By Peter Filichia
In Wonderful Town, Rosalind Russell played Ruth Sherwood, a bright if not dazzlingly attractive woman who decries her bad luck with the opposite sex. (You can hear her do it on the 1958 soundtrack of the TV broadcast.)
Ruth does admit, however, that many of her problems are of her own making. She now feels that she could write a book called 100 Easy Ways to Lose a Man. Then in song she details four faux pas that she’s made while on dates; later on a job interview she says the wrong thing, realizes it, and mutters “Ninety-five ways to go. “
Let’s see if we can find ninety-five songs for Ruth – or for anyone else who’s ready, willing and able to lose a man?
1. “Always True to You in My Fashion” (Kiss Me, Kate) – Lois Lane is a real superwoman when it comes to discarding men as if they were Kleenex.
2. “Anything You Can Do” (Annie Get Your Gun) – Ruth believed that seeming superior to a man would do you in. Annie Oakley and Ethel Merman weren’t worried.
3. “Babette” (On the Twentieth Century) – Should Babette choose Rodney or Nigel? Madeline Kahn’s soaring voice cues us that she’ll blithely leave both flat.
4. “Be Good or Be Gone” (Pump Boys and Dinettes) – Rhetta Cupp would give her man his walking papers in a walk.
5. “Be on Your Own” (Nine) – Luisa Contini decides that enough is more than enough with her straying husband.
6. "Could I Leave You?" (Follies) – From all that Phyllis sings, she sounds as if she easily could.
7. “Cry Me a River” (Betty Buckley: Quintessence) – If the guy’s been mean enough, it’s easy to be unforgiving.
8. “Double Standard” (Oh, Captain!) – Here two women dump their one husband. (Yeah, you read that right.)
9. “Empty Pockets Filled with Love” (Mr. President) – Irving Berlin specialized in quodlibets – where one person sings one melody, a second sings another, followed by them both singing the sections they sang together. Anita Gillette’s section is the only one in which a character minimizes romance, but she has a convincing argument.
10. “Flaming Agnes" (I Do! I Do!) – Mary Martin teaches us that a man isn’t even worth as much as an eighty-five dollar hat.
11. "Forget about the Boy" (Thoroughly Modern Millie) – Millie believes that “Out of sight, out of mind” trumps “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
12. “Getting Married Today” (Company) – True, at scene’s end, Amy does walk off to get married (as if she’s walking to her execution) – but if we limit ourselves to the song itself, it sounds as if she’s going to leave her fiancé at the altar.
13. “Goodbye, Love” (Wish You Were Here) – A couple of weeks at a resort will make you forget the man you loved – especially if you find a new one.
14. “Goodnight and Thank You” (Evita) – The future First Lady of Argentina had what might be called The Revolving Door Syndrome.
15. "The Honeymoon Is Over" (I Do! I Do!)) – Yes, Michael is ready to lose a woman, too, but a woman’s saying “Go to hell!” in the early ‘30s was hot stuff.
16. “I Ain’t Gonna Play No Second Fiddle” (Bullets over Broadway) – Helen Sinclair allows David to speak, but she has far more to say.
17. “I’m Going Back” (Bells Are Ringing) – Ella Peterson believes you can go home again (and probably get an employee discount on bras).
18. “I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right out of My Hair” (South Pacific) – Nellie literally gets a clean start.
19. “I’m Not at All in Love” (The Pajama Game) – One of musical theater’s most charming and spirited waltzes.
20. ‘I Sleep Easier Now" (Out of This World) – As we get older, we stress out less about relationships, don’t we?
21. "Is This My Prince?" (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) – Shirley Booth has idealized her beau of yore, and now, many years later when they meet she decides “He looks like Whistler’s father!”
22. “It’s a Chemical Reaction, That’s All” (Silk Stockings) – Soviet citizen Ninotchka has no interest in love, for she’s a Communist first, last – but not always.
23. "It's All the Same" (Man of La Mancha) – I wouldn’t say Aldonza has much of a romantic streak, would you?
24. “I've Found a New Baby" (Bullets over Broadway) – If Ellen sounds too gleeful in dropping David, well, wasn’t he the one who cheated first?
25. “I’ve Got It All” (On the Twentieth Century) – Lily Garland lords it all over her former oppressor that she’s flying high and he’s grounded.
26. "A Little Girl from Little Rock" (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) – Lorelei Lee learns that a Big Man from the Big City can make you forget that little man from back home.
27. "Many a New Day" (Oklahoma!) – Laurey’s in denial, but for the moment, she certainly has no problem in crossing Curly off her list.
28. "The Miller's Son" (A Little Night Music) – Petra is certainly keeping her options open.
29. “Monotonous” (New Faces of 1952) – Eartha Kitt sounds as if alienating herself from even the President of the United States would be a breeze. And speaking of monotony, there’s …
30. “Mr. Monotony” (Jerome Robbins’ Broadway) – It was dropped from two previous musicals, but the third time was the charm.
31. “No, No, Nanette” (No, No, Nanette) – Yes, yes, Nanette gets her say – and Tom isn’t pleased at what he hears.
32. “A Note from Linda” (The Wedding Singer) – When a bride-to-be puts a smiley-face on her “Dear John” (or “Dear Robbie”) letter, you know she’s finding losing a man very easy.
33. "Nothing" (A Chorus Line) – Getting over a guy isn’t just limited to beaux; you can do it with a teacher, too.
34. “Not on Your Nellie” (Darling of the Day) – When you find that the man you loved is literally someone else, some walk away; Alice Chalice struts instead.
35. “Ooh, Do You Love You!” (It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman) – Linda Lavin is “The Woman Who Tells off The Man Who Has Everything.”
36. "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?” (The King and I) – This would be a very easy way to lose this man if he heard what Anna had to say; an execution would soon follow.
37. “So Long, Dearie" (Hello, Dolly!) – Dolly Levi decides that learning to “smoke a cigarette” will be less hazardous to her health than Horace Vandergelder.
38. “Stuck-Up” (Now Is the Time for All Good Men) – A waitress with as much self-respect as Dolores Dante in Working believes that any man who doesn’t appreciate her is a J-A-C-K-A-S-S.
39. "Take Him" (Pal Joey) – Two self-respecting women take the high road on a man who’s beneath them.
40. “Take Me Back to Texas with You” (Make a Wish) – One of the best ways to forget a man is to move far away and start all over again.
41. “Touch-A-Touch-A-Touch Me” (The Rocky Horror Show) – Janet doesn’t give a thought to Brad once Frank comes for a nighttime visit.
42. “Throw It Out” (A New Brain) – Here’s one where the woman’s a mother who’s tossing her son’s possessions. Do we need Freud for further analysis?
43. “Walk Away” (How Now, Dow Jones) – A stiff-upper-lip solution is one of the most underrated waltz ballads in musical theater history.
44. “What Did I Ever See in Him?” (Bye Bye Birdie) – The Generation Gap is bridged as a teen and a woman pushing thirty bond over dumping a guy.
45. "Wherever He Ain't" (Jerry Herman’s Broadway) – Ten years before Bernadette Peters sang “Move On,” she was ready to do so.
46. “Without You" (My Fair Lady) – Even Henry Higgins has to admit, “I like you this way!”
47. "You Can Have Him" (Miss Liberty) – Irving Berlin’s take on “Take Him.”
48. "You Still Have a Long Way to Go" (Goodtime Charley) – Joan of Arc points out the Dauphin’s deficiencies – and he knows she’s right.
49. “You Want to Be My Friend?” (Closer Than Ever) – Yeah, the easiest way to dump a man comes after he ends the romance with “Let’s be friends.”
50. “You Were Dead, You Know" (Candide) – Finally, what better reason can there be for ending a relationship?
Well, fifty easy ways are the best I could do. But I’m willing to concede that Ruth Sherwood is twice as smart as I (and Paul Simon).