The Saturday List: Favourite Songs from 1980s Musicals

To purchase the Original 1989 Cast Recording of MISS SAIGON, click on the image above.

7. “I’d Give My Life for You” from Miss Saigon

By the time Miss Saigon rolled around, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil had a much better grasp on using motif to tell a story than they had in Les Misérables. People’s problem with this one seems to be the sheer number of ballads that are squeezed into the show. I don’t mind them all much and while some people might try to pitch something like “The American Dream” over this – and believe me, there are many who would – I am going to pick “I’d Give My Life for You”. Starting off gently, the song builds into a completely fierce proclamation of the lengths to which Kim will go to protect her child. The biggest pity? That Lea Salonga won’t be able to preserve her performance of this song, and of this role, on film. I hope they find someone equally as talented and – if they are going to stick with this technique of recording actors singing their songs live – someone who is able to act and sing simultaneously and who realises that the singing is in fact a part of the acting and not something that should get in the way of it.

6. “One Night Only” from Dreamgirls

I love the intensity of Dreamgirls. The show may have its flaws, but its commitment to telling its story the way that it does cannot be faulted. (Except when people make stupid decisions and try include “Listen” as a second act duet for Effie and Deena”.) “One Night Only” was the first song I heard from Dreamgirls, on Elaine Paige’s album Stages. Those of you who know that album will know she does a medley of the two versions from the show, Effie’s ballad and Deena’s disco cover version. What I never noticed until I listened to the song in the context of the show was how the other big difference between the two versions of the song, the change in pronouns that completely shifts the meaning of the song: ‘I have no doubt that I could love you, forever. / The only trouble is, you (I) really don’t have the time. / You’ve (I’ve) got one night only.’ That shift doesn’t only tell you more about Effie and Deena, but also about Curtis and C.C. Super stuff.

5. “Suddenly Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors

I’ve loved Little Shop of Horrors since I was old enough to rent it from the video store. Since the age restriction here was “2-10”, I imagine that I was 10 or 11 when that happened. I loved it completely. I was devastated when I didn’t get cast in the show when it was produced at my high school when I was 15. But I did get to play Seymour for a Masters presentation at university, so things kind of balanced out. There’s barely a song in the score that I don’t love outright, but it is “Suddenly Seymour” that always gets me in the end. Imagine being loved by someone as irrevocably as Seymour loves Audrey. Imagine that person offering you the most wonderful support you can get. “Suddenly Seymour” is about that moment. Of course, it’s all the more delightful because of the characters and the context, but Howard Ashman and Alan Menken were so often able to find ways of expressing big universal moments of the human experience and that’s what makes a song like this connect with audiences despite its specificity in situation and style.

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3 Responses to The Saturday List: Favourite Songs from 1980s Musicals

  1. OMG OMG SQUEALS! When I saw this new post, my 1st thought was, ‘Colored Lights’ would be my favorite. I cannot believe you agree! 🙂 Glad Into The Woods made the lineup, too. Love your blog!

  2. David Fick says:

    Thanks! I’m glad we agree! Glad you like it here. I’m trying to blog more regularly as time permits, but it’s sometimes challenging.

  3. Love your take on “It Takes Two”. That show has so much depth to me. “No One Is Alone” always takes me back to when I had never felt so by myself in my life, til I heard that song and felt some hope. “It Takes Two” indeed is a great piece about relationships, too!

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