Special Reports

7 Showtunes to Sing From Your Window When You're Under Lockdown

Please don’t stop the music while you’re sheltering in place from coronavirus.

She also liked to sing from her balcony.
She also liked to sing from her balcony.
(© Richard Termine)

I've been so impressed by the display of musicality coming from other countries on lockdown. Whether it is Italians singing opera from their balconies, or Spaniards playing flamenco while seated on their windowsills, people are still making music in the time of coronavirus. We Americans need to step up our game, which is why I propose you go to your window right now and belt out a showtune (musical theater is, after all, America's response to popular opera). Here are seven suggestions:

1. "Waving Through a Window" from Dear Evan Hansen
This "I want" song comes early in Dear Evan Hansen, when our title character explains his fear-driven life of social isolation. I've always taken the lyrics to be a metaphor for social media — how we're all tap, tap, tappin' on the glass (of our smartphones) and waving through that artificial window in hopes that some other human will notice us. That interpretation holds up in the time of mass quarantine, when the Internet provides the only venue for many people to socialize anymore; but the lyrics also feel quite literal today, as I stare out my window at the bored neighbor across the street staring out hers. Does she also stream the cast recording of Dear Evan Hansen on repeat? I suppose there is only one way to find out.

2. "Summer Nights" from Grease
This kiss-and-tell group number from Grease is always a crowd-pleaser. It has become a karaoke classic, especially since the strange Grease mini-craze of the late '90s. Just try singing it in a piano bar without anyone joining in. Of course, you may not be able to conduct this experiment in an actual bar for some time, but you always have front-facing window happy hour! Particularly ambitious blocks can hold Zoom auditions for Danny and Sandy (a strong falsetto and an ability to harmonize are essential). If Governor Cuomo is to be believed, we may actually be singing this one all through the summer!


3. "I Know Where I've Been" from Hairspray
I realize that not everyone has a voice like Jennifer Hudson, so I'm recommending this one with some trepidation. However, if you happen to be an individual blessed with a powerful set of pipes and an intrinsic sense for gospel, this would be a stunning number to belt from your window. While the song was written as a civil rights anthem for Motormouth Maybelle, the lyrics are vague enough that they could apply to any struggle through a bleak period — and has any period in your life ever felt bleaker? "I Know Where I've Been" is an emotional reminder of where we've been, and that there is a light leading us to where we need to go.

4. "Tomorrow" from Annie
Similar to "I Know Where I've Been," this anthem of hope was written about another dark period of American history (the Great Depression), but it can easily apply to today. Even those who don't know much about musical theater know this song, because Annie's optimism exemplifies all that is great about Broadway and America. You can sing it when you're 9 or 90, and the same truth still applies: We're all anxiously waiting for a tomorrow in which we can freely move around without fear. Until that day, we'll just keep singing.

5. "Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid
Chances are that most people at least know the basic refrain of this Alan Menken-Howard Ashman production number from Disney's The Little Mermaid — and those of us who grew up with VHS copies at home have almost certainly committed it to memory. This is a great way to get the whole street singing and dancing in their apartments — sorry downstairs neighbor! No need to dwell on Francesca Zambello's Broadway roller-derby spectacular (although those who remember it can relive the madness in the above clip, featuring Tituss Burgess as Sebastian). Truly, wouldn't life be better right now if we were all under the sea? (No, this is not your cue to chime in about climate change.)

6. "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music
It's natural to be scared right now, but Rodgers and Hammerstein had an answer to that. In fact, they had several. Considering that the film adaptation of The Sound of Music is one of the most popular movies ever made, it's a safe bet that a lot of your block already knows this little ditty, which Fraulein Maria sings to the von Trapp children during a thunderstorm. You might even want to invent your own verse to reveal your personal favorite things: Carved crystal tumblers for single malt scotches / Cameo brooches and bright brocade swatches. As an encore, I suggest "The Lonely Goatherd," which will get your whole block yodeling, their voices echoing off the brownstone like they were in the Austrian Alps.

7. "You'll Never Walk Alone" from Carousel
This second-act number from Carousel is the ultimate anthem of perseverance, delivered to our protagonist after she makes a grim and life-changing discovery. Its message of hope is so universal that it has been adopted as the theme song of an English soccer team quite accustomed to picking itself back up after heartbreak. So many of us are feeling isolated right now, but it's important to remember the "so many" part of that statement. While we practice social isolation to fight the pandemic, we need not feel quite so lonely when we realize that millions of people are going through the same thing. We'll pull through this moment faster if we keep a song in our hearts and on our lips.