You requested it, here it is! Some shows fall into multiple categories based on their style, and many things in the contemporary and pop/rock sections could easily be moved around between sections. In addition, many modern musicals have aspects of both legit singing and belting, in which case I’ve tried to categorize them based on their overall feel. If you see that I’ve missed a show and want it included, shoot me a message and I’ll get it added!
Note: If you think something is miscategorized, just send me a message! No big deal! I certainly haven’t seen all of these shows, so I had to make assumptions based off of what I knew. I don’t mind corrections at all, and will thank you for respectfully pointing out my mistake! That being said, I kindly ask that you don’t passive aggressively tag this complaining about how a show is is in the wrong section. I am so happy to change any mistakes, but being rude about it really serves no purpose. :)
A letter from George Gershwin to his mother.
“A funny thing happened yesterday which made me feel very joyful and in the moment very happy I came here. The boat was in the dock at Southampton, and everyone was in line with their passports and landing cards. When I handed my passport to one of the men at a Table he read it, looked up and said, "George Gershwin, writer of Swanee?” It took me off my feet for a second. It was so unexpected, you know. Of course I agreed I was the composer and then he asked what I was writing now, etc. etc. I couldn’t ask for a more pleasant entry into a country. When I reached the shore a woman reporter came up to me and asked for a few words. I felt like I was kind of somebody.“
An American In Paris opens officially tonight at the Palace Theatre!
The new musical, with music and lyrics by George & Ira Gershwin and book by Craig Lucas is directed and choreographed by Chirstopher Wheeldon. The cast includes Robert Fairchild, Jill Paice, Leanne Cope, Veanne Cox, Brandon Uranowitz & Max von Essen.
It’s about time for a revisit to this song. Just as popular in Rapture as it was in the surface, this song can be heard from Neptune’s Bounty to Fort Frolic to Hephaestus and all the way to Siren Alley.
However, this is the original record from 1937 that sent customers and record store clerks scrambling for copies of that French hit “My Mere Bits of Shame”, “Buy a Beer, Monsieur Shane”, “Mr. Barney McShane”, or “My Dear Mr. Shane”. Title-mangling aside, the song has a uniquely cosmopolitan feel as a Yiddish tune with a Germanized title along with Italian and German lyrics.
After several false starts, the Andrews Sisters were still struggling to find a hit record. Then on a cold January morning, they were awoken by their father in their Manhattan apartment who hurried them to a record shop on 45th and Broadway. Traffic had come to a stop and people were crowded around a speaker playing a new song. Soon the sisters would be launched from vaudeville obscurity to stardom.
The records sold at least a quarter million copies by the end of January. The song was so popular for the fledgling Decca label that it was reissued at least three times for the next ten years.
The Andrews Sisters (left to right: Patty, LaVerne, Maxene) with Sholom Secunda, the composer of “Bay mir bistu sheyn“
After having moderate success singing for the hotel circuit with their arranger, pianist, and trumpeter Vic Schoen, The Andrews Sisters were nearly ready to pack up and head home to Minnesota. Their Greek parents wanted them home in Minneapolis and attend secretarial school.
Stories vary widely, but Dave Kapp somehow managed to hear the Andrews Sisters on one of their last broadcasts with the hotel orchestra. His brother, Jack Kapp was president of Decca Records and was searching for a replacement for the Boswell Sisters who retired in 1935. They were Andrews Sisters early idols, so much that they tried to sing with the Boswells’ Southern accents.
The Andrews Sisters’ first record for Decca was “Why Talk About Love?” and “Just a Simple Melody” with Vic Schoen as their arranger. They were awarded a flat fee of $50 instead of royalties. They pioneered their close harmonies and swing vocal techniques that would prove to be their success in later years. However, the record didn’t sell well.
Although they were worried that Decca would drop them, Jack Kapp invited the Andrews Sisters back for a second recording session on November 24, 1937.
The A-side was meant to cash in on the hit George and Ira Gershwin song “Nice Work If You Can Get It” sung by Fred Astaire in A Damsel in Distress.
The B-Side was meant to be filler with an obscure song composed by Sholom Secunda with lyrics by Jacob Jacobs for a 1932 Yiddish musical I Would If I Could. The original Yiddish title “Bei Mir Bistu Shein” translates to “To Me You’re Beautiful”.
However, Sammy Cahn and Saul Chaplin discovered the song in 1937 and re-orchestrated it for a swing tempo while translating it into English. The Yiddish title was retained as “Bei Mir Bistu Shein” but was also Germanized as “Bei Mir Bist Du Schön”.
Stories again vary on who gave the song to the Andrews Sisters. Lyricist Sammy Cahn said that he found the sheet music and showed it to Lou Levy, manager of the Andrews Sisters and his roommate. Patty Andrews said that she found the sheet music that Cahn was translating in his apartment, thought it was a Greek song, and asked him to play a sample. Vic Schoen said that he found the sheet music in the shop of a lobby of a Yiddish theater in 2nd Ave and passed it to Levy who gave it to Cahn and Chaplin. Lou Levy said that he bought the sheet music for 15 cents and gave it to the sisters.
Maxene Andrews had a more inclusive story saying that Lou Levy had offered his apartment, whom he shared with Sammy Cahn, for the sisters to rehearse. Levy came in suggesting this song and warbled a few bars in Yiddish. Vic Schoen plucked out a quick head arrangement on the piano which the sisters liked. In lieu of English lyrics, later supplied by Cahn, Levy taught the song in Yiddish phonetically.
However the song got the the Andrews Sisters, Vic Schoen arranged it with then-unknown studio musicians, many who would go on to have famous careers: Bobby Hackett on trumpet, Al Philburn on trombone, Don Watt on clarinet, Frank Froeba on piano, Dave Barbour on guitar, and Stan King on drums.
The sisters had to borrow $25 from a friend to buy Christmas presents for their parents. The record hit the streets in December 1937 and the rest is history.
01. That’s How I Say Goodbye - Sweet Smell of Success (Marvin Hamlisch) // 02. The Falling in Love With You Part - The Breithaupt Brothers // 03. Make Someone Happy - Jule Styne, Betty Comden & Adolph Green // 04. You’re Always Here - Barnes & Noble 2011 // 05. My Heart Belongs to Daddy - Cole Porter // 06. Not a Love Story - Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk // 07. Someone to Watch Over Me - George and Ira Gershwin // 08. There Once Was a Woman - The Pajama Game (Madlibs) // 09. They Don’t Let You in the Opera (If You’re a Country Star) - Barnes & Noble 2011 // 10. I’m In Love With a Wonderful Guy - South Pacific (Rodgers and Hammerstein) // 11. Just You Wait - My Fair Lady (Lerner and Loewe) // 12. The Beauty Is - The Light in the Piazza (Adam Guettel) // 13. Love Medley - Kelli O'Hara // 14. To Build a Home (A Cappella) - The Bridges of Madison County (Jason Robert Brown)
Writer Ben Yagoda has set out to explain a shift in American popular culture. Before the early 1950s, songwriters like Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin and Jerome Kern wrote popular songs that achieved a notable artistry, both in lyrics and music. That body of work, at least the best of it, came to be known as the American Songbook.
But by the early 1950s the popular hit song had evolved into a work of less artistic ambition. Novelty and simplicity ruled — and sold. What happened? That’s the question that Yagoda addresses in his new book, The B-Side: The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song. He tells NPR’s Robert Siegel that there was a change in popular taste after World War II:
“The soldiers who had come back from World War II didn’t seem to be as interested in the more complex, challenging kind of popular song, the more jazz-based song. Sentimental ballads and, yes, novelty numbers, suddenly was much more appealing.”
Image: Frank Sinatra captured by photographer William “PoPsie” Randolph during a 1943 concert. Author Ben Yagoda points to Sinatra as one of the interpreters who helped revive the Great American Songbook. (William “PoPsie” Randolph/Courtesy of Riverhead)
“Like the rest of us, he was fond of the songs that had been popular when he was young, dating girls, and dancing. Sitting on the Truman balcony during summer evenings, he would slip old 78s from the 1930s and 1940s onto his stereo. His favorite thing was to drift off to sleep, listening to the songs he loved most…”
Imagine Bucky waking up one morning and remembering that he knew how to play the piano, and having Steve happily watching him from the doorway.
Steve rubbed his eyes as he slowly woke up, he looked over at his alarm clock and it said 6:45am. Something felt off to Steve, he didn’t know what, he looked over and saw the empty spot in bed, where Bucky would be sleeping with him.
Steve gets worried when Bucky’s not in bed with him, he once found Bucky outside, at three in the morning, only in his boxers one time, mumbling in Russian. It took him an hour to get Bucky back inside their apartment and another hour to get him back to sleep.
Steve yelled “Bucky!” as he opened his bedroom door, almost yanking the door off in the process.
He heard music coming from the living room, Steve made his way to the living room. He walked over only to see Bucky sitting at the piano in only his boxer shorts playing on the piano.
Steve relaxed and leaned against the doorway smiling.
Steve couldn’t help but smile, he remembered going over to Bucky’s house every day that summer since Bucky loved playing that song pretty much everyday. Bucky knew how to play piano when he was only six, it was the summer his sister Rebecca was born. He would play piano to her to help her fall asleep every night.
They had to sell the piano only a year later due to his father dying and his family falling on hard times. Bucky stopped playing the piano from that point on.
Bucky’s mother smiled, “Someday you will get a sweet girl playing that song James.”
“Ma! Stop, girls are icky.” Six year old Bucky said as he continued to play piano.
“What about Rebecca, you play it for her?” His mother asked smiling and holding Rebecca in her arms.
“She doesn’t count, she’s my sister.” Bucky smiled at his mom and baby sister.
Steve came back from his flashback to watch Bucky continue to play the piano, it was They Can’t Take That Away From Me by Ira and George Gershwin, He still remembers the song. But he didn’t want to start singing since Bucky was really into playing it on the piano.
When Bucky finished playing, he just sat there staring at the piano keys.
After sometime, maybe about five minutes, he finally looked over at Steve, “I remembered that song this morning Stevie. I don’t know how I knew, it just came to me.”
Steve smiled, “That’s because ma, taught you, when you were little. You would play it the whole summer of ’37, you played it for your little sister Rebecca. I would come over everyday and try and sing along, but I wasn’t able to.”
Bucky looked back at the piano keys, “I remember really small things from that summer, like ice cream, the smell of the summer air, cool water, warm summer days.”
He slumped over the piano and started to cry, Steve rushed to comfort him, “Hey it’s ok Buck. What’s important is that you remembered something from when we were kids.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Bucky sighed and looked at Steve with a soft smile, “Do you think you can sing along this time?”
Steve smiled, “I’m sure I can, let me just print out the lyrics and see.”
Bucky smiled and reached over and put his right hand on Steve’s cheek, “Thank you Stevie.”
Bucky kissed Steve softly, and leaned their forehead against each other and closed their eyes for a minute just taking everything in for that brief moment.