Musical Theatre Sunday School: Divine Integration

Boq and Nessa in WICKED

WICKED’s Boq and Nessa proving it is possible to woo successfully with clunky lyrics

There are three separate elements of divine integration in musical theatre: the book, the music and the lyrics. For most people, understanding technique when it comes to book and lyrics is more concrete, while the understanding of musical techniques tends to be more abstract and grounded in an emotional or spiritual response. It’s easy to spot bum rhyme in a lyric (‘Listen – Nessa / Yes? / Uh – Nessa / I’ve got something to confess, a / reason why, well – / why I asked you here tonight’), but just what is wrong with “Defying Gravity” when it makes teenage girls the world over feel so good about themselves?

For many followers of musical theatre, this opens up an all too easy gap whereby all responses to musicals are deemed subjective. It is in the understanding of musical theatre technique and in the construction of a critical framework based on that understanding that objectivity in evaluating a musical’s success or failure can arise. As conventions shift over time, what was good once might appear less so now, and what was once considered repellent might today be viewed as ahead of its time. In the 1920s, for example, a great score was what was primarily needed for a musical to be considered great, so while lyrics received considerable attention, the books did not. So while we might not be seeing full scale, unrevised productions of Lady Be Good or Oh, Kay! today, “Fascinating Rhythm” and “Someone to Watch Over Me” still pop up in concert repertoires and jukebox musicals based on the Gershwin songbook. Conversely, a show like Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s Pal Joey earned mixed reviews for its initial production in 1940, but really started getting street cred in the following decade when audiences could accept an anti-hero as the protagonist in a musical.

Richard Rodgers

Richard Rodgers – undoubtedly a great composer, but what is it that makes his music better than Burton Lane’s?

So maybe the challenge for the week is to go and learn about one technical aspect related to the craft of writing the book, music or lyrics of a musical and to think about it in relation to your favourite musicals. Try to get objective about your subjectivity, and then see what comes of that.

Although the three parts aiming for divine integration in musical theatre are distinct art forms with distinct roles, they are one in purpose. They are perfectly united in bringing to pass the possibility of a great musical. And there are many: South Pacific, Gypsy, Fiddler on the Roof, Follies, The Wild Party and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder are just some of the great musicals we’ll all be watching and listening to for years to come.

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THE SATURDAY LIST: My 5 Current Musical Theatre Obsessions

Ethel Merman in ANNIE GET YOUR GUN

Ethel Merman in ANNIE GET YOUR GUN

For today’s edition of the “Saturday List” on Musical Cyberspace, I thought I would share my 5 current musical theatre obsessions, the things that I am finding most fascinating in the world of musical theatre – right here, right now. This might be a bit fanboy-ish, but I think that musical theatre fans sharing the aspects of musicals in which they’re interested at any given time is a great way of opening up discussions, finding out about new musicals and interrogating old favourites. Here we go!

1. Fixing Annie Get Your Gun

This might be a presumptuous foot on which to to start off, but I’ve been thinking a great deal about Annie Get Your Gun this past week and the way that the most recent Broadway mounting of the show tried to shift the show to satisfy our current socio-political norms. Along with many others, I don’t think that Peter Stone achieved what he set out to do in his revised book and I think that there is a way to shift the problematic parts of the show without gutting the piece entirely. For those who need a fact check, Annie Get Your Gun is a 1946 musical with a score by Irving Berlin and a book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields. What’s interesting about the show is that the 1999 revival wasn’t the first time the material was revised. The 1966 revival cut a couple of characters (the secondary romantic pair, Tommy and Winnie) and numbers (the charming “Who Do You Love, I Hope” and the more easily forgotten “I’ll Share it All With You”) to create a version of the show that focused more clearly on Annie and Frank, including also a new duet for the pair, “An Old Fashioned Wedding”. The focus of the 1999 revisions was political correctness, so although Tommy and Winnie’s numbers were reinstated, “I’m an Indian Too” and “Colonel Buffalo Bill” got the chop, along with “I’m a Bad, Bad Man”. The show was also framed as a show-within-a-show, with “There’s No Business Like Show Business” being used as the device that pulled everything together. At the end of the day it just doesn’t work. It feels like a hack job done on material that has a lot more going for it than that for which Stone gave it credit. What are my thoughts? Well, I do agree that there is no place in Annie Get Your Gun for a number like “I’m an Indian Too”. In fact, the only tweaks that need to be made to Annie Get Your Gun have to do with the way that Native Americans are represented in the piece – so I guess there are a couple of edits in the book that would go along with the excision of the song, and the way that the ceremonial dances that come towards the end of the first act would have to be interrogated too. Why isn’t “Colonel Buffalo Bill” a problem for me? Well, it’s not a number that represents Native American people: it’s a number that represents the way that Native American people were represented by showmen at the turn of the century. Yes, the way that shows like Buffalo Bill’s Wild West presented Native Americans was patronizing and racist – but that’s the way it was. No amount of revisionist editing can change that. But I think there is a responsibility to shift the way that Native American characters are represented in the show. As for the feminists who dislike Annie’s throwing of her final competition with Frank to win his affections – well, it’s your job to comment on that if you desire. Personally, I think it shows that she is smarter than him and knowing how to use her head around Frank after they’re married is going to do her a whole lot more good than a broken heart would, plus it reflects the attitudes of the time period in which the show is set.

2. The Wild Party

I just can’t get enough of Michael John LaChiusa’s masterpiece, and especially of the song that for me is at the deep, dark centre of the show, “People Like Us”. First off, let’s not discuss for too long the other adaptation of Joseph Moncure March’s 1928 poem, which might as well be called The Wild Party Jr based on the level of its intellectual approach to the material, even if the material itself is far too provocative for the “jr” treatment. Sorry, Andrew Lippa, but that’s just the way it is. LaChiusa’s version of The Wild Party is just the best. Love it. Love it. Love it. Secondly, although the Best Musical prize at the Tony Awards was completely hijacked by Contact, which – despite being a fantastic dance show – simply was not a musical at all and should never have been nominated for the award in the first place. Thirdly, the show’s detractors will wail that one can’t sympathise with the characters and that the show shuts you out cold as a result. Wrong. The characters are fascinating – that’s what counts – and they draw you in. Fourth, let’s get back to “People Like Us”. It is a fantastic song that manages to capture the characters in the moment and the decay of the period as well as being a zeitgeist moment. I could go on for ages about this show, but then I’d never get to my next obsession. Let’s leave things with an appreciation of the incredible layers LaChiusa’s work has. Pure brilliance.

3. I Remember Mama

This is a passing obsession, I know, but the last musical of Richard Rodgers (with lyrics by Martin Charnin and Raymond Jessel and a book by Thomas Meehan) is one that I find very interesting at the moment. Nobody says it was brilliant, but those who don’t say it was a complete failure say that it was a sweet show that came along thirty years too late. It does kind of remind me of Meet Me in St Louis and it certainly is an old-fashioned show. I think the show’s heart is in the right place. I also think that the comedy songs are handled poorly. The two songs written for Uncle Chris are clunkers. Charnin and Meehan are both still with us. I wouldn’t mind seeing them take another pass at the material to see what they can come up with. But one rule, please – only use music written by Rodgers for the show. “Boys and Girls Like You and Me” and “The Sweetest Sounds” don’t need to be shoehorned into another show.

4. Michelle Williams in Cabaret

I’ve become obsessed with trying to find footage of Michelle Williams in Cabaret. Tumblr has yielded a couple of audios, but other than that I’ve had no luck. I’ve loved Williams since her Dawson’s Creek days and I am dying to see (something of) her take on Sally Bowles, particularly seeing how great an actress she’s become. (Start by watching Brokeback Mountain if you don’t believe me.)

5. “They Just Keep Moving the Line”

All right, this isn’t strictly musical theatre, but it’s close enough. I keep on finding this song, written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman for the TV series, Smash, making its way into my mind. It’s so wonderfully Kander and Ebb-ish, Megan Hilty kills it, and it is great to belt out in the car. Or in the shower. Or at the mall. Anytime, actually. Just do it. You won’t regret it.

And that’s it for this week. What are your current musical theatre obsessions? How about heading down to the comments below and letting me know – perhaps your obsessions of today will be my obsessions tomorrow.

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Musical Theatre Sunday School: In the Beginning…

Capturing the spirit of THE BLACK CROOK

A drawing capturing the spirit of THE BLACK CROOK

In the beginning, there was music and there was drama, and musical theatre was without form. Broadway was in darkness. And Henry Jarrett and Harry Palmer moved upon the face of the district, by arrangement with William Wheatley.

“Let there be light,” they said: and there was The Black Crook. And audiences saw The Black Crook, that it was good, and musical theatre was born from the dark waters of the ballad opera and pantomime. And The Black Crook was called musical comedy, and everything else was called variety, vaudeville and burlesque. And the Mulligan Guard shows and Floradora were among the first musicals.

And George M. Cohan said, “Let there more of the American spirit in musical comedy, and let me write, direct, produce and star in these new musical comedies.” And Cohan made Little Johnny Jones, Forty-five Minutes from Broadway and George Washington Jr. and divided the musical comedy from fantasy extravaganzas like The Wizard of Oz: and it was so. And these were the age of the second musicals.



And Victor Herbert said, “Let the music of our operettas have its own American sound and let and American version of operetta appear” – and it was so. And Victor Herbert called his home grown operettas Babes in Toyland, The Red Mill and Naughty Marietta; and the gathering together of his more comical music he called It Happened in Nordland, Miss Dolly Dollars and Little Nemo: and Franz Lehar saw that it was good. And Franz Lehar said, “Let Basil Hood and Adrian Ross write an English adaptation of Die Lustige Witwe, and let The Merry Widow more romantic European style operettas: and Jerome Kern saw that it was good. And these were the third musicals.

And Jerome Kern said, “Let me fix the scores of these imported musicals, to divide our own sound from theirs; and let this new sound be used for the Princess Theatre musicals, for Oh Boy! and Leave it to Jane and Oh! Lady! Lady! And let them be lights in the heavens to give light to Irving Berlin, Harry Tierney, Joseph McCarthy, Vincent Youman, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin and Oscar Hammerstein II: and it was so. And Florenz Zeigfeld and George White made two great lights: the greater Follies to rule the best, and the lesser Scandals to rule the rest: John Murray Anderson made The Greenwich Village Follies also. And producers set No, No Nanette, The Vagabond King, Sunny, Oh Kay! and Dearest Enemy in the firmament of the musical theatre to give light to Broadway: and audiences saw that they were good. And these were the fourth musicals.

And Oscar Hammerstein II said, “Let the waters of the Mississippi bring forth a musical that has life, which may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.” And Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern created Show Boat: and the world saw that it was good. And Florenz Zeigfeld blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the houses of Broadway, and let musicals multiply throughout the earth. This was the age of the fifth musical.

Ethel Merman in ANYTHING GOES

Ethel Merman in ANYTHING GOES

And the audience said, “Let the composers and lyricists bring forth musicals of every kind.” – and it was so. And George and Ira Gershwin made Strike Up the Band, Girl Crazy and Of Thee I Sing; and Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart made On Your Toes, Babes in Arms and Pal Joey; and Noel Coward made The Third Little Show, Tonight at 8:30 and Set to Music; and Cole Porter made Anything Goes, Leave it To Me and DuBarry Was a Lady; and George Gershwin, Kurt Weill and Moss Hart made Lady in the Dark: and audiences saw that they was good.

And Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II said, “Let us remake musical theatre in our image: and let the book have dominion over the songs, and over the choreography, and over the direction, and over all the production, and integrate every creeping thing that creeps upon Broadway.” So Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II created Oklahoma!: in the image of the musical play they created it.

And audiences blessed them, and audiences said unto all librettists, composers and lyricists, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish Broadway and subdue it: and have dominion over the great white way, and over the musicals of other lands, and over every musical theatre production that is heard upon the earth.” And the librettists, composers and lyricists said, “Behold, we give you Annie Get Your Gun and On the Town and Bloomer Girl and Carousel and The Song of Norway and Brigadoon and Kiss Me Kate and Finian’s Rainbow and South Pacific.” And it was so. And audiences saw everything that they had made, and, behold, the musicals were very good.

And this was the sixth age of the musical.

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THE SATURDAY LIST: Musical Theatre Related Things that Get Me Excited

The company of NOAH OF CAPE TOWN Photo credit: Giovanni Sterelli

Would NOAH OF CAPE TOWN work as a live TV musical?
Photo credit: Giovanni Sterelli

It’s time for another “Saturday List” and today I thought I would share some musical theatre related things that get me excited. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

1. The Return of the Live TV Musical

Last year, the live TV musical made a comeback with The Sound of Music – Live!, which did great business ratings wise, caused a great deal of debate between musical theatre fans and ultimately was a very mixed bag. A wooden central performance by Carrie Underwood as Maria Rainer and treacly direction by Rob Ashford were two of the weakest aspects of the production, while some of the production’s strongest moments were delivered by supporting players Audra McDonald as the Mother Abbess, Laura Benanti as Elsa Schrader and Christian Borle as Max Detweiler. The biggest problem, however, was that the whole thing just felt plotted out within an inch of its life and there was no sense of the spontaneous joy that a musical like The Sound of Music should have. Nonetheless, thanks to its good ratings, we now have live TV productions of Peter Pan, Grease and The Music Man to which we can look forward. I was so enamoured by the whole I idea, that I wrote an article for BroadwayWorld South Africa suggesting that the local South African television channels take up the gauntlet of producing live TV musicals of some of the landmark South African shows – a great way to smarten up the dismal local television industry.

2. New Movie Musicals

Movie musicals tend to be something of a hit and miss affair. Chicago? Hit. Nine? Miss. All right, there are those that fall somewhere in the middle too, like Dreamgirls and Hairspray. But I’m always excited when a new movie musical makes it all the way from initial rumours to the big screen and things are looking great at the moment, with Into the Woods, Lucky Stiff and The Last Five Years all on their way. I can’t wait to see a trailer for The Last Five Years, but as we all know Into the Woods and Lucky Stiff both have trailers out at the moment. Lucky Stiff looks like it might be a bit of a muddle and Into the Woods looks fantastic. I suppose we won’t really know until they’re released, but it’s so much fun to speculate!

3. Michael John LaChiusa

Ever since I first discovered the work of Michael John LaChiusa, when a good friend introduced me to Marie Christine, I fell in love with the complexity, intelligence and heart that LaChiusa combines to create his brilliant contemporary works of musical theatre. One of the key voices in the genre today, he has created a diverse range of musicals, including the atmospheric Hello Again, the unsettling Bernarda Alba and a masterpiece in The Wild Party. Besides his work in the theatre, he also has no qualms within the field of peer review, which really is the way forward for serious criticism in the arts, and published the controversial article “The Great Grey Way” in Opera News, an excellent response to the state of mainstream musical theatre at the start of the 21st century. Whichever way you look at it, LaChiusa is an inspiration.

4. Pasek and Paul

I discovered the work of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul when I performed in the South African premiere of their breakthrough piece, Edges. What I really loved about that piece was its combination of pop and musical theatre idioms in a way that really honoured the tradition of musical theatre while maintaining a completely contemporary sensibility. The pair has gone on to create the Tony-nominated musical, A Christmas Story, which honestly seemed like it was dead in the water to me until they were brought on board and created a fantastic score for the piece; an adaptation of James and the Giant Peach, with which I’ve yet to familiarise myself; and one of my favourite recent musical theatre scores for the show Dogfight, which features a book by Peter Duchan. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next!

5. Falling Down the YouTube Rabbit Hole

I’ve had to be really careful not to fall down a YouTube rabbit hole while working on this column. Musical theatre fans will all know what I mean: the YouTube rabbit hole is a great way of discovering new musical theatre pieces, finding once-off performances by musical theatre stars that just blow you away (Angela Lansbury doing “Thoroughly Modern Millie” at the Oscars, anyone?) and rediscovering performances you had forgotten. One of my most recent favourite finds, when I was pushed into the rabbit hole by Anna Kendrick, was this tribute to Shirley MacLaine.

6. Falling down an iTunes Rabbit Hole

Another great rabbit hole one that you fall into when you just let your iTunes run in the background. While it helps you to revisit some of your favourite favourites, it also reminds you of things you might not specifically seek out for a listen. One of my exciting finds this week as something I had not listened to in ages, a song I had forgotten that I completely love: “One White Dress” from A Family Affair.

7. Finding my Own Musical Theatre Voice

Perhaps this one is a little indulgent, but this year has very much been about finding my own musical theatre voice, after a bit of a break in writing and composing for the musical theatre stage. I was able to collaborate with Roland Perold on a piece called You Bet Your Life that premiered at the National Arts Festival this year and rediscovered a lot about who I was as an artist in the process. Although there are plans for continuing to develop You Bet Your Life, I’m also busy editing my 2008 musical adaptation of The Snow Queen so that it can be released for further licensed productions, first in a version for intermediate phase school pupils, with family theatre and foundation phase versions to follow. On we go…

So what musical theatre related things make you excited? Looking forward to hearing what your favourite things are, either in the comment box below, on Twitter, on Facebook or anywhere else this piece ends up being shared.

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The arrival of the original Broadway cast album of a show like A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is always accompanied by a sense of great expectations. Showcasing a score that has been being refined since the show’s premiere in 2012 at the Hartford Stage in Hartford though its arrival on Broadway late last year, it is wonderful to report that the album offers a fantastic listening experience that embodies everything a contemporary musical comedy should be.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is based on Roy Horniman’s 1907 novel, Israel Rank: the Autobiography of a Criminal. In this version, the half-Jewish anti-hero of the novel becomes half-Castilian Monty Navarro (Bryce Pinkham), a young man who discovers that he is a member of the titled the D’Ysquith family. His mother having been cast out by her relatives owing to her indiscretions with Monty’s father, finding his place in the family seems impossible – until Monty decides to eliminate the eight heirs (all played by Jefferson Mays) who are stand between him and the earldom. While he is busy with his task, he bounces between two romantic intrigues with childhood sweetheart and social climber Sibella Hallward (Lisa O’Hare) and distant cousin Phoebe D’Ysquith (Lauren Worsham).

For the most part, the score marries Gilbert and Sullivan-style comic opera with traditional English music hall. This is filtered through the sensibilities of the classic musical comedy format and there are hints of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, Noël Coward and Cole Porter in the ballads. The disc gets off to a witty start as the ensemble offers “A Warning to the Audience”, letting the listener (and the audience, in the theatre) know precisely what they are in for. Highlights include the Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith’s “I Don’t Understand the Poor”, in which he lists all of the offences that the lower classes present to him; “Poison in My Pocket”, a contrapuntal piece in which Monty plots to bump off one of his unsuspecting victims; “Inside Out”, a touching duet for Phoebe and Monty; “Lady Hyacinth Abroad”, with its politically incorrect nods to the way the British viewed their Empire many moons ago; and “Why Are All the D’Ysquith’s Dying”, in which Lord Adalbert and the ensemble ponder the plague that seems to have fallen upon the family.


Jane Carr as Miss Shingle and Bryce Pinkham as Monty Navarro (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak have married their music and lyrics beautifully. The score has plenty of humour and bears repeated listening. Even when the lyrics works a little too hard, as in “Better With a Man”, or when an accumulation of sounds mars a rhyme scheme (in “Sibella”, ‘lips’ sounds like it desperately wants to rhyme with ‘bliss’, when ‘bliss’ is really rhymes with the ‘kiss’ that comes a line or two later), this is soon forgiven. In any case, it is difficult to see how the humour of “Better With a Man” could be contrived without all of those sweaty double entendres and “Sibella” is just such an exquisite piece musically that the flaw, like those of the woman in question, soon fades away.

The performances are fantastic across the board. Pinkham hits just the right note as Monty, making him sound as endearing as anything with his appealing tenor and ingratiating take on the role. O’Hare and Worsham also both carry off their duties with aplomb and it is wonderful to hear two roles that will offer many musical theatre sopranos, both the soubrette-ish and the lyrical as Gilbert and Sullivan might put it, the opportunity to ply their craft in a world too obsessed with belty, screlty musical theatre performances. Of course, Mays features strongly in his contrasting roles as the entire D’Ysquith family. His ability to characterise and interpret is flawless. True, his pronunciation of the word ‘poor’ somewhat scuttles the rhyme scheme of his first big number (the aforementioned “I Don’t Understand the Poor”), but this is a minor quibble. There is also a delightful cameo performance by Jane Carr as Miss Shingle, the woman who reveals to Monty the truth about his heritage, in the exposition-filled “You’re a D’Ysquith” that follows the opening number.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is a fantastic addition to the musical theatre collection of any fan of the form. It is the kind of show that one might think would never get to Broadway – a literate musical comedy based on unlikely source material and which eschews pop music styles from the past few decades. Long may it live, and may it never be forgotten!

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder was released by Ghostlight Records on CD on 1 April 2014, having been available digitally since 25 February 2014. The album can be purchased from Ghostlight Records, iTunes, Amazon and any other reputable music outlets.

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The Right Age to Be Annie


Above: ANNIE in its original Broadway production

A debate I often see on message boards across the Internet deals with issues around casting and age. The casting of the orphans – and especially of the titular orphan – in Charles Strouse, Martin Charnin and Thomas Meehan’s Annie seems to be an issue that mothers and little girls who aspire to be gussied up in the trademark red dress take especially seriously.

Annie is meant to be 11 years old, but can a younger or older child play the part? What about a production where a 13 year old is told that she is too old, only to see the director cast a 15 year old in the role? Moms and daughters, the answer is easy: “age” and “looking too old” are two completely different things. You can be 15 and still look like an 11 year old; conversely, you can be 10 and look 14. So it’s quite plausible that an older actor may get cast as a younger character and vice-versa. Whether you have your heart set on hearing your daughter belt out “Tomorrow” or if you’re hoping to win the audience over with a heartfelt “Maybe”, remember that fact. In a traditional production of Annie, looking the part is as important as being able to carry it off.

And that’s show business.

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Nearly four decades ago, Charles Strouse, Martin Charnin and Thomas Meehan’s Annie opened on Broadway. Some love it; others hate it – but it is impossible to deny that the show has touched many a heart since its first performances in the 1970s. As such, I thought perhaps it might be fun to pay tribute the show, one that is also a great deal of fun to do, especially in the chorus (just because you’re so busy all the time) and – I’d imagine – if you are a kid. I was in the ensemble of a production of Annie in 1997 and I really enjoyed it. With a series of great numbers to get through, it’s great not to spend hours in the dressing room! I particularly loved performing “Hooverville”, “N.Y.C.” and the “Tomorrow” reprise in the cabinet scene. In that scene, I was an Honour Guard and all I had to do was hold a flag and belt out the tenor harmony. What fun.

Now let’s get on to the songs and today’s “Saturday List”

1. Favourite Song i.t.o. Lyrics

“I Don’t Need Anything But You”: While Annie does not really offer top-drawer sophistication in its lyrics, it is fun to see certain moments of wit appear here and there. While one may prefer other songs merely because of their content, this minor number in the second act always wins me over with its period references and character appropriate pairings of who needs whom to make them whole.

2. Favourite Song i.t.o. Tracks on the OBCR

“Easy Street”: This number is one of the best in the show anyway, but it is the way that Dorothy Loudon cuts loose toward the end of the song that makes it the most memorable track on the original cast recording.

3. Favourite Song i.t.o. Character Definition

“Little Girls”: This is one of those numbers that is always entertaining in the hands of a virtuoso performer (like Dorothy Loudon in the original production or Carol Burnett in the 1982 film), but which can be deceptively simple and is so easy to botch (as Kathy Bates did under the direction of Rob Marshall in the television production). Still, the song defines the character sharply, with a great nod to the period musically and some terrifically amusing images in the lyrics that really lend themselves to being staged. A runner up here is “Something Was Missing”, which depicts Daddy Warbucks in a way that is perhaps unexpected given the comic strip origins of the show, but which is all the more effective for that.

4. Favourite Song i.t.o. Marriage of Lyric to Music

“I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here”: This song captures in both its music and lyrics how exciting it must be for Annie to arrive in what must appear to be a completely exotic setting to her. It is little more than a light piece of diversion, but in the context of the show, it works like gangbusters. Plus there’s that final exclamation: “Welcome!”


5. Favourite Song i.t.o. Music

“We’d Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover”: This is an interesting number, one that was cut from both the film and the TV movie, probably because it illustrates a context that can be depicted far more quickly through the visual resources that film has at its disposal. What makes it so interesting to me is how the music offers an almost Brechtian musical take on the Depression. It’s unique in the score in that regard and really outlines life in New York at the time in an engaging manner. The runner-up here, for me, is the more conventionally toe-tapping “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile”.

6. Favourite Song i.t.o. Scene Structure

“NYC”: This is my favourite number in the show. I love how is builds from almost nothing – a thought – into the best production number in the show, a thrilling celebration of everything that makes New York a fantastic place to see. It’s a fantastic song in the “tribute to a famous city” genre and I think it is a travesty that the song was cut from the 1982 film version and was glad to see the song restored in the – where Andrea McArdle knocks the “Star to Be” solo out of the park, making my favourite part of the song more thrilling than ever before. (The Star-To-Be is a super cameo role – but it can be a torturous minute or so if the actress cast in the role can’t sell that solo vocally. I’ve heard that some productions like to cast the actress playing Lily as the Star-To-Be, but I’ve never seen it done that way.)

It’s certainly been fun revisiting this cute little show this weekend. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

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