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  • Finian Hackett

The 10 Best Musical Theatre Opening Numbers

The opening number of any musical is vital to grabbing the audiences attention and pulling them into the story. Every musical has one, but some are a lot stronger than others. Below is a list of what I think are 10 of the best opening numbers to ever grace the stage.

1. I Hope I Get It - A Chorus Line

The iconic opening number from the 1975 musical A Chorus Line has cemented itself as one of the most well known musical numbers of all time. The number starts in the middle of an audition where the performers are being pushed to their limits being taught a dance by choreographer Larry. The number leads into a dance routine that most theatre kids across the world probably know! Below is the original cast performing this epic number at the 1976 Tony Awards.

2. Company - Company

The 1970 musical Company by Stephen Sondheim has to be one of my favourite shows ever and features some fabulous songs including 'The Ladies Who Lunch', 'Being Alive' and many more. The opening number, simply entitled 'Company', introduces us to Bobby and his multiple friends. The construction of this number is impeccable and is a prime example of how masterful Sondheim's work can be. Below is the 2006 actor musician Broadway revival cast.

3. Omigod You Guys - Legally Blonde

Legally Blonde is, in my opinion, one of the best screen to stage adaptations. A fantastic score, script and staging - it really hits the mark. The opening number introduces the excitable members of the Delta Nu sorority house as they are sorting out Elle's engagement outfit in this high energy number. The clip below features the Tony nominated Laura Bell Bundy alongside Anneleigh Ashford, Tracy Jai Edwards and Asmerert Ghebremichael.

4. Not For The Life of Me/Thoroughly Modern Millie - Thoroughly Modern Millie

Sutton Foster won her first Tony at the age of 27 for her iconic performance as Millie Dillmount in this adaptation of the 1967 film. It won 6 Tony Awards including the prestigious Best Musical award. The 7 minute opening number showcases the talents of the lead and the amazingly talented chorus. The first section was written by Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan for the show, whereas the second part is from the original soundtrack! Below is a selection of Sutton's numbers from the 2003 production, including the opening song.

5. Prologue - Into The Woods

The second Sondheim song to feature on this list, the Into The Woods prologue, runs at an impressive 12 minutes. The number introduces all the main characters of the fairytale musical and sets the story as to why each character that goes into the woods does so! It is a very clever piece of writing and a prime example of a great storytelling number. Below is the original Broadway cast, featuring Bernadette Peters as The Witch, from the 1991 recording of the show.

6. Magic to Do - Pippin

The Stephen Schwartz musical Pippin centres around the story of Pippin, a young prince, who is searching for his calling in life. The story is told by a performance troupe and is led by the Leading Player. Bob Fosse was the show's original director and choreographer and won a Tony for both of his roles. Patina Miller and Ben Vereen have both won Tonys for their role as the Leading Player - the only role to date that has had a Tony winning performance by both a man and a woman. 'Magic To Do' draws the audience into the crazy world of this show and invites them to listen and watch this story unfold, often breaking the fourth wall. Below is the original cast performing at the 1973 Tony Awards.

7. Another Op'nin', Another Show - Kiss Me Kate

'Another Op'nin', Another Show' is THE classic opening number. Kiss Me Kate, the story of the making of a Broadway musical version of The Taming Of The Shrew, was the first ever musical to be awarded the Tony for Best Musical and has since become one of musical theatre's most well loved pieces. The clip below is from the 2003 recording from the London production, starring Brett Barrett and Rachel York. It was a transfer of the Broadway revival with Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie.

8. We Are What We Are - La Cage Aux Folles

La Cage Aux Folles is one of Jerry Hermans most decorated shows, winning the Best Musical Tony in 1984 and then the Best Musical Revival Tony in 2005 and 2010. It also won the Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival in 2009. The show opens with George, the master of ceremonies, introducing the audience to the Les Calleges - a drag chorus at the La Cage Aux Folles nightclub. This camp and glitzy song is the perfect opening number complete with quick changes and tap dancing! Below is the original London cast performing at the 1987 Olivier Awards.

9. Welcome to the Renaissance - Something Rotten

Something Rotten tells the "true" untold story of the birth of the musical in Elizabethan England. It parodies loads of musicals and composers throughout and is a brilliant show, garnering 10 Tony nominations and a Grammy nomination too! It ran for just under 2 years on Broadway and was a fan favourite. The opening number, 'Welcome to the Renaissance', is a hilarious take on 16th Century England and the public's obsession with the great playwright William Shakespeare. Below is the original Broadway cast performing this fabulous tune (excuse the subtitles).

10. All That Jazz - Chicago

All That Jazz is one of the most iconic songs in musical theatre history and is probably one of the most performed songs too! However, that doesn't take away from the fact that it is the perfect opening to Chicago. It showcases the stylistic choreography of Bob Fosse and sets the show up brilliantly. Chicago has now been running for 24 years on Broadway and continues to be a success; it will probably be running for a long time to come. Below is Ute Lemper and the cast from the 1997 London revival which ran for an impressive 15 years.

Let me know in the comments what your favourite opening number is!

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