Pack up your cares, wave your worries goodbye and hop aboard the A-train to Happiness Central as we take a journey through the A-Z of Musical Theatre’s GREATEST feel good songs. Beat the January blues with these classic toe-tappers alongside some hidden gems that are sure to lift your spirits. See if you can spot your personal favourites among our list…and leave us a comment if you’ve got an uplifting tune of your own that you think deserves a spot in our A-Z! The complete feel good spotify playlist is at the bottom of this page, so as Judy Garland would say “forget your troubles, come on get happy!”
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Spamalot)
This song originally appeared in Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) but since then it’s gained legions of new fans through appearing in West End and Broadway smash-hit Spamalot. It reached no.3 in the UK chart and was no.1 in Ireland – it never fails to turn a frown upside down.
Another Day of Sun (La La Land)
Writing team Pasek & Paul truly have the Midas touch, having written the scores for Dear Evan Hansen and The Greatest Showman. In 2016, the pair teamed up with composer Justin Hurwitz for this bright and breezy number which features in the opening of Oscar-winning movie La La Land.
Born to Hand Jive (Grease)
With popular hits like “We Go Together”, “Summer Nights” and “Greased Lightning” it might surprise you that we’ve selected Born to Hand Jive as our go-to feel good song from this mega-hit movie musical. Written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey and performed by Sha-Na-Na, the song appears in the dance contest and perfectly captures the drama and heartbreak of Danny & Sandy’s on/off romance, but also the sheer joy that lies at the heart of this peach of a classic summer movie.
Bright New Day (Blood Brothers)
It doesn’t seem possible that Blood Brothers closed in London’s West End nearly a decade ago. This emotional rollercoaster of a show left not a dry eye in the house, but Blood Brothers also has moments of utter joy – none more so than this number when the Johnstone family escapes to the country!
Can’t Stop The Feeling (& Juliet)
Before Theatreland pressed pause on 2020, one of it’s newest shows was wowing audiences with oodles of joie-de-vivre and exuberant performances of Max Martin’s mega-hits, including this Justin Timberlake classic. But there’s so much more to & Juliet than just a jukebox, with a heart-felt storyline penned by Schitt’s Creek writer David West Read and stellar performances that garnered the show multiple Olivier Awards.
Dancing Queen (Mamma Mia!)
You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life on a Greek island where it’s forever summer…we’ve never needed to escape the cold, grey British winter more than now! This is the first appearance in our list of Dame Julie Walters – see if you can spot her in another entry later alongside Liza Minnelli!
Don’t Rain on My Parade (Funny Girl)
Funny Girl made Barbra Streisand a global superstar – something that came as no surprise to anyone who ever saw her perform the role on stage. In fact, Streisand played the role of Fanny Brice on both Broadway and London’s West End, much to the envy of stars like Julie Andrews and Carol Channing who starred in stage productions such as My Fair Lady and Hello Dolly! only to see their roles go to other actresses on the silver screen (Audrey Hepburn and Streisand respectively).
Don’t Shoot For The Stars (Eugenius!)
Eugenius! had it’s world premiere in 2016 at the London Palladium as a concert performance before two hugely popular runs at the Other Palace in 2018. This superhero of a show deserves a West End run….and while we’re waiting, here is one of the show’s catchiest hits – guaranteed to lift you up and make you grin like a Cheshire Cat!
Electricity (Billy Elliot the Musical)
I can’t really explain it. I haven’t got the words….but fortunately Elton John does (with help from lyricist Lee Hall). Their adaptation of the 2000 (yes it really is that old) hit movie tells the inspirational tale of a boy from a tough coal-mining community who just wants to dance. Fortunately it was filmed before the stage show closed in 2016 so we can still enjoy one of the greatest moments that ever lit up the West End stage.
Good Morning Starshine (Hair)
A lot of things have changed since Hair opened in 1967. Back then, young people could buy a house in London for about £3,000. People have a lot less hair now, mainly because you have to sell yours if you want to afford a deposit on a shed. Cheer yourself up by listening to Good Morning Starshine and seeing what people looked like when they could still afford hair.
I Am What I Am (La Cage Aux Folles)
Before Kinky Boots and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, a show illuminated the West End and Broadway stage which would set the standard against which all future gender-swapping shows would be measured. La Cage Aux Folles opened at the height of the AIDS crisis which both decimated and united the Theatre community – I Am What I Am became both a clarion call an anthem for acceptance. It’s never been sung with more feeling than here by George Hearn – against the joyous background of the Cagelles singing “We Are What We Are”.
I Got Rhythm (Crazy for You)
This gem of a Gershwin show ran on Broadway and then in the West End’s Prince Edward Theatre back in the 1990s. Look out for Ruthie Henshall in the role that made her a star, and a very young Craig Revel Horwood in the company, proving his dance pedigree! We think he’s a perfect 10!
Le Jazz Hot (Victor Victoria)
There are plenty of uplifting songs in the Julie Andrews back catalogue – in fact she makes our list twice. We were tempted by the Lonely Goatherd, but instead we’ve gone first for Julie in a role that’s less than squeaky clean – and boy does she knock it out of the park as a woman playing a man playing a woman! It’s just so camp!
My Shot (Hamilton)
If you still haven’t seen Lin Manuel Miranda’s masterwork, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Wonder no longer with this, the show’s standout moment (and there are plenty vying for that particular top spot). If you’ve lost your mojo, this number is the all the motivation you’ll need to get up and take life by the scruff of the neck!
Oh What a Beautiful Morning (Oklahoma!)
This groundbreaking Rodgers & Hammerstein musical was the first to put an exclamation mark in the title of a Broadway show…and musical theatre has never looked back. It’s easy to see why there have been so many revivals, especially when you hear the honey-rich tones of Hugh Jackman waking us all up with this belter of an opener! This is the show that launched him into the A-list stratosphere and got National Theatre audiences hot under the collar in the process!
Oom Pa Pa (Oliver!)
Proving that an exclamation mark is the way to go if you want a box office hit, Lionel Bart took Dickens’ classic Victorian Novel Oliver Twist and sprinkled it with stardust. Amongst a dark tale of child exploitation, redemption and murder are some outstanding bit company numbers and there’s none more uplifting than this cockney charmer! There are so many great versions – we’ve picked Strictly’s homage, featuring 2015 finalists Kevin Clifton and Kellie Bright.
One Day More – Les Misérables
We were torn between this rousing chorus and ‘Do You Hear The People Sing?’, but we just couldn’t pass up the stunning harmonies and heart-stopping vocal power of ‘One Day More’, which features so many of the show’s major characters – and we think this is the definitive version. Feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up!
Our Favourite Son (The Will Rogers Follies)
If you love a happy tune, we can’t think of many more upbeat musical theatre numbers than this bundle of fun from the combined pens of Betty Comden and Adolph Green, with music by Cy Coleman (City of Angels, Sweet Charity). The choreography may look simple, but in fact it’s fiendishly tricky!
Six (Six The Musical)
We came to the party late on this completely fabulous show having missed it at the Edinburgh Fringe (we saw it at the Arts Theatre after hearing the buzz from Scotland). Part Horrible Histories, part Spice Girls, this show wrestles back the power from Henry VIII and places it firmly back in the hands of six amazing women who make Tudor history über-cool.
Spring Spring Spring (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers)
Sometimes we all long for simpler times, before social media and rush-hours and rolling new channels. If that sounds familiar, let us whisk you away to a time when the most complicated choice you had to make was whether to feed the hens or the horses first.
Stepping Out (Stepping Out)
This gem of a movie really deserves a DVD release, although you can rent or buy it to watch on Amazon Prime. It was adapted from a stage play, but we think the movie is the definitive version because of stand-out performances from Julie Walters, Jane Krakowski and Liza Minnelli. Moving, uplifting, at its core is the message that you should never let what others think stop you from doing the thing you love.
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (Mary Poppins)
Dame Julie Andrews is a true theatrical chameleon – she may have the voice of an angel, but she’s definitely got a saucy side as proven in this expletive-ridden outburst. Although not technically an obscenity, this contorted confabulation certainly contains several anagrams of naughty words we can’t print here!
This is Me (The Greatest Showman)
The second of three entries by the talented writing team of Pasek & Paul, this song is all about empowerment – if you’ve ever worried what others think of you, you’re not alone…but there are moments in life when you just need to dig way down deep in your soul, throw caution to the wind and let your inner light illuminate the world.
Waving Through A Window (Dear Evan Hansen)
Hot on the heels of another Pasek & Paul anthem comes their third entry in our list – a breakthrough moment in a show that speaks to anyone who lives in their own head. It’s surely not too soon to draw comparisons to the great pairings of musical theatre – Rodgers & Hammerstein, Kander & Ebb and Ashman & Menken. We cannot wait to see what this talented pair comes up with next!
You Can’t Stop The Beat (Hairspray)
What better, more uplifting way could we end our list than one of the highest energy numbers from any musical of the past 20 years? Cos the world keeps spinning round and round and our heart’s keeping time to the speed of sound! Heck, there’s a little Tracy Turnblad in us all – and thank goodness for that! Proving no matter what, you can’t stop the beat!
Here’s the Spotify playlist so you can listen on the go! Have a favourite of your own? Spread a little love by leaving us a comment below with your own favourite Musical Theatre feel good classics!