To be honest most people my age (mid-20s) don’t even know what is meant by “show tunes”. Even those who can indentify show tunes as songs performed on stage can only conjure up an image of a guy belting out “oh what a beautiful morning”. Show tunes can thrill you, stick in your head, teach you, and make you cry. The genre itself can vary within itself as much as country/western varies from rock music or even hip hop. The thing that really distinguishes show tunes is that they really tell a story. Beautiful stories. Tragic stories. Inspiring stories. And, of course, love stories. There are characters, real people with real feelings that need to tell their stories…in song.

Here is my list of my 10 favourite show tunes from 10 to 1:

10) Aquarius: Show: Hair. Year: 1967. The song is timeless. A song filled with hippie love. Represented the hippie counter-culture and free love of the 1960s. In 1969 The 5th Dimension released their own version of Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In and it was a huge hit that went to number one on the charts and won the Grammy for Record of the Year.

rent9) Seasons of Love: Show: Rent. Year: 1996. Sometimes I worry that this song has lost its original impact and power as it has been overdone for the past 15 years. The song is the cornerstone of this poignant show and the central philosophy of Rent is very clear in it. It asks the question of how you quantify the value of a year of human life. As several characters in the show have AIDS the song is often associated with AIDS awareness.

8) Defying Gravity: Show: Wicked. Year: 2003. The signature song from the musical Wicked is one of the best Act 1 closers in the entire history of musical theatre. The song starts off as dueling philosophies and ends up being inspirational. Filled with power it makes you really anticipate what is coming up after the intermission. Demonstrated the mark it’s made on pop culture when it was performed on the television show Glee.

7) Tomorrow: Show: Annie. Year: 1976. A simple sentiment and at the same time a universal truth. The show is great and this is a song from it the pretty much everyone knows. The song has been covered by a ton of recording artists from Grace Jones to Barbara Streisand to Lou Rawls and even The Chipmunks.

6) You Can’t Stop the Beat: Show: Hairspray. Year: 2002. A top tapping finale to the show. The message is clear – don’t judge others. Sung by the entire cast they want everyone to get along and dance with them. Features a musical style from the 1960s and is heavy on the rhythm and blues.

5) Circle of Life: Show: The Lion King. Year: 1997. Yes, it was cheesy in the film and continues to be cheesy on stage. No matter, as there is a great cultural atmosphere to it. Allows the singer to highlight their vocals. It’s so good that it is sung twice in the musical.

4) Memory: Show: Cats. Year: 1981. Another song that has been overdone. In fact the reason why it is performed so often is the fact that it is haunting and very singable. Become so iconic that it has crossed the barrier from musical to pop culture. Even if you do not know the show you can hear the character’s pain in the words and notes. Can be enjoyed even out of context.

3) Cell Block Tango: Show: Chicago. Year: 1975. Rhythmic monologues coupled with catchy punch lines. A powerful chorus. The song’s structure allows for some of the best dancing in any show ever as there is plenty of talking. A really listenable song and funny to boot.

2) Don’t Rain on My Parade: Show: Funny Girl. Year: 1964. In essence a song about saying goodbye. But also about saying screw you to a theatre that rejects you and picking yourself back up to carry on. Lets you know that you should not give up as there is always something better that you can be doing. Made famous by Barbara Streisand as she performed it both on stage and in the film. Introduced to younger audiences by Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) on Glee.

1) If I Loved You: Show: Carousel. Year: 1945. Probably the closest to perfect love song ever written for the theatre. About two people too shy to admit their love to one another so they hide it. A melody that makes you heart swell and over the past 67 years has continued to move whoever listens to it. Over the years it has been recorded by Julie Andrews, Barbara Streisand, Bing Crosby, Charlotte Church, and Art Garfunkel.