“We’re gonna save the dishes for tomorrow.”
Songs Moms Sing With Their Children
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“The Glamorous Life”- A Little Night Music
Daughter, Mother, and Grandmother all get a voice in one of Sondheim’s most sincere love letters to the theatre. Fredericka is allowed to imagine how exciting her mother’s life is on tour while her Grandmother berates what she perceives as her daughter’s foolish career. “Ordinary daughters, which mine I fear, is not/ Tend each asset, spend it wisely/ While it still endures/ Mine tours” when sung by either Hermoine Ginfold or Angenla Lansbury is the definition of how to land a punchline. What better way to celebrate theatre and motherhood?
“Come to My Garden/Lift Me Up”- The Secret Garden
This beautiful and haunting duet is just one of many in this woman composed score. Ghost mother Lily singing while giving hope and healing to her son Colin is always a tender moment but especially so when their melodies come together to make beautiful harmonies.
“Arm in Arm”- Here’s Love
From Meredith Willson’s musicalization of Miracle on 34th Street, Susan and Doris Walker are the definition of a Mother/Daughter team. This charming little ditty gives mom and daughter a chance to show that even if they don’t believe in Santa Claus or fairytales they know how to have a good time (and avoid doing the dishes!)
“Don’t Ah Ma Me”- The Rink
Don’t let the kids listen to this one with you. This whole show is a masterclass in Mother/Daughter trauma. And with Chita and Liza who could resist. If your children aren’t old enough for you to feel this way yet, Kander and Ebb give you a little sneak peak in just the beginning of what joys you might have waiting. Boasting such rhymes as “hex it/ exit” these two ladies at each other’s throats is just what I need for Mother’s Day. Also check out “The Apple Doesn’t Fall” for a more jovial mother/daughter duet from this show.
“The Letter”- Billy Elliot
I know, another ghost mom song, maybe not the most uplifting for Mother’s Day. But this is one of the more poignant moments in this show, and I love how he’s able to share this moment with Mrs. Wilkinson, another important mother figure in this story. Billy’s last spoken line on this track gets me every time.
“My Best Girl”- Mame
Speaking of Mother figures, Auntie Mame is certainly among the most eccentric in the Musical Theatre canon. Jerry Herman musicals may not give us many biological mothers but between this song and “Look Over There” from La Cage you can feel his deep love and respect for everyone filling a mom role. Plus everything Angela does is perfect.
“You Don’t Have to Do it For Me” – Minnie’s Boys
This show, the story of Minnie Marx and how her boys became some of the most recognizable funny men of the twentieth century, usually winds up on Mother’s Day lists for its lovely ballad “Mama, A Rainbow” but this song is waaaay funnier. Minnie is laying the guilt on strong, which she has done time and time again as you can tell because her boys know every word of what she’s about to say. As clever a device for a song as the Marx brothers deserve.
“Peas in a Pod”- Grey Gardens
As Mother/Daughter teams go, this one is almost as toxic as Mama Rose and her girls. Big Eddie and Little Eddie have a moment of peace in this charming throwback number. If you’re looking for a happy Mother’s Day don’t dive much deeper into this show today but Christine Ebersol’s tour de force performance makes it worth a listen if you’re looking for more mama drama.
“Mom Song”- Passing Strange
Here’s a less conventional musical theatre Mother/Son duet, Stew (as Narrator but very much the grown up version of The Youth) sings with Mother about the heartbreak of grown children leaving for a world unknown (in this case Europe.) This metatheatrical Mother/Son duet carries all the melancholy of watching your children grow and go. The repeated lyrics “Unannounced, you’ve grown/Into a living thing” is a feeling I’m already having and my oldest kid is only 5!
“Leave it to the Girls”- Annie Warbucks
Okay, here me out. This Annie sequel has some incredible songs and this is one of them. Commissioner Doyle and her daughter (who is in disguise while courting Daddy Warbucks) are planning to off the whole damn cast and take all his money. It’s ridiculous, I know. But this is Donna McKecknie (with Arlene Robertson) and I dare you not to do that kickline at the end.
“Busted”- Freaky Friday
This is a bopping Kitt and Yorkey song from a Mary Rodgers story so it has all kinds of musical theatre cred. Mother/Daughter body switching is the perfect opportunity for a song like this. Getting busted by your kids (or your mom) is part of growing up and ultimately finding compassion.
“Piano Lesson”- The Music Man
I mean, Mrs. Paroo is probably one of the most charming and compassionate mothers in the Golden Age canon. I mean she did raise Marian the librarian. This argument that they’re having to a piano exercise is some of the most hilarious and perfect verbal dexterity in the whole show (which also contains “Trouble”) And when you end an argument with “Your Irish imagination/Your Iowa stubbornness/and your library full’a books” you deserve to win.
“Three Bedroom House”- Bat Boy
As far as family dynamics go Meredith and Shelley end up with one of the more complicated relationships by the end of this song but the moment to moment revelations and the killer harmony when they are in lock step makes this one of the most enjoyable mother/daughter duets to belt out in the car. Kaitlin Hopkins and Kerry Butler for the win on this one.
“Our Little World”- Into the Woods
The Witch and Repunzel certainly don’t have the healthiest mother/daughter relationship, the latter being locked in a tower by the former, but this song written for the original London production at least gives us a look into the complexity of their “little world.” In typical Sondheim style the song is its own little play and we feel every tug in the music and the lyrics. Lovely and unnerving at the same time.
“I Whistle a Happy Tune”- The King and I
One of the strengths of this problematic show is the honesty and resilience Hammerstein gave the character of Anna. While this song has become a popular tune since its debut in this show it is lovely to look back and remember that this is Anna’s confession to her son Louis that even adults can be afraid. As a mother she leaves him with the gift of confidence, a whistle and the mantra: “You may be as brave as you make believe you are.” Telling your children you aren’t perfect is one of the more daunting moments of motherhood. This song makes it sound easy.
Other Musical Theatre songs, sung about, by and with Moms or Mother figures
Some are funny, some are moving, some are sad, and some are just total bops (is that what the kids say nowadays?). If you want songs about motherly love, musical songs about motherhood, show tunes sung by moms, to mom, about moms, by children, to children, about children…we got you covered!
- “Come Home”- Allegro (1947)
- “Distant Melody”- Peter Pan (1954)
- “If Mamma Was Married”- Gypsy (1959)
- “Rose’s Turn”- Gypsy (1959)
- “Together Wherever We Go”- Gypsy (1959)
- “Motherhood”- Hello, Dolly! (1964)
- “Sunrise, Sunset”- Fiddler on the Roof (1964)
- “Who Taught Her Everything She Knows”- Funny Girl (1964)
- “If He Walked Into My Life”- Mame (1966)
- “Momma Look Sharp”- 1776 (1969)
- “Mama, A Rainbow”- Minnie’s Boys (1970)
- “Whose Little Angry Man”- Raisin (1973)
- “Montage Part 3- Mother”- A Chorus Line (1975)
- “Me and My Baby”- Chicago (1975)
- “Not While I’m Around”- Sweeney Todd (1979)
- “The Story Goes On”- Baby (1983)
- “Look Over There”- La Cage Aux Folles (1983)
- “The Apple Doesn’t Fall”- The Rink (1984)
- “Children and Art”- Sunday in the Park with George (1984)
- “Children Will Listen”- Into the Woods (1987)
- “I’d Give My Life For You”- Miss Saigon (1989)
- “Mamma Will Provide”- Once on this Island (1990)
- “Stop Time”- Big (1996)
- “Mama Says” – Footloose (1998)
- “My Child Will Forgive Me”- Parade (1998)
- “Our Children” – Ragtime (1998)
- “Your Daddy’s Son”- Ragtime (1998)
- “Mrs. Taylor’s Lullaby”- Bat Boy (2001)
- “Mama I’m a Big Girl Now”- Hairspray (2002)
- “I Got Four Kids”- Caroline or Change (2004)
- “The I Love You Song”- The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (2005)
- “Fabel”- A Light in the Piazza (2005)
- “Around the World”- Grey Gardens (2006)
- “Mama Who Bore Me”- Spring Awakening (2006)
- “Mother’s Day”- Women on the Verge (2010)
- “Proud of Your Boy”- Aladdin (2011)
- “To Build a Home”- Bridges of Madison County (2014)
- “Days and Days”- Fun Home (2015)
- “Welcome to Our House on Maple Avenue” – Fun Home (2015)
- “Everything Changes” – Waitress (2016)
- “So Big/So Small”- Dear Evan Hansen (2016)