There is something truly special about the moment the theatre lights dim and the curtain rises before a performance. The excitement one feels as they are about to be immersed in a story onstage is palpable. No matter whether you are gracing the stage, running the lights, in the orchestra pit, or enjoying the show, the joy live theatre brings is universal.
We at Theatre Haus never need an excuse to celebrate live theatre and the joy it provides. As we were celebrating our love for theatre this November, we couldn’t think of a better way to close out our celebration than by compiling some of our favourite songs for the very special occasion. The team here at Theatre Haus have come together to share their personal favourite musical theatre songs for you to enjoy. Let’s get this show on the road…
‘Welcome to the Rock’ – ‘Come From Away’
Let’s kick things off with a slice of hospitality, courtesy of those ever-generous Newfoundlanders.
The trajectory of the success of ‘Come From Away’ has been impressive. After making its debut on Broadway in 2017, the musical has seen several successful productions staged in the likes of the West End, Australia, Ireland, and, of course, Canada. The Broadway and West End productions went on to receive a Tony Award for Best Direction in 2017 and a Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical in 2019, respectively. More impactful, however, is the show’s legacy. The musical promotes a transcendent sense of hope and community goodwill. ‘Come From Away’ recounts the story of how 7,000 stranded passengers were welcomed into the homes and lives of the residents of the small Canadian town of Gander (and surrounding towns) immediately after the September 11 attacks. The musical is a celebration of kindness, friendship, empathy, and compassion – making it one of the most beloved productions in recent history.
‘Come From Away’ opens with a rousing folk beat, which leads into ‘Welcome to the Rock’. The song acts as both an introduction to the key residents of Gander, and to Newfoundland itself. Its lyrics recount a blissfully simple existence, until news of the tragedy unfolding in the United States wakes people up from their calm reverie. It is a strong opening number, providing audiences with a sample of the emotion they will come to experience throughout the show.
Theatre Haus’ Creative Director Elodie Boal considers ‘Welcome to the Rock’ a personally touching song. With border restrictions resounding throughout 2021, the lyrics of ‘Welcome to the Rock’ feel as poignant as ever. It is a song perfect for any emotion and reaffirms the notion that perseverance is key in times of adversity.
‘Willkommen’ – ‘Cabaret’
What’s better than one great opening musical number? Two great opening numbers!
‘Cabaret’ may be over half a century old, but it remains as popular as when it first premiered (if not more so). Opening on Broadway to rave reviews in November 1966, ‘Cabaret’ became an instant sensation. The often risqué musical explored the rise of the Nazi Party set against Berlin’s jazz-orientated nightlife. Performers such as Liza Minelli and Alan Cumming became household names thanks to ‘Cabaret’, cementing their legacy as musical theatre greats. While the musical has experienced some backlash due to its mature content, it nevertheless remains a treasured example of the golden age of theatre.
As stated above, ‘Willkommen’ is the opening number for ‘Cabaret’. Sung by the fourth-wall-breaking Emcee as a warm up for the show, ‘Willkommen’ introduces the audience to the decadently sensual atmosphere of Berlin’s Kit Kat Klub. The song is a lyrical wink to the audience, letting them into the secret underbelly of pre-WWII German society. It indulges in its burlesque humour, making it one of the standouts of the entire production.
‘Willkommen’ was suggested by our Haus Mate Jackson Fryer, who considers it to be one of the best opening numbers of any show. Ever.
‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ – ‘Annie’
Sometimes our love for certain musicals can last a lifetime. For those lucky enough to be introduced to ‘Annie’ as a child, this may just be the case.
Another recipient of the Tony Award for Best Musical (in 1977), ‘Annie’ is beloved by theatregoers young and old. Inspired by the 1920s comic strip ‘Little Orphan Annie’ by Harold Gray, ‘Annie’ tells the story of a precocious 11-year-old girl who is chosen to spend the Christmas holiday at the mansion of billionaire Oliver Warbucks. Through this fateful endeavour, Annie finds a new lease on life – in more ways than one.
‘Annie’ boasts a plethora of charming songs, many of which could easily be listed here. However, one of its most beloved is the irresistibly catchy ‘Hard Knock Life’. Sung by the orphans as they perform chores as punishment by the mean Miss Hannigan, ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ manages to be both an emotional outlet and a fun exercise at the same time. Its legacy extends further than the musical itself, with covers by the likes of Jay-Z, Lukas Graham, and Dr. Evil in ‘Austin Powers in Goldmember’. Regardless of age, ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ appears to hold a special place in the collective heart of the theatre community.
Suggested by Ness Moltzen, ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ has the ability to make audiences feel real emotion. With well-crafted lyrics, a catchy melody, and a charming story, ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ from ‘Annie’ can bring listeners to tears while also cheering the orphans on in hopes of a new tomorrow.
‘Sugar Daddy’ – ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’
One of the great things about theatre is that it lets us all explore and reflect upon who we are. You do not need to fit into only one given box but can express yourself however you feel most comfortable. That is one of the major themes running through ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’.
Presented as a backstage experience, ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ tells the story of the genderqueer rocker Hedwig Robinson as she supports the band Gnosis on their tour. The musical is heralded for its exploration of gender fluidity, while also never shying away from the stigma associated with it in areas of society. The Broadway production received several accolades, most notably Best Revival of a Musical and Best Lead Actor in a Musical for Neil Patrick Harris at the 68th Tony Awards. The character of Hedwig – as well as the show itself – has become somewhat of a cultural icon in recent years, particularly within the queer community.
While the entire musical could be considered a celebration of self-expression, arguably one of its signature songs is ‘Sugar Daddy’. The song is a musically liberating moment for Hedwig as she is encouraged to dress in drag for the first time by Luther Robinson. Hedwig gives herself permission to be who she really is during ‘Sugar Daddy’. It has been recognised as an LGBT anthem, particularly in relation to transgender, non-binary, and genderqueer pride. That is the exact reason it was suggested by Haus Mate Max Phythian – he recognised it as the ultimate anthem for trans-positivity.
‘Finishing the Hat’ – ‘Sunday in the Park with George’
Stephen Sondheim is always a favourite among theatre fans. His ability to capture emotion through lyrical melodies is resounding. His impressive catalogue of musicals showcases his mastery for storytelling. Different individuals will likely be drawn to differing shows, but one of his more sentimental classics is ‘Sunday in the Park with George’.
Recounting the dramatised life story of French artist Georges Seurat (the eponymous ‘George’), ‘Sunday in the Park with George’ is an homage of sorts to those who live and breathe art. The original Broadway production earned the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1985, while its West End counterpart took home the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical in 1991 (beating out another Sondheim production featured on this list). In its 37-year history, the show has amassed much praise for its writing, acting, and set pieces. Although it is one of Sondheim’s less showy productions, ‘Sunday in the Park with George’ is no less a beloved musical gem in his stellar portfolio.
Taking place deep within the first act, ‘Finishing the Hat’ is considered a signature song within the production. The song expresses a mixture of emotions in a short amount of time. While George feels lost in his romantic pursuits, he finds meaning in his painting. It displays that creative fulfilment can come in many shapes and forms – while not always a wholeheartedly happy feeling, it still provides a sense of contentment.
This is the first of a few songs suggested by Theatre Haus’ Juliette Ebert. Her love for the song stems from its ability to capture the joy that comes from creating art, no matter the medium. It is truly a wonderful celebration of artistic expression, something which Theatre Haus very much supports.
‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ – ‘We Will Rock You’
We’ve seen a renaissance of sorts in recent years when it comes to the iconic band, Queen. From tours with Adam Lambert to films such as ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, Queen has truly epitomised their claim as champions. One of the earlier testaments to their music came in the form of a 2002 musical written by Ben Elton, appropriately titled ‘We Will Rock You’.
Becoming one of the first jukebox musicals of the 21st century, ‘We Will Rock You’ celebrates the majesty of Queen’s music in electrifying fashion. While it took some time to be appreciated by theatre critics and audiences, the show has since become an institution on London’s West End, running for 12 years at the Dominion Theatre.
‘We Will Rock You’ uses Queen’s songs as the basis for its story, transporting audiences to a desolate future where rock music has long gone but is prophesied to return. The musical is a cavalcade of Queen’s greatest and most beloved hits. One song that stands out though is ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ which is the final (non-instrumental) number of Act I. The characters reflect upon their passion for tabooed rock music, realising that the focus of many of them is love itself. The song acts as a tribute to love, music, and (of course) Queen, and is unequivocally a crowd favourite.
Classics are classics for a reason – everyone knows them. For Haus Mate Kendal Lane, ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ is an infectiously fun song that never fails to lift her spirits. It’s funny how much we love this crazy little song.
‘Rose Tint My World’ – ‘The Rocky Horror Show’
‘The Rocky Horror Show’ is an unabashed favourite here at Theatre Haus. It is hard not to smile when thinking of the catchy songs, outrageous costumes, and bizarre storytelling. It is for this exact reason that we had to include it on our list.
While each and every song could justifiably be included on today’s list, we’ve decided to highlight the slightly less known gem that is ‘Rose Tint My World’. Featured in the heart of the second act of ‘The Rocky Horror Show’, ‘Rose Tint My World’ is performed by several key characters (namely Brad, Janet, Rocky, and Columbia) as they are influenced by the brilliantly manipulative Dr Frank-N-Furter to embrace their carnal selves. Each of them is dressed in lingerie, adding visuals to the lyrical motif of releasing oneself from inhibitions.
While it might not be in the same league of general recognition as that of ‘Sweet Transvestite’ or ‘Time Warp’, ‘Rose Tint My World’ is no less of a classic in our eyes. It reminds us that it is okay to be ourselves in any and all situations, and if you require a little push to get there, that is alright, too. That’s one of the reasons it is so beloved by our Haus Mate Ellie Waddingham – it is unashamedly campy and indulges in its liberating message to be yourself, totally free of judgement. A great choice.
‘Greased Lightnin’ (Reprise)’ – ‘Grease’
Theatre productions are forever changing, updating, and reinventing. It may be due to changing social trends or to breathe new life into an older show. Regardless of the reason, changes to musical theatre are constant and can sometimes be a great thing for a show.
In the case of cult classic ‘Grease’, the 1994 Broadway revival provided several such alterations. It received a Tony nomination for Best Revival of a Musical that year, demonstrating the power changes can have. One of the most notable changes was the addition of several songs throughout.
Arguably its most fun lyrical addition is that of ‘Greased Lightnin’ (Reprise)’, sung by everyone’s favourite Pink Lady, Rizzo. While the original song acts as a love song (of sorts) by Kenickie to his humble four-wheeled steed, its reprisal is its antithesis. Rizzo makes no reservations in her disapproval of the car, firing lyrical barbs at it left and right. The song is short and witty, providing the audience with a quick chuckle at how serious Kenickie is about his vehicle. Comedian Rosie O’Donnell portrayed Rizzo in the 1994 revival of ‘Grease’. Her sardonic delivery only elevates the humorous criticisms to new heights. The jokes land perfectly for our reviewer Cam Scurrah, who thinks the addition of this song to the musical’s revival to be supreme.
‘And I Am Telling You (I’m Not Going)’ – ‘Dreamgirls’
The relatability of a musical’s story can be just as powerful as the songs themselves. In the instance of ‘Dreamgirls’, the arc that Effie White experiences is one such story that has resonated with countless audiences.
Loosely based upon famous acts of the 1960s such as The Supremes and James Brown, ‘Dreamgirls’ tells the story of a female African American R&B singing group from Chicago (The Dreamettes, later renamed The Dreams) who find success in the industry, but also suffer several personal setbacks. Since its Broadway debut 40 years ago, ‘Dreamgirls’ has experienced several successful productions throughout North America and on the West End. It also received the cinematic adaptation treatment in 2006 featuring a stellar cast including Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Hudson, and Beyonce.
‘Dreamgirls’ boasts numerous powerhouse songs. Every emotion is catered throughout in some way. Perhaps its emotional centrepiece is the penultimate number of Act I, ‘And I Am Telling You (I’m Not Going)’. Sung by a disheartened and mistreated Effie to her bandmates and manager (turned ex-lover) Curtis, she stands her ground as they unceremoniously try to replace her. Unbeknownst to them, her reason for wanting to stay with the group is rooted even deeper than just in music, as Effie is pregnant with Curtis’ child. The song is deeply personal and heartbreaking, highlighting the intensity of wanting something so badly. It remains one of the musical’s most hauntingly beautiful power ballads, sitting right at the heart of the story.
The power of ‘And I Am Telling You (I’m Not Going)’ is exactly what resonates with Theatre Haus’ Liam Burke. Its message is relatable to so many people, regardless of the situation. The song remains an anthem for those truly steadfast in their beliefs and those who will not give up on their dreams – no matter what.
‘I’ve Decided to Marry You’ – ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’
The past decade of musical theatre has provided a plethora of excellent shows that we can happily label as modern classics. They are as varied as they are memorable. One of the more classic examples of the modern classic is the Tony award-winning musical, ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’.
Harking back to the golden era of musical theatre, ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’ expertly balances mystery, comedy, and music. It tells the story of a hapless young man, Monty, who discovers he is ninth in line to the D’Ysquith family fortune. In order for him to claim it, the eight relatives in front of him must be removed somehow. Enter the murder from the show’s title.
However, in a show called ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’, you can’t expect everything to be doom and gloom. It does have “love” in the title, after all. In the midst of his sinister exploits, Monty also becomes entangled in a love triangle with Sibella and Phoebe. ‘I’ve Decided to Marry You’ is a comical vocal trio, in which both women lay claim to Monty without having knowledge of the other. Monty, caught in the middle (both literally and figuratively), tries his hardest to prevent either woman finding out about his relationship with the other. The song makes clever use of vocal harmonies and gymnastics to both support and pit each character against each other. It is a great song to see performed live on stage as the character blocking is some of the best in recent theatre history.
Another go-to for our Juliette, ‘I’ve Decided to Marry You’ is a stellar number for a vocal trio and a perfect nod to comedic musical theatre of the past. If you are struggling to decide what to listen to, decide on this song.
‘Cell Block Tango’ – ‘Chicago’
The most iconic musical numbers are often sung by multiple people. While we here at Theatre Haus love a good ballad, sometimes all you really need is a rousing group number with a brilliantly catchy tempo. And so let us introduce the next musical on our list, ‘Chicago’.
Premiering in the late 1970s, ‘Chicago’ is a theatrical love letter to a time when jazz was king and the eponymous city celebrated those who broke the rules. The production has seen numerous iterations over the decades, including the 2002 Academy Award-winning screen adaptation. The musical brokers the line between past and present with songs that capture the 1920s jazz-centric aesthetic, and timeless lyrics resonant for modern audiences. ‘Chicago’ remains a steady favourite among theatre lovers around the world for its mixture of dark content and fun atmosphere. No song better establishes this balance more perfectly than the brilliant ‘Cell Block Tango’.
Featuring a chorus of “merry murderesses of the Crook County Jail”, ‘Cell Block Tango’ takes a humorous yet dark look at how each woman ended up behind bars. The heartbeat of the song is really the tango rhythm throughout, allowing for the chant of “pop, six, squish, uh-uh, Cicero, Lipschitz” to really permeate. The sinister content of the song only elevates the feeling of musical amalgamation. It exemplifies how bringing different elements into one song can truly make it a masterpiece (or, as our reviewer Aaron Evans states, “a well-crafted gem”).
‘Moments in the Woods’ – ‘Into the Woods’
It seems so poignant that this month is all about our love of theatre, and at the end of it we lost a true hero of it. Sondheim left his musical mark on many productions. In doing so, he became a legend in the eyes of many throughout the theatre community. It is hard to narrow down his work to one defining musical as there are so many wonderful ones. One of his more undisputedly beloved productions has to be the 1987 classic, ‘Into the Woods’.
Charged with a question about what happened to the fairy tale characters we grew up with after “ever after”, Sondheim’s ‘Into the Woods’ does not shy away from exploring dark, sinister material. Sondheim builds his music and lyrics upon some classic Western fairy tales we know and love, but also re-examines some of these stories’ more grotesque original iterations (including Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood). Sondheim’s sweetly melodic music paired with slightly macabre content became his signature of sorts – and audiences loved it. ‘Into the Woods’ was celebrated as a great musical achievement for Sondheim, earning him a Best Musical Score award and Best Musical nomination at the 42nd Tony Awards. Its West End production in 1991 was also nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical, losing out to another Sondheim production, ‘Sunday in the Park with George’.
While the entire show is filled with wonderfully memorable songs (shout-out to the ever humorous ‘Agony’), ‘Moments in the Woods’ is arguably one of the more reflective numbers. Sung by the Baker’s Wife after her adulterous tryst with the Prince, ‘Moments in the Woods’ is staged as a lyrical monologue as she processes her actions. Throughout the song, the Baker’s Wife transitions through excitement, shock, and confusion, before ultimately landing on a determination to leave the woods and reunite with her husband. It remains a profoundly resonant song in Sondheim’s catalogue, making it easy to understand why so many theatre fans (including our Ness) love it so much.
‘Falling in Love with Love’ – ‘The Boys From Syracuse’
We’re sticking with the classics for a little while longer, but now we’re moving away from the woods and into the coastal city of Syracuse.
Written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, and based upon Shakespeare’s ‘The Comedy of Errors’, ‘The Boys From Syracuse’ is a fun little musical about mistaken identity and love triangles (well, squares in this case). ‘The Boys From Syracuse’ is the oldest musical on this list, premiering on Broadway in November 1938. In its 83-year history, it has gone on to see several successful productions on Broadway and the West End, as well as a film adaptation in 1940. ‘The Boys From Syracuse’ tells the story of two sets of long lost identical twins who are reunited in their adulthood, only to endure a series of romantic complications thanks to mistaken identity.
Pairing Shakespeare with music can be a difficult task, however Rodgers and Hart prove to be more than adept in their execution. One of the musical’s signature songs is ‘Falling in Love with Love’, a ballad set to a waltz sung by the character Adriana. The timeless romance of the song has left a lasting impression on many musical theatre fans, not least Theatre Haus’ own Yasmin Elahi. Being the first song she ever performed, it holds a special place in her heart, as does the musical. We are sure you will fall in love with ‘Falling in Love With Love’ as well.
‘The Little Things You Do Together’ – ‘Company’
Another Sondheim addition to this list, and trust us, we’re glad to have it within our company. (Sorry, we couldn’t resist).
‘Company’, Sondheim’s 1970 smash hit musical, is considered by many to be the main pinnacle of his illustrious composing career. ‘Company’, in a similar vein to Sondheim’s later show ‘Assassins’, is structured not so much as a narrative but as a series of vignettes. It tells the story of New York singleton Robert who is thrown a surprise party for his 35th birthday by several of his girlfriends and married friends. Each scene acts as a small glimpse into Robert’s life, and his association with his friends who have tied the knot. Another award winner for Sondheim, ‘Company’ claimed the top prize at the 25th Tony Awards as well as five others from its 14 nominations.
In lieu of a chronological story, ‘Company’ provides the audience with a series of slice of life moments into Robert’s bachelorhood. Robert may not be ready to settle down anytime soon, but he is not alone. Joanne, a cynical, multiple-divorcee sings ‘The Little Things You Do Together’ early in the show. It takes a humorous (and at times sarcastic) look at the institution of marriage, showcasing that it is a continuous dance of compromise. Joanne’s sass and witticism permeates the song, making it great to listen to both seriously and for a laugh. ‘The Little Things You Do Together’ was nominated by Theatre Haus’ Ellie Waddingham for its numerous layers of wit and humour. Plus, it is just oh so catchy!
‘Feed Me!’ – ‘Little Shop of Horrors’
Who says Halloween has to stay in October? We all like to have a little bit of horror in our lives at times.
In 2022, ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ will be celebrating its 40th anniversary. In that time, it has become a cult classic with an avid following of theatre and film fans alike. Mixing elements of horror and comedy, ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ has proven itself to be a master of mixed genre entertainment. While any production is a sum of its many parts, there is one element in ‘Little Shop’ that is truly iconic to the show. And its name… is Audrey II.
The villainous carnivorous plant introduces its sinister plan to protagonist Seymour and the audience through its song, ‘Feed Me!’ With a booming baritone and raucous laugh, Audrey II cements itself as a horror icon of the stage. Every time we listen to this one we can’t help but feel pulled into its manipulative charms – a testament to the development of Audrey II’s characterisation. Our own Max hit the nail on the head when requesting this one; we all love a giant man-eating venus flytrap!
‘Try to Remember’ – ‘The Fantasticks’
Quite often we feel an affinity for a musical or a song due to its nostalgic sentiment. It may be the first musical you were a part of; a song you sing in the shower; or one that reminds you of a special someone. Then there are the songs that evoke nostalgia through their lyrics and storytelling. Enter ‘Try to Remember’ from ‘The Fantasticks’.
The Fantasticks, by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones, is the world’s longest-running musical. It was staged at the off-Broadway’s Sullivan Street Theatre from May 1960 to January 2002, spanning 42 years. Loosely based on Edmond Rostand’s 1894 play ‘The Romancers’, ‘The Fantasticks’ tells the story of two neighbouring teenage lovers who are compelled to be together against the apparent wishes of their feuding fathers. As with other star-crossed lover narratives, ‘The Fantasticks’ draws upon themes of idealism and fate. Its most noteworthy theme would have to be nostalgia, as evidenced in ‘Try to Remember’.
The quiet, reflective refrain of ‘Try to Remember’ sets the tone of the production perfectly, lulling the audience into a calm state of nostalgia. Life is made up of a series of changes – something for which the song’s lyrics depict with subtle understanding. It encourages the audience to take time to reflect upon the past so as to move into the future. ‘Try to Remember’ is a lyrical love letter to the past that is sure to bring a sentimental tear to the eye of almost everyone who hears it.
Suggested by Juliette, ‘Try to Remember’ is an intimate song that draws its listeners into a loving and welcoming embrace. It is a song that is sure not to leave your memory any time soon.
‘I’m Alive’ – ‘Next to Normal’
We love theatre for a myriad of reasons, not least the emotions it can propel us to feel. While many of the songs on this list are happy and bright, this one is anything but. That is its strength.
‘Next to Normal’ is a chillingly personal story of family, grief, and mental illness. It is an emotionally charged show that can leave audiences feeling everything from sadness to confusion. The original production won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Over the past decade, several tours have occurred throughout Europe, Asia, North America, and Australia. It is a poignant show that knows its real power is within its writing and performances.
Diana Goodman is a mother suffering from bipolar disorder. Her pain resonates throughout the show, as does that of her husband, Dan and daughter, Natalie. Much of their grief stems from the loss of their son and brother, Gabe, sixteen years prior. Throughout the show, a teenage Gabe appears to Diana as an ethereal manifestation of her psyche. His almost taunting song to Diana, ‘I’m Alive’, reaffirms the grip her mental illness has upon her, making her question whether he is gone or there in front of her.
‘I’m Alive’ uses an upbeat melody to soften the dark and threatening lyrical undertones. Our reviewer Max cites it as a personal favourite of his due to its complexity and depth in orchestration and content.
‘Whipped Into Shape’ – ‘Legally Blonde’
Let’s now move onto something a little more… physical.
Based on the 2001 romantic comedy film of the same name, ‘Legally Blonde’ tells the story of sorority girl Elle Woods who goes to Harvard Law School in an effort to win back her ex-boyfriend. In the process of her studies, she discovers a knack for legal practice and is chosen for an internship where she helps in the case of a fellow Delta Nu sorority member, Brooke Wyndham. The musical, much like the film, became an instant cult classic among young audiences. The 2011 West End production also went on to win the Laurence Olivier award for Best New Musical. It is a refreshingly upbeat show that does not shy away from its goofy side – and it is all the better for it.
One such goofy number is the opener of Act II, ‘Whipped Into Shape’. Juxtaposed as a fitness video by the accused Brooke and her defence team’s strategy discussion, the song is a high energy number that demonstrates the power of hard work and determination. While the song is best experienced in the theatre due to the stunning choreography, listening to it unaccompanied will nonetheless make you feel pumped up to tackle whatever is set to come your way.
‘Whipped Into Shape’ remains close to the heart of Theatre Haus’ own Kendal as it was her first leading role in a show. We hope you get as excited and energised by it as she does. Now go whip out your skipping rope and get shaped up for some (theatre) sport!
‘I Love Play Rehearsal’ – ‘Be More Chill’
We all know that feeling – you’re excited for the latest play to start rehearsing as it means it’ll be on the stage soon. Whether you’re an actor, director, choreographer, tech person, band member, or even a fan, the anticipation of waiting for a new show is a joy all theatre lovers understand. Fans such as Christine Canigula.
Although it is still a relatively new show, ‘Be More Chill’ has garnered quite a following. Particularly resonant for Gen Z audiences, ‘Be More Chill’ explores the social pressures and experiences of high schoolers in modern society. The show does not shy away from some difficult subjects such as peer pressure, experimentation with drugs, teenage sexuality, and addiction. While the subject matter can be heavy at times, it is often explored through a joyful, excitably infectious lens. This provides the show with ample moments of levity – allowing its teenage protagonists time to enjoy just being themselves.
One such moment comes early on from Christine, protagonist Jeremy’s crush and a budding thespian. Her song ‘I Love Play Rehearsal’ is simple and sweet. She allows herself to be solely in the moment and doesn’t inhibit herself from being her wonderfully weird self. With a cute melody and simplistic lyrics, ‘I Love Play Rehearsal’ excels at harking the audience back to their youth when they were exploring their passions unreservedly.
Christine’s self-confidence throughout the song makes her a strong role model for many, young and old. One such individual is our very own Juliette who performed the role of Christine previously. In playing the character, she found she identified with Christine and could be her authentic self – a wonderful mirroring of the song’s message.
‘Falling Slowly’ – ‘Once’
Some musical numbers find their power not from grandiose staging, but from stripped back, quiet honesty. The next song on our list is an excellent example of this.
The 2011 musical ‘Once’ is based on the indie film of the same name from four years earlier. Telling the intimate story of two would-be musicians (known only as “Guy” and “Girl”), ‘Once’ delicately explores the world of relationships through music. Like the film, the musical is predominantly set in Dublin, Ireland. This provides the show with an acoustic, folk melody that carries throughout. Many songs rely on simple orchestration, making the musical a truly intimate affair for the audience.
‘Once’ boasts numerous songs worth mentioning here, but arguably it’s best is its most well-known, ‘Falling Slowly’. The song featured in the original film, claiming an Academy Award in 2007 for Best Original Song. It pairs Guy and Girl’s vocals with the gentle harmony of an acoustic guitar and piano.
Written in the musical’s narrative as a love song dedicated to Guy’s ex-girlfriend, ‘Falling Slowly’ can be interpreted in many different ways. Above all else though, it is about hope, in all its facets. It is a reserved yet uplifting song that you cannot help but smile at. It never fails to put a smile on the face of Theatre Haus’ Alley Edwards, who considers it one of her favourite theatre songs of the 2010s.
‘For Forever’ – ‘Dear Evan Hansen’
We have been blessed with a stellar crop of musicals over the past decade. From the likes of ‘Heathers’ to ‘Hadestown’, ‘Fun Home’ to ‘Frozen’, ‘Matilda’ to ‘Moulin Rouge!’, there has been a musical for just about every person during the 2010s. One of the most beloved musicals is undoubtedly the Tony and Laurence Olivier-winning ‘Dear Evan Hansen’.
The musical follows the eponymous Evan Hansen, who inadvertently becomes entangled in a lie he cannot unravel. After their son Connor takes his own life, the Murphy family invite Evan into their home as they are under the assumption he was Connor’s best friend. This, as the audience is aware, is not the case. Although the musical does not condone Evan’s actions throughout, it does showcase some of the peace he provides the grieving family through his encounters with them.
In one of the musical’s most popular songs, ‘For Forever’, Evan recounts a fabricated story about an outing he and Connor took to an apple orchard. He explains that this is the day he broke his arm. Evan’s conviction throughout ‘For Forever’ is heart-wrenching. He knows he is lying to the Murphys, but he also is helping them process their loss of Connor.
The basis of the song may not be real, but it remains a beautiful song about platonic affection. It is a favourite of Theatre Haus’ Trent Sellars, who considers it a perfect love letter to friendship.
‘Stars and the Moon’ – ‘Songs For a New World’
A great Broadway song can come in many forms – ballads, group numbers, dance routines. One of the most powerful is the song that is able to whisk the audience away with a story and moral. ‘Stars and the Moon’ is such a song.
‘Songs For a New World’ is a bit of an abnormality on this list, as it is not technically a musical. Rather, the show is a series of thematically linked songs about life’s little epiphanies and cross-roads. It premiered off-Broadway in 1995 for less than a month. The show mostly kept to its smaller theatre roots, staging productions in Missouri, New York, and London in the decades that followed. It transferred to the West End in early 2021, where its intimate cast and setting made social distancing easier to establish.
In lieu of a linear narrative, ‘Songs For a New World’ instead focuses on presenting songs which share a thematic link to the notion of life decisions. The song ‘Stars and the Moon’ is a prime example of this, telling a self-contained story of a woman who wakes up one day to realise she has settled with a man for financial comfort rather than love and experience (as she was earlier offered by two penniless courters). The song’s beautiful upbeat tempo, helmed by a gorgeous collaboration between a guitar, piano, violin, and bongos, perfectly complements the “living for the moment” story.
‘Stars and the Moon’ offers listeners a touching story of reflection that they are encouraged to take on board. The message resonated with Ness, who suggested this to us, and we thank her to the stars and moon that she did.
‘Wait For It’ – ‘Hamilton’
We have come to the end of the list. While we are sad to be at the end, we are also glad that we no longer have to “wait for it”.
If you ask anyone which musical has made the biggest cultural impact over the past decade, chances are you’ll receive an almost unanimous answer – ‘Hamilton’. Lin Manuel Miranda’s historical rap musical swept the Tony and Laurence Olivier Awards, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and an Emmy Award for the recorded 2020 film. It has been hard to escape ‘Hamilton’ over the past few years, nor do we want to. The show remains a pinnacle of the modern era of musical theatre. It has made names for not only its cast and crew, but also the historical figures it depicts.
One such figure is the antihero Aaron Burr, expertly brought to life by the immensely talented Leslie Odom Jr. Burr has various moments to shine throughout, but arguably his star moment is when he performs ‘Wait For It’. Up until this point Burr has been a caricature of sorts, a would-be foil to Alexander Hamilton’s political ascension. ‘Wait For It’ changes this. The audience is given a glimpse into Burr’s thinking – he has waited patiently for his “shot” but is being seemingly superseded by Hamilton. Instead of acting out his aggression, however, Burr resigns himself to continue waiting, fully believing his time will come.
‘Wait For It’ is the perfect collaboration of writing, orchestration, performance, and theatricality. It is one highlight of the show (of many), which never fails to move the audience with its poignant resolve. It is a personal favourite of Alley’s for this very reason.
What are you waiting for? Don’t throw away your shot to listen to this beloved gem of a song!
What musical theatre songs have you been playing on repeat throughout 2021? Share your favourite songs in the comments below.