Summer Lovin’: Broadway Songs that Celebrate and Capture Summer
Though there is a little over a month of actual calendar summer left, we all know that the department stores are packed with school supplies, school clothes, and the “Back-to-School Sale” banners fill their windows. For all intents and purposes, we have a few fleeting weeks left to enjoy the sunshine and the leisure that summer affords. In an effort to make the most of these few weeks, I have assembled a playlist of Broadway songs that celebrate summer.
“June is Bustin’ Out All Over”
No showtune inaugurates summer quite like this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic from Carousel. The end of winter and the spring months roll by and suddenly there are glimpses of the warmer months on their way. From the “saplings bustin’ out with sap” to the courtship rituals of both animals and humans, “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” incites a frenzy for spring and summer that really puts you in a warm weather mindset. Follow this up with “a real nice clambake” and you are off to a great start.
“Another Hot Day”
From 110 in the Shade
Nothing quite conjures the feeling of the sweltering heat of summer better than the musical 110 in the Shade. A town is caught in the middle of a draught and they look to a handsome drifter to be their mystical rainmaker. The opening number “Another Hot Day” features the town folk singing about the oppressive temperature and the lack of rain. Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones wrote this ditty to establish the mood of what a sizzling, dry summer can feel like.
No playlist that celebrates summer songs would be complete without this perennial classic from the musical Grease. Composing team of Warren and Jacobs crafted this nifty ditty where a boy and a girl each tell their half of their summer romance, offering very different perspectives on how they spent their time in the summer sun. She had an old-fashioned romance and he a more carnal affair. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle?
The Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson musical Pippin features a story of an everyman who is looking for his purpose in life. One of the episodes of his search features the title character going to to the country to enjoy some “sweet summer evenings” where he “played as a boy.” The song “Simple Joys” paints a pastoral picture of Pippin’s summer excursion complete with its “sweet summer evenings” and it’s “sapphire skies”. The lyrical tongue twisters are an added element of playful fun and the whole song has a “throw caution to the wind” air.
“What a Game”
Summer is not complete without taking in a game or two of America’s favorite pastime: baseball. In Ragtime, Father takes his son to a game, hoping to bond with his boy while creating a diversion from the changes that are infiltrating his family. “What a Game” is the manic musical number that celebrates the best and the worst of Abner Doubleday’s happy creation. Lynn Ahrens (lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music) composed the spirited number.
“Blame It On the Summer Night”
For those of you who know the score to the musical Rags, you know what a wonderful score Charles Strouse (music) and Stephen Schwartz (lyrics) have put together to capture the melting pot of America at the turn-of-the-twentieth-century. Of particular interest is “Blame it On the Summer Night”, a sultry, bluesy tribute to passions that are kindled with the summer heat.
From The Golden Apple
Barbra Streisand made this song a hit on her album by the same name, but not so many people know this song hails from the short-lived John Latouche and Jerome Moross musical The Golden Apple. Have you ever had a lazy summer afternoon where you lust lie around and observe the simple things like a bug crawling or a flower unfolding? “Lazy Afternoon” is a that experience captured perfectly in song. In the musical the characters of Paris and Helen sing the song.
From As Thousands Cheer
The 1933 Irving Berlin revue As Thousands Cheer used the newspaper as the central conceit for stringing together several musical and comedy sketches. Each sketch was a news story that was explored in song. In the section of the newspaper where the weather was discussed, the audiences were told of the scorching weather inspired by a sexy can-can dancer who brought about a blistering “Heat Wave” with a wiggle of her backside.
“Too Darn Hot”
From Kiss Me, Kate
In Cole Porter’s score for Kiss Me, Kate, he opens the second act of the musical with the lengthy dance number “Too Darn Hot”. During the intermission of a musical version of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, the cast spends the intermission cooling off in the alley behind the theatre. All of them bemoan how the heat is dulling their libidos, but they seem inspired to jump up and sing and dance about it nonetheless.
“A Summer in Ohio”
From The Last Five Years
For those of us in the theatre business, we all know that summer means one thing: summer stock. In Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years, the character of Cathy, a working actress, details her summer in the Midwest at a theatre where she is playing a variety of roles and working under peculiar conditions at one of those hole-in-the-wall summer theatres.
From Porgy and Bess
Finally, George and Ira Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess includes the summer song to beat all summer songs. “Summertime” has a drowsy melody that evokes the lazy feelings of summer. The song has a smoky melody and lyrical simplicity that make it a perfect ode to summer. “Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high”… it’s an elegant poetry that makes it an unforgettable and easily relatable song.