Snow, Rain, Wind, and Sun: The “Elements” of the Broadway Showtune
With the weather beginning to do all kinds of crazy things, sun one day and rain the next, I decided to create a list of showtunes that, one way or the other (and some of these are stretches) take on the elements in their titles. And please, help me add to the list! What are the “elements” of your favorite Broadway showtunes?
“Right as the Rain” from Bloomer Girl
The 1944 musical Bloomer Girl features an unforgettable score by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. The love song “Right as the Rain” compares the beauty of romance to the perfection of the falling rain. You can almost feel the number evoking the falling droplets in its gentle melody.
“I Never Has Seen Snow” – House of Flowers
Harold Arlen and Truman Capote created an atmospheric and poetic score for the musical House of Flowers. Set amidst two competing bordellos in tropical Haiti, the song “I Never Has Seen Snow” features one of the characters comparing the snow to her love, insisting a blanket of snow cannot possibly be as beautiful as he is.
“They Call the Wind Maria” from Paint Your Wagon
The Lerner and Loewe musical Paint Your Wagon includes one song that is the score’s most well-known: “They Call the Wind Maria.” The haunting song actually involves a handful of elements, with the singer naming them “The Rain is Tess, The Fire is Joe, and they call the Wind Maria.”
“Mister Snow” from Carousel
Okay, so here is that “stretch” I was talking about. In the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel, one of the character’s names is Enoch Snow. The character of Carrie Pipperidge is smitten with the salty sailor, and sings of her “feller” in “Mister Snow.”
“Don’t Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl
The indomitable personality and boundless ambition of Fanny Brice will never be kept at bay, nor will her capacity to love. In the Jule Styne/Bob Merrill song “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” she insists that the elements aren’t going to stifle her.
“April Snow” from Up in Central Park
One of the last successful Broadway operettas was Up in Central Park, with a score by Sigmund Romberg and Dorothy Fields. The musical has a lovely, understated ditty called “April Snow” that has been oft-recorded.
“The Sun Has Got His Hat On” from Me and My Girl
Playtime in the sun is what most of us are looking for, and so are the denizens of Hereford Hall in Hampshire. “The Sun Has Got His Hat On” by Noel Gay, Douglas Furber and Arthur Rose, features the stuffy inhabitants and their weekend guests giving us their best version of “letting loose.”
“Children of the Wind” from Rags
A score with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz is bound to blow us away, and their anthemic “Children of the Wind” from Rags is one of the show’s highlights. Immigrants who have been blown to America are captured in this impassioned number about coming to the New World.
“Snow” from White Christmas
Irving Berlin’s score for the film White Christmas is a memorable one. One of its highlights in the harmonious “Snow” sung by Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen. How wonderful that this enchanting celebration of flakey white magic made its way into the Broadway production of White Christmas.
“The Rain in Spain” from My Fair Lady
Though the song is pretty much utter nonsense, a string of vocal exercises put to music, “The Rain in Spain” from My Fair Lady is one of the songs most closely associated with the show. With music by Frederick Loewe and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, the song is a joyous celebration of reverie, when Eliza Doolittle finally has a breakthrough in lessons in phonetics.
“A Little Fall of Rain” from Les Misérables
When Eponine is shot at the barricades in the musical Les Misérables, she hangs on just long enough to have a duet of unrequited love with dearest Marius. “A Little Fall of Rain” by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer is a heartbreaking death scene, the dying saying goodbye to living.
“It’s Raining on Prom Night” from Grease
The 1970s musical about the 1950s Grease has become somewhat iconic, thanks particularly to its film version. One of the songs that doesn’t get quite as much play is “It’s Raining on Prom Night” by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. The musical’s leading lady Sandy sings the song, saddened over her falling out with the greaser Danny.
“River in the Rain” from Big River
What could create a more peaceful and pensive mood than riding on a raft down a river while the rain cascades down on the water? “River in the Rain” from Big River, Roger Miller’s musical adaptation of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, captures Huck and Jim’s thoughts as they take that ride.
“Come Rain or Come Shine” from St. Louis Woman
It appears that Harold Arlen was attracted putting his musicals talents toward songs with lyrics about the elements, his name coming up on this list a lot. This time, for the musical St. Louis Woman, he collaborated with lyricist Johnny Mercer on the songbook standard “Come Rain or Come Shine.”
“Breeze Off the River” from The Full Monty
It’s not exactly wind, but a gentle breeze still counts. “Breeze Off the River” from David Yazbek’s score for The Full Monty is a gentle song inspired by a little boy’s belief in his father, a man who has been down on his luck and is looking for a break.
“Rain” from Once on This Island
Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty concocted a decidedly atmospheric score for the Caribbean flavored Once on This Island. Led by Agwe (God of the Sea), “Rain” serves as an incantation that will bring floods that will cover a small tropical island.
“Let the Sunshine In” – Hair
It’s always nice to end on sunshine, and “Let the Sunshine In” (also known as “The Flesh Failures”) from the musical Hair is the perfect culmination to this collection. A band of hippies plead for the healing of a broken world in this song by Galt MacDermot, Gerome Ragni and James Rado. It’s a message of hope and isn’t that how we all see sunshine?