An 11 o’clock number is a song that comes toward the very end of a Broadway musical, when a leading character has a fit of emotion and pours it out in music.
It’s a showstopper that’s generally designed to give the tourists something to hum about when they leave.
My five faves in ascending order are:
5. “Lot’s Wife” from Caroline, or Change
This is the maid character’s gutsy variation of my number-one choice, which you find out about later. (I’ll leave that for 11 o’clock.) Tonya Pinkins sang the living heck out of it.
4. “Fly, Fly, Away” from Catch Me If You Can
The con artist’s girlfriend, played by Kerry Butler, sings this bittersweet lament, slightly reminiscent of the old pop tune “I Can’t Live (If Living Is Without You)” — with a mixture of guts and tenderness. I wanted to include something currently viewable.
3. “Gimme Gimme” from Thoroughly Modern Millie
This is a decisive number, a belt-out, a shake-the-rafters expression of pure need — and it’s lots of fun. Sutton Foster gave it her all and a half.
2. “Being Alive” from Company
Some say this is the finale, not the 11 o’clock number. I say it’s both. It’s a summation, a moving forward, and a heart-wrenching declaration of an urge to end loneliness. I’ve never heard a bad version of this one because the song itself is so damned good.
1. “Rose’s Turn” from Gypsy
Mama Rose’s volcanic explosion craftily combines bits from songs you’ve already heard in the show, but with darker overtones, also adding new bits that combine for a harrowing breakdown every great star has longed to deliver.
I’d love to do it myself. This time for me! For me! For me!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 29, 2011