by Peter Filichia
“Tra La! It’s May! The Lusty Month of May!” So Julie Andrews has been singing for nearly the last half-century on the original cast album of Camelot.
Well, it’s May, and if you’re inclined to be lusty, here are 20 of Broadway’s lustiest songs from musical theater characters that can identify with you. Hear them all cite their desires to some stirring music. In alphabetical order:
1. “Always True to You in My Fashion” (Kiss Me, Kate) – This Lois Lane isn’t waiting for Superman. She’s too busy concentrating on a vet, boss, madman, tycoon, and oil man – as well as Messrs. Thorn, Fritz, Harris, and Calhoun.
2. “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” (Pal Joey) – Why did Vera Simpson (Vivienne Segal) leave out the word “lusty,” which is, after all, the best word to describe her feelings for Joey? My guess is that lyricist Lorenz Hart was showing respect for alliteration.
3. “Black Boys” and “White Boys” (Hair) – Opposites attract, but never before had any song been so frank about it.
4. “Blame It on the Summer Night” (Rags) – True, this is just the beginning of lustful thoughts for Rebecca (Julia Migenes); she is a married woman, after all. But her husband didn’t come to get her when she arrived at Ellis Island, and now here’s this very interesting man in front of her. Composer Charles Strouse (Annie; Bye Bye Birdie) and lyricist Stephen Schwartz (Godspell; Wicked) get to the heart and soul of her with this seductive song.
5. “A Call from the Vatican” (Nine) – At least that’s what Guido Contini (Raul Julia) tells his wife. Actually, it’s Carla (Anita Morris) who soon comes down to brass tacks in expressing a desire to not only “kiss your fevered little brow” but also to “kiss your toes.” Although she mentions no other part of the body, we have a feeling that she’ll get around to those, too.
6. “Come up to My Place” (On the Town) – True, Chip (Cris Alexander) isn’t at all lusty; all he wants is to be shown the sights of New York City. What he lacks, though, is amply supplemented by Hildy (Nancy Walker), who’s all too willing to “show you the road to ruin.”
7. “Don’t Know Where You Leave Off” (Sweet Smell of Success) – “Let me be lost in my lover,” sings Dallas (Jack Noseworthy) to Susan (Kelli O’Hara) in this millennium’s most underrated musical. And while Susan gives many excuses why she can’t come to Philadelphia to meet him, she’s soon saying, “Sweep me up, lift me high.” Craig Carnelia’s lyric does the job admirably, but don’t discount Marvin Hamlisch’s music that starts off soft yet dark and strong, and continues to build in intensity to a – yes – big climax.
8. “Everybody’s Girl” (Steel Pier) – Debra Monk plays “Sizzling Shelby Stevens” who makes no bones about the raunchy feelings in each of her bones, organs, and blood. “I truly believe I’m a modern-day Carmen,” she sings, citing opera’s most famous non-shrinking violet. To a sultry melody by John Kander, lyricist Fred Ebb offers about quadruple the number of double entendres you’d find in the naughtiest song.
9. “Express Yourself” (Flora, the Red Menace) – Charlotte (Cathryn Damon) is white-hot to trot with Harry (Bob Dishy), encouraging him to let out his feelings in one of the first songs that Kander and Ebb ever wrote. There’s a great in-joke for New Yorkers when Damon sings, “Get off of that local train … and express yourself to me.”
10. “Hey, Yvette!” (Over Here!) – During World War II, some World War I veterans recall when they were young and lusty, and, best of all, in France where they met a lovely Gallic lass. “We’re mighty glad we knew you,” they sing longingly, before adding, “’Twas great to parley-vous you.” True, that phrase could refer to conversation, but somehow when it’s sung by these benignly dirty old men, it could mean another activity entirely.
11. “I Am Free” (Zorba) – Okay, not quite the type of lust of which we’ve been speaking, but can anybody deny that Zorba the Greek has a lust for life? And who better to sing it than Anthony Quinn, who appeared in Lust for Life (as Gauguin), and won an Oscar?
12. “I’m Gonna Love You Tonight” (Swing) – Michael Gruber tries to seduce Laura Benanti. (Who can blame him?) His first words to her: “Oh, don’t tell me no.” But Swing takes place in the 1940s, when ladies were more demure. “Let my conscience be your guide,” Laura insists — though soon she’s saying, “If you put it that way …” Ah, that ‘40s music is awfully seductive.
13. “I Never Do Anything Twice” (Side by Side by Sondheim) – If Sondheim didn’t include in this song every possible sexual interest that man or woman could have, he certainly came close. Millicent Martin provides a light touch on some heavy but heavenly material.
14. “Old Devil Moon” (Finian’s Rainbow) – Slyly seductive, but lusty nevertheless. Of course, Woody abrogates all responsibility for his sexual itch. He essentially says, “The moon made me do it!”
15. “An Old-Fashioned Love Story” (The Wild Party) – Actually, a vast majority of songs from Andrew Lippa’s exceptional score involve lust, but this is the standout among standouts. The type of love of which Madelaine True sings is indeed old – at least as old as 600 B.C., when it was all the rage on the Isle of Lesbos – and Alix Korey sure gives it her all in this rouser. Granted, the title is not the most logical one for the song, but if it were called “A Lesbian Love Story” in the program, that would give away one of the best jokes. (Oh, damn! I just gave it away! Sorry!)
16. “Quintet” (West Side Story) – We’ve got two kinds of lust here. First, Anita is preparing for a night with Bernardo. “He’ll walk in hot and tired,” she notes. “Don’t matter if he’s tired – as long as he’s hot.” The song also lets us hear Bernardo’s lust; it, however, is for revenge against those Jets. Ah, well; Bernardo isn’t the first male musical theater character who’s more interested in his career than in love.
17. “Saturday Night” (Saturday Night) – Four young men living through The Roaring ‘20s are only too ready to roar – but instead, they’re sitting at home in Brooklyn on the loneliest night of the week. Stephen Sondheim’s first-ever musical showed that he was already a master of the clever rhyme: “When you are by your lonesome,” one lad asks, “All you can do is phone some broad.” All right, not at all politically correct, but the show did take place about 90 years ago.
18. “Sooner or Later” (Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall) – For all the talk of how Sondheim’s work is so cold, here’s a song that proves he can write as hot as Mrs. Lovett’s oven. “I always get my man,” Karen Ziemba purrs to her quarry, and one can understand why she gets results; near song’s end she sings “I’m gonna love you like nothing you’ve known.” No wonder the song ends shortly thereafter; the guy just has to give in.
19. “Touch-A-Touch-A-Touch Me” (The Rocky Horror Show) – Don’t you just love subtlety in the musical theater?
20. “With Every Breath I Take” (City of Angels) – A true torch song in a jazz mode that positively swelters. This was the last original cast album to officially be issued on vinyl; so many probably melted from this song that that’s why they stopped being issued. But now it’s available on CD once more!
And why, you may ask, no “Whatever Lola Wants” from Damn Yankees? Becuase Lola really isn’t lusty. She’s just working.
But as a bonus track, don’t forget “The Lusty Month of May” itself.
You may e-mail Peter at [email protected] He writes a column each Monday, Wednesday and Friday at www.theatermania.com/peterfilichia