Songs from Musicals: #41, “Luck Be a Lady,” from Guys and Dolls

Honorable mentions: “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” “Fugue for Tinhorns”

We’re on our tenth entry of fifty right now, and it’s time to talk about Glee, because I don’t actually know about real musicals. Darren Criss tried out before the show started filming at all, ultimately got on as Blaine, and singlehandedly did CPR for second season until Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan (and I guess Brad Falchuk, though I’ve always blamed him least) finally stopped even pretending to care. The role that he tried out for, as we all know, was Finn, the role that Cory Monteith eventually won. Finn was written as the quarterback, a sort of spacey guy, not so bright, but a natural leader and a performer with significant potential. It’s not an easy role to cast, and while Finn was never the best part of the show, Monteith displayed some comedic timing, just enough vocal chops to be realistic (if never enough to be convincing), and best of all, he looked the part. Monteith was 6’4″ and Darren Criss – who is every bit as funny and a fabulous singer, probably one of the two or three best male voices they put on Glee – is 5’8″. Five-eight makes a great frontman from a prep school glee club, but even Doug Flutie is 5’10”.

“Luck Be a Lady” is a perfect Cory Monteith song: it requires someone big and strong and potentially tough to sing it, and just about anyone can make it sound good. It’s an easy song to sing for any male voice; it barely even requires the phrasing or timing that other songs do (like “Sue Me” or “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” or on the other side of the sexual divide, “Adelaide’s Lament”). Sky Masterson is, like Finn Hudson, a role based entirely on perceived masculinity and a first name that’s actually a common noun in a fedora. Sky can punch out anyone, can charm any gal, and has the testicular fortitude to bet any sum of money. His luck will carry him through, and so “Luck Be a Lady” is not a song for brilliance but for swagger. We don’t have to believe that he can join the Three Tenors on weekends, but that he can bully and cajole a couple dozen gamblers to end up at the mission for a prayer meeting. It’s an all-timer for okay vocalists and drivers who have playlists to sing along with in their cars.

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