It's that time of the year again. The time when we think, "If the Oscars can have a Best Song category, the Tonys certainly should. You mean, we have Best Musical, Best Score, and no Best Song? Bizarre!"
It crosses our minds, each and every May and June. So, just for the fun of it, shall we go back in history and surmise what might have been the Best Songs, and the Best Nominees?
Of course, for Tonys' first nine years, there would have been solely a Best Song without any additional nominees named -- because in those days, a winner was all that the Tonys announced. My guesses:
1946-47: "Almost Like Being in Love" (Brigadoon)
1947-48: "I Still Get Jealous" (High Button Shoes) 1948-49: "Once in Love with Amy" (Where's Charley?)
1949-50: "Some Enchanted Evening" (South Pacific)
1950-51: "You're Just in Love" (Call Me Madam)
1951-52: "Getting to Know You" (The King and I)
1952-53: "Wish You Were Here" (Wish You Were Here)
1953-54: "I Love Paris" (Can-Can)
1954-55: "Hey, There" (The Pajama Game)
What, you say, "Once in Love with Amy," and not "Another Op'nin', Another Show" from Kiss Me, Kate, one of the great opening numbers of all time? Yes, I say, because I think "Best Song" would stress a certain type of liftable pop song, just as the Oscars have. Your favorite song from My Fair Lady might be "I'm an Ordinary Man." "One Day More" may be the song you program most when you're playing your Les Miserables CD. But I think that "On the Street Where You Live" would have won in 1957, and "I Dreamed a Dream" in 1987. Songs whose main concern was to move the action forward, however fine, wouldn't be embraced in this category.
So you might think that watching the cast begin Cabaret with "Willkommen" was (or is) more exciting than hearing a solo singer do the title song. But "Cabaret" would have won as "Best Song" for yet another reason -- because it was the tune heard most that year from any Broadway show, and fostered a hit record, thanks to a singer named Marilyn Maye. On the other hand, "Willkommen" was the Best Production Number -- an entirely different category that, come to think of it, the Tonys should embrace as well.
Still, some years being as lean as they were, you may find a production number, or comedy number, or musical scene listed in the list that follows. What I've tried to do is take the lead from the other nominations, for, I imagine that if a show scored in a number of Tony categories, it's have a leg up on "Best Song," too.
One last caveat: The Oscars limit their Best Songs to those tunes that first appeared in film and nowhere else. But songs first heard on concept albums -- "I Don't Know How to Love Him" and "This Is the Moment" among them -- should be admitted, if Broadway seemed to be a goal of the authors, as it was to the creators of Jesus Christ Superstar and Jekyll & Hyde.
Anyway, see if we agree. My guess as to which song would win comes first, and then, after a couple of dashes, I dash onto the three titles that strike me as mostly likely to have been the other nominees. Ready?
1955-56: "Heart" -- "Two Lost Souls," "Whatever Lola Wants" (all from Damn Yankees); "Everybody's Got a Home but Me" (Pipe Dream).
1956-57: "On the Street Where You Live" -- "I Could Have Danced All Night" (both from My Fair Lady); "Just in Time" (Bells Are Ringing); "Standing on the Corner" (The Most Happy Fella).
1957-58: "76 Trombones" -- "Till There Was You" (both from The Music Man); "Maria;" "Tonight" (both from West Side Story).
1958-59: "I Enjoy Being a Girl" -- "Love, Look Away" (both from Flower Drum Song); "La Plume de Ma Tante" (La Plume De Ma Tante); "Look Who's in Love" (Redhead).
1960-61: "If Ever I Would Leave You" (Camelot) -- "Put on a Happy Face," "A Lot of Living to Do" (Bye Bye Birdie); "Make Someone Happy" (Do Re Mi).
1961-62: "The Sweetest Sounds" (No Strings) -- "Love Makes the World Go Round" (Carnival); "Milk and Honey" (Milk and Honey); "Once Upon a Time" (All-American).
1962-63: "What Kind of Fool Am I?" -- "Gonna Build a Mountain," "Once in My Lifetime" (all from Stop the World -- I Want to Get Off); "As Long as He Needs Me" (Oliver).
1963-64: "Hello, Dolly" -- "It Only Takes a Moment" (both from Hello, Dolly!); "Don't Rain on My Parade," "People" (both from Funny Girl).
1964-65: "Who Can I Turn To?" -- "A Wonderful Day Like Today" (both from The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd); "Sunrise, Sunset" (Fiddler on the Roof); "A Quiet Thing" (Flora, the Red Menace).
1966-67: "Cabaret" (Cabaret) -- "My Cup Runneth Over" (I Do! I Do!); "Walking Happy" (Walking Happy); "What Makes Me Love Him" (The Apple Tree).
1967-68: "My Own Morning" (Hallelujah, Baby!) -- "The Happy Time" (The Happy Time); "I've Got To Be Me" (Golden Rainbow); "Step to the Rear" (How Now, Dow Jones).
1968-69: "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" -- "Promises, Promises" (both from Promises, Promises); "Aquarius," "Good Morning, Starshine" (both from Hair).
1969-70: "I Got Love" (Purlie) -- "Applause" (Applause); "Follow the Lamb" (Look to the Lilies); "Mama, a Rainbow" (Minnie's Boys).
1970-71: "Light Shines" (The Me Nobody Knows) -- "In My Own Lifetime" (The Rothschilds); "I Do Not Know a Day I Did Not Love You" (Two by Two); "Sorry/Grateful" (Company).
1971-72: "Broadway Baby" -- "Losing My Mind" (both from Follies); "Everything's All Right," "I Don't Know How to Love Him" (both from Jesus Christ Superstar).
1973-74: "Seesaw" (Seesaw) -- "Over Here" (Over Here); "Whole Lotta Sunlight" (Raisin); "You Have Made Me Love" (Cyrano).
1974-75: "Ease on down the Road" -- "Home" (both from The Wiz); "Freedom" (Shenandoah); "I Won't Send Roses" (Mack & Mabel).
1976-77: "Tomorrow" -- "N.Y.C." (both from Annie); "Hey, There, Good Times," "I Love My Wife"(both from I Love My Wife).
1977-78: "Our Private World" (On the Twentieth Century) -- "City Lights," "My Own Space" (both from The Act); "Nothing, Only Love" (King of Hearts).
1978-79: "Pretty Women" (Sweeney Todd) -- "A Broadway Musical" (A Broadway Musical); "Fill in the Words," "They're Playing Our Song" (both from They're Playing Our Song).
1979-80: "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" -- "Buenos Aires" (both from Evita); "The Colors of My Life," "Come Follow the Band" (both from Barnum).
1980-81: Considering that the three of the four Best Musical Nominees were 42nd Street, Sophisticated Ladies, and Tintypes -- all shows with non-original scores -- I suspect the category would have been eliminated that year, don't you? Or would you vote for Woman of the Year's "Sometimes a Day Goes By," "The Grass Is Always Greener," "I Told You So" and "Shut Up, Gerald"? (I didn't think you would).
1981-82: "And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going" (Dreamgirls) -- "Good Thing Going" (Merrily We Roll Along); "Close Every Door" (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat); "In a Very Unusual Way" (Nine).
1982-83: "Memory" -- "Old Deuteronomy" (both from Cats); "It's about Magic" (Merlin); "Dance a Little Closer" (Dance a Little Closer) -- on the condition that the Tony voters got to the one performance of Dance a Little Closer.
1984-85: They eliminated Best Actor and Actress in a Musical, so they'd eliminate Best Song, too. Unless you really want to give it to something from Big River.
1985-86: Same story as 1980-81. Three of the four nominees for Best Musical don't have new scores (Big Deal, Song and Dance; Tango Argentino). Category eliminated.
1986-87: "I Dreamed a Dream" -- "Bring Him Home," "On My Own" (all from Les Miserables); "Blame It on the Summer Night" (Rags).
1987-88: "Music of the Night" -- "All I Ask of You" (both from Phantom of the Opera); "One Night in Bangkok," "Someone Else's Story" (both from Chess).
1988-89: Twice before, three of the four Best Musicals nominees had no original scores; now we have a situation where two don't (Jerome Robbins' Broadway and Black and Blue) of three nominees. Given that the other was Starmites, color this category gone.
1989-90: "With Every Breath I Take" (City of Angels) -- "Love Changes Everything" (Aspects of Love); "We'll Take a Glass Together," "Who Wouldn't Dance with You?" (both from Grand Hotel).
1990-91: "Last Night of the World" (Miss Saigon) -- "Human Heart" (Once on This Island); "Race You To the Top of the Morning" (Secret Garden); "I Never Met a Man I Didn't Like" (The Will Rogers Follies).
1991-92: "Unlikely Lovers" -- "The Games I Play," "I Never Wanted to Love You" (all from Falsettos); "Let's Go Home" (Nick & Nora).
1992-93: "My Favorite Year" (My Favorite Year) -- "Who Would Have Thought?" (The Goodbye Girl); "Tell Me It's Not True" (Blood Brothers); "Where You Are" (Kiss of the Spider Woman).
1994-95: What do you think -- would the category have been eliminated, or would "As If We Never Said Goodbye" have duked it out "With One Look" (each, of course, from Sunset Boulevard)?
1995-96: "Seasons of Love" -- "Santa Fe" (Rent); "Living in the Shadows" (Victor/ Victoria); "Stop, Time" (Big).
Did Peter leave out one of your favorites? Do you wish to cast your vote for the hypothetical award this year. Send your replies to Managing Editor Robert Viagas. We'll post as many as we can in the days remaining before the Tonys.
-- Peter Filichia is the New Jersey theater critic for the Star-Ledger
You can e-mail him at PFilichia@aol.com