Falling in Love Is Wonderful: Broadway’s Greatest Love Duets
Falling in love certainly is wonderful on Broadway. Nothing lights up a Broadway musical quite like a great love story, whether it is a heartbreaking star-cross’d tragedy (West Side Story) or the witty life-and-times of the average middle-class married couple (I Do! I Do!). The great songwriters of Broadway’s golden age are at their best when they are evoking the magic of falling and being in love, especially when the lovers break into song together. Here we have the very best of them all. This collection begins squarely in the middle of Broadway’s golden age, with the wistful but buoyant “They Say It’s Wonderful” from Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun, anchored by the very sound of Broadway personified: Ethel Merman’s big-hearted, bigger-voiced portrayal of Annie Oakley, partnered by the smooth baritone of Bruce Yarnell. From there, imagine a kind of arc. The gentle wow of “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” from Guys and Dolls. The knowing tease of “People Will Say We’re in Love” from Oklahoma! and “Make Believe” from Show Boat. The contrary seduction of the bench scene from Carousel, culminating in the rapturous “If I Loved You.” And, inevitably, the full-throated ecstasy of “Tonight” from West Side Story, “We Kiss in a Shadow” from The King and I, and “My Heart Is So Full of You” from The Most Happy Fella. What follows brings the love story back down to earth again. The sudden recognition that an amazing thing has happened in “It Only Takes a Moment” (Hello, Dolly!). The understanding of what it can all add up to, in the fullness of time, in “My Cup Runneth Over” (I Do! I Do!) and “Do You Love Me?” (Fiddler on the Roof). The same realization, only as precious time together slips away, in the surging passion of “All the Wasted Time” (Parade). An elliptical but quietly radiant expression of devotion, at a moment of fearful uncertainty, in “Sailing” (A New Brain, technically Off-Broadway but a most welcome guest here). And finally, in “Just in Time” (Bells Are Ringing), the happiest of endings: the giddy delight of falling in love and knowing just how lucky you are. In the musical theatre, falling in love can sound like everything from the clarion call of Ethel Merman on the title track to Norm Lewis’s gently soaring tenor in “Sailing.” Loud and soft. Tough and sweet. Light and dark. Chaste and sexy. A bouncing Tin Pan Alley tune and a nearly operatic catharsis. In a word, wonderful.