We have no troubles here!
NORBERT LEO BUTZ AND KATE BALDWIN (BIG FISH) — “Time Stops” — as described by analyssa lopez
Okay I’ll admit that I often listen to musical theater songs and reimagine them as queer (example, listen to What Is This Feeling from Wicked subbing the word “attraction” for “loathing” and thEY ARE FALLING IN LOVE OKAY). I digress–the first time I saw this song performed, two women sang it with the pronouns changed and since then it’s meant a lot to me. The confusion of why a girl is staring at you (and also why the fuck your world is frozen just because she’s looking at you) is a strong feeling I experienced as a baby queer. It’s a pretty song when sung by a man & woman (like this version) but when I picture two queer people singing it, I just…no I’m not crying that’s just allergies
JULIE ANDREWS (MARY POPPINS) — “Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag)” — as described by carlos valladares
For my money, there’s a triptych of movie musicals that never fail to move me to tears: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (an operatic, metaphysical romance), A Hard Day’s Night (a Beatles rockumentary), and Mary Poppins. It was the Disney movie, however, that stayed in my subconscious the longest. It was one of the first musicals that made me feel something. And this song—about a lonely old lady and her bird-friends—is its emotional apex: a plea for humanity, and a reminder to remember the little guys who make our world that much more magical.
STEVEN PASQUALE (THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY) — “It All Fades Away” — as described by saya jenks
Listening to Steven Pasquale hit those power belting notes is what I would imagine it would feel like if I had been frozen to the bone by icy sleet and then I suddenly submerged myself in a bubble bath and simultaneously took a big gulp of the richest hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted in my life.
JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT — “The Joseph Megamix” — as described by saya jenks
Why would anyone a) think this was a good concept of a show, b) produce it, c) remix the whole dang thing, and d) — and this is really the heart of the problem — let andrew lloyd webber keep writing musicals?! WAS CATS NOT ENOUGH?!?!
ZAC EFRON AND CORBIN BLEU (HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL) — “The Boys Are Back” — as described by emma poplack
Zac Efron and Corbin Bleu? Check. Mini Zac Efron and Corbin Bleu? I’m dying. A setting with a bunch of old car parts? Hell yes. Cheesy but unbelievable amazing dance moves? Just stop now.
Need I say more?
JODI BENSON (SMILE THE MUSICAL) — “Disneyland” — as described by loralee sepsey
Smile the Musical was an undeserved 1980s flop because Les Miserables premiered on Broadway too soon after. The tale of a ridiculous beauty pageant competition is hilarious, energetic, bright–but its emotional points cut deep and true. “Disneyland” is a desperate attempt for the extremely down-to-earth contestant Doria to hold on to the only shred of hope she has ever known, performed by the original actress Jodi Benson in this recording (aka the Little Mermaid before she was the Little Mermaid). “Disneyland” is a gorgeous song in an entirely under-appreciated musical–you have to hear it calling you.
LIZ CALLAWAY (THE BAKER’S WIFE) — “Meadowlark” — as described by heather connelly
Although I’ve never seen the musical The Baker’s Wife and have read that it’s not much worth seeing, this particular song has decidedly outshone its origin. Common in open mics and cabaret-style broadway performances, the song’s storyline stands alone and the music soars in much the same way the lyrics describe the meadowlark.
SUTTON FOSTER (LITTLE WOMEN) — “Astonishing” — as described by nikki tran
Before our dear friend Sutton grew up and went on her quest to become Younger (oh, TV Land…), she was, too, was a wee little woman. This lesser known, small-town-girl-with-big-city-dreams anthem is the musical supplement to a Halls pep talk cough drop. The cast recording has much better quality, but where else would you find Sutton Foster in an ankle-length denim skirt? Unless a revival of Hair is our future, I am willing to go out on a limb and say this is the closest we will ever get. Ah, to be young and naive.
ANNA KENDRICK (THE LAST FIVE YEARS) — “Climbing Uphill” — as described by leena yin
I’ve been obsessively listening to Anna Kendrick’s and Jeremy Jordan’s version of The Last Five Years since it came out, and I have to say this is one of my favorite numbers. Because The Last Five Years is centered around the failing relationship of a struggling actress and her novelist husband, the numbers can get pretty meta, and this is the most meta of them all–Anna complains about the futility of her auditions, complete with a lovely belt and anecdotes about how she auditions for “a room full of men, ALWAYS men–usually gay.”
LAURA BELL BUNDY (LEGALLY BLONDE) — “What You Want” — as described by leena yin
It’s Spring Quarter and you’re slogging through work, but the fine weather and fun parties are deliberately taunting you. No one feels that more than Elle Woods, whose sunny sorority life is brutally interrupted by desperate cramming for the LSAT. This upbeat song–complete with high-belting chorus, band music, and random (probably inappropriate) Jamaican rap–will motivate you, challenge you, and help you focus on your goals. And hey, if Elle Woods can get a 175 on her LSATs, you can definitely pass your finals!
LEE REMICK (ANYONE CAN WHISTLE) — “Anyone Can Whistle” — as described by kelsey dayton
This song sounds so simple, and yet the yearning poetry of it makes it stick with you– which is classic Sondheim. His songs can overtly revel in wordplay and cleverness, or they can be more subtle, depending on which register makes each specific song most resonant. With “Anyone Can Whistle,” you don’t really realize how far under his spell you are– and how much more than just whistling you’re thinking about– until, maybe, years later, when you still can’t literally whistle and you find yourself humming this on your way to class. (Not that I’m speaking from personal experience.)
FIONA APPLE — “Pure Imagination” — as described by chase porter
“Saudade” has no direct translation from Portuguese to English, but this song come close to it. Saudade is an intense nostalgic happiness for something combined with the indescribable knowledge of that thing’s inability to return. Saudade is the incredibly intimate, unblinking smile you share with a photograph of a friend that passed away, while knowing that his profile picture staring back at you can’t see past your laptop’s pixelated screen. Saudade is the suppressed, incomprehensible knowledge that he won’t return weighing down the memories that, now, only you have.
Saudade is Fiona Apple letting happiness remind you of a deep sadness.
There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination.
RAUL ESPARZA (COMPANY) — “Being Alive” — as described by elisabeth dee
There are many frightening things we experience in our short lives, yet none of them are as intangible as the pain of simply existing and the heartbreaking paradox of sharing that existence with someone else. Perhaps this is what drives our desire for companionship, but also what drives our apprehension towards vulnerability. In Steven Sondheim’s show Company, Robert explores the complexities of our deepest human urge- simultaneously yearning for and fearing love. But in the end, it’s what we want: someone “To make me aware of being alive… give me support for being alive…. I’ll always be there, as frightened as you, to help us survive being alive.”
LES MISÉRABLES DREAM CAST — “Epilogue (Finale)” — as described by nishant karandikar
I’d never taken the phrase “i cri evrytim” literally until I listened to this. Because I actually do cri. Evry. Fucking. Tim.
KRISTIN CHENOWETH & IDINA MENZEL (WICKED) — “Defying Gravity” — as described by ned hardy
One time I saw Wicked with a migraine and I still got up and screamed my fucking lungs out during this absolute banger. When a song occupies the top spot in your “RUNNING / GYM” playlist and your “beautiful music” playlist… That’s when you know it’s real.
LISA BRESCIA (ORDINARY DAYS) — “I’ll Be Here” — as described by benina stern
Musicals exist when words are not enough. As cheesy and emotional as that sounds (yes, I’ll admit words are more than enough when describing the world of Jellicle cats), composer Adam Gwon blends word and melody in a way that gives such a viscerally beautiful dimension to a narrative. Listen and let the music carry you through the story. Listen with tissues nearby. Listen with those you love in mind. Call them and tell them how much you care about them.
on a less teary note…
TALES FROM THE BAD YEARS — “Twenty-Something” — as described by benina stern
I first heard this song when I was 14. I’m approaching twenty-something territory. I’m convinced that my post-Stanford life will be this song. Will art imitate life? Stay tuned…
STARKID — “Goin’ Back to Hogwarts” — as described by chloe rickards
As a kid who grew up living and breathing in the world of Harry Potter, I watched A Very Potter Musical and thought it was absolutely gold. The inside jokes are just too good to believe, and this song quickly became my anthem. It’s super nerdy, but shut up, we’re at Stanford.
LO-FANG — “You’re the One that I Want” — as described by nicole phillips
All the original passion of the rendition sung by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in slo motion with more violins. This indie-cool version of this classic final number from Grease somehow seems more urgent…and creepy.
MANDY PATINKIN (SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE) — “Finishing the Hat” — as described by tori testa
Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George is a masterpiece about a masterpiece. Sondheim uses the story of George Seurat (played here by Mandy Patinkin who owns this song and my soul), famous post-impressionist painter, and his famous Sunday in the Park with George to comment on the creative process. “Finishing the Hat” is a marvelously enchanting piece about the hardships of creating something that never existed before and the ultimate gratification of artistic creation. I play this song whenever I need a small reminder of the power of art and why I love to create.
NORBERT LEO BUTZ AND SHERIE RENE SCOTT (THE LAST FIVE YEARS) — “Goodbye Until Tomorrow” — as described by megan calfas
A good week 10 jam to shamelessly sing along to as I dramatically walk through my soon-to-be empty dorm.
BILL LEE (THE SOUND OF MUSIC) — “Edelweiss” — as described by emma neiman
When I was in 3rd grade my music class got a grant to make our own dulcimers out of wood and cardboard. We glued them all together and then stained them with something that smelled bad. I painted mine dark red. During the summer after 4th grade, I brought my dulcimer to camp so I could play it while I sang “Edelweiss” in our production of “The Sound of Music” (I was Gretel – it was the peak of my theater career). I lost the dulcimer backstage when I forgot to bring it home after camp, but I like to imagine it’s still there and some other tragically untalented child can learn to play “Edelweiss” on it.
CHRISTINE ANDREAS (THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL) — “When I Look at You” — as described by editor big britt
I’m not gonna lie. This was a tough call. Overlooking my lifelong devotion to Phantom and recent reunion with the genius of Mamma Mia, I decided to go with a song from a lesser known and, I believe, critically panned musical. This pearl emerges from the rubble, just as Memory rose from the empirical garbage of Cats. Loosen your bustiers, it’s a Victorian tearjerker.
MARKETA IRGLOVA (ONCE) — “The Hill” — as described by editor katharine schwab
I can play this simple song with my eyes closed. As I tap out the accompaniment on the piano, I let the repetitive arch of each lyric settle into vocal patterns I’ve carved out over years of playing and singing. The words, aching and sad, seem to apply to every splintered or fraying relationship, every nostalgic situation, every shy glance or mistake. I’ll carry this one always, deep in my muscles.
MANDY PATINKIN (SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE) — “Finishing the Hat” — as described by matthew libby
Stephen Sondheim loves this song so much he named two books after it.
It’s a song about art. It’s a song about loneliness. But above all, it’s a song about the desire to be understood.
It’s a fervent prayer for this next hat to do the trick.
PHANTOM OF THE OPERA — “Notes” — as described by sophia laurenzi
Lest we forget that some of the best musical theater lies is entwined in wit, drama, and tradition in the midst of heart wrenching epics like Les Miserablesand boundary breaking experiments like Avenue Q, I have this note! Or rather, a song from Sir Andrew Lloyd himself, straight from Broadway’s longest running musical. If that doesn’t scream tradition, I don’t know what does. But there is something damn entertaining about the daft French elite singing puzzling over the demands of O.G.–original gangster, or just your neighborhood opera ghost? This can only happen in a musical, though with some lyric revision, alternate versions have been shown to provide some success in explaining to your parents why your chores are not done (Laurenzi et al., 2005).
BENJAMIN WALKER (BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON) — “Illness as a Metaphor” — as described by sophia laurenzi
But Susan Sontag’s dead, so I guess her cancer wasn’t metaphorical after all. Sorry.
ALICE RIPLEY AND JENNIFER DAMIANO (NEXT TO NORMAL) — “Wish I Were Here” — as described by editor bojan srb
Next to Normal flashed me, temple to temple. It cut open something inside of me, and nothing’s been the same.
Photo courtesy of here.