Musicals Thread (“I Want” Songs)

Welcome! The purpose of this thread is to talk about all things related to the wonderful world of musical theatre. I post a thread with a topic/question for everyone to respond to, but you are always more than welcome to discuss other topics! This is also a great place to mention any new musicals you’ve discovered and/or general recommendations for other musical fans. Heard any good shows lately? Have any theatre news to share? Tell us about it!

This week we have another special thread written by Lydia! Also, be sure to check out SadClown’s thoughtful review of Netflix’s The Prom!

In a clip from the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty, legendary lyricist Howard Ashman summarizes the function of what’s come to be known as the “I Want” song: “In almost every musical ever written, there’s a place, usually the third song of the evening—sometimes it’s the second, sometimes it’s the fourth. The leading lady usually sits down on something—a tree stump in Brigadoon, under the pillars of Covent Gardens in My Fair Lady, or a trash can in Little Shop of Horrors—but the leading lady sits down on something and sings about what she wants in life. And the audience falls in love with her and then roots for her to get it for the rest of the night.”

These songs offer a personal connection between the audience and the character (lady or otherwise). In learning what they wish for we learn who they are, what they care about, how they see themselves and their world. Having made this connection, we become even more invested in the story as they pursue their goal – often because, in a way, we want the same things they do.

The fairy tale mash-up Into the Woods is a show all about the pursuit of wishes. Though it comes rather late in Act 1, “On the Steps of the Palace” is when (and where) Cinderella elaborates on her greatest wish – to know what it is she truly wants. Wanting something comes with risk and responsibility, after all, as the entire cast will learn all too well in Act 2. I can’t help smiling in recognition as she assesses her situation from every angle, wracked with indecision, and in triumph as she reaches a solution, however temporary and imperfect.

What’s your favorite “I Want” song?