ASK PLAYBILL.COM: Has the Same Song Ever Been Sung at the Same Time in Two Different Broadway Shows?

News   ASK PLAYBILL.COM: Has the Same Song Ever Been Sung at the Same Time in Two Different Broadway Shows? A question asking whether it's ever been possible to hear two different renditions of the same song on Broadway in the same season.

Promises, Promises star Kristin Chenoweth
Promises, Promises star Kristin Chenoweth Photo by Joan Marcus

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Question: I saw some promo reels for Priscilla Queen of the Desert and noted that "Say a Little Prayer" is sung in it. While it just closed, I know the same song was also part of the recent Promises, Promsies revival.  Can you think of a time when the same song was sung in two different musicals that were playing concurrently? — Dave Adams, New York, NY

Getting double your pleasure from the same song is not as unusual an occurrence on Broadway as you might think. As the rights holders to musicals are not in the habit of allowing two productions of the same title to run as the same time, this phenomenon typically happens when a book musical and a revue share the same season. It's more a modern circumstance, as the revues in the early days of Broadway generally boasted original material written specifically for the production (those were the days!), whereas today's revues (usually dedicated to the work of one composer or composing team) are cobbled together using songs from the past. 

A high-profile instance of the two-fer experience came when the dance revue Fosse played on Broadway from 1999 to 2001, while Chicago — a show originally choreographed by Bob Fosse — ran a few blocks away. Both shows featured the Chicago tunes "Razzle Dazzle" and "Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag." In fact, the show had theatregoers hearing double for a second show as well. Both Fosse and the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Cabaret were using the Kander and Ebb song "Mein Herr." And yet more Fosse stuff! While hardly a Broadway standard, the Benny Goodman Big Band classic "Sing! Sing! Sing!" (which has no vocal, so it wasn't sung, but played) was used as the finale of Fosse at the same time it was being employed in the revue Swing!, where it was also the finale, and in the Susan Stroman-John Weidman musical Contact.

Another example of a Fosse-like choreographic connection came in 1989 and 1990, when the revue Jerome Robbins' Broadway was running at the same time as a revival of Gyspy starring Tyne Daly. Both musicals featured renditions of "You Gotta Get a Gimmick." The revue version was sung by Susann Fletcher, Faith Prince and Debbie Shapiro. The Gypsy rendition was delivered by Barbara Erwin, Anna McNeely and Jana Robbins.

Catherine Zeta-Jones and Barbara Cook both performed "Send in the Clowns" on Broadway in 2010.
photos by Joan Marcus (Zeta-Jones) and Richard Termine (Cook)

More recently, in 2010, the Stephen Sondheim songs "Every Day a Little Death" and "A Weekend in the Country" could be heard in their natural element, the acclaimed revival of A Little Night Music, as well as in the revue Sondheim on Sondheim (though in the latter "Death" was cut in previews, and a mere snippet of "Weekend" was used in a medley). "Send in the Clowns" was sung by superstars in both productions: Catherine Zeta-Jones won a Tony for singing it in Night Music, and Barbara Cook was nominated for a Tony for her rueful rendition in Sondheim on Sondheim. (Both albums were Grammy Award-nominated.) And, by the way, Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein's "Something's Coming" was both in the Sondheim revue and in West Side Story in 2010.

Former producer/general manager and current Playbill.com columnist Steven Suskin relates another instance. He told Ask Playbill, " 'I Got a Feelin' You're Foolin' ' by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed — we used it in Singin' in the Rain (which I managed) at the Gershwin [in 1985-86]. While we were running, Bob Fosse used it in Big Deal at the Broadway." He added, "Songs written for films or pop purposes can be licensed for shows on a non-exclusive basis, as with 'Feelin You're Foolin'.' We were welcome to use it in Singin' in the Rain, but the publisher reserved the right to license it elsewhere at the same time."

By the way, in addition to surfacing in Priscilla, "I Say a Little Prayer" is also expected to be heard in the new Broadway musical Baby It's You! this spring. We have no doubt that our readers will know of other instances of same song/different show in this or past seasons. Write us at askplaybill@playbill.com.

"Hot Honey Rag" is performed in <i>Chicago</i> (Brenda Braxton and Bianca Marroquin) and <i>Fosse</i> (Valarie Pettiford and Jane Lanier).
"Hot Honey Rag" is performed in Chicago (Brenda Braxton and Bianca Marroquin) and Fosse (Valarie Pettiford and Jane Lanier). Photo by Paul Kolnik (<i>Chicago</i>) and Joan Marcus (<i>Fosse</i>)
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