The musical theater produces some artistic gems, every year. The emotional dynamics involved in the live performance, complemented by the fact that theater actors sing, dance, and act at the same time, with incredible panache, make this kind of music forms, one of the best. Some of these songs are so good, they deserve more recognition than they usually get, and that’s why in this article, we share 10 of the best musical theater songs ever:
“On the Street Where You Live” From “My Fair Lady”
There are multiple iconic songs in the movie My Fair Lady about a young female who gets trapped in the social experiment of a rich man. On the Steer Where You Live is an apt name for a song where a young man threatens to keep sitting on a woman’s doorstep until she gets out and sees him.
However, if you try to look past the stalkerish premise of the song, you find it beautiful. While Freddy sings about his love for Eliza Doolittle for staying true to herself, Henry Higgins continues shouting at her to see her slippers. Additionally, the song also describes the beautiful tree-laden streets of London.
“There’s No Business Like Show Business” from “Annie Get Your Gun”
There’s no business like show business is a satirical take on the lack of appreciation that theatrical actors get for their tiring performances. It aptly sums up how the actors feel about their job. The lyrics talk about how the characters get paid because of their performances but never get any applause.
The move Annie Get Your Gun features the Wild West Show company singing with the objective to draw her into their ensemble. Dorothy Fields, Rodgers, Hammerstein and Irving Berlin make a killer team, and they made the tune’s success transcend the bounds of the musical.
“Cell Block Tango” from “Chicago”
In Cell Block Tango, six murderesses tell the crooked stories of how they ended up in the Cook County Jail. Some beautifully-crafted punchlines within every monologue make you gasp and shriek at the same time.
“You know some guys just can’t hold their arsenic” is an example of one such punchline. The lyrics of the song gave the choreographers a lot of room to figure out the moves. Add to that a very enabling chorus, and you have yourself an audience-grabbing song. The song is also regarded as one of the best story-telling musical theater songs of all time.
“Defying Gravity” from “Wicked”
When two strong women are doing a complicated but significant duet, you have to pay attention, because this doesn’t happen every day. The closer for the first act in Wicked sees two witches engaged in a deep argument.
Even though both witches tend to hold their own during the debate, they also sort of beg each other to reconsider from time to time. Towards the end, they both peacefully end the debate and wish each other the best. If you are having a tough time cooking in the kitchen, this is a tune that can cool you down.
“Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat” from “Guys and Dolls”
One of the best characteristics of musical theater songs is that they have apt, descriptive names. “Sit down you are rocking the boat” is no exception. Towards the end of the musical, the audience has already seen the gang of gambling scoundrels being mean and unruly throughout the whole show, but this song provides Nicely Johnson the moment he was eagerly waiting for.
Sarcastically, he recollects the dream that allows the audience to see the wrongdoers obsequiously begging to save their souls. The way they completely shirk off their rascally personas is pleasing and divine to watch.
“One Day More” from “Les Misérables”
Les Misérables and One More Day garnered more attention, love, and reverence than any other movie or song on the list. Could Russel Crowe have been the reason for that? Nobody would argue with you if you say so. But even when you take him out of the equation, you can still look at it and call it a work of art.
Who Am I, Master of the House and I Dreamed a Dream lent their melodies to the song, and the opening lines from Valjean provide the platform for a beautiful climax? Everybody sings their hearts out in the song, almost as if their lives depend on it. As the voices fade away and the curtain falls for Act 1, your breath is almost all taken away.
“Electricity” from “Billy Elliot”
Billy Elliot is a great, thought-provoking movie with a lot of great songs and a lot of great performances. In Electricity, the emotions and feelings of a teenage boy are conveyed, regarding an activity he loves more than anything else in the world.
Billy lives in Newcastle of 1985 and has a miner for a father. He has been trying to hide his talent and enthusiasm to dance from the rest of the world. The song, performed by the legendary Elton John, is directed at all the dreamers of the world who are afraid of overcoming their fears.
“Tell Me It’s Not True” from “Blood Brothers”
Tell me it’s not true breaks your heart, but it does it so warmly, you don’t seem to mind it. Two twin boys get separated moments after they are born because their poverty-struck mother is not able to raise both of them.
As predicted by superstition, both the boys will die if they find out about their true identities, and the audience is kept on the tip of their seats, throughout the song, as they already know what the inevitable outcome could be. At the end of the song, you get what you were expecting; the cries of a mother who just found out that she lost both her babies, at the same time.
“Don’t Rain on My Parade” from “Funny Girl”
Barbara Streisand is a national treasure, and there’s no way anybody can argue with that. A lot of singers have tried to emulate the royalty with which she sang Don’t Rain on My Parade, but they have all failed miserably. However, don’t disappoint Barbara by giving up now, keep at it, and maybe you will write a new story (That’s what the song is all about).
If somebody is telling you to stop fighting a lost cause or give up on your dreams, then this song is the best comeback you can hit them with. Let’s all collectively overlook the fact that she sings about marrying a gambler, and try to seek motivation from the true gist of the song.
“And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from “Dreamgirls”
A lot of people who audition on the X Factor choose this Dreamgirls song, and there is a good reason for that (Most fail miserably in living up to the original version). The song talks about Effie, who has been rejected by her ensemble and her lover, but that isn’t enough to stop or break her.
Jennifer Holliday’s version is a staple, but it was Jennifer Hudson’s rendition which made everybody in the audience all goose-bumpy. The lyrics are compelling, and the performance showcases how good the singer is.