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60 Male Songs That Cross the Fourth Wall
Are you looking for a song from a Musical? One that will connect directly to an audience? What you need is a “House number”!
A House number is a song that crosses the invisible fourth wall between the actor and the audience, the wall that exists in the character’s mind (after all, in most plays and musicals the characters don’t know they’re being watched by a group of people).
In Musical theater there are only a few true House numbers, but you can actually make other songs cross the fourth wall fairly easily. Here are 60 songs for men that can be sung to the audience directly. I’ve listed the songs in three categories: the true House number
the song to audience
The first category is the true House number: The singer is fully aware that the audience is there and “comes out” of the show.
If You Want To Die In Bed, and American Dream from Miss Saigon, and Oh What A Circus from Evita are good examples of the true House number. Sondheim writes excellent House numbers, such as Comedy Tonight and Everybody Ought To Have A Maid from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, or Invocation to the Gods And Instructions to the Audience from The Frogs (not often performed as it’s set in a real swimming pool).
The second category contains songs in which the character sings to a stage audience as part of the plot. The most obvious song for the men is Master of the House from Les Miserables. The MC from Cabaret usually expands the Berlin nightclub audience to include the actual theatre audience with songs such as Willkommen and If You Could See Her. In Barnum, The Museum Song is sung to a general group of people, as is Bigger Isn’t Better. Springtime for Hitler is sung to the audience in The Producers, as is Beautiful Girls (from Follies).
Consider the songs Use What You Got from The Life, Pinball Wizard from Tommy, and I Am What I Am from La Cage Aux Folles. Stand Up And Fight (Carmen Jones) and Get Me To The Church On Time (My Fair Lady) can both be sung as House numbers. You could also get away with All I Care About Is Love, and Mr Cellophane, from Chicago An unusual one is Come Up To My Office from Parade, where the leading man “re-enacts” a scene in a courtroom, according to the imaginary version of his young female co-workers.
Tribute Musicals are a useful source of House numbers such as That’ll Be The Day and Johnny Be Good from Buddy, or I Want To Break Free from We Will Rock You. Virtually any song from Hedwig And The Angry Inch would work, including Sugar Daddy and Angry Inch. 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee has an implied audience for the spelling contest, and the “children” sing songs such as My Unfortunate Erection straight to them. I Can Do That (from A Chorus Line) is sung to Zach who is actually seated at the back of the real audience.
Then there’s the third type – the unifocus song (the soliloquy) that has an outward feel, or asks questions, or contains rhetoric. Funny from City of Angels. What Is It About Her from Wild Party, and Don’t Take Much from The Life work well. All I Need Is The Girl from Gypsy will work, as will Tonight At Eight and She Loves Me from She Loves Me. Check out How To Handle A Woman from Camelot, Being Alive from Company, and two from Parade (Pretty Music, and Big News).
Oddly enough, Anthem from Chess could work as a fourth wall number as the Russian could be sharing his story with the audience. You might also experiment with songs like Make Them Hear You from Ragtime, If I Were A Rich Man from Fiddler on the Roof, or Thank Heaven For Little Girls from Gigi. And two to include in this list are And They’re Off from A New Brain, and Dressing Them Up from Kiss of the Spider Woman.
Giants In The Sky from Into The Woods, Larger Than Life from My Favorite Year, Corner Of The Sky from Pippin and Guys and Dolls (the title song) will translate well across the fourth wall. And from Les Miserables, you might explore Dog Eat Dog – Thenadier’s great solo scene from Act 2, or King Of The World (Songs for a New World). Then there’s Dentist! from Little Shop of Horrors, Leaning On A Lampost from Me and My Girl, and Reviewing the Situation from Oliver!
You can raid pretty much any revue-style show for material – Sondheim’s shows are a very good place to start – The Ballad of Booth from Assassins, Everybody Says Don’t from Anyone Can Whistle, or These Are My Friends from Sweeney Todd, sung as Todd is reunited with his razors.
Incidentally, The Soliloquy from Carousel won’t work, because the singer is arguing with himself and is definitely not including anyone else except perhaps God. However, This Is The Moment can work because you can share your success with the audience.
Slower songs don’t tend to work but there are exceptions: What More Can I Say from Falsettos, or Higher Than A Hawk from Calamity Jane. A Little Happiness from Personals is a more reflective story that is designed to be shared with the audience.
The point of a House number is to communicate with your audience directly, so remember to use plenty of eye contact when you perform. Enjoy!
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