Amazing Songs from Broadway Musicals That Were Inexplicably Cut From Their Film Versions
From Annie to Sweeney Todd, here are nine musicals that had amazing songs cut from their film versions.
“The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”
Tim Burton’s screen adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim masterpiece Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street was received with mixed feelings. Many felt that Burton perfectly captured the time and place without necessarily doing justice to the musicality of the piece. Whether you felt Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter did justice to the score (or not), there is no denying that we were all discouraged from the start when “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd,” a song that encapsulates the musical’s tone and style, was excised from the film.
“Be On Your Own” and “Nine”
In general, most people will agree that the film version of the Maury Yeston/Arthur Kopit musical Nine was a misfire on many fronts. Many integral songs from the show were cut, but none more palpably felt than the song “Be On Your Own,” the climactic moment when film director Guido Contini is told-off by his ever-suffering wife Luisa. In the original production, the song concluded with her marching through the audience and exiting the theatre doors, her departure so final and so reverberating that the audience felt every ounce of the adultery and abuse she suffered. For the film, “Take It All” was written to replace “Be On Your Own,” but the new song never had the impact of its predecessor. One would also think the title song would have ended up in the film, a song that explains the title and gives the show purpose and context.
“Bushel and a Peck” and “I’ve Never Been In Love Before”
The film version of Guys & Dolls is a funny duck, perhaps most obviously in how the movie drained most of the cartoonish humor from the stage show. At times turgid, sometimes tedious, the film inexplicably dropped some of the stage show’s best-loved musical numbers including “Bushel and a Peck,” replaced by the insipid “Pet Me, Papa” and the musical’s love theme “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” with the less-inspired “A Woman in Love.” Both songs were very popular in their day and it would seem as though producers would have wanted to capitalize on that. Also thrown out: “My Time of Day,” “More I Cannot Wish You” and “Marry the Man Today.”
“The Miller’s Son” and “Liaisons”
When Harold Prince ushered the Sondheim/Hugh Wheeler musical A Little Night Music to the big screen, one would have thought that its arrival would include a terrific musical completely intact. Hardly. Characters names were changed for God only knows what reason. More startling was the removal of two of the musical’s finest songs: “Liaisons,” the reflective monologue of an aged courtesan who looks back on career of practical choices that overruled the matters of the heart (a central theme of the musical), and “The Miller’s Son,” a saucy exploration of romance, sex, and social status, embodying the very structure of A Little Night Music. It is no wonder that most Sondheim enthusiasts were less-than-enthusiastic about the film.
“I Have Dreamed” and “Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?”
The King and I is a lovely film for the most part, with a strong performance by Yul Brynner, recapturing his stage performance to the tune of an Oscar win for Best Actor. A handful of the musical numbers from the stage production didn’t make it to the screen (though a few do appear on the soundtrack). Two of the missing numbers from the film’s final cut are the “I Have Dreamed” featuring a sumptuous Rodgers melody (a song that is oft-recorded) and “Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?”, an important character number about conflicted emotions with a deliciously-sarcastic Oscar Hammerstein lyric.
“An English Teacher”
Bye Bye Birdie onstage and Bye Bye Birdie onscreen were two very different beasts, with only the barest bones of the book retained in the transition from the former to the latter. In the original, the character of Rosie dreams of her fiancé Albert leaving show business and settling down in a normal job as an English teacher. The song “The English Teacher” was her “I Want” song, setting up her entire story arc. For the film, Albert was turned into a scientist instead of an English teacher, and this perfect Charles Strouse/Lee Adams ditty no longer made sense in the story’s context. It’s a shame the film didn’t retain the original plot so that “The English Teacher” had survived.
“I Was Born the Day Before Yesterday”
One can only assume that, when they were turning the delightful Broadway musical The Wizinto the bloated drug trip that was the film version, that “I Was Born the Day Before Yesterday” was not a special-enough song for the likes of Michael Jackson (who was playing the Scarecrow). The number was replaced with “You Can’t Win,” which many people preferred (it made its way into the television version The Wiz Live!), but for my money, I love the groovy melody and the character background we get with “I Was Born the Day Before Yesterday.”
“Something Was Missing”
The film version of Annie, as delightful as the performances are (Carol Burnett and Tim Curry, particularly), was a far cry from the stage show and many of the songs from it never made it to celluloid. Though we miss many of the songs that disappeared: “NYC,” “We’d Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover,” “A New Deal for Christmas” among them, the one that hurts the most is “Something Was Missing.” This tender song sung by the crusty billionaire Oliver Warbucks, accepting his love for the little orphan he has taken in his care, is an integral part of his character’s journey.
The most egregious example of a plot-integral song cut from the film version of a musical has to be “No More.” Unceremoniously gouged from the Into the Woods film score, this achingly poignant exchange between a son and his father, a discussion of the mistakes we make as parents, is arguably (or definitely) the summation of Into the Woods’ themes. Sure, “Children Will Listen” also covers this in broader terms at the film’s conclusion, but “No More” is the Baker’s (one of the two central characters of the piece) final moment to synthesize the losses and gains he has endured for his time in the woods. Without this song, the character is given nothing to adequately sum up his journey. It’s also a gorgeous piece of Sondheim music, touching and wise. I’ll never forgive its absence in the film.
What about all of you? What songs do you wish weren’t cut from the film versions of stage musicals?