In Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, Ko-Ko sings: “I’ve got a little list/Of association offenders/Who ability able-bodied be underground/And never would be missed.” He gain to itemise some of those who he would appropriately celerity in his official role as Grand High Executioner.
But, as a agreeable theatre aficionado and critic, I’ve got my own little account of songs from the all-inclusive archive of those accounting accurately for musicals that I would absence a lot were they to be dispatched.
Settling on aloof 50 was the aboriginal and better task: I could accept calmly abounding it several times over. In fact, I could accept abounding it with aloof a scattering of composers, led by Stephen Sondheim, who has added or beneath singlehandedly redefined the accepted agreeable and its possibilities in the accomplished 60 or so years, from West Side Story (with which he fabricated his Broadway admission as a artist in 1957) onwards. Jeremy Sams, the director, adaptor and agreeable director, already told me: “Sondheim is as big to musicals as Wagner is to opera, and the history of the agreeable will never be the aforementioned afresh until he is accounting out of it, and that will booty a century.”
Mark Shenton’s top 50 agreeable theatre songs: 50 to 41
Musical theatre’s actualization as a audible anatomy in its own appropriate – as against to the European operetta attitude that the G&S I quoted comes from – is almost a aeon old itself. But it has already had an abundantly affluent cultural history, and for a time during its aureate age, in the 1920s to the aboriginal 1960s, helped accommodate the soundtrack of the nation, forth with songs fatigued from Hollywood films. Later, it was overtaken by pop and bedrock on the airwaves and in the charts.
But agreeable theatre did not stop, and still hasn’t: with shows such as Hamilton, it has afresh become a axial allotment of the cultural conversation. And the advancing animation of the anatomy is accepted by the actuality that, of the 50 songs in my list, beneath than bisected (23) are pre-1970s.
Mark Shenton’s top 50 agreeable theatre songs: 40 to 31
At the aforementioned time, there are assertive tentpoles: Sondheim has the accomplished cardinal of songs by a distinct artisan (nine), followed by Richard Rodgers (four songs), Leonard Bernstein and Andrew Lloyd Webber (three each), Cole Porter, Cy Coleman, Jerry Bock, John Kander and Stephen Schwartz (two each). The account additionally appearance giants such as Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Frank Loesser, Frederick Loewe and Jerry Herman.
Each of these, frankly, could accept had at atomic 20 songs on a account (the absolute account of Loesser’s Guys and Dolls, calmly my favourite agreeable of all time, ability qualify). But I set myself assertive limitations, circumscribed myself to one song from anniversary show.
Mark Shenton’s top 50 agreeable theatre songs: 30 to 21
Inevitably, this is a abstract list, not atomic my cardinal one best – a song from a 1972 Broadway agreeable Pippin that speaks actual alone to me, actuality a song about aggravating to acquisition one’s own faculty of accord and afterlife in a appearance about against depression. From this century, I’ve called two added numbers that abode me personally: from Groundhog Day and the Broadway appearance Next to Normal. Likewise, they accommodate affective acquaint in arrest depression, so I’ve additionally included them.
Tim Minchin’s Groundhog Day originated in the West End, as did his Matilda, from which I’ve called addition song. But added than three songs from Lloyd Webber, the West End is far added frugally represented than Broadway: there’s a song from Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers, Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Appearance and one from Boublil and Schonberg’s Paris-originated Les Miserables.
This suggests that, for all that the British agreeable came to boss Broadway in the 1980s, the epicentre of agreeable theatre has remained New York. This is borne out by a flood of imports demography over West End stages in the advancing months, with Come from Away, Waitress, On Your Feet, 9 to 5 and Dear Evan Hansen amid those aing juggernauts Hamilton and The Book of Mormon.
Mark Shenton’s top 50 agreeable theatre songs: 20 to 11
There are accordingly affluence of omissions. It pains me, in particular, that I was clumsy to accommodate annihilation by Howard Goodall, my top British composer: admitting none of his abundant repertoire has yet denticulate a abiding bartering success, The Hired Man is my favourite British agreeable of all. I’m additionally apologetic that there’s annihilation by Maury Yeston, Andrew Lippa, Pasek and Paul, Michael John LaChiusa or Jeanine Tesori from currently alive Broadway writers, all of whose assignment I abundantly adore and respect.
It’s a decidedly arresting actuality that there’s not a distinct song accounting for Broadway by a changeable artisan (though changeable lyricists do arise on the list), which partly reflects the absence of their appearances there. Besides Tesori, I would additionally accept admired to accept included Lucy Simon‘s The Secret Garden. But the basin of writers I had to draw on charcoal acutely limited.
And it’s appropriately arresting that, with the distinct barring of Lin-Manuel Miranda, there are no added writers of colour on the list, either. I achievement that in the advancing years and decades we will see the actualization of a added assorted ambit of composers. There is a lot of communicable up to do.
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