A few weeks ago at the oh, so pleasurable experience I had in Cedar City, (I can still smell it), I neglected to tell the whole story. I am here to rectify the situation.
When you are sitting in a theater being accosted by gag-worthy smells (one of my friends was quoted as saying "I didn't realize how fecal it was") - we needed to find a way to distract ourselves. The four of us left behind realized more or less at the same time that the option of feeling spiritual uplift or the desire to overthrow a government or any other variation of profound thought was a lost cause. We needed something else to get us through the show.
I'm going to take credit for starting it. In the middle of listening to Marius and Cosette sing about how much they love each other even though they just met each other and it was crazy, maybe - I got a certain obnoxious song stuck in my head and leaned over to one of my friends to say: "Hey - they should sing this instead."
Friend laughed and replied: "They have understudies for actors. They should have understudies for songs. You know. Because sometimes they just don't want to be sung."
Soooo. . . we made a list. Sometimes it was something like: "I dare you to find a song from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat that will fit in this show." And sometimes it just came to us. But we were laughing pretty hard. I'm sure the people next to us thought we were nuts/sacrilegious or something but whatever. You gotta do what you gotta do.
The rules, if there were any, were that the song substitutions had to be snarky. Nothing that would actually fit. You know - how every show has a love song or an "I'm alone" song so that's just boring. If you're going to have a song understudy, it should be with some pizzaz. Sometimes it's the irony of the attitude. Sometimes it's the lyrics themselves that relate. But snark is a must.
Here are some of my favorites from our list. It may help if you know the songs from Les Mis.
- "A Heart Full of Love" is substituted with "Call Me Maybe"
- "Castle on a Cloud" vs. "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", or "Tomorrow" from Annie or possibly "My Favorite Things" from Sound of Music. All overdone little girl audition songs.
- "Master of the House" vs. "Be Our Guest" from Beauty and the Beast.
- "Look Down" vs. "I've Been Working on the Rail Road"
- "Lovely Ladies" vs. "Pure Imagination" or "Happy Little Working Song" from Enchanted (This is the song we had the hardest time narrowing down options for. So many great understudy choices.)
- The scene with Valjean stealing the silver and the bishop vs. "Benjamin's Calypso" from Joseph. . . Dreamcoat.
- The Confrontation (with Javert and Valjean) vs. "The Farmer and the Cowman" from Oklahoma.
- "I Dreamed a Dream" vs. "Summer Nights" from Grease
- "Do You Hear the People Sing" vs. "You're the Voice" (Listen for the synthesized bagpipes. If there's something Les Mis/EVERYTHING EVER needs, it's a synthesized bagpipe.)
- "Who am I" vs. "Man or Muppet" from the new Muppet movie
- "Red and Black" vs. "The Creation of Man" from The Scarlet Pimpernel
- Finally, the other one that made me giggle more because it would be funny to see it interpreted in character than because it has too much to do with the song itself. . . Mme. Thenardier's verse of "Master of the House" substituted with "If I Were a Bell" from Guy's and Dolls.
May you find as much enjoyment out of this as we did. I hope. And if you have any ideas you should send them my way. Not just for Les Mis but for everything. We can start a revolution, folks. This could be big. Just remember that I started it.
Or. . . maybe you had to be there.