘King Midas’ play when we were kids? It’s really a toss-up. Both were fantastic.”

Kevin: When we were little, I convinced Caitlin and my brother Brian to put on a modest production of the story of King Midas for a local audience…comprised of our older sister and our parents. In the show, Midas (Brian leading the cast) discovers the error of his ways when he turns his daughter Maria (Caitlin) to gold. Seeing Midas has learned his lesson, the gentle satyr (me in a wonderful supporting turn) reverses the curse and reunites Father with Daughter…so of course, they had to sing. I quickly rewrote the lyrics for the “All I Ask of You” playoff for the moment:


The audience raved about it for weeks.

Watch this video on YouTube.

(PS, if you haven’t seen this music video yet…um, you’re welcome.)

6. “What I’ve Been Looking For,” High School Musical (Movie Soundtrack)

Caitlin: “I’m totally throwing you under the bus with this one…but I loved this song. And so did you. We totally loved this song—and we would totally rock this duet if I could sing. It would be like our theme song!”

Kevin: I already started this post admitting my addiction, so I have to face all the skeletons in my closet. I did have the High School Musical Soundtrack…and the DVD. And the night High School Musical originally premiered on Disney Channel, I was in my dorm room in college watching it on the phone with Caitlin, who had gone home for the weekend but wasn’t going to miss watching it with me. We had actually written it on the calendar…and before you ask, yes…yes we did it as a car duet…all…the…time.

Watch this video on YouTube.

5.“Left Behind,” Spring Awakening (Original Cast Recording)

Caitlin: Spring Awakening was amazing for me because it was the first time our music styles really blended together in a show. I had been a fan of Duncan Sheik before the show…but you never let me pick the music, so when I heard he had written a Broadway show I was really excited to hear it. I chose “Left Behind” because it’s such a beautiful song that really tells a story of one guy’s pain that finally can be expressed…but through the voice of his friend standing over his casket. And to hear that concept in the style of the music that I love—it was really a cool experience for me.

Kevin: Spring Awakening definitely was an influential show for me too. It opened the door to a world where a show could have the style and sound of the contemporary singer/songwriter genre without having to be a through-composed piece. The songs were powerful in their simplicity and their brutal honesty, both in melody and in lyric, and they operated as dramatic revelations in the development of characters. Left Behind is perhaps my favorite song in the show, for many of the reasons my sister mentioned, but also because it was fun to sing along and see if I was in a “good insane falsetto” voice that day.

Watch this video on YouTube.

4. “Lily’s Eyes,” The Secret Garden (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

Caitlin: “This one has to make the list because it might be the song that was performed the most and the loudest in our house growing up. We’d have the album on and Dad would come in and you two would start singing—and by the end Dad would just be red in the face, basically shouting…and you were laughing so hard you couldn’t keep singing! This one is definitely ingrained in my memory.

Kevin: It didn’t happen exactly like she describes it…well, maybe it did. But we never “just started singing.” This song actually has a special place in my heart because this is the song that helped me not to fear my voice. Everyone in my family knew that I loved to sing—and they were pleasantly surprised to know that I was actually pretty good at it. The real problem was finding the off switch…offstage. Onstage, when it came to performing when people were watching…I closed up. But when your Dad is belting “Lily’s Eyes” in your face after dinner with a dish towel draped over his shoulder, almost daring you to sing louder than him, you learn to be loud—and when he smiles at you and you laugh because you can really hear yourself, you realize that you found your voice. So this song definitely would make my list, too.

Watch this video on YouTube.

3. “What’s the Use of Wond’rin,” Carousel (Movie Soundtrack)

Caitlin: “This almost didn’t make the list because it was a pretty traumatic event for me. We were little—we couldn’t have been older than 7 and 5 years old—and we were watching Carousel on TV for the first time. It got to the part on the island where she sings “What’s the Use of Wond’rin”—and that’s about when it started happening. You started to cry…and you didn’t stop for a good portion of the movie. By the time Billy fell on his knife and was dying in Julie’s arms, you were really sobbing hard and I couldn’t make it better—I was so upset that I ran to get Mom to help you stop…remember? And Mom came and you told her what had happened…and she hugged you and watched the rest of the movie with us. It’s a really great song that will always resonate with me because of how deeply it affected you.”

Kevin: This experience is what I remember as one of the first times I thought, “Whatever this is…this is what I want to be a part of. This is what I want to do…and I need a tissue.”

Watch this video on YouTube.

2. “Stars,” Les Misérables (10th Anniversary Dream Cast Recording)

Caitlin: “I loved this song so much…I didn’t understand it at all when I was little, but it was just so beautiful and emotional—and he was my favorite. Phillip Quast…I remember his name…and I also remember that I wanted him to be a close family friend so he could be my Confirmation Sponsor.”

Kevin: Yes, you read that correctly. In 1995 (I was a young lad of 10 years and Caitlin a mere child of 8) my family sat down together and watched the PBS Broadcast of the Tenth Anniversary Concert of Les Misérables. We were completely enthralled—and Caitlin was so moved by Phillip Quast’s performance that she later told my Dad that she wished we knew Phillip Quast personally so she could ask him to be her Confirmation Sponsor, the spiritual advisor to a Catholic teenager who stands by them during the sacrament of Confirmation. My sister wanted a man playing Inspector Javert, a fanatical tyrant of morality who literally drowns in his principles, to be her spiritual advisor. Whether that’s a credit to the performance, the character, or just a strange thing to say, that placed this one pretty high on the list…only behind…

Watch this video on YouTube.

1. “My Strongest Suit,” Aida (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

Caitlin: “If I could sing…and I did pageants, I always imagined that this would be my song for the talent portion. And I’d win…everything.”

Kevin: For once, I have nothing to add. I feel the exact same way.

Watch this video on YouTube.

The post Shotgun Showtunes: Top Ten Favorites of an Innocent Bystander appeared first on The Green Room.