You can’t have a party without music, and, thanks to record companies rushing out many of this season’s cast albums, you can deejay yourself a Tony Party CD with nearly all of this season’s best tunes on it. Here’s our suggested list. (Where an album isn’t out yet, another version of the song is substituted.)
1. Overture (Gypsy, original cast album) One of the greatest, if not the greatest overture ever written starts off the CD with a whizz and a bang. The revival cast album is not out yet, so use the original cast, recently remastered and re-released.
2. A Hundred Million Miracles (Flower Drum Song , 2002 revival cast album) This Rodgers and Hammerstein tiny jewel of a song has been expanded by Tony nominee David Henry Hwang into an 8:21 epic that serves as the theme and narration of Mei Li’s escape from Communist China, her perilous crossing of the Pacific as a boat person, and her entry into the exotic precincts of Grant Avenue, Chinatown, San Francisco, U.S.A. This sets the hopeful theme for Tony Night.
3. Mama I’m a Big Girl Now (Hairspray original cast album) Tony nominees Marissa Jaret Winokur and Harvey Fierstein capture the spirit of teen rebellion and energy, circa 1960, in this cut from a Best Musical contender. Good party supercharger.
4. The Impossible Dream (Man of La Mancha, 2002 revival cast album) Nominee Brian Stokes Mitchell wraps his majestic baritone around this Broadway classic. Note the key change and new, big-note ending. Following Fierstein’s wacky performance, this demonstrates the breadth of performances in the Best Leading Actor in a Musical category. 5. Italian Restaurant (Movin’ Out original cast album) Best Featured Actor contender Michael Cavanaugh channels composer Billy Joel in this mini-rock opera about suburban angst, circa 1965. This is the song that provided the story-frame for Twyla Tharp’s Tony-nominated dance show. Note Joel’s orchestrations, which provided him with his Tony nomination.
6. Cookies (A Year With Frog and Toad original cast album) Your party guests may be getting hungry now; this song provides a musical aperatif. As the title characters, Jay Goede and the appropriately named Mark Linn-Baker bake and unsuccessfully try to resist eating the title confection. The song falls at the end of Act I, and sends its kiddie audience into intermission demanding goodies. Your guests will, too.
7. Che Gelida Manina (La Bohème 2002 revival cast album) It’s chilly and dark in poet Rodolfo’s Paris garret, but love begins to burn as he helps his dying neighbor Mimi search for her lost key. Sung in Italian – but worth reading Alfred Boe’s translation aloud to your guests: "Your hand is freezing…let me warm it for you…/We’ll never find the key…it’s far too dark/So let’s just sit here together/It’s so beautiful in the moonlight/Wait…let me tell you who I am…/Who am I? I’m a poet/What do I do? I write/How do I live? I live!/I’m poor…but I squander words like a rich man./And when it comes to dreams…I’m a millionaire."
8. Be Italian (Nine original cast album) From a song sung in Italian, to a song about Italians, a joyous celebration of the flesh that turns into an appropriately wild tarantella. The revival cast album won’t be out for a couple weeks, but the original cast album still sounds great.
9. Dulcinea (Man of La Mancha) To simmer the crowd down, we go from Italy to Spain, and from boisterous to quietly reverent, as Don Quixote tells a whore that she’s really an angel.
10. All I Need Now Is the Girl (Gypsy) Picking the pace back up, one of the great solo dance numbers ever. Have a Tulsa dance-alike contest!
11. Just the Way You Are (Movin’ Out) Joel’s most heartfelt ballad was written like a showtune, deserved to be a showtune, and now …is.
12. Alone (A Year With Frog and Toad) Frog sings of the pleasure of solitude – and how it makes him appreciate coming back to his friend, Toad.
13. Looking for Love (Urban Cowboy (film soundtrack) No cast album is in the works, so none of the original Jason Robert Brown or Jeff Blumenkrantz (et al) songs have been recorded. This pop hit from the original movie (and then the Tony-nominated score) is available elsewhere, however. It will provide a twangy moment for guests of the country persuasion.
14. An Ordinary Guy (Amour, available only on Legrand anthologies) Michel Legrand’s lilting fanfare for the common man captures Dusoleil’s wonder at how his humdrum life has been interrupted by a "Twilight Zone"-like complication. (Also recorded as "An Ordinary Man.")
15. You’re Timeless to Me (Hairspray) A comedy love duet for Fierstein and fellow Tony nominee Dick Latessa – playing a wife and husband who celebrate their middle-age deterioration.
16. The Longest Time (Movin’ Out) On a somewhat related theme, doo-wop fans have something to cheer about in Billy Joel’s ode to longevity.
17. To Each His Dulcinea (Man of La Mancha) That Dulcinea dame again! This time Stephen Bogardus tells us we all need such an illusion to keep us from despair. Particularly effective if your party punch is kicking in.
18. Quando Me’n Vo’, a.k.a. Musetta’s Waltz (La Bohème ) The eternal temptress Musetta sings of the joys of teasing men until they go mad with desire. Sounds like a party song, all right! Rent fans will recognize the main theme as the song Roger has been trying to write all night, and finally finishes just as Mimi is dying. What the heck, let’s add that to our CD:
19. Finale (Rent complete original cast album) It’s the theme played on the electric guitar as Roger shouts "Mimi!"
20. Everything’s Coming Up Roses (Gypsy) This landmark showtune had to get in here somewhere.
21. Welcome to the ‘60s (Hairspray) This one, too. It’s the iconic showtune of the season. In it, Tracy tries to make her tubby mom feel better about herself by dressing her up in the height of low fashion. This is where Harvey gets to wear "the dress" that appears in all the press photos. He also gets to sing one of the great "up" songs of the last 25 years.
22. The Painter’s Song (Amour) If you can find this, it’s one of the great unknown songs of the season, sung beautifully by Norm Lewis (Side Show) as a struggling artist who shakes off despair when he sees Dusoleil’s heroic escapades. The cast album is due out July 8.
23. Pressure (Movin’ Out) Joel’s lament for the stress of modern life. A good song as the evening moves toward its conclusion and the big categories start rolling in.
24. Folies Bergere (Nine) Just imagine that in two weeks you’ll be hearing Chita Rivera singing this.
25. I’m Coming Out of My Shell (A Year With Frog and Toad) Okay, now we’re hitting the eleven o’clock numbers. This Vegas-like showstopper is sung, not by the title characters, but by Snail, who has decided to revolutionize his life by becoming…a mail carrier!
26. Rose’s Turn (Gypsy) Bernadette Peters is supposed to sing this musical nervous breakdown on the Tony show. Compare and contrast with Merman’s.
27. Can’t Stop the Beat (Hairspray) The CD ends, like Hairspray, with a number that blows the roof off the jernt.
There. At a bit over three minutes a song, you have 90 minutes of the greatest show tunes of the season. Mix, match, add your own favorites. And have a great Tony party!