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60 Male Songs That Cross the Fourth Wall
Looking for a song from a musical? One that connects directly to the audience? What you need is a “house number”!
House Number is a song that crosses the invisible fourth wall between the actor and the audience, a wall that exists in the character’s mind (after all, in most plays and musicals, the characters are unaware that a group of people are watching them).
There are only a few real house numbers in musical theater, but you can actually break the fourth wall quite easily. Here are 60 songs for men to sing directly to an audience. I listed the songs in three categories: actual house number
song to the audience
The first category is the real house number: The singer is fully aware that the audience is present and “comes out” of the performance.
If You Want To Die In Bed and American Dream by Miss Saigon and Oh What A Circus by Evita are good examples of a real house number. Sondheim writes excellent house numbers such as Comedy Tonight and Everybody Ought To Have A Maid from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum or Invocation to the Gods and Instructions to the Audience from The Frogs (not often shown as set in a real swimming pool ).
The second category includes songs in which a character sings to a stage audience as part of the plot. The most obvious song for men is Master of the House from Les Miserables. The Cabaret MC usually expands the Berlin nightclub audience to a real theater audience with songs like Willkommen and If You Could See Her. In Barnum, The Museum Song is sung to a general group of people, as is Bigger Is’t Better. Springtime for Hitler is sung to an audience in The Producers, as is Beautiful Girls (from Follies).
Consider Use What You Got by The Life, Pinball Wizard by Tommy, and I Am What I Am by La Cage Aux Folles. Stand Up And Fight (Carmen Jones) and Get Me To The Church On Time (My Fair Lady) can be sung as house numbers. You could also get away with All I Care About Is Love and Chicago’s Mr Cellophane Unusual is Parade’s Come Up To My Office, where the male lead “re-enacts” the courtroom scene, according to an imaginary version of his young co-workers.
Tribute Musicals are a useful source of house numbers such as That’ll Be The Day and Johnny Be Good from Buddy or I Want To Break Free from We Will Rock You. Practically any song from Hedwig And The Angry Inch would work, including Sugar Daddy and Angry Inch. The 25th annual Putnam County Spelling Bee has an implicit audience for the spelling bee, and the “kids” sing songs like My Unfortunate Erection right to them. I Can Do That (from A Chorus Line) is sung to Zach, who is actually sitting in the back behind the real audience.
Then there is a third type – a unifocal song (soliloquy) that has an external impression, asks questions, or contains rhetoric. Funny from City of Angels. What Is It About Her from Wild Party, and Don’t Take Much from The Life work well. All I Need Is The Girl from Gypsy will work, as will Tonight At Eight and She Loves Me from She Loves Me. Check out How To Handle A Woman from Camelot, Being Alive from Company and two from Parade (Pretty Music and Big News).
Oddly enough, Anthem from Chess could work as a fourth wall number as the Russian could share his story with the audience. You can also experiment with songs like Make Them Hear You by Ragtime, If I Were A Rich Man by Fiddler on the Roof or Thank Heaven For Little Girls by Gigi. And two to include in this list are And They’re Off from A New Brain and Dressing Them Up from Kiss of the Spider Woman.
Giants In The Sky from Into The Woods, Larger Than Life from My Favorite Year, Corner Of The Sky from Pippin and Guys and Dolls (title song) translate well across the fourth wall. And from Les Miserables you can explore Dog Eat Dog – Thenadier’s great solo scene from Act 2 or King Of The World (Songs for a New World). Then there’s the dentist! from Little Shop of Horrors, Leaning On A Lampost from Me and My Girl and Review the Situation from Oliver!
For material you can raid pretty much any revue show – Sondheim shows are a very good place to start – The Ballad of Booth from Assassins, Everybody Says Don’t from Any Can Whistle or These Are My Friends from Sweeney Todd, sung as Todd reunites with his razors.
The Soliloquy from Carousel doesn’t make it, by the way, because the singer is arguing with himself and certainly doesn’t involve anyone else except maybe God. However, This Is The Moment can work because you can share your success with an audience.
Slower songs don’t work, but there are exceptions: What More Can I Say by Falsettos or Higher Than A Hawk by Calamity Jane. A Little Happiness from Personals is a more reflective story designed to be shared with an audience.
The point of the house number is to communicate directly with your audience, so remember to make a lot of eye contact when performing. Enjoy!
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