STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: Your Responses to the '100 Best'

STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: Your Responses to the '100 Best' Oh, what a circus!" That was mentioned by more than one Playbill-on Liner as an "episode" I should have definitely included in last week's "The 100 Greatest Broadway Musical Episodes" column.

Oh, what a circus!" That was mentioned by more than one Playbill-on Liner as an "episode" I should have definitely included in last week's "The 100 Greatest Broadway Musical Episodes" column.

But oh, what a circus it's been fielding all your E-mails! For my efforts, you have given me everything from "Violets and Silverbells" (no one voted for that "Shenandoah" song, by the way) to many a "Pow! Bam! Zonk!" of disapproval. (Nary a show freak went for that Superman eleven o'clock number, either.)

The very first E-mail was a scathing indictment. "Have you no dignity?" it sneered, and I shook in my Florsheims assuming that everyone else would feel that I crossed the line (especially for including "Cross the Line" from Big). But at least 100 wrote to say they liked The 100 concept. A gentleman named Tom Mull even asked for my second 100.

Though, of course, there were many dissenting opinions.

"Not one measly mention of She Loves Me?" boomed John Esche. (He's right. "Ice Cream" should have been in there.) Don Simon of Allentown also cried, "Nothing from Jekyll & Hyde?" before admitting he would feel this way, for he is a charter "Jekkie." Beth Sinclair took issue that I made only one only citation from "of the Opera, for its title song. "(It's) the best musical written of all time, and you compare it to the Batcave? Obviously you are a male pig." Gee, as Joel Grey sang in Good Time Charley, "Why can't we all be nice?"-- a song that might have shown up on my top 200. But of course, what I heard the most was "NOTHING from Miz?" Yes, I knew there'd be trouble in every city over that. So, so many mentioned "One Day More," "Master of the House," "On My Own," "I Dreamed a Dream," "Bring Him Home," "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables." And those were just the songs. The effect when Javert commits suicide was also cited.

So why didn't any of them make the cut? For one thing, I mostly did this out of stream-of-consciousness. Whatever struck me first is what I put down, and songs from Les Miz just didn't occur to me. What can I say? I do like Les Miz, which ruled my CD player for months when the album came out. Maybe I just think of it as too much of a piece to make piecemeal out of it.

Les Miz didn't come up when I went to the reference books, because I went backwards to include the shows I hadn't seen. But even that was just a passing glance. Too passing. You should have seen me on the subway the next day, not 100 minutes after passing in the list to Playbill. I actually screamed out loud, causing some people at the other end of the car to think I'd just been mugged, when I realized that I'd forgotten Merman's smash debut with her high-C-enhanced "I've Got Rhythm." ("JonTLC" chided me for that. Guilty as charged.)

Chicago was duly noted by many of you. "All That Jazz" got quite a few endorsements, as did "Mr. Cellophane," "Razzle Dazzle," and "We Both Reached for The Gun." That last-named almost showed up on my list. So did Fosse's brilliant use of one actor continually changing the way he looked to represent different jurors. If that one doesn't sound so special to you, bet it's because you're judging it by 1997's Chicago, and not 1975's, which did it so much better. But I wonder if I'd done this list pre-"Encores!" if Chicago would have had so many stalwart defenders?

RJM31 liked that I included "Night Letter," but cited "A Call from the Vatican." "Who knew," he wrote, "that Tommy Tune would invent phone sex before 970 numbers?" (Frankly, I'd give the credit to songwriter Maury Yeston.) That call, by the way, was mentioned by three others, while someone else went to bat for Guido's collapse in "'Nine.'"

Other scenes that were cited included Joseph's reconciling with his daddy in "Technicolor Dreamcoat;" Dot's emerging from her dress in "Sunday in the Park;" final scene of "Sunset Boulevard." Good choices all. As I wrote to so many people, "That was Number 101."

I was pleased -- honest -- to see some support for "Memory." I really wimped out on this one, fearing that because Cats had become such a cliche, many of you would upchuck if I included it. So why, you rebut, did I include the equally overexposed "Do Re Mi" and "Tomorrow"? Here, I suspect, is the real reason. When I first saw Cats, I got so excited after the grizzled Grizzabella soared above, because I'd just figured out what was going to happen, and it was wonderful. She was going to come back at the very end of the show looking like a million bucks -- because cats have nine lives! I've never forgiven Cats for missing this oh-so-wonderful "episode," and I think "Memory" took the heat for it in my list.

(But I really do like the song.)

I also like "Rhythm of Life," too, as well as "Monotonous," "Lazy Afternoon," "We Tell the Story," "Simple," "Move On," "Baubles, Bangles, and Beads." I also like Fiorello's "Little Tin Box," which was cited, and I certainly agree with Steven Dubin, who maintained that "When Fiorello campaigns in three different languages, you want to vote for him yourself."

I also think people were right to champion "I'm Breaking Down," "What Do the Simple Folks Do," and "The Grass Is Always Greener," which was a favorite of Tony Buchsbaum (though if I were he, I suspect I would have opted for the Buchsbaum Brothers' song, "Be a Performer" from Little Me).

Jeremy, Kenneth, Nathan, and Patricia Boegel made making their own list (of 20) a family affair (though neither they nor anyone else mentioned any moment from "A Family Affair"). I especially regretted not including five of their choices: "Ascot Gavotte," "Sunday in the Park" when the painting comes alive, "All I Ask of You," "Why Can't the English?" and especially "The March of the Siamese Children."

Four people even sent audio clips that I had to download to hear. "Gee, But It's Good to Be Here," "One of the Girls Who's One of the Boys," and "Here's to the Ladies Who Lunch" (I did include "Does anyone still wear a hat?") and two for "I Am What I Am." Well, I am what I am, too.

We'll have to agree to disagree, those of you who mentioned episodes that wouldn't have made my top 1000. "Be My Guest," as staged on Broadway, is too over-the-top for me. The charms of "We Go Together" from Grease, mentioned twice, are lost on me, too. "Love Makes the World Go Round" is a nice song, and so is "Roll up the Ribbons" and "Living in the Shadows," but . . .

But, as I always say, I'd much rather you have a good time than agree with me.

The most arcane choice, the one I would have never guessed would show up? Turns out that "Five Lovely Ladies" from "Jimmy" has at least one wild-voice-in-the-wilderness fan. Enjoy yourself!

By the way, two people said that I erred when I said Sweeney Todd sang "Johanna," and not "Pretty Women," when he was cutting throats. (The "no dignity" guy was one of them, pointing out that Victor Garber sang the song). Yes, Garber did one "Johanna," but remember that "Sweeney Todd" has three separate "Johannas" (all with different melodies -- which deserves a commendation in itself). But the one I'm referring to occurs in Act Two when Sweeney is nicking necks.

Some people were grateful I included some of their obscure favorites. Chris Van Ness liked the "Apology" from Kean (though he wasn't above asking for that show's "The Fog and the Grog," too). David J. Buffington liked the Sadie Hawkins Ballet because it was such a recent success at his high school.

Joe Marchese brought up a good point when requesting the Gypsy and Promises, Promises overtures. To be frank, I only thought about songs once the curtain was up. But he's right. Under those circumstances, though, I'd might have included the overtures from Candide, Funny Girl, Mack & Mabel, Merrily, We Roll Along, and On the Twentieth Century, too.

One curious fact: Only one correspondent questioned my numbering. "MasCat1" wondered why Pippin's selections weren't ranked higher. But nothing along the lines of "How can you only put 'Who's That Woman?' Number Three?" Which I would have understood.

But for my money, the very best sentiment of all came from one Adam Miller of Lexington, KY, and I shall always remember it: "Every time an actor or actress steps onto a stage, another Best Moment occurs for them, and that's all that matters."

Wow! Miller must be quite a beautiful person! No wonder he's interested in musicals. I wish that when I was growing up, I could have been the Miller's son (which, by the way, no one mentioned, either).

Well, we'll see what you think in a few weeks when I list "The 100 Greatest Episodes from Dramas" and "The 100 Greatest Episodes from Comedies."

-- Peter Filichia is the New Jersey theater critic for the Star Ledger.
You can e-mail him at Pfilichia@aol.com