The songs that make up a musical are signposts for a story.
Musicals begin with an iconic opening number to kick off the show, they’re the ones that grab your attention as you bop your head to fit in the gap between the people sat in front of you, before leading on to introduce our protagonist as they lay out the objectives of their story. We then delve into our unlucky-in-love song, either deeply sensitive or highly comical, before everything changes with a fourth number that shows our characters developing and adjusting to their inner truth. This is the ‘Popular’ moment. Here, we start to really get into the plot. The music quickens to match the pace as we build up into the big soppy duet. Though, we all know that a villain cannot stand the stench of happiness and take the stage to shut down the gush-fest. Cue an emotional crisis as things start to turn upside down and before we know it, act one is over.
One anxious wait in a seemingly long queue for the toilets later, act two starts with a showstopper to make sure you’re all belted in for the next 50 minutes. During the interval our characters have found their motivation and inspiration and sing a ballad to declare it. Then another, faster version to showcase their self confidence. We all love a hero. As we approach the happy ending, it’s time for another big number as our leads reconcile and find a solution before the grand finale.
If you are like me and fancy living life like you’re in a musical, and let’s face it who wouldn’t watch a show about an office worker who boils too much pasta of an evening and regularly trips up pavements, see my playlist of tracks to soundtrack your every day. Leave your suggestions below!
For an affectionate moment
The Colour Purple - 'Too Beautiful For Words'
Jennifer Hudson’s gorgeously rich vocal sings like a lullaby with the power to move you to tears whilst polishing your armour at the same time.
For following a dream
Hamilton - 'My Shot'
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s legendary musical combines political passion and quick wit and 'My Shot' plants the famous words of Alexander Hamilton as he vows; “I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy and hungry and I’m not throwing away my shot.” The famous, almost last, words follow the theme of the musical right to the end.
For when you’re feeling a little bit lost
Waitress - 'She Used To Be Mine’
Whether it’s the Jessie Mueller, Katharine McPhee, Lucie Jones or Sara Bareilles version, it’s stunning. The four women we have publicly heard perform have conveyed the intimacy of the lost love ballad; “She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie.” Describing the universally uniting feeling of not being good enough after looking back at your childhood dreams has made it an unforgettable 11 o’clock number to be adored for years to come.
For a drunken dance
Come From Away - ‘Screech In’
The soundtrack to the initiation of becoming an Islander celebrates the culture of Newfoundland, which includes taking a shot of screech and then kissing a fish whilst in a bar. With music as catchy as this, I’m in.
For being a little bit naughty
Sister Act - ‘Do The Sacred Mass’
A world away from the simple life of nuns, our beloved Deloris does all she can to spice it up. Having been followed and located to a bar by her fellow sisters, she attempts to convince them that she’s out to save the lost souls.
For facing the world -
Billy Elliot - ‘Electricity’
With a composer like Elton John behind it, it’s no wonder that ‘Electricity' remains a song close to the heart. Sang with the innocence of a child, the desperation to achieve a dream and a Northern accent, Billy tells how it feels to dance. Once the music takes hold, the song catapults into a frenzy to cater for his freeing dance number.
For when you can’t find the words in an argument -
RENT - ‘Take Me Or Leave Me’
The duet between Maureen and Joanne is a slinky number to showcase the shining but clashing personalities of two incredible women. Locking horns over almost everything in their relationship, the two celebrate their own quirks in a passion fuelled number.
For waking up in the morning -
Hairspray - ‘Good Morning Baltimore’
If this tune doesn’t put a spring in your step, there’s no way that you’re a musical theatre fan. The feel-good opening number from the 1960s set musical is as big as the hair-dos and filled with positivity and a hook so sweet it’ll give you a cavity.
For exercising -
Legally Blonde - ‘Whipped Into Shape’
Nothing can motivate you as much as the duo of Brooke Wyndham and Elle Woods. The bubblegum sweet sister of Cell Block Tango, tells the story of our favourite law student’s most fabulous case.
For getting ready to go out-out
Kinky Boots - ‘The Sex Is In The Heel’
Written by Cyndi Lauper, the seductive socko number has sass, soul and shimmers in every direction.
For teenage angst -
School Of Rock - ‘Stick It To The Man’
Lloyd Webber’s version of School Of Rock has us all pretty pissed at ‘The Man’, a personification of everything going wrong in the world. There’s no way you can stop the School of Rock with this punchy, grungy number that shreds the guitar, hits the drums and growls in a temper tantrum.
For a tongue twister party trick -
Company - ‘Getting Married Today’
Every musical theatre fan has their staple piece. If this particular piece is yours, and miraculously you can sing opera and make your way through the tongue twisters that come with cold feet on your wedding day, then bravo.
For first love -
Dear Evan Hansen - ‘For Forever’
Delicate, tender and blissfully naive, this track has all the heart of theatre. Talking about hopes and dreams for the future; from the adventures they’ll have to the secret conversations that they’ll share, this tale of friendship is unforgettable as we learn more about our own life and how we choose to live it.
For empowerment -
Wicked - ‘Defying Gravity’
You never forget the first time you see this song performed. It is the most stunning soundtrack to the end of an act. Mixing the anger, frustrated and upset of being misled and judged for all of her life, Elphaba breaks free from constraints to live limitless. Made famous by Idina Menzel’s glass shattering high notes, the simple through line is one that makes it one of the most cinematic theatre track of all time.