16 incredible musical theatre songs you need to listen to
While a musical can have an excellent storyline and a breathtaking set, an anthemic song will make certain productions stand out amongst the rest. There are lots of musical hits, but there are a few timeless musical numbers that everyone needs to listen to. These songs from a wide range of musicals will have you singing to yourself all day long.
As well as musical theatre songs, listen to the incredible works of Stephen Sondheim with our guide all about the musical maestro.
You Can’t Stop the Beat from Hairspray
As the characters celebrate The Corny Collins Show becoming fully integrated, “You Can’t Stop the Beat” is an all-singing, all-dancing spectacular to round off the musical. It’s a catchy tune that’s guaranteed to get into your head when you listen to it and sums up the cast’s infectious energy throughout the entire show. The song was first performed in the West End by Leanne Jones, who made her West End debut as Tracy Turnblad.
Don’t Cry For Me Argentina from Evita
Featuring twice in the musical Evita, “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” is a rousing solo that takes place when she makes a speech from the balcony of the Casa Rosada. It got to the top spot on the UK singles chart in 1977 and also won Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber an Ivor Novello award for the best song musically and lyrically. Elaine Paige originated the role of Evita in the West End, with Patti LuPone performing the role when the show transferred to Broadway in 1979.
Memory from Cats
Grizabella reflects on days gone by in “Memory”, originally sung by Elaine Paige in the West End in 1981. The song even reached number 6 in the UK charts and has since been covered by Barbara Streisand. This emotional ballad was last performed in the West End by Nicole Scherzinger in the 2014 revival of Cats at the London Palladium. “Memory” was written by Tim Rice, who hosted Best of… Rock Musicals at the Eventim Apollo.
Do You Hear The People Sing? from Les Misérables
Rallying the people of France together, “Do You Hear the People Sing?” is one of the main songs from Les Misérables, performed twice in the show. In France, the song is called “À la volonté du peuple” translating to “the people’s will”. Singing for the right to be free, the song is a call for hope and a better life for future generations. Protest groups have also used this song as an anthem for different causes around the world.
One Day More from Les Misérables
Tying all the storylines together, “One Day More” is a Les Misérables crowd pleaser. Combining melodies that feature in Act 1 from songs such as “Master of the House” and “On My Own”. As the song reaches its climax, most of the cast stand in a triangle and march on the spot, with the French flag flown in the background to symbolise unity and prosperity. Even though the song is over 30 years old, it’s clear it has inspired more recent musical theatre songs, such as “Non Stop” from Hamilton.
The Phantom of the Opera from The Phantom of the Opera
The combination of Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman singing the titular song from The Phantom of the Opera is a musical theatre sensation. However, the song was originally recorded by Steve Harvey and Sarah Brightman, reaching number 7 in the UK charts. When the Phantom asks Christine to sing, her voice has to keep going higher until she has to hit a top E.
Revolting Children from Matilda
The song may be called Revolting Children, but this isn’t a revolting show tune! Sung by the children after they have made Miss Trunchbull run away from their school, it’s a song that calls for revolution. With music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, the lyrics cleverly play on the meaning of “revolting”, whether it’s because the children are rude or they are revolting from the previous authority. It may be a modern musical theatre song on this list, but it stands against older hits.
Stick It To The Man from School of Rock
Andrew Lloyd Webber took the 2003 film School of Rock, adapting it for the stage which made its West End premiere in 2016, subsequently winning an Olivier Award for outstanding achievement in music. In this song, Dewey Finn imparts his wisdom on the children by saying that whenever anything goes wrong, they have to “stick it to the man” and do what they want. You’ll want to turn up the volume and rock out as hard as you can to this song!
No Good Deed from Wicked
No Good Deed is one of the most known show tunes in Wicked alongside”Defying Gravity” and “Dancing Through Life”. Throughout the song, Elphaba expresses her lack of trust to people whom she previously trusted. Angry at how the Wizard of Oz viewed her, she decides in the song that she will never do a good action again and will live up to her title as the Wicked Witch of the West. It’s an enchanting number partly sung in a chant of nonsensical words, adding to the magic.
Do Re Mi from The Sound of Music
Maria teaches the Von Trapp children how to sing using this handy trick in “Do Re Mi”. As she teaches the children how to sing, the children learn the eight notes, later taking a note each and making tunes. Written by Rodgers and Hammersmith, this song gained notoriety when Julie Andrews sang it in the 1965 film. As Maria says, when you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything!
Electricity from Billy Elliot
Composed by Elton John and Lee Hall, Billy Elliot auditions for the Royal Ballet School and has his breakthrough moment in “Electricity”. In the middle of the number, there’s an exciting dance break where Billy leaps and turns across the stage. The combination of a powerful dance break to prove his dancing ability, as well as shouting “I’m Free” at the end of the song makes “Electricity” a must-listen to song.
Don’t Rain On My Parade from Funny Girl
Sheridan Smith brought the house down at the Savoy Theatre when she sang “Don’t Rain On My Parade” during the 2016 revival of Funny Girl. This song comes at the end of Act One when Fanny Brice is determined to marry Nick Arnstein regardless of his questionable past. Barbra Streisand first performed the song in 1964, but it gained further mainstream popularity after Lea Michele sang it in Season 1 of Glee and at the 2010 Tony Awards.
So Much Better from Legally Blonde
Elle Woods celebrates the news that she received a law internship in “So Much Better”. The end of Act 1 song in Legally Blonde, it’s a feel-good number that shows just how far Elle Woods has come in the plot so far, finishing the act on a high! With music and lyrics by Nell Benjamin and Laurence O’Keefe, the show won the Olivier Award for best new musical in 2011.
My Shot from Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton makes it clear that he’ll take every opportunity that comes his way in “My Shot”. This song features at the start of Hamilton after he has just met John Laurens, Marquis de Lafayette, Hercules Mulligan and future enemy Aaron Burr. This song dramatises Hamilton’s rapping prowess as well as informing audiences of Hamilton’s background in a five-minute melody.
Consider Yourself from Oliver!
Artful Dodger introduces himself to Oliver Twist in his cheeky Cockney style in this Lionel Bart classic. First performed in the West End in 1960, the Artful Dodger welcomes Oliver Twist to the wonders of his way by calling him “one of the family”. Extending a warm hand, the Artful Dodger gets Oliver to follow him to Fagin’s lair, where he then learns about pickpocketing.
Land of Lola from Kinky Boots
Matt Henry first performed “Land of Lola” in the West End premiere of Kinky Boots in 2015, welcoming audiences to his glitzy world and introducing his angels. It’s a spectacular number that’s sassy and entertaining at the same time, setting up what Lola is all about. As the show progresses, it’s clear that Lola’s world isn’t as glossy as the song makes out, but the song is the lyrical equivalent of strutting down a catwalk and oozing glamour.
Enjoy a night of live entertainment and book your tickets to a West End musical today. You’ll be spoilt for choice with our range of shows that are regularly updated.