Song 1. “Aquarius”, ‘Hair’: Special Anniversary Edition (Remastered Original Cast Recording) first recorded in 1979 Composed by Galt MacDermot.
‘Hair’ debuted off-Broadway in 1967 and would open in other theatre’s across New York and then open on Broadway in 1968. There were productions that would be performed in the UK and across Europe to mix reviews. The Broadway cast album has sold 3 million to date and that does not include cast albums from other productions of the show around the world. Some of the songs off the album became top ten hits. ‘Hair’ is the story about the long haired hippy culture in the 1960’s.
Song 2. “Everything’s Alright” ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ (Remastered) 2012 performed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Yvonne Elliman & Ian Gillan.
The Original Studio Cast (1970). Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice.
In the production, Mary Magdalene sings this song to Jesus as she soothes and calms him with her singing which helps him sleep after a day of intense events… ’The story is loosely based on the Gospel’ accounts of the last week of Jesus’s life, beginning with the preparation for the arrival of Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem and ending with the crucifixion. It depicts political and interpersonal struggles between Judas Iscariot and Jesus that are not present in the Bible.’ The story is taken from the oldest books, depicted on stage and film and in 1980 had grossed $237 million worldwide, an old story but a good one.
Song 3. “Maybe This Time” ‘Cabaret’ (Original Soundtrack) performed by Liza Minnelli.
This song was originally written for American actress Kaye Ballard by the famous writing duo Kander and Ebb. Minnelli had auditions for the stage musical but failed to get the part. She had already recorded the song for her debut album in 1964. Minnelli won the role for the film version and “Maybe This Time” would be included in the 1972 film Cabaret with Liza Minnelli’s character Sally Bowles singing the song. It has become an anthem over the years, sung by many singers but this version seems to have held up the test of time with Minnelli’s desperate vocals, hoping this time its true love.
Song 4. “All That Jazz” ‘Chita Rivera & Chicago Ensemble’, ‘Chicago’:
A Musical Vaudeville (Original Broadway Cast Recording) 1996.
Composed by John Kander and Lyrics by Fred Ebb. “Set in Chicago in the jazz age, the musical is based on a 1926 play of the same name by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, about actual criminals and the crimes on which she reported. The story is a satire on corruption in the administration of criminal justice and the concept of the “celebrity criminal”.
In the 1975 production, Bob Fosse, the brilliant choreographer chose the best dancers, actresses and singers for the roles. His work was strong and sassy which became its brand for the show. Chita Rivera had all those qualities and was chosen for the role. She has had an extraordinary career on stage, working with some of the greats such as Judy Garland and Dike Van Dyke. She has performed in films – her most memorable role in West Side Story singing one of the highlight songs in the movie ‘America’ and in Sweet Charity, she performs in the ‘Big Spender’ song and dance routine. She is a true venture, especially in Musical Theatre. She had been nominated 10 times for featured Actress in a Musical or Best Actress and received four Tony Awards. In 2009 Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 2017 the Astaire Awards was re-named the Chita Rivera Award for Dance and Choreography.
Song 5. “Memory” Highlights from ‘Cats’ (1981 Original London Cast) Performed by Elaine Paige, Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lyrics by Trevor Nunn.
The show is based upon the poems by T.S. Eliot, ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ Written in 1939. The character ‘Grizabella’ is the one-time glamorous cat and a shadow of her former self who has hit hard times, performed here by Elaine Paige from the original West End production. “Memory” is the climax of the musical and by far its best-known song, having achieved mainstream success outside of the musical. According to musicologist Jessica Sternfeld, it is “by some estimations the most successful song ever from a musical.” In 1982 the song achieved an Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically. Cats has become one of the longest running shows in the West End with 8,949 performances and in total of a 21-year run and on Broadway for 18 years. A film adaptation of Cats released in 2019 will bring more fans to its long running success.
Song 6. “Circle of Life” Disney Characters, Faca Kulu, Lebo M & Tsidii Le Loka. ‘The Lion King’ (Original Broadway Cast Recording) Composed by Elton John & Tim Rice released in 1997.
The musical is based upon the Walt Disney animation released in 1994.
Over 100 million people worldwide have seen the musical and it has earned numerous awards and honors, including six Tony Awards, one for Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical, making director Julie Taymor the first woman to earn such an honor.
I would hate to give too much away about the stage production but the moment you first see the animals emerge is a moment of absolute wonder and magic.
Song 7. “The Music of the Night” performed by Michael Crawford, ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ (Original London Cast) Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Charles Hart released in 1997.
The 1986 West End musical is based upon a book by the same name written in 1910 by novelist Gaston Leoux. “Its central plot revolves around a beautiful soprano, Christine Daaé, who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius living in the subterranean labyrinth beneath the Paris Opéra House”.
Michael Crawford is well known in the UK as a comedian and is famous for creating the character ‘Frank Spencer’ from the sitcom ‘Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em’. With his performance on this song and his role in the musical proves that he is more than a funny man but a serious vocalist and actor who has received many accolades for his performance in Phantom, a Tony Award for the Best Actor in a Musical and the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a musical. A stunning performance here by Crawford.
Song 8 “Seasons of Love” taken from the musical ‘Rent’ (Original Broadway Cast Recording) performed by Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Jesse L. Martin, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Idina Menzel, Fredi Walker, Taye Diggs, Gwen Stewart & Byron Utley. Written and composed by Jonathan Larson.
“The song is performed by the entire cast in the musical and in the 2005 film of the same name. The lyrics ask what the proper way is to quantify the value of a year in human life, concluding in the chorus that the most effective means is to “measure in love”. Since four of the lead characters either have HIV or AIDS, the song is often associated with World AIDS Day and AIDS awareness month.”
The musical is written by Jonathan Larson and loosely based upon Giacomo Puccini’s 1896 opera La Bohéme. It tells the story of out of work struggling artists living in the East Village in Lower Manhattan, New York, being faced with losing friends to the HIV and AIDS. Despite the topic the musical is an uplifting celebration of life and love. Rent was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony award for Best Musical and has become the longest running show on Broadway.
Song 9. “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” ‘Dreamgirls’ (Original Broadway Cast Album – 1982) performed here by the phenomenal Jennifer Holliday. This torch song is written by Tom Even and Henry Kriegar.
“In the context of the musical, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” is sung by the character Effie White, a singer with the girl group The Dreams, to her manager, Curtis Taylor Jr., whose romantic and professional relationship with Effie is ending. She refuses to let Curtis leave her behind, and boldly proclaims to him, “I’m staying and you … you’re gonna love me.” Without a doubt you really understand Effie’s defiance for not leaving – it’s a powerful performance. Jennifer Holliday received a Grammy Award for her performance in the original Dreamgirls Broadway production in 1982 as well as a Tony Award in the same year.
The singer actress Jennifer Hudson would take on the role in the 2006 film adaptation of Dreamgirls and win an Oscar for her performance and would later perform the song at the BET Awards show with Jennifer Holliday and received a standing ovation. The YouTube video of the performance has been viewed 900,000 time as of 2011, which means by now it must have been viewed many more times over.
Song 10. “Tell Me It’s Not True” ‘Blood Brothers’ performed here by Michael Ball written and composed by Willy Russell
“The story is a contemporary nature versus nurture plot, revolving around fraternal twins Mickey and Eddie, who were separated at birth, one subsequently being raised in a wealthy family, the other in a poor family. The different environments take the twins to opposite ends of the social spectrum, one becoming a councillor, and the other unemployed and in prison. They both fall in love with the same girl, causing a rift in their friendship and leading to the tragic death of both brothers. Russell says that his work was based on a one-act play that he read as a child “about two babies switched at birth – it became the seed for Blood Brothers.”
Writer Willy Russell is responsible for some successful and enjoyable work for example, educating Rita, Shirley Valentine and The Beatles’ musical ‘John, Paul, George, Ringo … and Bert’. It premiered in Liverpool at the Everyman Theatre and transferred to the Lyric Theatre in the West End in 1974. Russell gained much success for his Blood Brothers Musical and received many awards including a Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical.
Song 11. “The Last Night of the World” performed by Lea Salonga & Simon Bowman. ‘Miss Saigon’ (Original London Cast Recording) written by Alain Boublil, Richard Maltby Jr. & Claude-Michel Schöneberg.
The musical is based upon the classic opera, Madame Butterfly created in 1904 by Giacome Puccini. It tells the story of an Asian woman who is abandoned by her American lover, set in 1970’s Saigon during the Vietnam War. The writers of this musical are also responsible for the hit musical ‘Les Misérables’. “As of July 2019, Miss Saigon remains Broadway’s thirteenth longest running show”. The set for the show is extraordinary, with lots of moving parts and sound effects that keep you excited in your seat. In the original production in 1989, actor Jonathan Pryce won a Laurence Olivier award for Best Actor in a Musical and in 1991 Lea Salonga won a Tony Award for Best Leading Actress. The show closed at the Theatre Royal, London after 4,092 performances in 1999. If it every comes to a theatre near you it’s worth an evening out to the theatre.
Song 12. “Bring Him Home” This heartfelt song is taken from the musical ‘Les Misérables’ – Original 1985 London Cast Recording. Sung here by Colm Wilkinson.
This stunning musical I adapted from the French Poet and Novelist Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel by the same name. With music by Claude-Michel Schönberg and English Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, direction by Robert Hossein and the English adaptation by the producer Cameron Mackintosh was a recipe for an extraordinary hit musical.
“Set in early 19th century France, Les Misérables is the story of Jean Valijean, a French peasant, and his desire for redemption after serving nineteen years in jail for having stolen a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving child. Valjean decides to break his parole and start his life anew after a bishop inspires him by a tremendous act of mercy, but he is relentlessly tracked down by a police inspector named Javert. Along the way, Valjean and a slew of characters are swept into a revolutionary period in France, where a group of young idealists attempt to overthrow the government at a street barricade in Paris”
This song is sung by the character Jean Valjean, it is a tender moment in this vibrant passionate musical. The reviews for the show were not always complimentary. At the opening of the London production, The Sunday Telegraph’s Francis King described the musical as “a lurid Victorian melodrama produced with Victorian lavishness”. The three-month engagement sold out, and reviews improved. The original London production ran from October 1985 to July 2019, playing over 13,000 performances and making it the second longest-running musical in the world” It’s fantastic that the show proved the critics wrong!
Song 13. “Wait for It” taken from the musical ‘Hamilton’ performed by Leslie Odom, Jr. & Original Broadway Cast recording written by the talented Lin-Manuel Miranda.
The cast album spent 10 weeks top of the Billboard rap album charts in 2015.
“Miranda said he was inspired to write the musical after reading the 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Cheron. The show draws heavily from hip-hop, as well as R&B, pop, soul, and traditional style show tunes, and casts non-white actors as the Founding Fathers and other historical figures. Miranda described Hamilton as about “America then, as told by America now”.
Alexander Hamilton was instrumental in promoting the U.S. Constitution and responsible for the financial system, Hamilton became the first Secretary of the Treasury. Lin-Manuels Miranda’s musical highlights Hamilton’s life and career, from an orphaned immigrant from Nevis in the Caribbean to rising up the ladder in the United States.
The stage show has received numerous awards across the board with 11 Tony Awards.
Song 14. “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” performed here by Michael McGrath, Todd Ellison, Tim Curry & Ensemble. ‘Spamalot’ (Original Broadway Cast) 2005. Composed by Eric Idle.
The song was originally featured in the 1979 film Monty Python’s Life of Brian and Idle performed the song at the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony which I am sure the whole stadium sang along to it. The musical has received three Tony Awards with many nominations. In the initial run of the show in 2005 with a total of 1,575 performances which equated to an audience of two million people, that’s a lot of happy theatre goers.
Before the show begins you hear Eric Idle giving warning from the auditorium speakers to turn off your mobile phones but if it should ring “be aware there are heavily armed knights on stage that may drag you on stage and impale you.” Be warned.