It’s counter intuitive: Some of the most exciting moments in live theater are on video, poorly-edited and grainy and with tinny sound. But for a theater fan, YouTube is a treasure trove of off-the-beaten-track performances. We’ll be doing more of these in the future, but we wanted to kick off this series with something we love lots: handsome leading men.
Raul Esparza singing “Defying Gravity”
Raul’s version of “Defying Gravity” is so much more than a cover, or a fun little take on a song that he’d never get paid to sing eight times a week. It’s a brilliantly-performed sendup of the whole Broadway phenomenon that is Wicked, including its now-famous stars. (Check his hilarious nod to Cheno about two minutes in.) Lots of guys can sing a song. Only Raul can do it with this much wit and panache.
Patrick Wilson singing “If I Loved You”
So, I will admit bias on this one: I was there when it was filmed. I had lived in New York City for three days and managed to catch Patrick Wilson at Seth’s Broadway Chatterbox in the last moments before he embarked on a Hollywood career for realz and more-or-less kissed Broadway goodbye. Patrick sang this because he played Billy Bigelow on the road in Nicholas Hytner’s revival of Carousel. For those of us who couldn’t make it to, say, Rhode Island in 1997, this is a splendid treat.
Norbert Leo Butz singing “I Could be in Love With Someone Like You”
All of the bootleg-y videos of Jason Robert Brown’s Last Five Years are fun to watch, but none are quite as excellent as this one. Singing a song that was eventually cut from the show (Brown’s ex threatened to sue, saying that the song felt a little too close to their real relationship), Norbert was never more on-the-nose as an actor or singer as he is here. Everything about this performance is so right—the subtly neurotic delivery, the crazy big notes. We’re glad this is captured for (hopefully?) posterity on the smallest of small screens.
Aaron Tveit singing “Run Away With Me”
Aaron Tveit wants to run away with you. No, he really does. Stop packing your suitcase for a minute to watch this video, though. It’s a good song nicely performed, but really, we love this video for the way it plays right into the hands of all of our schoolgirlish fantasies of one of our favorite Broadway heartthrobs. If only he’d taken his shirt off…
Gavin Creel singing “I’ve Been”
Gavin Creel singing Next to Normal? Fuck yeah. Well, sort of. Taken from a showcase of Tom Kitt’s songs at Joe’s Pub, this video of Gavin singing an early version of “I’ve Been” is totally rad for its shear novelty. And for the fact that Gavin sings better than basically anyone on earth, natch.
Johnny Gallagher singing “All That’s Known”
Moritz singing Melchior’s song? Stop it! But yeah, it happened, and the effect is… kind of awesome, if a tad disorienting. Gallagher’s take on this song is a complete 180 from Jonathan Groff’s. Like, imagine if Melchior forgot to take his antidepressants, never cut his hair, and was too wrapped up in his moody poetry to notice Wendla staring at him from across the room. We love it. And we can’t help but think that we might have liked that Melchior better…
Jonathan Groff singing “Here I Go Again”
So, yes, this performance does kind of make us feel like we’re taking crazy pills. But against all odds (A Motown-ish arrangement of hair metal? Seriously, what?), this performance from Jonathan Groff’s equally surreal Joe’s Pub set actually kind of works, thanks to Jon’s singular determination that it should work, damnit. As always, a little of Groff’s charm—the thing that constantly gets him cast as the doe-eyed fallen angel—goes a long, long way. Maybe he really does love Whitesnake. Or maybe he just knows how to wrap a crowd of swooning girls around his finger.
Anthony Warlow singing “This Is the Moment”
True story: Broadway’s greatest singer has never set foot on Broadway. Australia’s Anthony Warlow, reigning god of all excellent late-eighties/mid-nineties cast albums, has stuck mostly to his homeland, playing The Phantom and roles in opera. In February, he’ll play Dr. Zhivago onstage in a musical version of the film in Sydney, a move that’s making us seriously ponder a trip around the globe. Nothing, however, is quite like hearing him sing songs from Jekyll & Hyde. He never played the role(s) onstage, appearing only on the iconic 1994 cast album, but his mark on the show is undeniable. In fact, it never seemed quite right—or, let’s be real, even remotely good—without him.