Broadway Showtunes that Share a Title
This might seem like a ridiculous subject for a piece about Broadway showtunes, but the more I thought about it, the more fascinated I became by the subject. In songwriting, there is no copyright on titles, so titles can repeat. I can sit down and write a song about Broadway and remembering fondly, then title it “Give My Regards to Broadway.” As long as the music and lyrics are different, it is perfectly acceptable (and legal) to do so. This got me thinking: what showtunes are there that share the same title? It turns out, there are several. Here is a sampling of some that I found.
“It Takes Two”
Whether you are a baker and his wife sharing a playful moment together in the forest, or a 60s heartthrob singing a song to all the young girls in his television audience, “It Takes Two” is your go to title for a playfully romantic song. In Into the Woods, Stephen Sondheim crafted a song for a stressed couple trying to have a baby against all odds. In Hairspray, Link Larkin introduces a similarly-titled “It Takes Two,” a pastiche of the heartthrob crooner songs on the 60s, written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.
“Push the Button”
This one only marginally shares a title. In Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg’s score for Jamaica, the song is officially titled “Push the Button,” but the character singing it pronounces it “Push da Button.” For the musical The Color Purple, the song is titled “Push Da Button.” I think the two are close enough for government work. The former is a celebration of modern conveniences, all the things a person can enjoy by simply pushing a button. The latter, with music and lyrics by Stephen Bray, Brenda Russell, and Alles Willis, is an electrified show-within-a-show number, with the entertainer Shug Avery performing it in a juke joint.
These two like-titled songs couldn’t be more different in their sound and their theme. Stephen Sondhem’s score for Anyone Can Whistle contains an extended musical sequence (twelve-minutes long, in fact) where a psychiatrist analyzes a whole town, dividing them into two groups, both of which he ultimately deems insane. In Maury Yeston’s score for Nine, the mistress named Carla gives a gentle statement of her broken heart to the director Guido, with whom she has had an on and off dalliance for years. Neither situation is as “Simple” as the songs’ titles suggest.
The short-lived Marvin Hamlisch (music) and Howard Ashman (lyrics) musical about contestants in a beauty pageant is called Smile. The title song from the show is a group number sung, first by the pageant’s MC Ted Farley, and then by the contestants as they carry parasols around the stage. A breezy production number, the song captures the optimism of the beauty pageant world. “Smile” is also a song from the Gretchen Cryer/Nancy Ford musical I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It On the Road where it serves as a reflective character song for Heather, a recently-divorced, 39-year-old woman trying to make a career comeback as a pop star.
Stephen Sondheim’s score for the musical A Little Night Musiccontains the three-part set-piece “Now/Soon/Later.” For our purposes, we will look at the middle section of that trio known as “Soon.” The song is sung from the point of view of a virginal eight-year-old bride who hasn’t consummated her marriage after eleven-months. She quietly assures her sleeping husband that she will be ready “soon.” This isn’t, however, the first time the song title was used. The Gershwin Brothers, George and Ira, wrote “Soon” for their 1930 version of Strike Up the Band. The number is a bluesy love song, a quiet promise of lovers finally being together after a long separation.
“I Love My Wife”
Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart wrote a score for the wife-swapping musical I Love My Wife. The title number from that musical is a reflective summation delivered by the two leading men, admitting that they do indeed love their respective spouses. A song with the same title showed up just over a decade earlier In the Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones musical I Do, I Do, a two-person musical about the trials and tribulations of marriage. The character Michael shares his astonishing epiphany that he actually loves his wife and is glad that he married her.
“Suppertime” and “Supper Time”
Most people know Snoopy’s eleven o’clock number “Suppertime” from the musical You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown (music and lyrics by Clark Gesner), a show-stopping celebration of being fed from a dog’s point of view. There is another song called “Supper Time” (with the space) from the Irving Berlin musical revue As Thousands Cheer. It’s a haunting song, an African-American woman’s distressed response to the lynching of her husband. It was introduced in the piece by Ethel Waters.
“Happiness” is delivered in two possible ways as showtunes go. It opens the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical Passionas two lovers conclude a romantic liaison, basking in the afterglow of their tryst. It closes the Clark Gessner musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brownas the “Peanuts” gang comes together and the share all the little things that make life special, from “pizza with sausage” to “finding your skate key.”