It’s been about six weeks since I came back home to New Jersey after my college moved to online classes for the rest of the semester, and like many students, it’s taken some adjusting. At this point, it’s all about learning to be okay living in a period of waiting and finding the comfort in that. One of my favorite things to do to calm myself down these days is make new Spotify playlists and listen to the ones that I’ve had for a while. It’s been especially good to have the songs that I can always rely on, in a time when my emotions can get super turbulent. These are six of my musical theatre comfort songs that I know I can always turn to.
“Lesson #8” from Sunday in the Park with George
“George looks ahead.
George sees the dark.
George feels afraid.
Where are the people out strolling on Sunday?”
Watching Mandy Patinkin revisit this incredible song and sing it acapella out in a park for Sondheim’s 90th birthday celebration last night was a particular highlight. These lyrics hit differently when there really aren’t people out strolling on Sunday, when there is uncertainty and darkness. But hearing someone expressing these fears out loud provides another kind of comfort that is needed. Embracing the fears and sharing them with others is so important. And in a way, this song was one of several that made me feel like I wasn’t alone last night. For this playlist, I’ve included Mandy’s original Broadway version. (Some other highlights from the celebration that also pulled at my heartstrings: Raúl Esparza’s “Take Me To The World,” Chip Zien’s “No More,” Bernadette Peters’ “No One Is Alone” and the period of time when Lin-Manuel Miranda, Lea Salonga and Laura Benanti all performed one after each other.)
“The Secret of Happiness” from Daddy Long Legs
“I’ve discovered, the secret of happiness is not to be afraid. I’ve discovered the secret of happiness is all illusions fade! Don’t fear the future, you’ll just be delayed.”
I know that I would like to slow down, and live in the now, and just not worry for a while. It’s hard to do that when I’m being bombarded by constant COVID-19 news and still trying to get work done from home. So this song is a gentle reminder of the joy in just being still. The sweetness and light that Megan McGinnis as Jerusha exudes is exactly what I need to hear right now. The strummed guitar pattern that drives the song but never goes too slow or too fast, combined with the simple piano chords, relax me a lot as well, giving it a light pop/rock coffeehouse feel.
“Happiness” from You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
“Happiness is singing together when day is through, and happiness is those who sing with you…..happiness is anyone and anything at all that’s loved by you.”
I consider this the quintessential comfort song. This was one of the first songs that made me fall in love with musical theatre as a kid, and it reminds me of some better times. There’s just this beautiful simplicity about it, in finding childlike joy in the little things. And there’s the reminder that anything that you love is a source of happiness. (Although “happiness is being alone every now and then, and happiness is coming home again” hits SO DIFFERENTLY now.)
“Warm All Over” from The Most Happy Fella
“Warm all over, warm all over, gone are all the clouds that used to swarm all over. Please always let me keep feeling the way I do, so warm all over, with a tender love for you.”
This is also one of my go-to Golden Age audition songs. It used to scare me; I cried singing this song in class a year ago. But now, it’s given me a sense of comfort and strength, in knowing how far I’ve come and wanting love and connection right now. Yes, it’s cheesy, yes, I know Sondheim doesn’t like that first set of lyrics that I quoted, but it’s a wonderful thought. This whole song just lays out love in such a sweeping, gushy, free way, and I crave that right now. There was one time when I sat down at my piano and sang this song during spring break, when everything came crashing down. This particular version by Sutton Foster has been a source of comfort for me since high school.
“Always Better” from Bridges of Madison County
“I could have never known that love like you existed, but then you kissed me, and you left, and then I knew.”
Jason Robert Brown musicals have so many potential “comfort songs” to offer, but this one from Bridges sticks out to me right now. It can hurt to be apart from the people you love right now but remembering that it is good to love them and to miss them and remember how they’ve affected you is so important. To acknowledge the goodness in the past, and the goodness that can still be. (And Kelli O’Hara’s voice just always makes things better, too.)
“Light” from Next to Normal
“Day after day, we’ll find the will to find our way. Knowing that the darkest skies will someday see the sun. When our long night is done, there will be light.”
In a time where we’re trying to adjust to a “new normal,” of course my mind would go towards this musical. I’m trying to hold onto the light at the end of the tunnel, and although it is very unclear when we’ll reach the end, listening to this helps keep me going.
In a more serendipitous mood, try showtunes on Sounds of Broadway.