Having trouble enjoying your summer? Get into that fun summer mood with the some of the best songs musical theater has to offer. These songs from musicals and operas will remind you that summers are brief and meant to be enjoyed. See if you can make it through the entire list without throwing on a pair of flip flops and walking out the door into the sunshine humming on of these catchy tunes.
1. Summer Nights – Grease
You’ll be hard pressed to find a summer song that’s more popular than this Grease megahit. Of the countless hit songs that came out of Grease, Summer Nights is the only one that came from the original stage musical, making this song a unique success in one of the most popular American musicals of all time.
Danny and Sandy’s duet captures the excitement of young love during the summer and the separation that comes when summer ends. Fortunately for them, neither of them have to wonder what might have been for long because they meet each other at Rydell soon after.
2. Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind- Spring Awakening
Just because a song is about summer doesn’t mean that it’s a happy one. In this Broadway adaptation of the original 1906 German play of the same name, the characters Moritz and Ilse go back and forth in a duet that ends with Moritz’s suicide. Both characters have experienced trauma, but that doesn’t stop Ilse from showing some hope for the future by singing about her troubled past and a wish for a better future in Spring and Summer.
With the context of the rest of the story, this song is haunting, and knowing that it was Moritz last thoughts makes it even more so. While some might debate whether Ilse is actually hopeful or just soaking in her sorrow as Moritz is, the next song on this list gives some resolution to whether or not she has any hope.
3. The Song of Purple Summer – Spring Awakening
While Ilse has a limited role in the musical, she leads this final song that expresses the bridge between adolescence, spring, and adulthood, summer. Out of context, this song may seem to be a mishmash about corn and horses, but with the proper interpretation, it is a hopeful song led by a character who endures many trials during this musical.
The many references to corn in the number are a poignant metaphor. The fact that even when a corn stalk is stripped of its corn, it will continue to grow more corn and thrive is symbolic that even when defeated the characters can recover and grow. The purple summer also references a flower that blooms in summer instead of the spring, reflecting the path of the characters in this musical. Spring Awakening’s characters endure many painful and confusing experiences, but “The Song of Purple Summer” reflects their growth and maturing with the seasons and a hopeful future for them.
4. Summertime – Porgy and Bess
This aria from one of the most popular and controversial American operas of all time has been adapted and sung by countless stars since it was first performed in 1935. No matter what people think of this musical, all agree that “Summertime” is a memorable song.
From the first line when the song opens with, “Summertime and the livin’ is easy,” it’s clear what this song is all about. This song tells the baby that is being sung to, and the audience, that summer is a time to relax, reflect and be grateful for what you have. In the case of the baby the song is sung to, that means to relax and enjoy itself while they can since it has a happy life and is being cared for by two loving parents. Whether it’s the original version from Porgy and Bess or one of the many adaptations by stars like Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin, this song is a poignant reflection on summer and has a unique place in American history.
5. Our Last Summer – Mamma Mia
“Our Last Summer” may be the song that captures the beauty of summer and the sadness that comes when it has passed better than any other on this list. Sung by several characters as they reminisce about their past summers, in the context of the musical this song is a wonderful dose of happy memories contrasted by the consequences of those memories in the present moment.
This song centers around a summer trip to Paris and the love that flourished there. With lines about the Eiffel Tower, walking along the Seine, and laughing in the rain, this song will have you smiling and thinking about your own favorite summer memories. We all know that summers don’t last forever, and this song conveys that feeling brilliantly. Before the end, the characters reflect on how dull their lives seem now that the summer they were remembering, and so much of their lives, has passed.