Processional & Maria (The Wedding) Audra McDonald, Jessica Molaskey, Elena Shaddow & Christiane Noll

The Sound of Music (Music from the NBC Television Event)

Here’s another song from “The Sound Of Music Live”. I know many people hated it because; well, basically, because these days, people find it easier to hate than to praise. I enjoyed it because not only it was a live event and faithful to its original 1959 theatrical format, but also because of the influence it may have had on children watching it. While I watched the musical, I thought of the number of youngsters whose lives changed that night. I thought of the number of kids and teens who fell under the spell of musical theatre. I can only imagine the number of boys and girls who were moved to sign up for the next school musical, singing or dancing lessons. I can’t help but wonder how many people, a few years from now, will cite viewing this TV show as the source of inspiration for them to pursue a career in theatre.

Processional & Maria is perhaps one of the most beautiful marches composed for musical theatre. I could have picked the version from the film, equally beautiful, but I chose this one for its choral arrangement performed by the nuns, led by the amazing Audra McDonald, a musical theatre living legend.

Song Title: Processional & Maria (The Wedding) – 1959   Artist: Audra McDonald, Jessica Molaskey, Elena Shaddow & Christiane Noll   Genre: Musical   Composer: Richard Rodgers   Lyricist: Oscar Hammerstein   Album: The Sound of Music (Music from the NBC Television Event)

Favourite Lyrics: How do you solve a problem like Maria? / How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?

Runners Up: Do-Re-Mi • Something Good • Edelweiss (The Concert) • End Credits


Everybody DanceGregory Harrison, Rosa Curry, Mary Illes, Sarah Solie Shannon Top 10 Contender

Steel Pier (Original Broadway Cast, 1997)

“Life’s a party, why don’t you come to the Steel Pier? … Steel Pier … Steel Pier” These lyrics establish the atmosphere for this 1997 Kander and Ebb musical.

Set against the world of dance marathons in the 1930s, “Steel Pier” tells the story of Rita Racine and her dancing partner Bill Kelly. Two souls in search of a new chance in life, even if it is the last one.

Everybody Dance introduces us to each one of the characters that for the next three weeks will be dancing non-stop, for the chance to win 2000 dollars. There’s ‘Sizzling’ Shelby Stevens, ‘Olympic Champion’ Johnny Adel, ‘Brother and Sister Sensation’ Bette and Buddy Becker, and newlyweds Happy and Precious McGuire, among others. Their lives intertwine on the dance floor and change forever, at least for a few of them.

“Steel Pier” opened around the same time another Kander and Ebb show was taking Broadway by storm, the 1996 revival of “Chicago”. However, the show wasn’t very successful and closed after only three months. I never had the chance to see it. I only discovered the score after the show had closed.

For a while, this show, this song, in particular, became a route of escape, a way out from life daily-worries. “Life’s a party, why don’t you come to the Steel Pier?” remember those first lyrics? I would go on listening to the CD for hours, and just let my safe travel back in time to the “Steel Pier” in 1933. Although at the time, I knew what I was trying to escape from, it would take a few more years to realise why I chose this show to escape, in particular, and not another show. Its themes, breaking free from life’s non-stop marathon and giving yourself a second chance, have influenced many of the decisions I made in the last 15 years.

The impact of “Steel Pier” in my first 50 years will become more evident as I include more songs from this show.

Song Title: Everybody Dance – 1997   Artist: Gregory Harrison, Rosa Curry, Mary Illes, Sarah Solie Shannon   Genre: Musical   Composer: John Kander   Lyricist: Fred Ebb   Album: Steel Pier (Original Broadway Cast, 1997)

Favourite Lyrics: Dance, mister / Dance, sister! Come on everybody, dance!

Runners Up: The Man That Got Away • Born In A Trunk • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas • The Boy Next Door • The Trolley Song • Meet Me In St. Louis • On The Atchison, Topeka And The Santa Fe • Overture • Limehouse Blues • Someone To Watch Over Me • Dear Little Boy (Dear Little Girl) • Do, Do, Do • My ShipThe Saga Of Jenny • Star! (Extended Single Version) • Varsity Drag Variations •Overture • Prelude


Second ChanceKaren Ziemba, Daniel McDonald Top 10 Contender

Steel Pier (Original Broadway Cast, 1997)

We haven’t left the “Steel Pier” just yet.

When Rita’s dancing partner doesn’t show up, and with only a few minutes to the start of the marathon, she agrees to dance with Bill, a pilot with a three-week leave, who she just met an hour ago at the beach. Bill doesn’t have a single dancing bone in his body, but Rita is determined to win the dance marathon, so she gives him a quick dancing lesson.

As the lesson progresses, Rita discovers they have both crossed paths once before. Just a couple of days ago they both attended the Trenton Air Show. Rita performed on a stage while Bill executed a daredevil act on his plane. However, things didn’t end up well that day for Bill, his plane crashed. Rita is glad to see he walked out unharmed. Bill says life is giving him a second chance. As they both dance he sings of the joys of getting a second chance.

Second Chance is considered by many (okay, maybe only me) the most hopeful and poetic song written by Kander and Ebb. On one hand, there is the element of surprise, the joyful realisation that ‘you can get right up and you start all over again’. On the other hand, there’s the discovery that people are willing to help you to get a new lease on life. “You never know who’s waiting for you,” Rita tells Bill. “Or how they’ll change your life.” He replies.

A seemingly random event may prompt you to appraise the life you have lived so far and how your actions and decisions have stuck you in a place where you’ll need to break free from. To quote another song already on the list: “pick yourself up and start all over again.”

It is only after almost 20 years of listening to this song that I have seen how much it has fed my spirit at times. Writing this blog, in a way, is the result of believing that not only we all deserve second chances, but that we are the ones who need to make them happen. If someone lends us a hand, then good, we’re thankful for that. However, ultimately it is on us to give us a second, third, fourth, hell, as many chances as we want to have.

As I said before, “Steel Pier” is an album that has had an enormous influence on a few of the decisions I’ve made in the last 15 years, particularly those related to my career. There will definitely be more songs from this show on the list.

Song Title: Second Chance – 1997   Artist: Karen Ziemba, Daniel McDonald   Genre: Musical   Composer: John Kander   Lyricist: Fred Ebb   Album: Steel Pier (Original Broadway Cast, 1997)

Favourite Lyrics: Once you’re down / You’re down, they say / Once you’re out, / You’re out to stay / No one tells you / You can get right up / And you can start all over / With a second chance

Runners Up: Everybody’s Girl • Lovebird • The Sprints • Entr’acte • Steel Pier • Steel Pier (Reprise) • Final Dance


Strike Up the Band Brent Barrett

Strike Up The Band (1990 Studio Cast)

It is hard to believe that such patriotic American march by the Gershwin brothers saw its genesis as a satire.

The 1927 musical of the same name tells the story of Horace J. Fletcher, a cheese tycoon who convinces the American Government to declare war on Switzerland. Why? You ask? So he can maintain the cheese monopoly in America. The musical satirises America’s proclivity to go to war.

Although the musical was not successful, this song became quite popular, in particular, its instrumental version.

This version comes from a 1990 Studio Cast recording. I love the tap section of the song. Mostly like Coney Island (See Wednesday 2 July 2014), as an editor, this song often helps me visualise cuts in my mind. Its syncopated rhythm allows me to see things at a different pace.

Song Title: Strike Up the Band – 1927 Artist: Brent Barrett   Genre: Musical   Composer: George Gershwim   Lyricist: Ira Gershwin   Album: Strike Up The Band (1990 Studio Cast)

Favourite Lyrics: There is work to be done, to be done / There’s a war to be won, to be won / Come on you son of a son, of a gun / Take your stand

Runners Up: King Kong March • The Varsity Drag • Finale Ultimo • Interlude: Strike Up the Band


SoonBrent Barrett, Rebecca Luker

Strike Up the Band 1930 (2011 Studio Cast Recording)

Here’s another song from “Strike Up The Band”, however, it comes from the 1930 version of the musical. This time around, the war against Switzerland wasn’t over cheese, but over chocolate. This album was recorded in 1990, simultaneously with the 1927 version of the show, but it wasn’t released until 2011.

I just find this song, Soon, sublime. I’m not sure if it is because of the arrangement, but whenever I hear Brent Barrett and Rebecca Luker professing love and commitment to each other, I just believe them. Although I’m not into Opera (I just don’t get it, I’m not sophisticated enough) I like their operatic voices.

Song Title: Soon – 1930   Artist: Brent Barrett, Rebecca Luker   Genre: Musical   Composer: George Gershwim   Lyricist: Ira Gershwin   Album: Strike Up the Band 1930 (2011 Studio Cast Recording)

Favourite Lyrics: Soon, the lonely nights will be ended / Soon, two hearts as one will be blended / I’ve found the happiness I’ve waited for / The only girl that I was fated for.

Runners Up: Finale (Strike Up the Band / Do the la Conga / Our Love Affair / Drummer Boy) • Hangin’ Around With You • So Many People • Everbody Loves Louis • Sunday • Chromolume #7 / Putting It TogetherSunday • Let’s Have Lunch • With One Look


As If We Never Said Goodbye Patti Lupone

Sunset Boulevard (Original London Rrecording) 2

I’m the first one surprised with the inclusion of an Andrew Lloyd Webber song on the list. I’ve seen many of his shows, but I’ve never really liked them. There’s nothing wrong with his shows, I’m just not a big fan of sing-through musicals. I prefer the traditional American approach to musicals. However, of all Lloyd Webber shows, “Sunset Boulevard” is the one that I’ve enjoyed the most. It is a good solid show, but then again, it is based on one of the best films of the 20th century.

“Sunset Boulevard” tells the story of Norma Desmond, an old silent film star trying to stage a comeback a return to films. With the help of her younger lover, Joe (yes, Norma was the original cougar) she writes a script for Cecil B. DeMille to direct. When Norma comes to visit him at the studio to talk about the script, she’s overwhelmed with emotion. She feels she’s back home. Although it is not the triumphal return she had hoped for, it is very touching to see this reclusive character trying to reconnect with a world that, although it hasn’t forgotten her, it doesn’t have a place for her in it anymore.

This version comes from the original 1993 West End production starring Patti Lupone. Although I believe the L.A. recording was better received, I’ve always preferred the London recording. Patti Lupone’s interpretation is kinder to Norma Desmond, she doesn’t play it as loony as Glen Close does. Besides, Lupone is in an entirely different league in the pipes department. Give me La Lupone anytime!

I saw the Broadway production in 1995, with Betty Buckley as Norma Desmond. The build up to the scene is so sublime. Norma, Joe, and Max, her driver, go to Stage 18 on the Paramount lot. Norma sits in the dark while waiting for DeMille. An old lighting tech recognises her and aims a spotlight at her. The crew recognises her and gathers around to greet her. Norma is overwhelmed by emotion, she’s come home at last! It was quite a theatrical moment, very effective.

Song Title: As If We Never Said Goodbye – 1993   Artist:  Patti Lupone   Genre: Musical   Composer: Andrew Lloyd Weber   Lyricist: Don Black, Christopher Hampton   Album: Sunset Boulevard (Original London Recording)

Favourite Lyrics: The whispered conversations in overcrowded hallways / The atmosphere as thrilling here as always / Feel the early morning madness / Feel the magic in the making / Why, everything’s as if we never said goodbye.

Runners Up: This Time Next Year • The Greatest Star of All (reprise) • A Truckload of Trouble • Super 8 Suite


La Candela / Bemba Colora / Quimbara / Yerbero Moderno Angela Carrasco, Celia Cruz

Sus Mas Grandes Exitos

I believe this is the first Celia Cruz’s song to make it to the list. It is a very explosive duet with Angela Carrasco, a popular singer from the Dominican Republic.

To be honest, I’ve never been a big Celia Cruz fan, but this song’s rhythm is quite contagious; I shake my body every time I hear. Enjoy!

Song Title: La Candela / Bemba Colora / Quimbara / Yerbero Moderno – 1986   Artist: Angela Carrasco, Celia Cruz   Genre: Latin   Composers: Bonny Cepeda / Espinoza Aragón / Héctor Horacio Santos / Rosa Giron / Santiago   Lyricists: Bonny Cepeda / Espinoza Aragón / Héctor Horacio Santos / Rosa Giron / Santiago   Album: Sus Mas Grandes Exitos – Angela Carrasco

Favourite Lyrics: Tu candela, / tu candela y mi candela / es la candela. / Dame de la buena pa’ gozar / y así todo irá mejor. / Tu candela es la que me hace / siempre perder el control.

Your flame, / your flame and my flame / it’s the flame. / Give me the best one to enjoy / and everything will be better / Your flame is the one / that always makes me lose control.

Runners Up: Charity’s Soliloquy • Rich Man’s Frug • If My Friends Could See Me Now • There’s Gotta Be Something Better than This • I’m the Bravest Individual • Sweet Charity • I’m a Brass Band