Theatre, as a whole, has been around for centuries. More specifically, Broadway has officially been around since about 1750, when the first significant theatre presence was noted by starting a new theatre company. Theatre and Broadway are so entwined and wrapped into the fabric of our pop culture that we may not even realize that some familiar music we enjoy was originally written for the stage. Here, we put together a list of songs with a background of what show they are from, so you can finally put two and two together.
“Give My Regards to Broadway” – Little Johnny Jones (1904)
Even though this song is very widely associated with Broadway in general, many might not know that this song originally comes from one specific Broadway show, Little Johnny Jones, written by George M. Cohan. This nostalgic song has been re-recorded many times, including a version by Bing Crosby, and was featured in the Broadway musical George M!, where Tony Award-winning actor Joel Grey played Cohan in the original Broadway cast and performed the song for the soundtrack.
“Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)” – Annie Get Your Gun (1946)
The iconic duet, “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)” is originally from the hit Broadway musical, Annie Get Your Gun. Written by Irving Berlin, this song is sung by the characters Annie Oakley and Frank Butler, in which they argue playfully about who can do certain things better. The song was first performed by Ethel Merman and Ray Middleton, who originated the roles of Annie and Frank, respectively. This song has continuously cropped up in our pop culture, with notable recordings featured in an episode of The Nanny, on the tv show Glee (sung by Broadway’s Lindsay Pearce), and in many commercials.
“‘Til There Was You” – The Music Man (1957)
Arguably most famous for its Beatles recording, “‘Til There Was You” is originally written for the stage, with music and lyrics by Meredith Willson for The Music Man. It is sung by the librarian Marian Paroo to “Professor” Harold Hill toward the end of Act Two. The character of Marian Paroo was originally performed by Barbara Cook on Broadway, and Shirley Jones in the movie, and Harold Hill was originally performed on Broadway and the movie by Robert Preston. The American singer Anita Bryant also recorded “‘Til There Was You” and released it as a single; it ultimately reached number 30 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.
“Edelweiss” – The Sound of Music (1959)
Featured in The Sound of Music movie, “Edelweiss” was originally written for the 1959 Broadway production by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. This is a song sung by Captain von Trapp, originated by Theodore Bikel, and his family near the end of Act 2 about his Austrian patriotism in the face of pressure to join the navy of Nazi Germany. The song is named after the edelweiss flower, a white flower usually found high in the Alps. Because of the song’s popularity, many have been led to believe this is an Austrian folk song, or even Austria’s official national anthem.
“Don’t Rain on My Parade” – Funny Girl (1964)
This iconic song, arguably made popular by Rachel Berry’s rendition on the hit tv show Glee, has been covered by many artists since its inception. Written by Bob Merrill and Jule Styne for the 1964 musical Funny Girl, it is performed by the character Fanny Brice, originated by Barbra Streisand on both stage and screen, at the end of Act I. It is on No. 46 on a list of AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema. Covered by many artists, notable recordings include those by Nancy Wilson, Bobby Darin, and Shirley Bassey.
“The Impossible Dream” – Man of La Mancha (1965)
Composed by Mitch Leigh, with lyrics written by Joe Darion, “The Impossible Dream” is from the 1965 Broadway musical Man of La Mancha. Sung by Don Quixote, originated by Richard Kiley, he tries his best to explain the ideals he follows and the “quest” he is on within the show. The song was awarded the Contemporary Classics Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and has been covered by numerous artists including, but not limited to: Frank Sinatra, The Temptations, Shirley Bassey, Cher and Elvis Presley. Brian Stokes Mitchell, who played Don Quixote in the most recent Broadway revival, continued to popularize the song when he serenaded the UWS neighborhood of NYC out his window during the beginning of the pandemic.
“We Need a Little Christmas” – Mame (1966)
This popular Christmas tune is actually from a popular Broadway musical: Mame. Written by Jerry Herman and usually played during the holiday time, this song comes into the show right after Mame has lost her fortune on the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and decides that she and her family “need a little Christmas” to cheer them up. Angela Lansbury originated the role of Mame in the 1966 production, and won a Tony Award for her role. This song has been re-recorded numerous times, with notable recordings for A Muppet Family Christmas in 1987, and for the tv show Glee in 2010.
“And I Am Telling You, I’m Not Going” – Dreamgirls (1982)
Often considered the show’s signature tune, “And I Am Telling You, I’m Not Going” is originally from the hit musical, Dreamgirls. In the musical, Effie White, a singer in the girl group, sings this song at the end of Act One defiantly to the group’s manager, Curtis Taylor Jr. about their relationship ending. With lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Kreiger, the song is about Effie’s devoted love for Curtis. Jennifer Holliday originated the role of Effie, and won a Tony Award for her performance. She later received the Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and the song went on to become a number one hit for Holliday.
Last updated and effective as of January 14, 2019
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