This week my Favourites are Christmas songs, but not just any old Christmas songs, they are from the Musicals! I love Christmas, it is a time that is magical and exciting for so many. The glitz, shine and sparkle of decorations and lights, the joy of giving and the happiness of receiving, the fun and laughter of spending time with family and of course celebrating Jesus’ birthday, which is for many what Christmas is all about.
Christmas however, can be difficult for some, a reminder of Christmases past, a time that can be lonely, sad and reflective and which puts financial and time pressures on people already under strain. My five Friday favourite songs this week reflect the mixed feelings that Christmas can bring.
Number 1 – A Christmas Carol- Scrooge, the musical
Scrooge, the musical was adapted in 1992 ,from the 1970 musical film starring Albert Finney which was also based on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol’. The story is about the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, who changes his ways one Christmas Eve after being visited firstly, by the ghost of his work partner Jacob Marley and then the ghosts of past, present and future. The original production opened in 1992 in Birmingham with Anthony Newley as Scrooge, but in 2005 the production opened in The West End at The London Palladium, with Tommy Steele as Scrooge.
I chaperoned both of my children for six weeks in this production in December 2005 at The Palladium and in various other productions since, both with Tommy Steele as Scrooge and then Shane Richie. My youngest son started off as the small, sledge boy and my eldest son was one of the urchin children. Both of them were the children singing ‘Hark The Herald Angels Sing’ carol very raucously behind Scrooge’s door in the first scene. I used to listen side of stage every evening to the opening number ‘A Christmas Carol’, as I waited for them to say their lines and come off stage.
‘Sing a song of gladness and cheer For the time of Christmas is here
Look around about you and see What a world of wonder This world can be’
They were such happy times and my children were so lucky to have had such an amazing experience. I have many special memories, but I can clearly remember one performance where it started to snow outside. It was so magical and all the children became very excited. They went outside in a small courtyard area by their dressing room to throw snowballs , but unbeknown to us it was just outside Tommy Steele’s window which we didn’t realise! He was having an in-between show nap and wasn’t best pleased at the noise they were making!
The music and show always gives me that warm, special Christmassy sensation, rather than the feeling of Bah Humbug!
Number 2- Sparklejollytwinklejingley-Elf, the musical
Elf the musical, is based on the 2003 motion picture of the same name. The musical ran in Broadway in 2011-12 and 12-13 and is currently in the West End at the Dominion Theatre for a short Christmas run. It is the tale of Buddy , an orphan boy who crawls into Santa’s bag of presents and is transported back to the North Pole. Years later, Buddy finds that he is human and embarks on a journey to find his real father and his true identity. He finds him, but his father doesn’t believe in the true spirit of Christmas, so Buddy has to win him over and help him realise the true meaning of Christmas.
‘You gotta remember that December is the time for glitz
Never stop til’ ev’ry limb on your Christmas tree is Sparklejollytwinklejingley’
This song is so catchy, upbeat with a bit of ‘razzmatazz’ and ‘glitz’ It puts a smile on your face and leaves you smiling, happy and with a ‘tingle’ of excitement in your bones. I haven’t seen the musical show, but saw exerts from the show at West End Heroes which were brilliant. A friend saw the show recently and said it was one of the best she had seen. It made her feel very warm and festive and this song has the same affect on me. Here is part of the same song within the show, for a proper ‘Sparklejollytwinklejingley’ taster!
Number 3- Christmas Is My Favourite Time Of Year- Catch Me If You Can
Catch me If You Can is loosely based on the 2002 film of the same name and is about chasing your dreams and not getting caught, although this is not something I necessarily advocate! The music and lyrics are written by the duo behind the musical Hairspray. The show opened on Broadway in 2011 and received four Tony awards, including one for Best Musical, but it had mixed reviews and the run didn’t last long.
It follows the story of con man Frank Abagnale Junior who is seeking fame and fortune with the help of forged cheques. He is being chased by FBI agent, Carl Hanratty. Frank has many disguises whilst on the run and one of these is as a pilot. ‘Christmas is My Favourite Time of the year’ is sung as the airport staff hold a party and Frank starts to feel very lonely. He phones Hanratty on a pay phone for comfort and they both realise they have no one to spend Christmas with. This song is reflective and has some nice musical harmonies…well, they sound nice to me, an amateur musician!
‘So if tomorrow, Santa’s flown, The tree is down and you’re alone , I’m always here right by the phone’
Frank finally gets stopped at the airport and gives himself up, after being informed his father has died and realising he has no one left in the world. He is given 15 years in prison, but is released after 7 years to help the FBI find criminals like himself. He then joins up with Hanratty and they become a team.
This song to me highlights how Christmas can be a favourite time of the year, but for different reasons can still be a lonely time. Circumstances in people’s lives are sometimes not under their control, or they make choices in life which impact dearly. It can be people you least expect, who you turn to. At Christmas time it is worth considering those who might need someone to visit, or be on the end of a phone to ease that loneliness.
Number 4- Have Yourself a Merry little Christmas- Meet Me In St Louis
Meet Me In St Louis Is a 1944 musical film about an American family living in St Louis, at a time leading up to the 1904 World Fair. The family have four daughters and a son and two of the daughters have love interests developing just as the father announces the family are moving away to New York. The family are very upset at the move and devastated to also miss the big World Fair.
‘Have Yourself a merry little Christmas’ was written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. It is sung by one sister (Judy Garland) to another to try and sooth her troubles away, as she is feeling so distressed. It is a very haunting and heartfelt song
‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas , Let your heart be light
From now on, your troubles will be out of sight’
The father watches his family get upset and realises how much the move is affecting them. He finally decides to call the move off and the film ends happily with the family, including the boyfriends, going to the World Fair.
This musical is one I performed with my musical Society TOPS, back in 1994. Back then, I was oh so young, as you can see from the photo! The youngest daughters in the show were Scarlett and Summer Strallen as children, who are now well known Musical Theatre performers.
‘Have Yourself a merry little Christmas’ was recorded with modified lyrics by Frank Sinatra in 1957 and by Sam Smith in 2014. The song has been recorded by a number of other performers and ranks as one of the top Christmas songs to be performed.
I do love this song and whilst Christmas might be hard for some, I like the sentiment within it to try and put aside all worries if possible and enjoy the festivities as best as one can.
Number Five -White Christmas- Irving Berlin’s White Christmas the Musical
White Christmas is based on the 1954 film, starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, of the same name. The song was written by Irving Berlin in 1942 and was originally in the movie Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby. It struck a chord with soldiers and their families in WW2 as it was reminiscing about an old Christmas Setting, so it was reprised in the film White Christmas. This is about a successful male song and dance team who become romantically involved with a female act and join together to save their old commanding officer who is owner of a small Vermont Inn.
‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright And may all Your Christmases be white’
The musical show premiered in San Francisco in 2004 and toured in the United Kingdom over the Christmas seasons of 2006-11 but in Broadway it had mixed reviews. White Christmas sung by Bing Crosby is according to the Guinness Book of Records the best selling record of all times, but I thought I’d share a recording my son did of White Christmas a few years ago.
It is not best selling or in the Guinness Book of Record, but he recorded it for me one Christmas and gave it as a gift. To me it shows that the best presents don’t always have to be expensive and about money.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy Christmas surrounded by people and things that matter,
Honestly Fiona xx