Ultimate Showtune Collection

I’m probably one of the last people in America who actually loves showtunes, but if anybody here has a chance to pick up this box set, I highly recommend doing so.

It’s the companion CD set for the recent PBS series on the history of the Broadway musical. It has all the standards you’d expect (Ol’Man River, Ladies Who Lunch, Memory) but also some great stuff from the period between Show Boat and Oklahoma - an odd period in the history of the musical when plots were almost completely discarded.

Some stuff is noticeably missing. Nothing from George M. Cohan, nothing from Sweeny Todd (though Sondheim is otherwise well represented) and the inclusion of songs from the Top-40-ish “Movin’ Out” and “Mama Mia” is an insult to some of the great shows from the last ten years (Ragtime, Avenue Q and Falsettoland, to name a few).

50 bucks. 5 CDs. And a quick primer on the history of what was once America’s pre-eminent hit factory. A good deal, I’d say.


There are no standout songs from Sweeney Todd, that’s why it’s omitted. Great play, but very little you walk away from it humming.

Arguable. I think that “Worst Pies in London” or even “The Ballad of Sweeny Todd” are good tunes, certainly better than anything in the very forgettable “Miss Saigon” which is represented by “American Dream”.


A Little Bit of Priest isn’t hummable? Why, it’s too good, at least.

Pretty Women.

I’m humming it now.

The period between Show Boat and Oklahoma! is interesting, because they still made the distinction between singers, dancers, and comedians/actors. So you’d have scenes of story that were funny, then a song from the lovers, then the dancing girls would come on. I saw a version of an early Marx Brothers show that had this format (at the Huntington Theater) and it was strange and jarring. We’re used to a cohesive plot where the songs actually advance the story, and triple threat singer/dancer/actors, and having it all split up felt very stop-start-stop.

While this collection might be cool, I’m asking for the Steven Sondheim Collection on DVD, although it only includes Sweeney Todd in Concert and not the excellent American Playhouse version of the original Broadway show. That and Angels in America would satisfy my inner theater geek.

I’ll probably end up just getting the Star Wars Trilogy because that’s all my parents will be able to find in Walmart.