P/REVIEW – Best Musical Theatre songs

Brian Butler February 5, 2021

Three cheers for BBC Radio 2 and BBC1 tv for bringing us two weekends of musical theatre. First off  the blocks was last weekend’s  Radio 2 with 3 days of musical theatre extracts – great except whenever I dipped in they were playing pop stuff , and there  was a bizarre moment when Paul O’Grady read out tributes  to listeners’ dead pets. There were two highlights for me – Elaine Page’s radio show which featured the top 20 musical theatre songs and a  two-hour Radio 2 concert recorded at the Palladium , fronted by Sheridan Smith.

Dealing with the latter first – The BBC Concert Orchestra accompanied a stellar line-up : too many to name. Highlights for me were Sheridan opening with When The Parade Passes By – vibrant and gutsy. Elaine Page served up one of her star turns with As If We Never Said Goodbye – pure drama, great pauses and lingering notes of hidden pathos.

Ramon Karimloo gripped with Music Of The Night and Sam Tutty showed why he’s world class with You’ll Be Found from the magic Dear Evan Hansen. New star in the making Ivano Turco  gave us another preview of Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella with the enchanting wistful Only You, Lonely You, and the rocking feisty queens blew our lockdown socks off with the title song from Six.

As if it couldn’t get better they beamed Lea Salonga from Manila singing I Dreamed A Dream – and my tigers certainly came at night. Kerry Ellis gave us an elevating Defying Gravity and Sheridan duetted with Amanda Holden in I Know Him So Well – all I can say is “ isn’t it good,  isn’t it fine?”

Broadway and pop music royalty Josh Groban sang  a very sweet melodic version of The Impossible Dream – echoing our desire to be back in a real theatre audience. And Michael Ball provided a fitting finale with Hairspray’s You Can’t Stop The Beat.

My question is – how will they get 2 hours of radio down to 80 minutes of telly? Watch to find out .

There’s always going to be a dogfight over gathering choices in a “ best ever “ list of books, telly shows or lockdown dinners so BBC Radio 2 put its head into the lion’s den this last weekend by getting a panel of “ experts “ to pick the top 20 musical theatre songs.

I suspect the theatre-going public – remember them ? – would have had other picks and it depends very much how far back your theatre memories go. The panel – including M T  diva Elaine Page, and  showbiz writer Baz Bamigboye, weren’t short of possibilities and they produced a certain amount of predictability in their list, so it’s easy peasy to shoot it down in flames , but here for what its worth is my top 10 list compared with theirs.

  1. Them – One Day More  ( Les Mis )  1: Me – If I Loved You ( Carousel )
  2. Them – Bring Him Home ( Les Mis ) 2: Me – And I Am Telling You ( Dreamgirls )
  3. Them – Defying Gravity ( Wicked ) 3:  Me – Losing My Mind ( Follies )
  4. Them- This Is Me ( Greatest Showman ) 4: Me – Some Enchanted Evening ( South Pacific )
  5. Them – Over The Rainbow ( Wizard of Oz ) 5: Me – Yay I agree !
  6. Them – Singin’ In The Rain ( ditto ) 6: Me – All That Jazz ( Chicago )
  7. Them- The Circle Of Life ( Lion King ) 7: Me – Summertime ( Porgy and Bess)
  8. Them- Don’t Cry For Me Argentina ( Evita) 8: Me – yes ok then, agreed !
  9. Them – Somewhere ( West Side Story) 9: Me – Tell Me It’s Not True ( Blood Brothers)
  10. Them – America ( West Side Story) 10: Me- Send In The Clowns ( A Little Night Music )

And I could have added lots of Porter, Gershwin, Berlin, more  Rodgers and Hammerstein and Sondheim

But there you go .

The Greatest Show is on BBC Sounds now and the tv version is on BBC1 on Sunday February 7 at 19.40 hrs  and again on Tuesday 9th at 23.45 hrs and also on iplayer.