There are many aspects of the musical that draw us in. We love the costumes, we love the story, yet, more than anything, we love the songs. When the lead character laments about lost love to a catchy melody or when the villain snarls musically about their evil intentions we are instantly, and happily, drawn in.
Without the songs musicals would be missing their most essential element. This list is dedicated to the songs we love, the tunes we hum, this blog post celebrates our favorite songs from musicals.
1. “Over the Rainbow” – The Wizard of Oz
This particular tune begins one of our all-time favorite musicals so we thought it would be fitting if it began our list. While Dorothy dreams about a world more colorful than the one she knows we are being set up for a story that is about to unfold. This foreshadowing of her adventure sung against the backdrop of her home, the very place she longs to return to once in Oz, is a clever juxtaposition of the two worlds represented in The Wizard of Oz.
Sure, we should mention the melody that evokes longing and the lyrics, which paint, for us, a place up above the rainbow with bluebirds, lemon drops, and an abundance of stars to dream upon for wishes that “really do come true.” These foundations, directly in the song, arouses the necessary emotions to set up the movie. This is brilliant songwriting and placement.
Besides, this song just makes us feel good. So, for the reasons we mentioned thus far, “Over the Rainbow” is one of the most unforgettable songs from a musical.
2. “Time Warp” – The Rocky Horror Picture Show
One undeniable aspect of an unforgettable song is longevity. Another is the tune’s life outside of the musical. “Time Warp” is one of those memorable tunes from a theatrical production that has a life all its own. It isn’t unusual to hear this song while turning the dial or if having drinks with friends at the local pub.
Coming from a musical that has many memorable numbers, the “Time Warp” is arguably the most recognizable. “It’s a jump to the left…and then a step to the ri-i-ight!” Did you just want to start dancing? We sure did.
This iconic song has reached fame as high as the story it was a prat of. Unforgettable.
3. “I Dreamed a Dream” – Les Misérables
When Fantine begins to sing this heartbreaking song of how she once dreamed her life would be only to find it turn to the deepest depths of despair, we typically sob our eyes out. Of course, we don’t know how you react but it would take a pretty hard heart to not at least well up during this entire story. Let’s face it, Les Misérables is one heartbreaking situation after another.
If that isn’t enough, this song, this very sad melody, which has a simple way of weighing on your heart, with lyrics that tell the story of dead dreams and “tigers” that “tear your hope apart” only adds to the depression. This song, with the happy title, emphasizes the sad existence of poor Fantine, a woman whose life has been put through the ringer and ends even more tragically.
Yet, in the tradition of great storytelling, there must always be hope, and that hope lives on with Cosette, Fantine’s daughter, for whom she does all that she does.
4. “My Favorite Things” – The Sound of Music
Maria comes into the family VonTrapp lives as a governess only to marry the Captain and become the children’s mother. Yet everything begins somewhere and this scene, the execution of this song, marks the time when the Maria first pulls the children out of their oppressive life and introduces them to love and laughter again.
When our heroine first meets the VonTrapp children they ruled under military ideologies. They answer to whistles and stand at attention. Their father doesn’t let them sing, laugh, the fact is, he doesn’t let them be children. Maria changes all that and this is one of the reasons that the Captain falls in love with her.
It is at this point in the story, when Maria teaches the children this song, that she begins helping them heal from the loss of a dead mother and an absent father. This is why the song is so pivotal.
Besides its significance in the storyline, this song has recently become a holiday favorite, particularly associated with Christmas. Why this has happened we aren’t sure, possibly due to the gift giving nature of the season.
All these reasons make this show a shoe in for carrying the term unforgettable.
5. “Welcome to the 60s” – Hairspray
It was particularly difficult to pick just one song from this exceptional musical but the tie in on this one is so unique we’ve chosen it for our list. Tracy Turnblad sings “Welcome to the 60s” to her mother as she convinces her to leave the house for the first time in decades and they go dancing through Baltimore set out for Mr. Pinky’s Hefty Hideaway.
Tracy is singing to her mother how things have changed and the world outside is brand new. She wants her mother to enjoy and not be ashamed of her size. An interesting fact surrounding this song is that in the original version, John Water’s film Hairspray, when Tracy and her mother finish their shopping spree at the Hefty Hideaway she quips with a single like to Divine, “Hey Momma, welcome to the sixties.”
Of course, we don’t know this to be rue but it would be kind of cool to think that the writers adapting the 1988 movie to musical version, heard this line and then came up with this catchy song. We are just going to believe it to be true.
6. “I Will Always Love You” – The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
With two different versions reaching the number one slot on several musical charts this song, written by Dolly Parton specifically for the movie version of this musical, is arguably one of the most recognizable songs of all-time. It is said that she wrote it for her manager when she decided to pursue other career opportunities but, for the sake of our list, we will focus on the version she made famous, in the film.
We have Miss Mona, the lovable madam that runs the local whorehouse, affectionately called The Chicken Shack. She is in love with the Sheriff and they have a pretty good relationship until her establishment garners the attention of a local television evangelist. Even though the Sheriff fights for their rights, The Chicken Shack is shut down and Miss Mona and her girls are forced to leave town.
Just when she is ready to go, Miss Mona sings this song to the Sheriff. She is telling him, in song, that because of her history, she could never be the wife he needed nor a politician’s wife. Of course, he convinces her to stay with him anyway, and for that we will forever love Burt Reynolds. Still, those few minutes of Dolly singing how she would selflessly walk away from the love of her life for his own good, are some of the most heart wrenching minutes in musical history.
Love, drama, and sacrifice are great staples for a good musical number, and this one is one of the best there is.