Life is a cabaret (at least once every six months)
February 3, 2015 1:51 PM   Subscribe

I sing every so often at what I like to term "showtunes karaoke" -- we bring sheet music and a live accompanist plays. I am a classically trained singer with zero acting aptitude who is always in need of new songs. Any suggestions?

The crowd is very forgiving, but there are some serious theater geeks in the crowd as well as people who sing/hear the same damn songs every time. (Who's going to sing Anthem THIS time?) I don't have the theater knowledge of most people, and I tend to stay on book, but I am a great sight-reader who will try absolutely anything. Finding deeper cuts or lesser known songs helps me not try to sound like Patti LuPone or whatever.

I have a bit of a confidence complex.

I have access to a full academic music library and and the like.

For purposes of musical theater, I am a high soprano (ha!), but I sang alto in choir and Gilbert & Sullivan. Yeah, I'm one of THOSE. I can't quite sing Glitter and be Gay, but I'd try it! I am also not a trained belter but sing a lot of big songs, as I am a big lady. I will also gladly sing male songs. (Hoping to do You and Me (But Mostly Me) next time, now that I've found a transposed version, eeee!)

I love Rodgers & Hammerstein, L&L, etc.

Songs that have been very successful:
Will He Like Me? sat really well in my voice -- lots of soaring notes that were okay to have a little vibrato on.
Alto's Lament (and I have Compromise in my back pocket for later)

Stuff I'm hesitant about:
Someone ALWAYS does stuff like Summer in Ohio and Still Hurting and anyway there are a ton of JRB fans there who know those things better.

I'm... maybe not as into Sondheim as everyone else? That's an area where I feel like I'd look like a dope singing anything when everyone else knows it way better than I do. (Same for Meadowlark.)

What I would love to do:
Oh My Mysterious Lady, and Who Will Love Me As I Am, The I Love You Song.

I would like to sing more serious songs -- the song that made everyone cry (when someone else sang it) was I Won't Mind, and I just did I've Learned to Let Things Go staring at the music stand :P But I don't have a ton of time to practice or develop actual acting, because I have a baby and a job.

I have had success looking at cabaret-ish albums by Audra McDonald, Susan Egan, Sutton Foster, etc. and finding interesting songs there.

I actually thought maybe I should sing Day by Day with the Happy Hands ASL accompaniment I learned in 1984, just for shits and giggles.

Blergh. I'll take anything.
posted by Madamina to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
If I were a high soprano, I'd grab a friend and do Duetto Buffo di due Gatti. I think it's funnier sung straight than "acted".

It's not quite a showtune, but probably goofy enough to work.
posted by homodachi at 1:56 PM on February 3, 2015

Is this strictly Broadway, or would something like G&S be tolerated?

My first pick would be "When Maiden Loves She Sits and Sighs" from Yeomen, if it were allowed.
posted by ocherdraco at 2:16 PM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, I was just coming in to suggest looking at Audra McDonald. Your Daddy's Son is a beautiful song. Also from Ragtime, you might listen to Mother's songs - Goodbye, my Love and Back to Before
posted by ChuraChura at 2:18 PM on February 3, 2015

Get the sheet music to "I'm a Stranger Here Myself."
It'll give your top range a rest. Get low and chesty with this one! Plus, you can't go wrong with Kurt Weill.
posted by BostonTerrier at 2:46 PM on February 3, 2015

Not sure if you've seen it on Audra's recordings, but "I'll Be Here" from the less-well-known "Ordinary Days" is heartbreakingly sad and wonderful. She sings it on "Go Back Home".

You may want to check out Georgia Stitt. "I Get To Show You The Ocean" (a bit silly, but I love it!), "This Ordinary Thursday (sung by Susan Egan!)", and others from the album of the same name.

I find a lot of less-well-known Broadway-esque music by following the rabbit hole in spotify - choosing singers on albums from people like Georgia Stitt, then finding other albums by other artists they have sung on ... etc. Check out Kerrigan and Lowdermilk, Jonathan Reid Gealt, and Scott Alan as fun starting points for exploration.
posted by kellygrape at 3:24 PM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Heck, if you're willing to do Day by Day, dust off the whole Stephen Schwartz songbook for under-performed solos. Keep it pre-Wicked to avoid the done-to-death stuff. I'm an alto, so my favorites tend to reflect that.

Lion Tamer - It's in 7/4 to challenge your accompanist.

It's an Art



And if you can pair up for a duet: Two's Company
posted by rekrap at 3:40 PM on February 3, 2015

Dance with me darling from Batboy the Musical.
posted by sammyo at 4:04 PM on February 3, 2015

Oh, soprano, sorry never mind.
posted by sammyo at 4:05 PM on February 3, 2015

Bea Arthur was an alto, but that shouldn't stop you from singing The Man in the Moon is a Lady.
posted by brujita at 4:39 PM on February 3, 2015

My friends are all agog over "The Life of The Party", from The Wild Party (Andrew Lippa, 2000) which is a great slow-build-to-glory number. Idina Menzel 1 (in dramatic context); Idina Menzel 2 (in concert).
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:55 PM on February 3, 2015

I was in a production of Man of La Mancha where the lady playing Aldonza sang some parts alto and then went soprano (i.e., "so please torture me now, with your sweet Dulcinea's no more...") and it was a really great contrast, ("I am no one, I'm nothing, I'm only Aldonza, the whore!") in the lower range.

Or you could do "Little Bird, Little Bird," everyone loves chiming in on that in harmony. That's what we used to use for warm up, actually.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:30 PM on February 3, 2015

If you want to have an awesome time, do a duet with another female singer. "Ohio" from "Wonderful Town" is one idea. My friend and I brought some helium balloons and popped one for the loud scary sound in the middle.
posted by amtho at 5:42 PM on February 3, 2015

Sounds just like the place I go every week, right down to the same people singing the same songs every week. I try to bring something new each time.

Anyway, may I suggest Taylor the Latte Boy? Bonus if you can get someone to follow up with Taylor's Rebuttal.
posted by Lokheed at 7:07 PM on February 3, 2015

I'm a big fan of You Can Always Count On Me from City of Angels.
posted by firechicago at 7:59 PM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

On my phone, so I can't link, but look for Borrowed Angels by Kristen Chenoweth, Hard Candy Christmas from Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and maybe some of Barbara Harris' songs from The Apple Tree. If you really want to make people cry, anything from Elegies For Angels, Punks and Raging Queens would do it.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 8:01 PM on February 3, 2015

Bernstein, like maybe Ain't Got No Tears Left? Or Story of My Life? You mention Rodgers and Hammerstein but not Hart. Maybe something like I Didn't Know What Time It Was?

Also, Sondheim fan or not, Losing My Mind is a fantastic song without all the changes of meter and it rewards a trained singer (cf Barbara Cook).
posted by fedward at 10:10 PM on February 3, 2015

It sounds like we have a similar range, but I'm a high soprano who longs to do belter songs.

That in mind, I love "Wait a Bit" from "Just So."

And on the fun side, "In Short" from "Edges." (Pasek and Paul, anyone?)
posted by zerbinetta at 6:20 AM on February 4, 2015

Check out Patricia O'Callaghan's albums. I've done her covers of "Real Emotional Girl" and "Joan of Arc" at cabaret nights.
posted by evoque at 10:08 AM on February 4, 2015

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