Your GREAT PERFORMANCES Valentine’s Day Mixtape

Laura Benanti and Zachary Levi in “She Loves Me.” Credit: Joan Marcus, 2016

It’s Valentine’s Day, and we’re feeling amorous! To help set the mood for your perfect date, we’ve compiled some of the most romantic songs from GREAT PERFORMANCES programs – from Broadway to jazz, and more.

1) “Cheek to Cheek,” Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek LIVE

Moviegoers swooned when Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dipped, twirled, danced and romanced to the Irving Berlin hit “Cheek to Cheek” in the 1935 film Top Hat. Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga give this timeless romantic tune a swingin’ spin in their 2014 GREAT PERFORMANCES special Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek LIVE, and our hearts beat so that we can hardly speak.

2) “Vanilla Ice Cream,” Laura Benanti, She Loves Me

Forget flowers and chocolate. The way to your honey’s heart? Ice cream! That’s how Georg woos Amalia in She Loves Me, the Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick musical about two feuding co-workers in a 1930s Budapest parfumerie who unwittingly fall in love as anonymous pen pals. When Georg discovers that his amorous pen pal is, in fact, Amalia, he freaks out (as one must), then pays her a house call, bearing a special gift: a small container of vanilla ice cream. Amalia has multiple epiphanies – she loves Georg and he loves her! — so naturally, she bursts into song (as one must). The song, “Vanilla Ice Cream,” has been an audience favorite since Barbara Cook first introduced it in the original 1963 production. Here’s Laura Benanti serving up this delicious showstopper in the Roundabout Theatre Company production that aired on GREAT PERFORMANCES in 2017. Enjoy and bon appétit!

3) “Una Furtiva Lagrima,” L’Elisir D’Amore

It’s hard to compete with opera when it comes to love. Nobody does it bigger, better or more gloriously. In Donizetti’s comic opera L’Elisir D’Amore (The Elixir of Love), directed by Tony winner Bartlett Sher and airing on GREAT PERFORMANCES AT THE MET in April, poor country boy Nemorino (Matthew Polenzani) wins the love of wealthy and beautiful Adina (Pretty Yende) —with the help of a magic elixir sold by the traveling “doctor” Dulcamara (Ildebrando D’Arcangelo). When Nemorino sees Adina weeping, he believes the potion has worked and sings “Una Furtiva Lagrima” (“A Furtive Tear”), a popular tenor aria and a favorite song of Luciano Pavarotti. What’s the secret ingredient in this magical elixir? Tune in and find out!

4) “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter,” Paul McCartney’s Live Kisses

Legendary Beatle and music icon Paul McCartney proves you’ve gotta have heart in his 2012 GREAT PERFORMANCES special showcasing pop and jazz standards from his solo album Kisses on the Bottom. There’s no shortage of romance with tunes like “The Glory of Love” (Billy Hill), “Always” (Irving Berlin), “More I Cannot Wish You” (Frank Loesser), McCartney’s new songs, “My Valentine” and “Only Our Hearts” – and “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” (Fred E. Alhert/Joe Young), a song popularized by Fats Waller in the 1930s. Add jazz singer Diana Krall and her band to the mix and you’ve got a cocktail for Valentine’s Day musical happiness. Check out his performances and then sit right down and write your Valentine a letter – with kisses on the bottom, of course!

Bonus Anti-Valentine: “Getting Married Today” (Stephen Sondheim’s Company)

Not feeling the Valentine’s Day love? Stephen Sondheim to the rescue! In his 1970 musical Company, jittery bride Amy has a nervous breakdown – while standing on the altar at her wedding — in the form of “Getting Married Today,” a manic patter song where she lists the endless river of reasons she refuses to marry her fiancé, Paul.

GREAT PERFORMANCES fans have been treated to this deliciously neurotic song many times over the years. Beth Howland, Broadway’s original Amy, delivers zingers and tongue twisters galore as she records the song in Original Cast Album: Company (1970). The inimitable Madeline Kahn is fabulously frazzled as she performs the mile-a-minute showstopper in Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall (1992). Katie Finneran (Miss Hannigan in the recent revival of Annie) takes commitment phobia to hilarious new heights in Stephen Sondheim’s Company with the New York Philharmonic (2011), also starring Neil Patrick Harris, Patti LuPone and Stephen Colbert. Valium, anyone?



Elisa Lichtenbaum, editor of the monthly THIRTEEN program guide, is also Senior Writer at WNET, a tap dancer and theater geek.