TheaterMania Logo
Theater News

Your Favorite Off-Broadway Scores

Filichia's readers respond to his list of the best Off-Broadway musical scores with their own choices. logo
So when I told my buddy David Wolf that I was going to list the 50 best scores for Off-Broadway musicals, he immediately said, "Are there even 50 Off-Broadway musicals that would qualify?" I assured him that there indeed were, for I was having no trouble at all coming up with that number. (If you'd like to review my list, click here.) To further prove the point, I offer as Exhibit B a list of my readers' favorite Off-Broadway scores -- none of which were on my list.
  1. Avenue X: Endorsed by Timm Gillette, but this a cappella do-wop experiment doesn't do much for me.

  2. Babes in the Wood: Endorsed by Tony Finstrom. This was Rick Besoyan's musical version of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Never heard it -- no cast album -- but I've read it, and the lyrics didn't sell it to me.

  3. Bed and Sofa: Endorsed by Timm Gillette. Polly Pen wrote this musical with Laurence Klavan, who's got a fascinating new novel out called The Cutting Room (about a film buff who finds the complete, unedited Magnificent Ambersons).

  4. The Big Bang: Endorsed by Brigadude. Given that I remembered A Backer's Audition, I wish I'd remembered this other version of a backer's audition.

  5. Catch Me If I Fall: Endorsed by Scott Cain, who called it "a very cute show with some awesome songs -- especially 'Isn't It Strange'?"

  6. Charlotte Sweet: Endorsed by Michael Sommers and by Christopher Connelley, who said "It's my favorite score of the entire '80s."

  7. Closer Than Ever: Endorsed by Alwy 15 and by Frank Darmstadt, who wrote, "Any show that features a song as devastating as 'Life Story' must be on the list." Hey, let's not overlook "One of the Good Guys" while we're at it. But as I wrote in the introduction to my list, I didn't want to include composer-catalogues of pre-existing songs, and plenty of Maltby and Shire's work here was written for other shows.

  8. Cupid & Psyche: Endorsed by Brandon Ivie, who wrote, "It hasn't garnered a cast album yet, but that score is MUCH better than some others you mentioned."

  9. Curly McDimple: Endorsed by Alfonzo Tyson, who noted, "The wonderful Shirley Temple spoof ran over 900 performances during the '60s. Pity it has been forgotten, since it wasn't recorded." (Actually, I think it was but was never released.)

  10. Das Barbecü: Endorsed by Darryl Winslow and by John Holohan, who called it "One of the most clever and entertaining scores I've heard in a long time! I pull it off the shelf every six months or so and it always sounds fresh!"

  11. Debbie Does Dallas: Endorsed by Brandon Ivie, who wrote, "Dare I say it, but I do believe that there are some damn catchy songs and some horribly cheesy background music which makes the show even funnier."

  12. Eating Raoul: Endorsed by Seth Christenfeld, who wrote, "Not many cast albums make me laugh every time I listen to them. This is one of them -- and it's in good company with the Encores! version of The Boys from Syracuse."

  13. Enter the Guardsman: Endorsed by Seth Christenfeld, who noted, "Perhaps I shouldn't count that one, since it was better at the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival than it was at the Dimson some months later. Among other things, they had inexplicably done away with the gorgeous overture."

  14. Gertrude Stein's First Reader: Endorsed by Jay Kohn, who called it "A little-acknowledged work that has a sprightly, bouncing score"

  15. Goblin Market: Endorsed by Timm Gillette and by Buzz Cohen, who wrote that "the entire Polly Pen oeuvre has much to commend in it."

  16. Greenwich Village, U.S.A.: Endorsed by Chris Van Ness, who admitted that the show was "a mixed bag of a revue, but still with enough to make your list."

  17. Hark!: Endorsed by Martin Oppenheim. Part of the score was written by Dan Goggin, who was still a few years away from his fortune-making Nunsense. (By the way, I didn't put Nunsense or any of its sequels on the list -- and no one noticed or complained.)

  18. The Human Comedy: Endorsed by Alwy 15, who is 100% right. This was my first big oversight. I should have remembered that, though it moved to Broadway, the show had played longer Off-Broadway -- making it, for all intents and purposes, an Off-Broadway show.

  19. I Love You! You're Perfect! Now Change!: Endorsed by Bob Manasco, who wrote, "Most of the tunes are just slapsticky -- although very funny! -- but two numbers, 'Shouldn't I Be Less in Love With You?' and 'I Will Be Loved Tonight' can unexpectedly bring a tear to the eye."

  20. In Circles: Endorsed by Buzz Cohen and by Jay Kohn, who feels that the show has "Perhaps Al Carmines' best melodies tucked around Stein's semi-nonsense."

  21. john & jen: My second big oversight. Endorsed by Alwy15, Seth Christenfeld, Tim Gillette, and Bob Manasco. Wrote Bob: "Andrew Lippa's score is beautiful beyond belief, and the orchestrations by Jason Robert Brown enhance the emotion without overpowering the simple elegance."

  22. The Littlest Revue: Endorsed by Chris Van Ness, who thinks the show should be included on a "best of Off-Broadway" list "If only for the debuts from the likes of Tammy Grimes and Joel Grey." But does that make it one of Off-Broadway's best scores?

  23. A Man of No Importance: My third big oversight. Endorsed by Seth Christenfeld, who correctly noted that it was "a score of great importance" but added, "pity that the album couldn't have been better." Bob Manasco wrote that the score "wonderfully weaves traditional Irish folk with modern musical theater, and anyone who has taken part in amateur theater will appreciate the lyrics in 'Art.'" Brandon Ivie feels that the show was "much better than Lucky Stiff, the other A&F show on the list." And Ronni Krasnow, the world'd greatest Ahrens and Flaherty fan, wrote: "It should be there just for 'Streets of Dublin' alone, though 'Princess' is my favorite. And I trust that next year this list will be revised to include Dessa Rose," the upcoming A&F musical."

  24. Memphis Store Bought Teeth : Mentioned by Ron Fassler but certainly not endorsed by him. He was just making a joke -- but the fact that he remembered the show at all seemed worth noting to me.

  25. The Musical of Musicals: The Musical: Endorsed by Theaterluvr. Yeah, the lyrics are great. But given that the music borrows so heavily from Rodgers, Sondheim, Herman, Lloyd Webber, and Kander, I'd list it among the Top 100 but not the Top 50.

  26. Olympus on My Mind: Endorsed by Neil677 ("It had some great material"). We'll have to agree to disagree, my friend.

  27. Opal: Endorsed by Brian O'Halloran. Ditto.

  28. Romance in Hard Times: Endorsed by Buzz Cohen and Scott Cain ("A difficult, intricate book, but William Finn's songs are so wonderful.") Especially "All Fall Down," a galvanizing tune.

  29. Sarah, Plain and Tall: Endorsed by Seth Christenfeld, who wrote, "Ten bucks says we see it become a massive hit on Broadway within a few years. Sure, Larry O'Keefe did great work on Bat Boy, but this show is even better. When Larry said that he married Nell because she was the only lyricist he'd ever met better than he was, he wasn't kidding."

  30. Shoestring '57, and...

  31. Shoestring Revue: Each endorsed by John W. Griffin. I've got to give these another listen. It's been too long.

  32. Show Me Where the Good Times Are: Endorsed by Neil677. Note that the show's title song was from the Broadway-bound (but never made it) Hot September.

  33. Smiling, the Boy Fell Dead: Endorsed by John W. Griffin and by Neil677, who wrote, "At the very top of my list. A charming score." I had a tape of this, which I loaned to someone even before I heard it and then never got it back. John and Neill, I'll take your word for it.

  34. Smith: Endorsed by Martin Oppenheim and by Tony Finstrom, who wrote, "Though a cast album was never recorded, I'm STILL humming the song 'It Must Be Love.'" But the Internet Broadway database lists this as a Broadway show.

  35. Song of Singapore: Endorsed by Michael Sommers, my colleague at The Star-Ledger, to whom I always defer.

  36. The Spitfire Grill: Endorsed by Timm Gillette, Scott Cain ("Touching lyrics in wonderful songs"), and Jason Flum ("There's a short little song in the second act, 'Forest for the Trees' that I just absolutely love.")

  37. Summer of '42: Endorsed by Alex Wyse and by Scott Cain, who feels that this score is "Hugely deserving of a cast recording." If it had one, I might have known it well enough to put it on my list.

  38. Three Postcards: Endorsed by Bob Manasco, who wrote, "Craig Carnelia is THE most underrated, underappreciated composer on the modern musical theater scene."

  39. tick, tick ... BOOM!: Another oversight on my part. Endorsed by Nick Montesano, Scott Cain ("Shows such promise for what Larson wrote for Rent"), Aman1016 and Bob Manasco (each of whom wrote, "I prefer this to Rent"), and Seth Christenfeld ("[The songs are] miniature masterpieces -- although it's perhaps ironic that the best of the lot, 'Come To Your Senses,' was never intended to be in the show in the first place.")

  40. Time & Again: Endorsed by Scott Cain ("The book had problems, the MTC production was lacking, but it sure had great songs.")

  41. Tuscaloosa's Calling Me... but I'm Not Going: Endorsed by Theaterluvr. As Fred Ebb wrote in The Happy Time, "The memory plays tricks, eh?" I could have sworn that this moved to Broadway and ran a while, but the research books state otherwise.

  42. Violet: By far my biggest oversight, and I apologize profusely to Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley. Endorsed by Alwy 15 ("Awesome"), Jason Flum, and Scott Cain ("A very tuneful score with a mix of gospel, soul, country, and more").

  43. Weird Romance: Endorsed by Scott Cain ("Odd sci-fi book, but highly melodic songs") and Raymond Yucis ("Doesn't Ellen Greene's final number, 'Someone Is Waiting,' just rip your guts out?").

  44. What About Luv?: Endorsed by Timm Gillette, who's right. Missing this one makes me relate to the song entitled "He's a Loser."

  45. When Pigs Fly: Endorsed by Brian O'Halloran. You know, just for "A Patrotic Finale," it deserves to be on the list.

  46. Whispers on the Wind: Endorsed by Maryann Lopinto, who wrote, "Even though the cast album was not released commercially, it was sold to Lincoln Center subscribers. The album had Nancy Dussault, Karen Morrow, David Cryer, Patrick Fox, and RG Brown."

  47. Zanna, Don't!: Endorsed by Mark Robinson. If only Tim Acito's rhymes were better!


[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at [email protected]]

Tagged in this Story