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Spring (is) Awakening: The Best Broadway Songs for Spring

Here are an array of show tunes that cover the wide spectrum of feelings that spring ushers in.
Here are an array of show tunes that cover the wide spectrum of feelings that spring ushers in. By Courtesy of Isabelle A. Lu
By Isabelle A. Lu, Crimson Staff Writer

After a long Boston winter, spring has finally arrived: the season of new life, regrowth, and blossoming love. Beneath its sunny surface, however, spring is a season of paradoxical complexities and poetic possibilities. As chill mixes with warmth, rain mixes with sun, and melancholy mixes with joy, here are an array of show tunes that cover the wide spectrum of feelings that spring ushers in.

1. “Epic III” from “Hadestown”

It’s quite the task to write the mythical song that convinced the god of death, Hades, to allow Orpheus to retrieve his dead wife Eurydice from the Underworld. Yet “Epic III,” a ballad about Hades falling in love with the goddess of spring, Persephone, would convince any listener to do so. This song crucially humanizes Hades — a character who is completely villainous up until this point in the musical — by moving even Hades to sing along with Orpheus. “Epic III” captures the everlasting beauty of the moment, the power of storytelling, and the worthiness of passionate love without material security — embodied by springtime — despite its impermanence. The spellbinding melody elevates a straightforward narrative and rhythmic folk instrumentation, peaking in a soul-stirring chorus.

2. “A Bit Of Earth” from “The Secret Garden”

A flower garden is seldom viewed with anxiety. Yet in this number, Archibald Craven reckons with his niece Mary’s request for a garden in a sweeping contemplation about the short-lived, fragile nature of flowers in contrast to durable material gifts. This song is classically Broadway, emotionally and vocally charged with Archibald’s tentative hope for the beauty of growth and his sense of responsibility for the young girl. While the powerful, orchestral climax focuses on “a doll’s house / with a hundred rooms per floor” or “something that money can buy,” the song’s core subject — “a bit of earth” — is sung softly, poignantly embodying the hesitant hope of springtime.

3. “Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind” from “Spring Awakening”

The swan song of the suicidal teenager Moritz Stiefel, fused with the longing melody of his childhood friend and last hope Ilse Neumann, is an emotional crux within a musical that uses the seasonal cycle to represent life stages. Cryptic and beautiful, Ilse’s bittersweet promises of “spring and summer every other day” cannot infiltrate Moritz’s freezing reality. A bittersweet tension runs throughout its images of spring: the bountiful harvest versus the transient wind that physically struggles to pass through the landscape. “Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind” truly does teenage angst like no other show tune. The song fuses mournful nature imagery with a thrumming rock beat in a duet as complex as the overwhelming sexuality of adolescence.

4. “Without You” from “Rent”

In another rock musical tune about the changing seasons, clashing lovers Mimi and Roger sing about nearly everything in the world but each other, finally admitting that even though the world moves on, “I die / without you.” The repeating guitar melody that underlines soft bass and drums moves the song forward in partnership with themes of springtime growth before crashing into an admission of loneliness. Through uncomplicated lyrics in a repeating pattern, from “the ground thaws / the rain falls” all the way until “the mind churns / the heart yearns,” Mimi and Roger initially avoid addressing the impact they have on one another. Eventually, however, the contrast between the flourishing outer world and their still-stricken inner worlds deepens their heartbreak further.

5. “Edelweiss” from “The Sound of Music”

A beloved song about the titular white flowers that bloom on the Alps, “Edelweiss” expresses gratitude for their resilience as well as Captain von Trapp’s love for his native Austria. This resilience is mirrored by the gentle repetition that makes up the lullaby-like song. Reminding one of the small joys of spring that are forgotten over the winter, “Edelweiss” also evokes nostalgia with its simple lyrics. Regardless of the listener’s homeland, edelweiss is just one example of an environmental fixture that is symbolically inseparable from land and culture — just like one’s love for home, no matter the distance.

6. “The Lusty Month of May” from “Camelot”

This mischievously cheerful show tune about the erotic thoughts that arise in May is carried swiftly along by Queen Guenevere’s lilting voice and the twittering instrumentation, maintaining a buoyant charm throughout. As Guenevere draws the attendees of her May Day festivities into singing “tra-la” after her, the feeling of temptation seeps from queen to crowd, adding voices to the song as it progresses. The tune’s delightfulness lies in the blatant pleasure that Guenevere takes in the “shocking,” “wicked,” and “libelous” time, as she endorses shedding even marital loyalty to enjoy the social atmosphere of promiscuity.

7. “If I Loved You” from “Carousel”

As the May flowers fall from the trees and their scent fills the air, Julie Jordan and Billy Bigelow realize they are in love in this iconic song. The two firmly agree that they do not love each other, but each imagines the exact symptoms of suppressed love, which are made absolutely sigh-inducing by soft harp and strings that ascend in pitch and dynamics both. The wistfully romantic atmosphere of spring manifests in music that audibly glimmers with shy hope and enchants the pair’s ruminations on “golden chances.” Even as Julie remarks that the blossoms are reaching their time to fall down and die, the instrumentation crescendos, just as spring’s passionate warmth only intensifies in the transition to summer.

—Staff writer Isabelle A. Lu can be reached at

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