In the midst of Act II of Grey Gardens—The Musical, Big Edie celebrates her adolescent friend, Jerry, and his fervor for her cooking—specifically the canned corn she cooks for him, which he chows down with delight: “I boil it on the hot plate / Till all the juice is gone / Bless his soul / He knows which side my corn is buttered on.” But “Jerry Likes My Corn” is not the only song from a musical devoted to the wonders of the human diet. To prepare yourself for Grey Gardens, which runs at the Ahmanson Theatre July 6 – August 14, 2016, here are 10 more musical tributes to food that have graced the Broadway stage.
- “Food, Glorious Food” (Oliver!)
The show’s opening number, written by Lionel Bart, finds Oliver and his fellow workhouse boys—whose meals consist merely of a small morsel of gruel—imagining a life where food is bountiful: “food, glorious food / we’re anxious to try it / three banquets a day / our favorite diet.” Since Oliver!'s London premiere in 1960, this catchy show tune has become a part of pop culture; parodies can be found in various films and television shows including Ice Age: The Meltdown, SpongeBob SquarePants, and American Dad!
- “Vanilla Ice Cream” (She Loves Me)
In “Vanilla Ice Cream,” shop employee Amalia realizes that her feelings for George, a co-worker, have slowly morphed from hatred to love. She Loves Me tells the story of this pair who, while constantly at odds with each other in their daily lives, are unknowingly pen pals. Sound familiar? The show shares its source material, the Hungarian play Parfumerie by Miklós László, with the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan and the 1998 film You’ve Got Mail starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. She Loves Me premiered on Broadway in 1963 and has recently been given a second life in a Tony Award®-nominated revival starring Zachary Levi, Jane Krakowski, and Laura Benanti.
- “A Real Nice Clambake” (Carousel)
The second collaboration by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Carousel tells the story of a young girl’s romance with a carousel barker in a small Maine town in the 1870s. “A Real Nice Clambake” finds the townspeople talking of the wonders of the meal they just finished, including codfish chowder and salted pork. While not as well-known as some of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s other musicals—which include Oklahoma! and The Sound of Music—Time magazine named Carousel the best musical of the 20th century in 1999.
- “Suppertime” (You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown)
Perhaps the most enthusiastic person to ever sing about food onstage isn’t a person at all, but one of America’s most famous canines. In the razzle dazzle number “Suppertime,” composed by Clark Gesner, Snoopy sings the praises of his favorite meal of the day—much to the chagrin of his loyal companion Charlie Brown. Roger Bart, who provided the singing voice for Disney’s animated film Hercules, won the Tony for his portrayal of Snoopy when the show returned to Broadway in 1999.
- “Suppertime” (Little Shop of Horrors)
Although it shares a name with Snoopy’s “Suppertime,” the lyrics, the tone, the singer, and the show this song comes from could not be more different. Written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, Little Shop of Horrors chronicles the attempts of a florist, Seymour, to woo a co-worker named Audrey by raising a man-eating plant. In “Suppertime,” the plant, Audrey 2, pleads with Seymour for more food. Four years after its off-Broadway premiere, the musical went from the stage to the screen with a cast that included Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, and Ellen Greene.
- “Les Poissons” (The Little Mermaid)
Another collaboration between Little Shop of Horrors duo Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, “Les Poissons” (“the fish” in French) is Chef Louis’ homage to seafood, sung to beloved crustacean Sebastian: “Here we go, in the sauce / Now some flour I think just a dab / Now I stuff you with bread / Don't worry, ’cause you’re dead.” The Little Mermaid film enjoyed critical success when it premiered in 1989 and is commonly credited as the beginning of the highly successful “Eisner Era” of Disney animation. The stage version opened in New York in 2008, but garnered less favorable reviews than its source material and closed after only two years on Broadway.
- “Be Our Guest” (Beauty and the Beast)
Ashman and Menken must love food. In “Be Our Guest” from their Beauty and the Beast, the enchanted objects that reside in the mansion of the Beast attempt to cheer up their guest of honor, Belle, by singing of beef ragout, cheese soufflé, pie and pudding, en flambé—and urging her to “try the gray stuff, it’s delicious!” The film’s Broadway production marked Disney’s first foray into live theatre—a move that has proved serendipitous (with The Little Mermaid being an exception to the rule). Since Beauty and the Beast’s Broadway premiere in 1994, six more Disney films have graced The Great White Way, including The Lion King, Newsies, and most recently, Aladdin.
- “Coffee Break” (How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying)
Is coffee a food? Definitely, for the office workers of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. In “Coffee Break,” composed by Frank Loesser, the hardworking employees of the World Wide Wicket Company sing of the beverage’s magical properties and lament the fact that without it, “something within me dies.” Does this sound like anyone you know?
- “The Night They Invented Champagne” (Gigi)
Written by songwriting team Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, Gigi’s title character is a spritely young Parisian at the turn of the 20th century being trained as a courtesan. In “The Night They Invented Champagne,” she sings the praises of the bubbly beverage and the adventures that accompany its consumption (“Fly to the sky on champagne / And shout to everyone in sight”). In 2015 Gigi received its first Broadway staging in over 40 years, starring Vanessa Hudgens of High School Musical fame.
- “Worst Pies in London” (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)
Sweeney Todd’s re-introduction to his old landlord, Mrs. Lovett, is inauspicious, as the meat pie baker complains of how disgusting her creations are: “It’s nothing but crusting / Here drink this, you’ll need it / The worst pies in London.” The world first met Sweeney Todd in the 1840s, in the Victorian penny dreadful String of Pearls. One hundred sixty years later, the character re-entered the limelight with the release of a film adaptation directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp as the demon barber.