It’s the worst aspect of New Year’s Day.
We all feel compelled to make New Year’s Resolutions.
And way down deep, we know we’re not going to be able to keep them.
People who weigh as much as Stanley Steamers go on diets, hoping that by bathing suit season they’ll be hearing, “You’re looking great, Stanley! Lose some weight, Stanley?” But with Valentine’s Day candy only 45 days away, they and their resolution lose their resolve.
So this year, why not make New Year’s Resolutions that are more realistic – and fun?
How about musical theater resolutions? Here are a few that will be easier to keep than promising to spend more time at the gym or with your relatives.
1: I will not wait until July 4 to play the original cast album or watch the film version of 1776.
While you’re at it, don’t wait until you’re seventy to play 70, Girls, 70 either.
2: When I want to hear a famous musical, I will not always immediately reach for the original cast album, but will investigate a revival cast album (Man of La Mancha), studio cast album (Allegro), London cast album (Cabaret) or even a road company cast album (The Pointer Sisters’ Ain’t Misbehavin’).
Chances are, you’ll come across some intriguing ingredient that you won’t find on the original caster. It could be a song: “The Embassy Waltz” (My Fair Lady, 1976). It might be a more developed performance: Ethel Merman actually sounds better on the 1966 Annie Get Your Gun than she did on the 1946 original cast album.
After you hear Roger Bart and Megan Mullally go high, respectively at the end of “Not Bad at All” (You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown) and “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm” (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying), you’ll feel a little higher, too.
3: I will acquaint myself with more obscure comedy songs from obscure musicals.
Start with “Old Sayin’s” (Juno), “The Only Dance I Know” (Mr. President) and “They Couldn’t Compare to You” (Out of This World).
4: I will discover some of the more beautiful songs that fell through the cracks of musical theater history:
Try “Blame It on the Summer Night” (Rags), “No Song More Pleasing” (Rex) , “Penny Plain, Twopence Colored” (Kean) , “His Own Little Island” (Let It Ride!) , “My Most Important Moments Go By” (The Last Sweet Days of Isaac) and “The Human Heart” (Once on This Island).
5: I will come in contact with some dynamic pieces of special material.
Examine “The Contract” (Gigi) , “Just One Step” (Songs for a New World) and “Why Can’t We All Be Nice?” (Goodtime Charley).
In fact, that’s a good question: why can’t we all be nice? Maybe if more people heard this song, they would be. Maybe Resolution 5A should be “I will play ‘Why Can’t We All Be Nice?’ for as many people as possible.”
6: I will allow myself to be charmed by charm songs.
Listen to “Riverside Drive” (Jimmy) , “Nice Cold Mornin’” (Maggie Flynn) and “Tea in the Rain” (Now Is the Time for All Good Men).
7: I will attend a high school or community theater production of a classic musical – even a show that I believe has been done to death.
What you just might find are kids who, unlike you, have just discovered this show on which you’ve overdosed. Because the experience is brand-new to them, you’ll see them deliver fresh performances.
You’ve heard that regaining your innocence is impossible. Yes — and yet, you just might get some of it back by watching newcomers to musicals learn that this art form is one of the greatest entertainments in the world.
8: I will hear a song on an original cast album that, up until now, I’ve only heard in a pop setting.
For example, “Once Upon a Time” from All-American has been covered by everyone from lofty recording artists (such as Tony Bennett) to seedy lounge singers. This year, hear how it was delicately woven into the fabric of the 1962 musical All-American.
9: I will cease assuming that because a musical flopped, its original cast album must be terrible.
Don’t we almost always hear after a musical has failed that the book was the problem? This Achilles heel is virtually absent from each and every original cast album, so why stigmatize the poor recording for the sins of the libretto? Hallelujah, Baby! and Do I Hear a Waltz? are much better recordings than they are musicals. Take Me Along and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn have astonishing scores. Discover them all in ’13.
10: I will seek out more recordings by an artist I’ve come to admire from a cast album.
You’ve learned that Susan Johnson is marvelous on The Most Happy Fella cast album? (No argument from me!) But now go hear her on the Brigadoon studio album and the original cast album of Oh Captain!
11: I will take a chance on a cast album that I’ve never before encountered.
Have you avoided Goldilocks because it sounds like a kiddie show? (With Elaine Stritch in it? Are you kidding?) How much of Flora, the Red Menace do you know? Have you ever given First Impressions a chance to make a first impression on you? Let 2013 be the year.
12. I will examine an area of musical theater that I’ve assumed that I wouldn’t like – be it Golden Age or modern – on the off-chance that I will.
If you’re the type who thinks that Broadway means By Jupiter, try Bring in ‘Da Noise Bring in ‘Da Funk. Conversely, if your idea of a musical extends only as far as Avenue Q, come and meet those dancin’ feet on 42nd Street.
13. I will play a musical theater song as soon as I get out of bed in the morning.
To get your juices flowing, may I recommend “Come Follow the Band” (Barnum) , “Ralphie to the Rescue” (A Christmas Story) , “Gaugin’s Shoes” (A Class Act) , “Jump for Joy” (The Goodbye Girl) , “Confidence” (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) , “Pleased with Myself” (Starting Here, Starting Now) and “Man” from The Full Monty — even if you’re a woman.
Those seven at least cover your first week. And finally:
14: When I’m playing a recording on which a big production number comes up – “Who’s That Woman?” (Follies), “We’ll Take a Glass Together” (Grand Hotel) or the title numbers of Mame and Hello, Dolly! – I will NOT be too ashamed to pretend I’m a member of the ensemble and, as Maggie sings in A Chorus Line, “dance around the living room.”
Hey, if you prefer to be the star around which everyone else is dancing, well, as Billy sings in Carousel, that’d be all right, too.