By Peter Filichia
“Forty-five ways to go,” my buddy Ed Weissman wrote after he read my column inspired byWonderful Town’s song for Ruth Sherwood: “100 Easy Ways to Lose a Man.”
Yes, although Ruth had claimed that she had “ninety-five ways to go” after she’d inadvertently dissed editor Robert Baker, I could find only fifty other songs that offered easy ways to lose a man.
I discovered that most songs involving the dumping of men didn’t see the experience as an easy one. Many more concerned anger or resignation.
Finding forty-five songs of quality, however, wasn’t difficult. To wit:
1. “And the World Goes ‘Round” (And the World Goes ‘Round) – A sentiment that everyone must remember whenever he or she is dropped. 2. “Back to Before” (Ragtime) – You’d think Mother had heard Dot over her shoulder telling her to “Move On.” 3. “Cabaret” (Cabaret) -- All right, Sally Bowles doesn’t once refer to a man in this song, but she’s just had a fight with her boyfriend and that’s much of her motivation. 4. “Charity's Soliloquy” (Sweet Charity) – If only Gwen Verdon’s character could keep her “big fat heart” from ever being “torn apart ever again.” 5. “Falling in Love with Love” (The Boys from Syracuse) – For the record, Charles Strouse told me that this is his favorite Richard Rodgers waltz.
6. “Fools Fall in Love” (All Shook Up) – They always have; they always will.
7. “Funny Honey” (Chicago) — Here’s a song that achieves that lofty musical theater goal of advancing the action. Roxie starts out praising her loyal husband, but changes her mind when he changes his.8. “A Funny Thing Happened” (I Can Get It for You Wholesale) – Yes, it’s a duet, but future Tony-winner Marilyn Cooper’s character comes out the winner in this battle with Elliott Gould’s charcter.
9. “The Gentleman Is a Dope” (Allegro) — – Why don’t men learn to appreciate the women who most understand them?10. “Glad to Be Unhappy” (On Your Toes) – Well, that’s one way to approach the subject, although it may not be the healthiest. (But you know Lorenz Hart.) 11. “A Handbag Is Not a Proper Mother” (Ernest in Love) – Here’s a very different type of dismissal, but one worth hearing. Lady Bracknell feels compelled to rid herself of this “parcel” of a man. 12. “The History of Wrong Guys” (Kinky Boots) – But Lauren is first and foremost angry with herself. 13. “Hymn to Hymie” (Milk and Honey) – The Elisabeth Kübler-Ross example of “bargaining” (even more than “Bargaining” in Do I Hear a Waltz?). 14. “I Am What I Am” (La Cage aux Folles) – And one of the most dynamic first-act curtains, too. 14. “I Don't Know How to Love Him” (Jesus Christ Superstar) – But it does sounds as if Mary’s given up trying. 15. “I Hate Men” (Kiss Me, Kate) -- The poster child of all angry-at-the-oppositre-sex songs. 16. “I'll Never Fall in Love Again” (Promises, Promises) – Oh, yes, she will – only this time with the right man. 17. “I Never Know When” (Goldilocks) – We usually think of Elaine Stritch as no-nonsense sardonic. But she could be tender when the song called for it.
18. “Isn’t This Better?” (And the World Goes ‘Round) – I’m reminded of what Victor Laszlo says to Rick in Casablanca: “You know how you sound, Mr. Blaine? Like a man who’s trying to convincehimself of something he doesn’t believe in his heart.”
19. “It Needs Work” (City of Angels) – Composer Cy Coleman and lyricist David Zippel worked so well together on a song that reads more like a series of paragraphs, and yet comes across quite musically sound.20. “It Wasn't Meant to Happen” (Marry Me a Little) – Is there any other composer-lyricist we know who’d be more likely than Sondheim to write a song by this title? 21. “Jilted” (Of Thee I Sing) – Well, not really. Diana’s laying it on thick for sympathy. 22. “Kiss Me No Kisses” (What Makes Sammy Run?) -- When a female character in the ‘30s uses the word “Goddamn,” you know she’s angry. 23. “Knowing When to Leave” (Promises, Promises) – Kristin Chenoweth drive homes lyricist Hal David’s assertion that it’s “the smartest thing that anyone can learn.” 24. “Love, Look Away” (Flower Drum Song) – Three women are vying for Wang Ta’s affection, and here’s the one who’ll finish in third place. 26. “The Man That Got Away” (End of the Rainbow) – All right, on this recording it isn’t sung by Judy Garland – but it is sung by Tracie Bennett, the best-ever Judy Garland impersonator (and I’m including all the guys who have played her, too).
27. “Marilyn Monroe” (Blood Brothers) – It’s still the same old story: as Chuck Baxter says in Promises, Promises, “Some married men between the ages of forty-five and fifty-five find single girls between the ages of twenty-one and thirty more attractive than some married women between the ages of forty-five and fifty-five.”28. “Mean to Me” (Ain’t Misbehavin’) -- Lyricists Roy Turk and Fred E. Ahlert certainly knew what to do with the word “mean.” 29. “My Coloring Book” (And the World Goes ‘Round) – Hear Kander and Ebb’s first-ever hit.
30. “The Next Best Thing to Love” (A Class Act) – Sophie long ago came to terms that a romance with Ed wouldn’t work out, but that doesn’t mean that the two can’t continue loving each other.31. “The Next Time It Happens” (Pipe Dream) – Judy Tyler puts her foot down after getting egg on her face. 32. “No More” (The Goodbye Girl) – Bernadette Peters has had it up to here, do you hear?
33. “The Party’s Over” (Bells Are Ringing) – Judy Holliday faces the facts.
34. “See What It Gets You” (Anyone Can Whistle) – Lee Remick doesn’t know if she or J. Bowden Hapgood is the crazy one.35. “Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?” (The King and I) – Miss Anna loses her cool and gets hot under the collar instead. 36. “Sing Happy” (Flora, the Red Menace) – Flora Meszaros makes the best of a bad situation in Liza Minnelli’s first Tony-winning performance.
37. “Thank You So Much, Sir” (Do I Hear a Waltz?) – Leona Samish’s heart is broken, but she’ll take the high road.
38. “That Mister Man of Mine” (Dames at Sea) – It’s mean to be a spoof, but, like the best spoofs, it includes the ring of truth.
39. “There’s a Fine, Fine Line” (Avenue Q) – Even a puppet can have deep feelings about love and abandonment.
40. “Tiger, Tiger” (The Apple Tree) – Barbara Harris plays Barbara (pronounced Bar-BARE-a, as in “Barbarian”), who’s trying to decide if her boyfriend should get the lady or the tiger.41. “We Do Not Belong Together” (Sunday in the Park with George) -- But in time, Bernadette Peters’ Dot will realize that she doesn’t belong in her role as The Baker’s Wife. 42. “What Good Is Love?” (Pins and Needles) – And when Barbra Streisand isn’t happy, nobody’s happy. 43. “Wherever He Ain't” (Jerry Herman’s Broadway) – A five-alarm fire of a song, and one of the best of its kind. 44. “Who's Sorry Now?” (Fosse) – The nicest but firmest “I told you so” song. 45. “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” (Company) – Most songs involving frustration with men are solos. This one’s a trio -- but Sondheim always does endeavor to give us a little something extra, doesn’t he?