If last week's "This Time For Me" column on 11 o'clock numbers seemed a little heavy on women's songs, that's because I was saving the men's material for this week! I've said before how much I tend to prefer the ladies on stage, but in this case, it's a man's world. I guess more musicals over the years have centered on the male characters, and therefore more 11 o'clock numbers have been written for men. I'll always beat to the drum of a belter's vibrato, but perhaps there's no bravado as thrilling as baritone center stage bring down the house on Broadway in the final hour of a great musical.
Click though to read my selections for the Top Ten 11 O'Clock Numbers Sung By Men.
10. "Betrayed" from The Producers
There's no question Mel Brooks earned his place in cinema and his Broadway mega-hit adaptation of his best film, The Producers, was a fantastic evening at the theatre, especially as originated by Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Still, Brooks' music is derivative and generally unmoving and his lyrics tend to go for the low-hanging fruit in terms of rhymes and jokes, so his score for The Producers is far from its greatest asset. Nevertheless, it's hard to think of 11 o'clock number that manages be such a tour de force and such a showstopper and such a turning point in main character's arc as "Betrayed."
9. "This Nearly Was Mine" from South Pacific
On today's overamplified Broadway, it's hard to imagine an introspective ballad stopping a show, but during the Golden Age, when Rodgers and Hammerstein were at their longlasting peak, that's exactly what happened in Act Two of South Pacific, with "This Nearly Was Mine." It didn't hurt that world-renowned bass Ezio Pinza was playing Emile. Of course, we got a little taste of that magic in Bartlett Sher's Lincoln Center Theater revival with the glorious Paolo Szot's Tony-winning performance.
8. "I'm Going Home" from The Rocky Horror Show
The Rocky Horror Show was a major hit in its original 1970s London and Los Angeles productions (although a flop in its 1975 Broadway premiere), and, of course, an iconic cult hit on film. Broadway didn't provide a successful home for the show until Christopher Ashley's 2000 revival (produced by Jordan Roth) which — particularly Tom Hewitt's Tony-nominated performance as Frank ‘N Furter — made the strongest case yet for the piece as a serious musical theatre achievement and an underrated score to be sure. This was never more true than in Hewitt's emotional and beautifully sung rendition of "I'm Going Home."
7. "The American Dream" from Miss Saigon
During its ten-year run on Broadway, at the height of the British pop opera era, Miss Saigon got a lot of flack inside the theatre community. Perhaps it was the battle with Actors Equity to cast Jonathan Pryce in the Eurasian role of the Engineer, or headline-making use of a helicopter on stage, or maybe it was the sometimes banal lyrics that made this blockbuster a somewhat reviled goliath. How the tables have turned. After one idiotic melody-less musical after another, Miss Saigon looks like My Fair Lady and we eagerly await the forthcoming revival. It's hard to imagine anyone stopping the show late in Act Two like the inspired Pryce in "The American Dream."
6. "I Can't Make This Movie" from Nine
Perhaps the ultimate character development 11 o'clock number in the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop mold, Guido's "I Can't Make This Movie" from Nine is like a Shakespearean soliloquy set to music. It's no wonder Nine's composer-lyricist Maury Yeston is one of the Workshop's most esteemed alumni.
5. "The Legacy (Last Will And Testament)" from On The Twentieth Century
"The Legacy (Last Will And Testament)" from On The Twentieth Century is another one that provides the lead actor a tour de force showstopper in the form of a great dramatic plot moment. Better yet, with music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, the great whole is the sum of legitimately pedigreed parts. And boy, do these legends deliver. I eagerly await next season's revival starring the funniest soprano in Broadway history, Kristin Chenoweth.
4. "You Gotta Die Sometime" from Falsettos
Sometimes regional productions of Falsettos make the mistake of casting the role of Whizzer with a pretty boy with a great voice. Those are both good qualities for a Whizzer to have (especially the voice), but it's shortsighted not to cast a great actor who can plumb the depths of Whizzer's nuanced and darkly funny 11 o'clock number, "You Gotta Die Sometime." Only William Finn could find such full human range of feelings about dying from AIDS. Every year that Broadway waits for another great new score from Finn is too long.
3. "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face" from My Fair Lady
If old-school shows were able to offer introspective ballads as 11 o'clock numbers, My Fair Lady took it one step further by offering a ballad with hardly any notes. Famously tailored for Rex Harrison's lack of voice, the role of Henry Higgins is written to essentially speak all his lyrics. Somehow, the beauty of the lyrics in this ode to appreciating love's presence imbue "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face" with its own quirky musicality.
|Photo by Paul Kolnik|
2. "Being Alive" from Company
Sondheim shows often employ complex inversions of the idea of an 11 o'clock number, where you know Big Steve is making use of the concept, it's just not necessarily seeming like it — or like in Follies, where the entire Loveland sequence could essentially be a called an 11 o'clock multi-song. In Company, though, we get a tremendous gift from Sondheim in "Being Alive," as passionate and also as honest a declaration of wanting to be loved as has ever been written, set to irresistible music, which only deepens on repeated listening.
1. "Sit Down, You're Rocking The Boat" from Guys and Dolls
Guys & Dolls gives its 11 o'clock number to a supporting character. Perhaps the original production wanted to take full advantage of having comic genius Stubby Kaye in the role of Nicely-Nicely Johnson. In all the years since, in all the thousands of productions of Guys and Dolls, "Sit Down, You're Rocking The Boat" has rarely failed to stop the show. Frank Loesser is truly one of the greatest things ever to happen to Broadway, and the world of Damon Runyon was a perfect vehicle for his songwriting talents.
(Ben Rimalower is the author and original star of the critically acclaimed Patti Issues, currently on a worldwide tour. His new solo play, Bad with Money, begins performances Sept. 4 at The Duplex in NYC. Visit him at benrimalower.com and follow @benrimalower on Twitter.)