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BWW Feature: Escape the Dog Days of Summer w/ Our Favorite Animal Showtunes

While August is quickly winding down, much of the country is still engulfed in an oppressive summer heat. Whether or not it's global warming (it's global warming), there is no escaping the Dog Days of Summer. So, for our monthly feature, Jeff Walker and I made the barely tangentially related leap to take a look at our favorite showtunes about animals, dogs or otherwise. Take a look at what we came up with, and share yours in the comments below.

Take it away Jeff...

Jeff's Picks:

Everyone has certainly heard the expression "dog is a man's best friend;" although many individuals are cat people, truth be told. In showbiz, there is another adage that has been around for many years, attributed to the great curmudgeon W.C. Fields, "Never work with children or animals."

So if dogs, cats and other pets are our best pals AND they can steal our limelight, why celebrate pets from the musical theatre angle? Why not?! Throughout some of our favorite musicals, pets have made an impact:

"Tomorrow" from ANNIE
by: Jeff Walker | @jeffwalker66

Why not kick things off with that plucky orphan and her scrappy canine companion? Little Orphan Annie and her adopted dog Sandy had delighted readers from the pages of the funny papers since the early 20th century. When the composer/lyricist team of Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin and book writer Thomas Meehan saw musical potential in the little orphan girl who finds a family in the wealthy Oliver Warbucks, they opted for a grounded, traditional musical comedy with tons of heart that took Broadway by storm in 1977. The show had a succession of diminutive belters in the title role, but Andrea McArdle was Annie prime. The show also helped launch William "Bill" Berloni's training and management of the many Sandys that appeared in the show. Here is McArdle and her "Sandy" introducing the world to the ear-worm "Tomorrow."

Video: Andrea McArdle with Sandy from ANNIE

"You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" from DR. SEUSS' HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS!
by: Jeff Walker | @jeffwalker66

Even a green-furred, Christmas-stealing reprobate needs a pet, right? The world was captivated by Dr. Seuss' popular book "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." The annual airing of the Chuck Jones-produced animated version is now as much a part of the Christmas season as Black Friday, hanging stockings, and fruitcake. Years later, San Diego's Old Globe theatre produced a successful stage adaptation that moved to Broadway in 2006 and returned in 2007. The title character still carries out his plan to rob the holiday cheer from Whoville only to be redeemed by their indomitable spirit. The show's narrator is none other than the older, wiser dog Max, who reminisces about his bosses Christmas odyssey. Ed Dixon portrayed Old Max for the 2007 remount with Patrick Page returning as the Grinch.

Video: Ed Dixon as Old Max, performing with Patrick Page and company, on CBS's THE EARLY SHOW

"Just One Person" from SNOOPY THE MUSICAL
by: Jeff Walker | @jeffwalker66

For several generations of Americans, the Peanuts comic strips were like family to us. Charlie Brown, Lucy van Pelt, Linus and the rest of Charles Schultz's pen and ink creations were daily fixtures for fifty years (more if you count that some newspapers still carry classic strips). Among the characters, Charlie Brown's beagle Snoopy was a break-out star. Imaginative, adventurous, a gifted writer, and a faithful companion, Snoopy was the total package. At least two musicals have hit the boards based on the Peanuts characters, first YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN, which premiered in the late 1960s. GOOD MAN's producer Arthur Whitelaw worked with a new creative team on a sequel in the mid-1970s. SNOOPY premiered in San Francisco and has gone on to be performed throughout the world. With music by Larry Grossman, lyrics by Hal Hackady, and a book by Warren Lockhart, SNOOPY focused the show from the dog's perspective.

Video: Scene from SNOOPY as performed by the Cornerstone Theatre in Alberta, Canada in 2010

"Little Lamb" from GYPSY
by: Jeff Walker | @jeffwalker66

The show business epic GYPSY tells the true (but embellished) tale of the rise of the world famous ecdysiast Gypsy Rose Lee and her iconic stage mother, Rose Hovick, aka Momma Rose. As a teenager, Louise was overshadowed by her sister "Baby" June Hovick, the star of the family vaudeville act. Young Louise was a reluctant supporting player to her sister's cutesy stage act. Living on the road and in hotel rooms, Louise's only friends were the animals they collected to use for their act. In a moment of tender vulnerability, Louise croons to one of her furry friends.

Video: Natalie Wood singing live on the film set of GYPSY

"Macavity" from CATS
by: Jeff Walker | @jeffwalker66

Director and producer Harold "Hal" Prince once asked Andrew Lloyd Webber to explain the show he was then working on, if it had deeper meanings or symbolism. Lloyd Webber famously answered, "It's about cats."

It was, as anyone knows from the "now and forever" run of the musical, CATS. It was based upon the decidedly light-hearted collection of verse by renowned poet T.S. Eliot, "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats." Lloyd Webber, working with the creative team lead by Trevor Nunn (director), Gillian Lynne (choreographer), John Napier (design) and additional lyric contributions by Nunn and Richard Stilgoe created a musical revue with a loose story of cats trying to achieve a higher state of being. Audiences could not lap it up enough during the 7,485 performance Broadway run and even longer London berth. While these cats are seemingly independent (feral yet musical?), they represent musical theatre's celebration of all things feline.

Video: Rosemary Ford as Bombalurina and Aeva May as Demeter, with Bryn Walters as Macavity, in the 1998 filmed performance of CATS

Matt's picks:

Despite the fact that I am allergic to anything with fur or feathers, for my five animal-centric songs, I wanted to focus on songs that were about actual animals. So many showtunes sound like they are about animals, but really aren't. Some are actually about people ("Big Dog" from THE COLOR PURPLE), some are metaphors ("Dog Eats Dog" from LES MISERABLES), and some are about deceptively creepy half-human, half-animal hybrids ("A Day for the Cat in the Hat" from SEUSSICAL). Since Jeff started his list off with three dog songs, I will try to focus on animals of other varieties; so, here are my five songs celebrating animals that I can't be in the same room as.

"Two by Two" from TWO BY TWO
by: Matt Tamanini | @BWWMatt

Not only is this one of the catchiest songs ever written for the stage, but there can't be a more inclusive animal song than this. With a book by Peter Stone, lyrics by the previously mentioned Martin Charnin, and music by Richard Rodgers, TWO BY TWO tells the story of Noah preparing to save the Earth's inhabitants from the coming Great Flood, collecting all animals "two by two."

Of non-animal note, the show marked the final Broadway appearance for legendary song and dance man Danny Kaye. However, disappointed by the script, Kaye took every opportunity to improvise dialogue and songs, and continued to perform either on crutches or in a wheelchair after breaking his foot.

Unsurprisingly, the Book of Genesis has supplied Broadway with plenty of animal-centric songs, including "The Naming" (and "The Return of the Animals") from CHILDREN OF EDEN, "It's a Fish" from THE APPLE TREE, and "Song of the King (Seven Fat Cows)" from JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT.

Video: While there isn't a readily available video of Kaye performing the song, you have to listen to his original audio to understand just how great of a song this is.

However, since I don't like to not include video for each song, here is some promotional video of Tony winner Jason Alexander and four-time nominee Tovah Feldshuh rehearsing for the York Theatre's Musicals in Mufti production last year.

"Butter Outta Cream" from CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
by: Matt Tamanini | @BWWMatt

Earlier this week, we opened the BroadwayWorld Vaults to take a look back at 2011's CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. Despite a great cast, creative team, and score, this show never took off like Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's previous show HAIRSPRAY did. When I saw the show, while sitting next to my very best friend (who has no idea who I am), Jeff Foxworthy, I enjoyed every second of it. While the script wasn't nearly as strong as HAIRSPRAY's, the performances by Aaron Tveit and Norbert Leo Butz alone should have warranted a better fate than the show received.

The animal song that I'm including is a really nice musicalization of a beautiful father-and-son moment from the original film version.

Video: Tveit and Tom Wopat, as Frank Abagnale Jr. and Sr., in a preview of the out-of-town tryout at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre

"Greenfinch and Linnet Bird" from SWEENEY TODD
by: Matt Tamanini | @BWWMatt

There were a number of bird options to make the list, including "Turkey Lurkey Time" from PROMISES, PROMISES and "Meadowlark" from THE BAKER'S WIFE, but I went with "Greenfinch and Linnet Bird" for a couple of reasons; 1) The song, while a poignant metaphor, is inspired by the appearance of caged birds on stage. 2) Siding with Sondheim is always a good idea. 3) CELIA KEENAN-BOLGER AS JOHANNA!

Video: Celia Keenan-Bolger in 2002's Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration production

The Lonely Goatherd from THE SOUND OF MUSIC
by: Matt Tamanini | @BWWMatt

As evidenced by the record-breaking success of 2013's THE SOUND OF MUSIC LIVE!, few musicals capture America's imagination like the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. While there are hundreds of productions around the world every year, for most SOM fans, their affection was born from seeing the classic 1965 film. The way that musical icon Julie Andrews interacted with the Von Trapp children continues to make generations of kids wish for their own singing ex-nun nanny.

In this song, Andrews' Maria and the children put together a marionette show about a goat-herder.

Video: Julie Andrews and the Von Trapp children from THE SOUND OF MUSIC movie

"If I Were King of the Forest" from THE WIZARD OF OZ
by: Matt Tamanini | @BWWMatt

There was no way that we could do an animal showtune list without acknowledging the ruler of the animal kingdom, the lion! While we all love Simba and Mufasa, when it comes to singing lions, no one will ever beat Bert Lahr's in the film version of THE WIZARD OF OZ.

His performance is full of heart, humor, and compassion, never more so evident than in his big song "If I Were King of the Forest." For our purposes, it is the perfect way to round out the list; not only is the song sung by an anthropomorphized animal, but it is all about what it takes rule a kingdom full of animals.

Video: Bert Lahr in the 1939 film of THE WIZARD OF OZ

Whether it is "Hello, Little Girl" from INTO THE WOODS, the title song from DOGFIGHT, or "Be Like the Blue Bird" from ANYTHING GOES, there are countless other animal-related showtunes, so let us know what you would add to the list in the comments below or on Twitter at @jeffwalker66 and @BWWMatt.

Jeff and Matt will be back next month with a new showtune special feature dedicated to heading back to school. In the meantime, if you enjoyed this list, check out our January feature on the Most Hummable Sondheim Songs, February's Valentine's Day list of Broadway's best Anti-Love Songs, March's Ides themed collection of Shakespeare Inspired Showtunes, our odes to April showers and young love, Jeff's collection of Songs of Lust to celebrate May, Matt's Birthday showtune party, and last month's Bastille Day-inspired Parisian celebration. Jeff and Matt also write about TV, movies, and theatre in Washington D.C. (Jeff) and Orlando, Florida (Matt).

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