Dreamgirls, Funny Girl, Gypsy, Wicked: Broadway’s Four Best Showstoppers

Dreamgirls, Funny Girl, Gypsy, Wicked: Broadway’s Four Best Showstoppers

They get you out of your seat. They elicit thunderous applause. They send shivers up and down your spine. They are called “showstoppers” and every Broadway musical endeavors to have one. However, only a select few can lay claim to having a legitimate put-people-on-their-feet, bring-down-the-house, show-stopping musical number.

Land of Punt looks at four of the best showstoppers to ever grace the boards on the Great White Way. Each of these classic songs have three things in common: they were originally performed by women, they all come at the end of Act I in their respective productions, and they all raise the human spirit to great new heights.

DreamgirlsAnd I Am Telling You I’m Not Going
Lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger
Made famous by Jennifer Holliday

This showstopper appeared in the 1981 Broadway production of Dreamgirls. In the musical, the song is sung by the character ‘Efie” as her professional and romantic relationship with Curtis Taylor, Jr. comes to an end.

Oddly enough the song was a hit for two different “Jennifers.” Jennifer Holiday, who originated the role of “Efie” on Broadway, recorded a R&B version of song that went to number one in 1982.

More than 20 years later Jennifer Hudson, who played “Efie” in the movie, and won an academy award for her performance, released her own R&B version of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” Her rendition peaked inside the top 20.

The indelible Whitney Houston performed the song at the 1994 American Music Awards.

FunnygirlDon’t Rain On My Parade
Funny Girl
Lyrics by Bob Merrill and music by Jule Styne
Made famous by Barbra Streisand

The great Barbra Streisand performed this song in both the original 1964 theatrical production and the 1968 movie adaptation. The song is a standard in Ms. Streisand’s repertoire. And even though she didn’t write it, “Don’t Rain On My Parade” is her song.

The song has been covered by several artists including Bobby Darin and Liza Minnelli. Idina Menzel sang the song at the Kennedy Honors concert in tribute to Ms. Streisand. Lea Michele, in a goose-bump inducing performance, belted out the song in the 2009 fall finale of Fox’s hit television show Glee.

The song comes at a crucial time in the musical’s story where the character “Fanny” declares her intentions to marry “Nick Arnstein.”

GypsyEverything’s Coming Up Roses
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and music by Jule Styne,
Made famous by Ethel Merman

“Everything’s Coming Up Roses” was made famous by the legendary Ethel Merman. She sang it in the 1959 Broadway production of Gypsy. The musical, the role of “Gypsy Lee Rose” which Merman originated, and the song are all seminal in the history of musical theater.

Rosalind Russell sang the song in the 1962 film version and Better Midler sang it in 1993 television version. To further the song’s standing as fodder for Broadway royalty, Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone performed the song, respectively, in the 2003 and 2008 Gypsy revivals.

The song’s placement in the show is quite ironic. Rose sings the song after her favorite daughter June runs away to elope. The song is also a pun. Besides “roses” meaning “good,” it also means everything is good when it’s done “Rose’s way.”

WickedDefying Gravity
Lyrics and music by Stephen Schwartz
Made famous by Idina Menzel

If this song doesn’t make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up than you’re not human. “Defying Gravity” is from the 2003 Broadway smash hit musical, Wicked. The song showcases Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, but Glinda and the citizens of Oz have parts as well.

The song comes at a point in the story when Elphaba realizes the Wizard of Oz isn’t the hero she was led to believe. With her expectations shattered, Elphaba vows to fight the Wizard and his evil plans.

In the production, the actress playing Elpaha is lifted into the air as she’s surrounded by smoke, wind and lighting effects. It’s quite a dramatic and awe-inspiring moment.

Idina Menzel originated the role of Elphaba and her rendition is obviously the definitive version. Since it’s a fairly new song, from a fairly new musical, at least compared to the three other songs on this list, there are not a lot of other versions for comparison. However, the song was performed on the aforementioned Glee. Sadly, Lea Michele had to share the singing duties with Chris Colfer.

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