This time of year, Christmas carols are everywhere you go! In the stores, in restaurants, at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, everywhere! Most of them are actually Christmas carols, but some people seem to have the idea that if it’s Broadway, it must be Christmas. In the spirit of the season, I thought it would be helpful to come up with some suggestions for those wanting to record their very own Broadway Christmas album.
There are many important considerations when selecting songs to include in your Broadway Christmas album. First of all, it is very important to make sure to procure the rights to perform any showtunes. You should also consider your vocal range, as some songs just aren’t for everyone. For the purposes of this blog, I will just focus on the songs themselves, presenting appropriate and inappropriate songs for your consideration.
When selecting your songs, I propose asking some important questions:
1. Is it a showtune? We know not all musicals are Broadway, but for the sake of inclusiveness, I will not differentiate between Broadway, off-Broadway, off-off-off Broadway, or that musical you just decided to write that will hopefully someday be Broadway! If it’s a showtune, great!
2. Is it a Christmas song? If the majority of the song is about Christmas or winter, great! But this is one area where many Christmas albums miss the mark. More on that later.
All the songs I will suggest are showtunes. But not all are Christmas songs. In my opinion, only Christmas showtunes should be included in your Broadway Christmas album.
So, without further ado, here we go.
IS IT CHRISTMAS? YES!
“We Need a Little Christmas” from Mame.
This is an obvious, delightful choice. It is also timely in these turbulent times. It reminds us of the joys of Christmas and how it can help in difficult times.
“Counting Down to Christmas” from A Christmas Story.
It’s a fun reminder of the childlike joy of anticipation as we look forward to the exciting time of family, gifts, giving, and the occasional Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun under the tree. (Try not to poke an eye out!) Another great choice from that musical would be “Somewhere Hovering over Indiana.”
“Merry Almost Christmas” from A Year with Frog and Toad.
This is another fun song about the anticipation of Christmas. It isn’t very often that you are serenaded by amphibians and birds singing Broadway (well, unless you regularly watch A Year with Frog and Toad, and you’d have my full support if so).
“White Christmas” from Holiday Inn and White Christmas.
Irving Berlin tended to recycle his songs from one musical to another. This is one of several songs that are in both aforementioned musicals, and it is another delightful reminder of the joy of the season.
“Snow” from White Christmas.
Like the song “White Christmas”, this reminds us of the joy of the season, though it doesn’t mention Christmas specifically.
Almost anything from A Christmas Carol.
That said, “Jolly, Rich and Fat” and “Dancing on Your Grave” may be a little odd out of context.
“A Christmas Song” from Elf.
This is a happy reminder of the magic of the season, and reminds us of Buddy’s mantra that “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” Actually, almost any song from Elf would be great.
“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” from Here’s Love.
Show of hands how many people knew this was a showtune? It is from Meredith Willson’s musical based on Miracle on 34th Street. It’s a Christmas classic.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from Meet Me in St. Louis.
This is another Christmas classic that not everyone knows is a showtune. It would be a great song to include!
“Christmas Is My Favorite Time of Year” from Catch Me if You Can.
Even notorious fugitives from the law need to remember the joy of the season!
“Christmas Time is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas.
This is another Christmas classic. It isn’t technically Broadway, but Charlie Brown has been on Broadway in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and A Charlie Brown Christmas is a show with songs. So in my opinion, it counts.
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from Neptune’s Daughter.
Is it Christmas? Yes. Do I recommend using it in 2018 (or ever)? No. Enough said.
STARTING TO TRANSITION…
“Happy Holiday” from Holiday Inn.
This is typically associated with Christmas, but in the context of the musical, it was actually a New Year song.
“This Time Next Year” from Sunset Boulevard.
This is decidedly not Christmas, but it is New Year, which is a week later. This might be a nice choice as the final song on your album.
IS IT CHRISTMAS? NO, A THOUSAND TIMES, NO!!
“My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music.
My theory is that this is commonly included in Christmas albums because it could be misinterpreted as a Christmas wish list, and it includes fleeting mentions of “brown paper packages tied up with strings” and “snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes.” But the song is not about any holiday, or even a specific season. It’s about thinking happy thoughts when you’re scared, thus distracting your mind from your surroundings. Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote “I Whistle a Happy Tune” for The King & I with a similar aim, but you don’t often hear that song on Christmas albums. It’s also possible that “My Favorite Things” is often included because networks tend to play The Sound of Music on TV around Christmas time.
“You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel.
This is even more baffling. It is an optimistic song, and it falls into a similar category (and by the same composers) as the previous song with its themes of bearing up through tough times with hope. It’s a beautiful song and would be a great addition to your other showtune album that isn’t seasonal or holiday-related, but please do not include it in your Christmas album.
I hope you find this helpful and instructive. I always feel it is best for a Christmas album to have Christmas music, and not generic non-holiday-related songs. There are many other Christmas showtunes I didn’t mention. Also, New Years songs might be nice for the end of the album. If you wanted to spice it up further, you could look for showtunes related to Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan and other winter holidays as well.
Best wishes in your Christmas showtune endeavors, and to quote a song from A Christmas Carol (which takes the words straight out of Charles Dickens’ masterpiece), “God bless us, everyone!”