STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: The 25 Best Songs Dropped from Musicals

Special Features   STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: The 25 Best Songs Dropped from Musicals
They're written with as much love, care and attention as all the other songs in the show. But they may never see the light of day, and certainly not the lights of Broadway.

They're written with as much love, care and attention as all the other songs in the show. But they may never see the light of day, and certainly not the lights of Broadway.

They're cut out-of-town, during previews, or even, as Max Bialystock might say, on page four. Perhaps the singer can't sing it, the director can't direct it, or the choreographer can't choreograph it. Possibly it just isn't right for the book, or it's redundant, or it's too like a song we've heard before. Or maybe the show's just running long, and something's got to give.

Whatever the case, many songs have been axed in Philly, Boston, or Baltimore (or New Haven or New York), but that doesn't necessarily make them bad songs. Some, in fact, have been very good. And, if I may cast my three electoral votes, these are the 25 best that bit the dust:

1. "Bill" -- Jerome Kern and P.G. Wodehouse first reluctantly cut their song from Oh, Lady! Lady!! in 1919, and then again from Sally in 1920. What's really fascinating is that when Kern and Guy Bolton were doing Zip Goes a Million in 1919, they gave the tune to lyricist Buddy DeSylva, who kept "Bill" as the title but wrote a whole new lyric that referred to a dollar bill. Seven years later, the song finally found a happy home in Show Boat. Many have said that Oscar Hammerstein re-wrote the lyric, but he always claimed his did next-to nothing to it. Considering the man's sterling reputation, let's take him at his word.

2. "The Man I Love" -- First the Gershwins saw it go from Lady, Be Good in 1924. They then inserted it in Strike Up the Band -- the 1927 version, which closed out-of-town. Then they put it into Rosalie in 1928, where it was cut yet again. And yet, this three time loser survived to be a pop standard. 3. "He Was Too Good to Me" -- Rodgers and Hart cut this from their Simple Simon in 1930. Nevertheless, the song, a particular favorite of Sondheim's, endured, and has been recorded by everyone from Della Reese in the '50s to The Kingston Trio in the '60s and, of course, Barbara Cook in the '70s.

4. "When Messiah Comes" -- Cut from Fiddler on the Roof. You may not agree from Lee Wilkof's too-rapid rendition on Lost in Boston II, but if you heard Herschel Bernardi's sensitive and humorous recording on his Columbia Fiddler album, you'll understand why I wrote Hal Prince back in 1967 and asked why it had to go. "Too lugubrious," he wrote back, "and the shape of it was too long to sustain at that point in the story." Still, I miss this charming, bittersweet song every time I see a Fiddler production, and Mendel says to the Rabbi, "We've been waiting for the Messiah all our lives. Wouldn't this be a good time for him to come?" It'd sure be a good time for this song.

5. "Can That Boy Fox-Trot?" -- During the Boston tryout of Follies, when I heard that Sondheim was replacing this song, I couldn't understand why he'd drop something that was working so splendidly. (Not to mention those felicitous interior rhymes: "An imitation Hitler, and with littler charm." "What makes him look reptilian is the brilliantine." "But who needs Albert Schweitzer when the lights're low?") Thank the Lord he did, though, for we wouldn't have "I'm Still Here" if he hadn't.

6. "Uptown-Downtown" -- And during the Boston tryout of Follies, when I heard that Sondheim was replacing this song, I was again at a loss. I still am. Oh, "The Story of Lucy and Jessie" is a good song, but no lyric in it is as impressive as "She sits at the Ritz with her splits of Mumm's, and starts to pine for a stein with her village chums, but with a Schlitz in her mitts down in Fitzroy's bar, she thinks of the Ritz -- oh, it's so schizo." Wow!

7. "From This Moment On" -- As Ethan Mordden writes in his magnificent book "Coming Up Roses," George Abbott removed this from Out of This World in Boston, "apparently because William Eythe, a non-singer, was killing his half of the whirlwind love duet." It sure didn't stop the song from becoming a hit long before it landed in the Kiss Me, Kate movie.

8. "Where Do I Go from Here?" -- One of my favorite ballads, after I heard Liz Callaway do it. But George Abbott didn't, which may be one reason why he dropped it from Fiorello! "Marie's Law" came in its place, and, sure, it's delightful, but the show would have been stronger if, after that funny number, Morris left the office, and Marie, all alone, wistfully sang it out to us, then clicked off the lights and left. Then we'd really be rooting for Mr. LaGuardia to wake up and notice her. I hope future Fiorello! directors reinsert it.

9. "Easy to Love" -- Cut from Anything Goes because William Gaxton had such trouble singing it. Cole Porter wrote "All through the Night" as a replacement. Gaxton liked that better. Do you?

10. "Happily Ever After" -- How well I recall the first preview of Company in Boston, when the Brahmins froze in anger as Dean Jones belted out this effervescent anti-marriage tract. From the startled and embarrassed look on Jones' face, I wouldn't be surprised if he decided right then and there that he wouldn't continue with the show.

11. "Sweet River" -- During the genesis of 110 in the Shade, the decision was made to have to gawky, unattractive Lizzie possess a beautiful soprano to represent her inner beauty. Nice notion, but not at the expense of this down-to-earth piece in which she told of looking forward to her vacation, hoping to meet the love of her life -- only to have the week go by without its ever happening. Heartbreaking song, and a heartbreaking loss for the musical.

12. "It's All in Here" -- Do you know this delight from A Chorus Line in which a performer acknowledges that he is his resume? "Ron Fields, Gower and Fosse. You wanna see an 8-by-10 glossy career? It's all in here ... Mame, Grease, and Pippin; Judson 3-3600; Billy, Jimmy, Georgy, My Fair Lady, Burger King and Dr. Pepper" -- peppered with many other then-topical references, and set to a jaunty Marvin Hamlisch melody.

13. "Take It in Your Stride" -- Yeah, the sensibilities may be a bit beyond our heroine's ken, but I'm convinced that if this song had remained in Annie Get Your Gun (instead of yielding to a perfunctory reprise of "There's No Business Like Show Business"), Irving Berlin's score would have contained eight household-name hits instead of a "mere" seven.

14. "Let's Misbehave" -- Cut from Paris in 1928 when too many objected to its frankness. So what did Porter write as a replacement? "Let's Do It." That'll show 'em!

15. "'Smashing!' -- New York Times" -- I can still see Robert Mandan, as Margo Channing's producer, singing this to Eve Harrington during the Baltimore tryout of Applause. But I must admit that I don't remember hearing it, for it made no impact on me. Not until years later, when I found a Strouse and Adams demo at a yard sale (for $1.50!) did I realize what a little masterpiece it was: "We trade our lives for just some good reviews. For 'Smashing! -- New York Times; 'Terrific!' -- Daily News." Strouse and Adams later put in their 1979 Broadway musical called A Broadway Musical, but with a one-night run, not too many heard it.

16. "Ten Percent" -- Not only was the song dropped from Chicago, but the character who sang it also was: Henry Glassman, as played by David Rounds, was a theatrical agent intent on booking a post-acquittal Roxie Hart into vaudeville. "I can pay the rent, as long as I collect my ten percent ... They say I got the soul of a piranha, but I had lobster thermidor last night -- and what did you have?"

17. "Only a Moment Ago" -- Only a month ago, I wouldn't have had this on the list, for I didn't know it. But then Sony Classical Columbia Legacy re-released the 1971 revival cast album of No, No, Nanette, and there it was to enchant us all. We owe thanks to Burt Shevelove, who wanted a duet for Ruby Keeler and Jack Gilford, and looked for some Youmans melody that had never been outfitted with words. Once the suitable tune was found, Shevelove added an endearing lyric.

18. "When the Weather's Better" -- When Hallelujah, Baby! was in Boston, the concept was that more than a little drop of rain had fallen into the lives of black Americans; hence the umbrella imagery on Hilary Knight's logo. But Clem told Georgina that was going to change. What changed, though, was that this perky Jule Styne melody and well-meaning Comden and Green lyric went plunk-planka-plink from the show.

19. "Bouncing Back for More" -- No question that "Hey, Look Me Over," which replaced this as Wildcat's opening number is the superior song. But you can't dismiss a lyric like, "There must have been some rubber in my family tree, 'cuz I keep bouncing back for more." (Could anyone be as earthy and incisive as Carolyn Leigh?) If you haven't heard this one, it's on Sarah Zahn's new "Witchcraft" album on Harbinger records.

20. "Nightlife in Santa Rosa" -- Marvin Hamlisch sure worked hard in turning Smile into a musical. For after he wrote an entire score with Carolyn Leigh, he did a completely different set of songs (save the title tune) for Howard Ashman. Especially good from the Leigh version is this perky one in which Young American Miss contestants complain about the hick town they're in: "They closed the all-night newsstand -- maybe because they don't got news." Also on that Zahn album.

21. "The Lady's Got Potential" -- Che's assessment of Eva Peron didn't make it from the Evita concept album into the stage show, but did re-surface in the film. Good! Any song that includes the lyric, "They were slightly to the right of Attila the Hun" deserves to be heard.

22. "I Wonder What Became of Me" -- For years, only the true aficionados knew this song cut from St. Louis Woman, thanks to a recording made in the '50s by an obscure company called Walden. Now, in the '90s, we suddenly have two renditions: On the reissue of the Walden set on Harbinger, and on the new St. Louis Woman Encores! recording. Each is hauntingly lovely.

23. "Let's Make it a Night" -- I'm sure it didn't sound as luscious as it does on Lost in Boston, courtesy of Larry Moore's rambunctious orchestration. But this charmer from Silk Stockings just had to be in the wrong place at the wrong time for it to have been cut.

24. "Flaemmchen" -- What can I say? I adored Grand Hotel just as it was in Boston, long before Maury Yeston joined the team. And while I admire most every other addition he made to the score, I think this precursor to "I Want to Go to Hollywood" had more bounce and insouciance of what Jane Krakowski's heavenly character wanted to be.

25. "Say a Prayer for Me Tonight" -- During My Fair Lady's New Haven tryout, Eliza Doolittle, on the night before the ball, confided her fears to a cat. Lerner didn't like this song as much as Loewe, and was happy when Moss Hart told them the show didn't need it. He would be chagrined some months after when Loewe played the song for Arthur Freed and Vincente Minnelli -- "when I was not around," Lerner later snarled -- for they thought it would be perfect for their future-Oscar-winning film called "Gigi."

Honorable Mention:

"The Echo Song," the funny thing dropped from A Funny Thing, and "I Don't Care Much," in an early Cabaret script, eventually made the shows, albeit in revivals. So they weren't really cut -- just postponed for a few years.

Some will tell you that "Dancing on the Ceiling" was also cut by Rodgers and Hart from Simple Simon. Not quite. There, it had been called "He Dances on My Ceiling." Close, but no inclusion.

Similarly, "How Long Has This Been Goin' On" was dropped from Funny Face, but when it went into Rosalie, it did have the same title, but a heavily-revised lyric, too.

And finally, "Mamie in the Afternoon" from A Family Affair, John Kander's first Broadway musical (his only one without Fred Ebb), eventually became a showstopper in The Act, thanks to Ebb's special touch. Which makes you wonder: Were any of the 25 above just a rewrite away from showstopping status, too?

Peter Filichia is the New Jersey theater critic for the Star-Ledger. You may E-mail him at

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