Broadway Playlist for the Ultimate Road Trip
Last week, while I was enjoying some time off, I decided to take a little sojourn to Pennsylvania. I gathered a few old theatre friends from my college days to accompany me, musical theatre folk who love to blast a showtune in the car and sing along. Knowing that they would expect me to be the DJ for this outing, I assembled a playlist full of the perfect songs for this kind of thing. I find the best songs for a road trip fall into one of three categories:
- They feature several characters singing so that each person in the car can take on their own part or parts.
- They are extremely well-known and fun to belt. There is nothing better than a song you can let it all out on, scaring the people in the car next to you at a stoplight.
- Throw in the occasional quiet torch song that gives everyone a chance for a reprieve from all the noise inspired by 1 & 2.
My playlist went over well, as everyone in the car was belting and emoting with great fun and questionable vocal prowess. I thought I’d share my list with my devoted readers, perhaps giving them a fun listen for their next outing. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Drive and sing carefully!
1. "Getting Out of Town" from 42nd Street
This gem from 42nd Street, by Harry Warren Al Dubin is the perfect song to commence your journey. It’s a lively number featuring a band of performers, writers, and technicians who head to their out-of-town tryout for a Broadway musical. I prefer the version from the original Broadway cast of 42nd Street, but any version will do.
2. "Don't Rain on My Parade" from Funny Girl
Who doesn’t love to belt this powerhouse number by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill? Though the question of whether or not Funny Girl will ever return to Broadway is speculated with every forthcoming season, the musical has a score that won’t (and shouldn’t) die. And come on, Streisand in the car is a showtune staple; Just watch To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.
3. "Totally Fucked" from Spring Awakening
Okay, this is the closest we get to Broadway head-banging. “Totally Fucked”, although laced with anxiety and attitude, is a great way to just release. Who doesn’t enjoy using the “F” word multiple times in a song. Blast the radio and tell the world how fucked you are.
4. "One Day More" from Les Miserables
I enjoy this song for road trips because there are several roles each singing their own little part. Four people in the car (with the right imagination and multiple personalities) can divide them up and eventually come together. Admit it: most of you have already done this somewhere, whether it was in a college dorm room or on your own road trip.
5. "Sincerely, Me" from Dear Evan Hansen
I love Dear Evan Hansen, and apparently so does most of the world. Though there are a lot of great songs in the score, the one that is perfect for a road trip is “Sincerely, Me” because it is both upbeat and features three different characters (again, a chance to split things up amongst friends).
6. "One Night in Bangkok" from Chess
Rumors of Chess returning to Broadway continue to circulate (America vs. Russia, how timely). Though the score is a road trip playlist unto itself, the musical’s most famous number, the rap-infused “One Night in Bangkok” is great to represent, especially with its catchy refrain.
7. "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess
Well, it is finally summer, and this Gershwin standard evokes the lazy days of summer perfectly. I threw it on the road trip mix for one of those quiet standards I mentioned earlier, a chance to dial it back and regroup in the car. I prefer the Billie Holiday version, but most of you will opt for Audra’s version.
8. "The Great Come-and-Get-It Day" from Finian's Rainbow
I admit that most of you are probably not as big a fan of Finian’s Rainbow as I am, but the score remains energized and potent 70 years after its debut, and “The Great Come-and-Get-It Day” is guaranteed to make your heart merry and your toes tap. Belt it like you are at a southern church revival. I promise you’ll love it.
9. "The Jellicle Ball" from Cats
A lively instrumental perfect for racing down the highway while your Chevy full of divas is on vocal rest is “The Jellicle Ball” from Cats. Dramatic, intense, and relentlessly kinetic, the melody will set your heart racing. If you get pulled over for speeding, don’t cough-up a hairball.
10. "Summer Lovin'" from Grease
I’m sure you see where I’m going with this, but for those who are a little slow: this is another one of those songs for splitting up. Dannys sing from the passenger side; Sandys from the driver’s side. If you are team Rizzo, just shoot sarcastic barbs while everyone else sings. This is one of those few cases where I prefer the film soundtrack over the original cast album.
11. "Evil Woman" from Xanadu
Campy fun is singing along with Mary Testa and Jackie Hoffman on the original Broadway cast album of Xanadu. Neither lady is exactly known for her subtlety, and that is just fine here. Be sure to throw in the “da da da da-da dahhhhhs” that punctuate this ditty.
12. "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" from Hello, Dolly!
This song just energizes me and I like to feel galvanized with Broadway lightning when I’m traveling. Original cast album, Pearl Bailey, or Bette Midler, each version crackles and pops with energy, so choose your favorite and sing your hearts out.
13. "Steal Your Rock 'n' Roll" from Memphis
Regrettably, I was not the biggest fan of the score for the musical Memphis, save one number that was just so full of spirit and melody, I found myself lost in it. “Steal Your Rock ‘n” Roll (Listen to the Beat)” is guaranteed to do the same for you.
14. "Big Spender" from Sweet Charity
Have you ever bumped and grinded going down a highway at 70 mph? This Cy Coleman/Dorothy Fields fave from Sweet Charity will have you trying. You can pull it off, even in seatbelts.
15. "Hard to be Diva" from Starmites
How many of you have heard of Starmites? I hope most of you. It’s a fun little musical, with catchy little score. “Hard to be Diva” is great number to belt with attitude, and let’s face it, two or more theatre people in a car singing? There’s attitude-a-plenty.
16. "Stars" from Les Misérables
This is always a must for me on any playlist, because I simply love this song. Imagine how the voices in the car will swell on the line “And when you fall as Lucifer fell you fall in flame.” It’s exhilarating.
17. "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" from Dreamgirls
Imagine the diva-off you can have with your friends singing this gut-spilling, emotionally-messy song, trying to keep up with the (all due respect to Amber Riley) tour-de-force performance of the irrepressible Jennifer Holliday.
18. "A Lot of Livin' to Do" from Bye Bye Birdie
I’m so frustrated by the anti-Birdie sentiment of late. Strouse and Adams wrote an evergreen score and there is not a bad song in the bunch. I must admit, however, that “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” is my favorite: optimistic, melodic, and full of zest. Makes me want to have an adventure, and that sums up a road trip, does it not?
19. "American Idiot" from American Idiot
Almost as much fun as “Totally Fucked” is “American Idiot” from American Idiot. A loud, explosive rock diatribe against societal ills, it’s just fun to sing loud and with abandon. This will also give everyone a few minutes to discuss the sexiness level of Billie Joe Armstrong. It’s time well-spent.
20. "You Can't Stop the Beat" from Hairspray
Topping off our delightful road trip playlist is the showtune that gets my heart-a-beating more than any other. "You Can't Stop the Beat" from Hairspray is the most life-affirming showtune, life-insisting showtune out there. It’s all about being and showing the world who you are. What a great way to celebrate with your friends and your journey, by taking the real you out into the world.
So, that’s my road trip playlist. I’d be interested to hear what some of you choose for a road trip mix. Please share, I’d love to listen to some others. I hope you’ll give mine a try. Bon Voyage!