You Can't Stop The Beat: Top Ten Songs By Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman

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21 Dec 2013

1. "Good Morning, Baltimore" from Hairspray

An opening number can make or break a show. The audience wants to be told they're in good hands — hands that will entertain them and leave them feeling like they didn't waste their time, that they experienced something special — so they can suspend their disbelief and take the journey of the show. After a strong opening, an audience will follow a show anywhere and go out on a limb. If the opening is weak, the audience may sit with their arms crossed, unable to invest in even the most unassuming of scenarios onstage. Hairspray has a sublime opening number in "Good Morning, Baltimore." From the very beginning, a retro "oh, oh, oh," it's clear exactly when this is. As the music crashes and soars literally all around in the 1960s "wall of sound" style, the lyrics instantly endear us to Tracy and her situation. We're charmed by the John Waters funky-meets-Broadway sunny sort of "Oh, What A Beautiful Morning" in hell as Tracy describes her everyday commute by rats, a flasher and a bum, with unflinching joy. She sings "some day when I take to the floor, the world's gonna wake up and see, Baltimore and me," and we believe her. We want her to have that.

(Ben Rimalower is the author and original star of the critically acclaimed Patti Issues. Read's coverage of the solo show here. Visit him at and follow @benrimalower on Twitter.)

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