Top 10 Show Tunes For Shunning the Sun
While the relentless heatwave may have passed, summer is still alive and well. What better way to cool off than with an enjoyable Broadway ditty. While “Summer Nights” from Grease is the perfect pick for karaoke with your gal pal after a pitcher full of margaritas and “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess remains one of the most beautiful melodies ever penned by the Gershwins, I have avoided the obvious. If you have suggestions or comments about YOUR favorite songs, I’d love to hear from you. Crank the AC and relax!
1.“The Heat Is On In Saigon” from Miss Saigon
The heat may be on in Saigon, but in this insufferable heat, it isn’t lacking in NYC either. This bouncy tune informs us that two things are rampant in Vietnam: Horny Men and Hookers. Wow! Just like NYC! In the middle of the song, A wide eyed, gentle, barmaid Kim innocently tells us:
“I’m 17 and I’m new here today/the village I come from seems so far away/All of the girls know much more what to say/but I know I have a heart like the sea/A million dreams are in me”
Sometimes I sing this line with personal conviction while I’m getting ready in the morning—until I catch my own reflection in the bathroom mirror and notice the graying temples and receding hairline—then I change my tune to “Why God Why”. This upbeat, raucous song from Alain Boubill & Claude-Michel Schönberg also provides an excellent opportunity for raging theater queens to sing along and feign romantic interest in the ladies. Not since South Pacific’s “There’s Nothing Like a Dame” has a show tune been so “ butch!”
2.“Sit Down, John” from 1776
Talk about troubles! Founding Father John Adams not only had a resistant congress who wouldn’t even debate colonization much less vote on it, but he also lacked a Friederich’s air conditioner to cool his weary, sweat laden brow! This delegate from Massachusetts teaches us all a very important lesson: If you can’t stand the heat or get people to work with you, simply open up a window, stomp your feet like an insolent child, get up and yell, “Vote Yes! Vote Yes! For Independences’ Sake”. Don’t worry that people will think you’re crazy. You are in New York City after all. Music and Lyrics by Sherman Edwards.
3.“Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid
Ariel longs to be “where the people are” on land, but wise Sebastian the crab reminds her that “Life under the Sea is better than anything they got up there!” This now classic, Oscar award winning Calypso song is lyrical brilliance from Howard Ashman and a sea-sized musical entrée for the ear from composer Alan Menken. Put it on your playlist, be-bop down the sidewalk, and try not to sing along. I dare you!
4.“Somewhere That’s Green” from Little Shop of Horrors
Speaking of lyrical and musical brilliance, this beautiful ballad dates back to Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s first musical collaboration from this cult classic favorite. Haven’t we all wished to escape the confines of a sadistic dentist who gives us a black eye and a broken arm-just so we can dream of living in a quiet suburban development with a nerdy guy who is raising a man eating plant?
This earnestly sweet lullaby makes us long for a simpler life filled with fresh air, Tupperware parties and “I Love Lucy”. Whatever you are doing right now—just stop. Take a break. Mix your favorite drink, sit down in a cool room, and daydream with Audrey.
5.“We Need a Little Christmas” from Mame
Nothing says, “Screw You, Heat Wave!” quite like a Jerry Herman number. Sure…it is technically a Christmas song, but it makes us think of cooler December weather and raises our mood higher than James Franco hosting an awards show.
Just listen and enjoy this perky show-stopper. There’s no real reason to actually “haul out the holly” or “put up the tree before your spirit falls again”, unless like most New Yorkers, you have no storage for Christmas decorations and display them year round– In which case, “slice up that fruitcake” and slap on the sunscreen until you wait for Santa to slide down the chimney.
6.“A Lovely Day to Be Out of Jail” from The Life
I’ve often told myself that, if I’m ever incarcerated, I will bust out into a show tune once I’m released. Fortunately, Cy Coleman and Ira Gasman created the perfect sing along song. From the 1997 Tony Award winning musical, this mellow jazz selection (sung by characters Sonja and Queen) reminds us that whether it’s 9 degrees or 99 degrees, “every day is spring when you’re sprung from the slam”. It’s like the advice my mom used to give me as a child: “Honey, a day spent out of jail is a day well spent.”
7.“Everybody Rejoice/Brand New Day” from The Wiz
“Can’t you Feel a Brand New Day? Can’t You Feel a Brand New Day? Can’t you Feel a Brand New Day” And if you didn’t understand it the first three times, don’t worry! They’ll sing the same line over and over! Lyrically, the song is about as complex as a Justin Bieber Newsletter, but musically you’ll want to leap out of bed and skip down the street like a happy hooker just released from prison (see #6). In my opinion, the movie version of this song from Charlie Smalls is better than the original Broadway cast recording, but either one will leave you smiling.
8.“Where You Are” from Kiss of the Spider Woman
“When you feel you’ve gone to hell in a handbasket/And the world in which you dwell is no paradise…You’ve Got to Learn how not to be where you are”–Excellent advice from the minds of legendary John Kander and Fred Ebb. This memorable mambo is sure to mentally pour you from the pounding sun into cooler climates. And seriously…what on earth is cooler than the indefatigable Chita Rivera singing and dancing in a white tux with tails? Be sure to listen for the high octane tap break. Sometimes I like to dance along to it in my apartment—until my downstairs neighbors pound on the ceiling and ask the herd of elephants to quiet themselves.
9. “If Ever I Would Leave You” from Camelot
Excuse me for a moment while I express myself like an eighty year old bitter queen whose had one too many vodka tonics around the piano at the Monster Bar, but they don’t write ‘em like this anymore. This lush Lerner and Lowe melody is smoother than the finest aged bottle of cabernet. Sung by the dashingly handsome Lancelot to his fair maiden Guinevere, He reassures her that neither spring, summer, winter, Nor Fall would be a good time to leave. Ok Romeo, but if this relationship starts going south, you’d better pray for a 5th season called “Divorce”.
Colm Wilkinson sings a version of this on an album called, “Stage Heroes” which is among my favorites, but the Robert Goulet version (featured in the youtube link below) is chock full of creamy croon.
10. “Shine Like The Sun” from 9 to 5
Country music legend Dolly Parton strikes gold with this musical gem from the short-lived stage version of “9 to 5”. I’m convinced that Parton could take the ingredients listed on a box of cheerios and turn them into an anthem of hope and inspiration. Her empowering song reassures us that “There are no guarantees/Life is always a hit or a miss/But I truly believe I won’t always be feeling like this”. Tennessee’s Darling Diva also recorded a solo version on her equally winning album, “Better Day”.