Are you looking for a female song from a Musical that will help you connect directly to an audience? What you need is a “House number”!
A House song bridges the gap between the audience and the singer, when the character comes out of the story on stage and speaks directly to the viewers, know that he (and the drama) is being watched.
In Musical theater there are not many real House songs, but there are a number of songs you can alter to make your performance cross that invisible fourth wall between you and the audience.
In this article I suggest 60 songs for women from the Musical Theater repertoire that could be sung as a House song. I have placed them in three categories: the true House song, the audience number and the soliloquy.
In the first category, the true House song, the musical is written deliberately for the character to step out of the drama and speak to the viewers. My first thoughts are Spamalot (the Diva’s Lament), and City of Angels (You Can Always Count On Me). When You’re Good To Mama from Chicago springs to mind immediately. Other true House songs include Big Spender from Sweet Charity (originally a chorus number but can be sung by one person), I’m Still Here from Follies, Broadway Baby from Follies, I Just Wanna Dance from Jerry Springer, Jonny One Note from Babes in Arms, and Nobody Does It Like Me – the Cy Coleman song from the musical SeeSaw. And Miss Byrd from Closer Than Ever shares her secret across the fourth wall.
Many of the songs from the Victorian Music Hall era work as house numbers including Waiting At the Church, If It Wasn’t For the ‘Ouses In Between, and even ballads such as The Boy I Love Is Up In The Gallery. Then there are the songs written in a Musical style such as Girl in 14G, and The Alto’s Lament.
In the second category, the character sings to an audience in her world as part of the plot. Good and Evil from Jekyll and Hyde is a great example as Lucy sings to the drinkers in the pub where she works. Then there’s Don’t Cry For Me Argentina (Evita), I Speak Six Languages from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Beat Out Dat Rhythm from Carmen Jones, Man Wanted from Copacabana, and Blow Gabriel Blow from Anything Goes. The Saga Of Jenny from Lady in the Dark is sung in a courtroom, and you might just get away with Life of the Party from Wild Party.
The unifocus song is the third type of House number – it’s usually a soliloquy in which the character is asking questions. One of the most well-known songs is I Cain’t Say No from Oklahoma. Then there’s I’m Shy from Once Upon A Mattress, Everybody Says Don’t, and There Won’t Be Trumpets, from Anyone Can Whistle, and I’m A Stranger Here Myself from One Touch of Venus. Check out Holding To The Ground from Falsettos, My Brother Lived In San Francisco from Elegies for Angels Punks and Raging Queens, I Hate Men from Kiss Me Kate, and My Strongest Suit from Aida. In a slightly more old-fashioned vein, there’s I Think I May Want To Remember Today from Starting Here, Starting Now, Tale of the Oyster (Fifty Million Frenchmen), and The Physician (Nymph Errant).
You can use a strong story song like Waiting For The Music To Begin (Witches of Eastwick) if you use it to tell the audience your story. Another perfect example comes from A Chorus Line, where Diana Morales sings Nothing to Zach who is seated in the (real) audience throughout the show. So it’s simple to make it a House song and speak directly to your audience. Other songs include Gimme Gimme from Thoroughly Modern Millie, I Know Things Now from Into the Woods, Defying Gravity from Wicked, and Always The Bridesmaid from I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.
Back to Sondheim again for The Ladies Who Lunch from Company, The Story of Lucy and Jessie (from certain productions of Follies), and Can That Boy Foxtrot (a duet that can be sung as a solo) from Marry Me A Little, or cut from Follies, depending on who you read.
Then there’s Everybody’s Girl from Steel Pier, Old Fashioned Love Story from Wild Party, When You Got It, Flaunt It from The Producers, and How Did I End Up Here from Romance Romance. You might consider One Hundred Easy Ways from Wonderful Town, or My New Philosophy from You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, and experiment with a song like Cockeyed Optimist from South Pacific.
Another great source of House songs is the revue musical. Closer Than Ever by Maltby and Shire is a good example for songs like Back On Base, or The Bear, The Tiger, The Hamster and The Mole. Or you could consider Songs for a New World by Jason Robert Brown for I’m Not Afraid Of Anything. You can also do what the musicals are doing currently and raid the pop/disco/rock scene for suitable songs – Holding Out For A Hero started as a Bonnie Tyler song but is now in both Footloose and Shrek II
It is unusual for a slower song to work as a house number, but here are a few suggestions: Maybe I Like It This Way from Wild Party, That’s Him from One Touch Of Venus, Why Him from Carmelina, Bill (from Oh Lady! Lady! and versions of Showboat) and of course, Funny Girl from Funny Girl.
Remember that the point of a House song is to speak directly to the viewers, so make sure you look your audience in the eye while you perform.