Sunday, March 9, 2008

Soundtrack Sunday – "Hercules" (1997)

Like a lot of you, I was pretty disappointed by last month's Academy Awards.

The biggest thing that bothered me? Not the gowns. Nor the idiotic patter on stage. No, it was the nominated songs from Disney's Enchanted (2007) that could only be described as craptacular.

What a letdown.

In the 90s, while the rest of you were probably reveling in Radiohead and Wilco, I was being subjected to the musical tastes of my sons, who have just turned 11 and 15. So during long road trips, that meant a lot of Barney, "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" and the soundtrack to whatever Disney movie had caught their fancy at the moment.

Fortunately, this was during the heyday of Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and several other top composers employed by Disney. Of all this prodigious output, my favorite had to be Hercules (1997), which combined the talents of Menken and David Zippel (Broadway's City of Angels).

Certainly, the movie was not to everyone's taste. Because the original Greek myth contained sex, gore and all kinds of anti-Disney things, the filmmakers turned the story on its head. Basically, it was a series of running jokes strung together with piles of anachronisms. Everything else was also different from the Disney animated blockbusters of the previous few years: From the design of the characters (by Pink Floyd favorite Gerald Scarfe) to the songs themselves, which eschewed Broadway conventions for numbers infused with a melange of Motown, gospel and old-time R&B.

The one exception was the worst song – and, of course, the film's big hit: "Go the Distance" sung by future Producers (2001) star Roger Bart in the film and Michael Bolton (groan) during the credits.

I'm staying away from that one.

Instead, I want to focus on this little gem, sung by the actress who voiced Hercules' love interest, Megara. Relatively unknown at the time, Susan Egan would go on to originate Belle in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway. For me, she will always be known for this song, which has become one of the guilty pleasures on my iPod. I love the call and response with the Greek chorus, but I also think Egan really knows how to belt this song.

"I Won't Say" by Susan Egan

Here's a video of Egan performing the song live (or maybe "plausibly live") a few years ago in New York City.

Interestingly enough, in some non-U.S. versions of the film's soundtrack, there was a second rendition of the song by Belinda Carlisle. It ain't bad, but I think it just further demonstrates how Egan was able to make the song her own.

By the way, the 15-year-old is now mastering Killers songs on his electric guitar. And the 11-year-old requested the latest My Chemical Romance album for Christmas.

Funny how time flies, ain't it?

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