I guess I’m a purist.
Donald Feltham at Broadway Radio has asked me to think of my twelve favorite showtunes of all time, and we’re doing an interview in the next few weeks where we talk about them and play them on his hour-long show. It’s more of a challenge than I expected. At first I only had four or five songs on the list. Then, in a surge, I had twenty-six. I think I’ve narrowed the list back down to twelve, but I told Donald we had to do this interview quickly before I changed my mind.
There are a number of tunes that made it to my list because of the actual writing of the songs, but I didn’t have a favorite performance of them. So I’ve been listening on iTunes and trying to determine which recording to play. A few of the songs got knocked off the list because I just couldn’t find a recording that wasn’t all about the arrangement. I don’t need to hear what cool string line some arranger came up with, nor is this the forum for a two and a half minute trumpet solo, and why does everything have to be a bossa nova? I’m also surprised at how many songs I wanted to include on the list and then realized they weren’t actually from shows. They were just standards or they were written by theater composers for their (ahem) solo albums.
Then tonight, with all this on my mind, I watched the movie “De-Lovely.” (Yes, I know it came out in 2004, but sometimes it takes me a while to get around to those things I’m supposed to have done already.) And in this biopic about Cole Porter they’ve got some of the most contemporary singers performing songs in the most contemporary styles, but their costumes and the nature of the story imply that they’re supposed to be chronologically accurate. Alanis Morissette? Really? I’m a fan, but come on. Get a coach on the set who knows something about the period. Interestingly, as the credits were rolling I didn’t mind the arrangements of the songs at all, but in the context of the show, I found those contemporary chords and phrasings to be totally distracting.
It was one of the complaints I had about the GREASE show. If I had been in charge, which I so wasn’t, those kids would have sung theater songs every week, all the judges would have been from the musical theater community and the network would have filmed more rehearsal and less performing. Great singers in one style of music are not necessarily great singers in ALL styles of music. But I suppose that’s why I’m in the theater business and not the TV business.
While I’m complaining — let me throw in this completely random non-sequitur of a complaint. Today at the supermarket I bought a week’s worth of groceries and I paid with a credit card. As the checkout gal was handing me my receipt, she said, “Thank you very much, Miss Stitt.” I was so annoyed. Why does she get to know my last name and I don’t get to know hers? Why does she get to announce it to everyone else in line without my permission? And why did everyone in that store feel the need to ask me if I was finding everything okay? How hard can it be to find groceries in a grocery store?
Ah. Okay. Back to the topic at hand.
In looking at my list of twelve showtunes, I’m learning some things about myself. Apparently I’m an optimist, as I’ve chosen a lot of tunes about happiness and only three heartbreakers. You might be surprised to read that given the tone of the rest of this blog, but perhaps today I was having an off day. Apparently I also like very long songs. And try as I might, I couldn’t get fewer than three Sondheim songs on the list. Even at that, I’ve left out some of my major favorites, but there were only twelve spots. I figure Sondheim deserves 25% of my list at a bare minimum.
Watch here and I’ll let you know when the interview airs. Meanwhile, what are your top twelve favorite showtunes? It’s harder than you think.