Best Musical Songs – Classical Music



Something tells me that this list of the best musical songs is going to grow … How do you distill the greatest musicals into just ten of their best songs? And what makes a good musical number great? After all, musicals are full of them.

A good song can take hold of an audience, catching them off guard – an unexpected emotional punch in the stomach or a moment of pure euphoria. They are literally “show stoppers” because they elicit huge applause or a muffled silence. The greatest songs remain etched in our memories, becoming household favorites, and there are more than we can ever list here.

Some of the shows referenced here have multiple heavy hitters, which makes the choice even more difficult. Here’s an entry for ten, however.

What are the best musical songs?

‘Don’t cry for me Argentina’ (of Evita)

Great musical moments can be as much about the setting as the song itself. This key moment, from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice on the life of Eva Perón, sees the wife of the newly elected president standing on the balcony of their Buenos Aires mansion. With outstretched arms to her people, she tries to convince them that she will work for them and that she is their champion. It’s a great visual moment, and the song – full of pretty empty platitudes – is a classic.

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‘Defy gravity’ (of Bad)

In a story about how The Wicked Witch of the West earned its name, the biggest moment will certainly be this – the moment she realizes she just has to go her own way, embrace her wickedness. This Stephen Schwartz colorful fantasy song begins as a fight between two friends and ends with a statement of defiance against “all of Oz”. It’s the most memorable and epic number on the show, and singing it out is an Olympic feat in itself for the starring role.

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‘I dreamed a dream’ (of Wretched)

Poor Fantine, she is at the end of her tether. She had to give up her only child, lost her job, was pushed into prostitution, sold her hair (not to mention at least two teeth) and is completely destitute. This song is her emotional lament as she remembers the life she wanted for herself, once upon a time. Here’s an example of a musical with a handful of showstoppers, but – maybe – this one, the one that leaves audiences more than crying.

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“A little priest” (of Sweeney Todd – The Barber Demon of Fleet Street)

Kind of like the witch finally embracing her wickedness in Bad, this moment in Stephen Sondheim’s brilliantly bloody gothic horror is a key turning point in history. It’s the moment barber Sweeney Todd – urged on by his landlady, the pastry chef, Mrs. Lovett – formulates a plan that will help not only his revenge plot, but his need for fresh meat as well. This is a lyric-writing masterclass from Sondheim, as the duo learn about the variety of people they could turn into pies.

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‘Maybe this time’ (of Cabaret)

No list of great musical numbers would be complete without something from Kander and Ebb – it was a mix between this one and “Cell Block Tango” by Chicago, Besides. Sally Bowles’ solo number is an emotional highlight of the show – a show within a show, how meta. In saying this, it was not written to Cabaret at all and did not appear in the original version on stage. It actually predates the series by a few years and was used in the 1972 film starring Liza Minelli (who had recorded it previously) before being introduced in the stage version in the 1990s. Confused? Either way, it’s all about love and the hope that it will remain, which perfectly underscores what Sally is going through behind the scenes.

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“Music of the night” (of The Phantom of the Opera)

Andrew Lloyd Webber Ghost is full of big numbers, but this moment is one of the most captivating. The song is used by the Phantom to hypnotize Chistine, whom he just dragged to his lair – okay, that sounds a bit fishy now that I’m reading it. But it’s more about appeasing it and above all about the power of music.

It’s also a time for audiences to catch their breath after what is a rather relentless and colorful series of opening scenes. This is the Phantom’s first real scene, plus a disembodied voice or face in the mirror. Spoiler alert: he’s not really a ghost, he’s just a misunderstood man with facial disfigurement and a big heart… oh, and a murderous streak.

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‘My favorite things’ (of The sound of music)

Who doesn’t know this song ?! Newly appointed Von Trapp children’s housekeeper Fraulein Maria walks through a bedroom trying to distract the youngsters during a frightening thunderstorm. But who Is did you know that in the stage version the song first appears earlier in the story, sung by the mother abbess to calm Maria herself before she leaves the world? It’s a brilliant song with wonderfully memorable music and lyrics by Rodgers and Hammerstein. That said, I’m sure kids today might think of a different list – I’m not sure a shiny copper kettle would do for many. Whiskers on the kittens, however …

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“People will say that we are in love” (of Oklahoma!)

We’re sticking with Rodgers and Hammerstein for this next one – they were sure to be on the list more than once when you think about how much they wrote down. Maybe there are bigger and better songs than this in Oklahoma, but what a melody! Curly and Ado Annie sing this number, and it’s a lot of fun because you know that in the end, they’ll be really in love. They spend most of the story running around each other, but he’s hers and she’s hers even though they won’t admit it until later in the series. Oh and it was also, apparently, a favorite song of Her Majesty the Queen and the late one Prince philippe.

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‘Somewhere’ (of West Side Story)

Let’s be fair, this West Side Story has a parcel great songs. I mean, hello? ‘Maria’, ‘America’, ‘Tonight’… This one, however, has more emotional resonance than any other in the story.

In the show and in the movie, this is what Maria sings about as Tony dies in her arms, although in the movie there is a bigger moment between the Cursed Lovers earlier, when they accept the fact that Tony killed Maria brother. He also appears earlier in the stage version, but with a much less explicit narrative function. Beyond West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s “Somewhere” took on a life of its own as a kind of hymn for “things will get better”.

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“You can’t stop the beat” (of Hair spray)

You must end in style, and this figure by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman Hair spray does just that. After young Tracy Turnblad defeats her opponents on the downright racist TV channel, everyone goes wild (despite the amount of product) for this massively contagious song and dance number. The “beat” in question is of course progress… progress has to happen, change is good and whatever your size, color or friendly belief, you are part of the world and you deserve to be loved and accepted. . Can I get an amen?

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