Help a not-quite-musical-theatre geek fake it well enough to pass
April 13, 2010 8:31 AM   Subscribe

Which showtunes should I try to memorize to improve my [already awesome] experience at a singalong piano bar?

Via the NYC metafilter meetup last night, I just discovered Marie's Crisis, a piano bar where patrons sing along with the showtunes being played! I loved it, but was kind of ashamed of how many songs I didn't know. I want to study a bit before I go back! (And boy, do I want to keep going back!)

But I can't memorize every showtune ever written, of course. I don't even know where to start. Last night, I was good for songs from Into The Woods, RHPS, Wicked, Avenue Q, and Little Shop of Horrors, but I didn't even recognize most of the rest.

So, here's the question: Which songs should I listen to on repeat in order to prepare to enjoy hanging out at Marie's Crisis even more?
posted by Eshkol to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The entire Stephen Sondheim book
posted by The Whelk at 8:35 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's what I'd do: get yourself a Pandora station and seed it with musicals. Then, leave it on all the time. Eventually, you'll know most of the lyrics to most of the hit songs from a wide variety of popular musicals. Worked for me.
posted by decathecting at 8:35 AM on April 13, 2010

You have a good start with those. I'd also memorize everything from Gypsy, West Side Story, The Last Five Years, Pippin, Sweeney Todd, Company, Les Miserables, and all of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:40 AM on April 13, 2010

Cole Porter!

I find that they play more obscure stuff during the week, like last night when you guys were there, so don't be discouraged if you didn't know all the songs. On the weekends it's more "Over the Rainbow" and "Hard Knock Life."
posted by functionequalsform at 8:46 AM on April 13, 2010

The Whelk speaks the truth. Know Sondheim or perish.

But I'd also get acquainted with Jerry Herman. I don't know about the personality of Marie's Crisis, but Herman is a safe bet. (Hello Dolly!, Mame, Mack and Mabel, and La Cage aux Folles.) You must learn "I Am What I Am" pretty much immediately.
posted by greekphilosophy at 8:48 AM on April 13, 2010

I half live at Marie's, and have heard Jerry Herman tunes, well, almost never.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:51 AM on April 13, 2010

And please tell me you know how many minutes are in a year and how to live La Vie Boheme? If not - get thee to Rent.
posted by greekphilosophy at 8:51 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Get thee a subscription to Sirius Satellite Radio (bonus if you already have one!) and listen to the "On Broadway Station". It's great and it plays both the obscure and the "Hard Knock Life"'s of the showtune canon.
posted by elkerette at 9:02 AM on April 13, 2010

This (SLYT)
posted by ijoyner at 9:12 AM on April 13, 2010

Best answer: Yes, learn Sondheim - though some piano bars avoid Sondheim material, either because the pianist can't hack it or the patrons don't roll that way. But if you're going to learn Sondheim, there are certain musicals that will come up more often - Into the Woods, Little Night Music, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Follies, Sweeny Todd and Company. Lesser known shows like Sunday in the Park with George, Assassins, Pacific Overtures, Merrily We Roll Along, Passion, Bounce you'll hear less of, with the exception of select songs (Unworthy of Your Love, Finishing the Hat, Our Time...).

Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Jerry Herman tunes are always popular. For piano bars Porter especially. Piano bars love Cole Porter.

And know some of the popular newer shows - Rent, Hair. You'll probably also run into a good amount of Jason Robert Brown (Last Five Years, Songs for a New World), Bill Finn (Falsettos, New Brain, Spelling Bee), Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell, Children of Eden).

Contrary to what you might think, you probably won't hear much Andrew Lloyd Webber at these sorts of things (thank god).
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:00 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I couldn't agree more with elkerette's suggestion. You can't go wrong with a Sirius/XM subscription and once you have it, tune to channel 77. You'll be old hat at the showtunes in no time.
posted by BrianJ at 10:00 AM on April 13, 2010

Oh, just can't go wrong with Kander & Ebb! Cabaret, Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Rink, etc.
posted by BrianJ at 10:05 AM on April 13, 2010

Best answer: Here's a Pandora Broadway station, that I've spent some time tuning to weed out as much non-musical, and only-instrumental songs. It does a pretty good job, although sometimes I end up with film scores.
posted by TuxHeDoh at 10:18 AM on April 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

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