Married to Showtunes: A Playlist that Requires a Prenup
Summer is such a popular time for weddings, everyone betting the bank on happiness and receiving gifts for trying. I’m not a fan of weddings and I often find myself drifting into distraction when I’m at one. At a recent wedding, during all the pomp and circumstance and the ongoing blah blah blah, I of course had to entertain myself somehow to keep from nodding off. So, I got to thinking about showtunes about getting married and decided to make a list of them. My one rule: any song that made the list had to include the words “married” or “marriage” in its title in some form. Here is what I came up with:
“Getting Married Today”
We may as well start with one of the best, since Stephen Sondheim’s “Getting Married Today” from Company (1970) popped into your mind almost immediately. Company is itself a musical that explores different aspects of marriage, as well as the sacrifices and rewards of commitment. In the musical, the character of Amy is having a meltdown as she prepares for her wedding, encouraging guests to skip the event as she devolves into hysterics. This patter song requires rapid-fire delivery, strong enunciation, and Valium to pop at the end.
“Marry With Me”
I bet many of you have never encountered this song in your travels, but those who have will attest to what a glorious score is to be found in the musical The Grass Harp (1971). The song “Marry With Me” is introduced by the character of Catherine, a black maid who insists she is Native American. In the song, she recalls the one marriage proposal she ever received came in a letter from a guy named Bill, but since he didn’t include a last name, she wasn’t sure which of the many “Bills” she’d had dalliances with that it could be. The humorous number was written by Claibe Richardson (music) and Kenward Elmslie (lyrics).
“Marry the Man Today “
The 1950 Broadway sensation Guys & Dolls told the story of two women struggling the deal with their romantic feelings toward their respective men, both of whom are gamblers for a living. The two ruminate over their situations, ultimately deciding that it is ridiculous to try to change their partners. They will marry them first and once the deal is signed, then they will set about making the necessary alterations. The comedic duet “Marry the Man Today”, sung by the showgirl Adelaide and the missionary Sarah Brown, and written by the late great Frank Loesser, is a hilarious glimpse into their plan.
Marriage Type Love
Rodgers and Hammerstein had some big hits over the years writing for the musical stage. The 1953 musical Me and Juliet was not one of them. Though the plot for this backstage musical about an assistant stage manager and electrician both vying for the love of the same chorus girl was as dull as dirt, the score had some lovely ditties. One of them was the pulsing and pleasant “Marriage Type Love”. The number is a show-within-a-show song for the musical the company is performing. The melody is particularly infectious.
Don’t Marry Me
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1958 musical Flower Drum Song fared somewhat better than Me and Juliet. In the show, mail order bride Mei Li has arrived in San Francisco’s Chinatown where she is betrothed to nightclub owner Sammy Fong. The problem is, Sammy is in love with one of the ladies who entertains at his club. “Don’t Marry Me” is comedic duet where he tries to convince Mei Li of all the reasons not to marry him.
Never Will I Marry
“Never Will I Marry” from the short-lived 1960 musical Greenwillow is a haunting song sung by a young man who is deeply in love with a girl, but because he is constantly pulled away by a beckoning case of wanderlust (a family affliction), he is conflicted. He asserts that he can never settle down or make promises he cannot keep, simply because he loves her too much to fail her. The melancholy song was written by Frank Loesser.
“Marry Me A Little “
Of course, I’d have to come full-circle, returning to Company. I mean, the musical IS all about marriage, so it stands to reason it would have more than one song on the topic. “Marry Me A Little” was initially written for the show’s original production, but cut before Company opened on Broadway. The song, however, refused to die and has been interpolated into subsequent revivals of the show where it is a haunting essay on the fear of commitment. Sung by the bachelor Bobby as he contemplates just how much of his freedom he’s willing to trade for someone to share life with, the song sums up the fears anyone might have when they are considering marriage and how it will change them.
So, help me out. What other ones have I missed? Remember, the song MUST have some form of “married” or “marriage” in the title.