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Musical Stages: Title Tunes

Louis Armstrong & Barbra Streisand performing the title tune in the film version of "Hello, Dolly!"


The song was good, but it wasn't a showstopper. At least, not in out-of-town tryouts in 1963. At that point, the creators were planning to call their new musical Dolly, with the subtitle, "A Damned Exasperating Woman." In fact, composer Jerry Herman had even written a song called "You're a Damned Exasperating Woman."

Then came the release of Louis Armstrong's recording of the second act number, "Hello Dolly!"

Herman's music publisher started jumping up and down. "That's it!" he said. "That's the title of your show!"

The power of a strong title tune cannot be denied, and a song that strikes the public's fancy as did "Hello, Dolly!", "Anything Goes," or "Cabaret" is money in the bank. Unless the show is a turkey, of course—which happens just as often.

On this online edition of Musical Stages, we feature some of the best (and, just for fun, a few of the worst) title tunes from Broadway shows, as well as the great stories behind them. Among the highlights (in addition to the songs mentioned above) are “Promises, Promises,” “Lady Be Good,” “On a Clear Day,” “Wish You Were Here,” and the lesser-known “Her First Roman,” “Dear World,” and “Anyone Can Whistle.”

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