Top 10 Christmas Songs in Musical Theatre
As the countdown to the big day has officially begun, it's time to deck the halls and turn up the volume on your favourite seasonal hits. Christmas songs are some of the most inspiring and tuneful pieces of music we hear all year, and many of the most famous actually originated in theatres.
Musical theatre has provided the soundtrack to many momentous life events throughout the past 100 years, and continues to write songs that crossover to enjoy popular appeal. To get the Christmas party started, listen to these Christmas songs from musicals for your enjoyment.
"Christmas Lullaby" - Songs For a New World
Jason Robert Brown's celebrated song cycle includes many stand out hits that are constantly performed for auditions and concerts the world over. Against the angst, the belting and the vocal gymnastics of other numbers in the score, one of the most memorable songs is this gentle and delicate lullaby as a new mother reacts with wonder and joy at the discovery of her pregnancy.
"A Christmas Song" - Elf the Musical
For those who have seen this colourful and charming musical adaptation of the hit Christmas comedy you will appreciate just how festive the whole show is from beginning to end. Ice Skating? Check. Snow in the auditorium? Check. Santa's sleigh flying? Double check. In fact, this show is so full of Christmas cheer your teeth begin to ache. The fun and peppy score features a number of tap along hits, with one of the strongest songs seeing a kick-line of angry Father Christmas impersonators bemoaning the loss of festive cheer.
Buddy the Elf's mission to spread the joy of Christmas comes to a head with this lively production number which will stick in your head for days - just like all the best Christmas songs. Listen to the London cast deliver the tune, featuring the vocals of Ben Forster and Kimberley Walsh.
"White Christmas" - from White Christmas
No Christmas period would be complete without a sing-along of this classic tune around the tree. Featured in the hit film of the same name as well as the stage musical, this 1942 Irving Berlin song was most famously recorded by Bing Crosby and according to the Guinness Book of World Records is the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 100 million copies worldwide.
Since recorded by artists all over the world the song has featured on countless albums and CD collections. The stage musical is continually performed in both the UK and USA, complete with falling snow and festive gowns. Check out the footage from the 2019 production, starring Danny Mac.
"Twelve Days to Christmas" - She Loves Me
Anyone who has ever left their Christmas shopping to the last minute will emphasise with this hilarious little ditty which comes at a much needed point in the delightful musical. Whilst Georg and Amalia have spent the past months arguing and fighting without realising they are in fact each other's secret pen palls, the action moves away from their relationship for a fast paced production number that rattles the action along up to a perfect finale setting, Christmas Eve. If you've every rushed around Selfridges like a "popper who sheeps in time", you'll appreciate the blind panic associated with this song.
"Be a Santa" - Subways are for Sleeping
Now the words 'Christmas' and 'David Merrick' aren't always closely linked, but one of the best songs from his celebrated musical of 1961 came at the act break when composers Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green provided a jolly Christmas finale. I've recently become mildly obsessed with this slight musical that follows magazine writer Angie McKay who is assigned to write a story about a group of well-dressed homeless people sleeping in the New York subway system. A sure fire hit, it was not, but this song is certainly the take away tune.
"It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" - Here's Love
Whilst Broadway was focused on the battle between Hello, Dolly! and Funny Girl, a Christmas musical by Meredith Wilson was quietly ticking away causing its own controversy. Whilst many people will certainly recognise the song, few will remember which musical it is associated with. In fact, few people remember 'Here's Love' all together - probably because it is now more commercially known as 'The Miracle on 34th Street' - named after the film on which it is based. Why producers wished to re-brand a festive hit is anybody's guess, but the show does have a certain amount of charm, and was known for opening with a glorious parade number outside Macy's store on 34th Street. Whilst the score wasn't Wilson's finest by any stretch, "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" is a universal hit.
"It Feels Like Christmas" - The Muppets Christmas Carol
Okay, so strictly 'not' a song from a stage musical, but I won't rest until I see this glorious Christmas musical live on stage with my own very eyes. There's literally nothing to dislike in this wonderful film which combines The Muppets with Charles Dickens and Michael Caine. Those who have will agree it does not feel like Christmas until you've danced around your living room to this production number. Thoroughly deserving of a place in the top four.
"Turkey Lurkey Time" - Promises, Promises
So the Top 3 is where things really start to get serious. Besides the Christmas song itself, I firmly feel you need to take the whole experience into account, and this is why Michael Bennett's staging of Burt Bacharach's "Turkey Lurkey Time" should be preserved in a time capsule for future generations to behold. Okay, the song itself may not be the finest combination of melody and lyric - but combined with this staging, Donna's furious head whips and Baayork's fierce arm flails, this is an absolute classic.
"We Need a Little Christmas" - Mame
Nothing gets me more ready for Christmas than hearing Dame Angela belt this Jerry Herman standard whilst practically leading a parade as they decorate the house. I'd love to see a real life version of this musical number that features the usual wrestle with getting the tree into its stand, untangling miles of twisted lights and realising there's been a leak in the loft.
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" - Meet Me in St Louis
But of course, there was only ever going to be one ultimate winner. It takes a lot to knock Dame Angela and Donna McKechnie off the top spot, but if anyone can do it - Judy Garland can. Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane's iconic tune featured in the 1944 musical film, and has since been re-recorded by artists as diverse as Frank Sinatra and Sam Smith. One of the most popular Christmas songs of all time, it never fails to bring a tear to the eye.
Photo credit: White Christmas 2019 at the Dominion Theatre (Photo courtesy of White Christmas)
Originally published on