These Show-Stopping 11 O’Clock Numbers Are Guaranteed to Amaze You
Because nothing gives you goosebumps like a musical theater powerhouse belting their face off.
Originally derived from the days when curtain was at 8:30 p.m., putting the time of the song’s occurrence around 11:00 p.m., the 11 o’clock number often functions as a realization or a counterpart of a character’s “I want” song, which occurs early in the first act and expresses a character’s hopes or desires.
When properly executed, the 11 o’clock number can easily be the most memorable part of a show, so we’ve decided to rank the top ten that have stuck with us long after leaving the theater.
1. “Rose’s Turn” from Gypsy
Quite literally the mother of all 11 o’clock numbers, “Rose’s Turn” from Gypsy is the final admittance of Mama Rose’s failure to realize her own dreams of stardom. This iconic song, which has been sung by Broadway legends Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone, always leaves audiences reeling at the end of the second act.
2. “Cabaret” from Cabaret
Not only is “Cabaret” a killer 11 o’clock number, but it serves as a poignant and distressing climax in which Sally Bowles belts out to the entire Kit Kat Klub that life is nothing more than a Cabaret. This performance by Jane Horrocks in London’s Donmar Warehouse production is both magnetic and terrifying.
3. “Memory” from Cats
The song that made Cats a worldwide phenomenon, the brilliance of “Memory” is acknowledged by fans and non-fans alike. Sung here by London’s original Grizabella, Elaine Paige, this emotional song about the loss of youth and beauty is the definition of a show-stopper.
4. “I’m Here” from The Color Purple
Watching Celie evolve from a young, terrified victim to a strong, self- sufficient young woman throughout The Color Purple truly is something to behold, and “I’m Here” is an expression of her presence as a resilient and worthy human being. Here is Tony Award-winner Cynthia Erivo, who currently plays Celie on Broadway in the revival of The Color Purple, performing the musical’s penultimate number.
5. “The Ladies Who Lunch” from Company
The perfect example of a striking 11 o’clock number sung by a standout supporting character rather than the lead, Company’s “The Ladies Who Lunch” is a brilliantly sardonic yet self-aware song that mocks the empty lives of rich women, sung by the thrice-married Joanne. It was made famous by Elaine Stritch who originated the part, and is done great justice by Patti LuPone in this 2011 New York Philharmonic concert production.
6. “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” from Les Misérables
Sometimes 11 o’clock numbers can be real heartbreakers, as evidenced in Les Misérables’ “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” sung by young revolutionary, Marius. With the wide-eyed hopefulness of the students in the first act now exchanged for a tragic reality, he laments the deaths of his friends and questions the meaning of their failed cause. This song has the potential to be the most moving number in Les Mis, which is quite the feat in such a sweeping and emotional piece.
7. “Last Midnight” from Into the Woods
One of the most complex musical theater “villains” of all time, The Witch in Into the Woods, sings this song during the latter half of the second act. Disgusted by the pettiness of the other characters and sick of being blamed for their plight, she throws away her magic beans and vanishes in a cloud of smoke, leaving them to fend for themselves. Talk about a dramatic exit!
8. “Lot’s Wife” from Caroline, or Change
An intensely character driven song, “Lot’s Wife” from Caroline, or Change proves that you don’t need any frills to produce a captivating 11 o’clock number, just a good story. Watch Tonya Pinkins wow the audience with nothing but a bare stage and and raw emotion at the 2004 Tony Awards.
9. “Always Staring Over” from If/ Then
Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey wrote the role of Elizabeth specifically for Idina Menzel, and her fierce embodiment of the character shows in this 2014 Tony Awards performance of If/ Then‘s 11 o’clock number, “Always Starting Over.” If anyone can make a power ballad rattle the rafters, it’s Idina Menzel.
10. “She Used to Be Mine” from Waitress
The most recently written song to make the list, Sara Bareilles hits it out of the park with “She Used to Be Mine,” and the way that Jessie Mueller performs it during Waitress’ second act is nothing short of transcendent. Watch songwriter Sara Bareilles sing it with the current star during the 2016 Tony Awards.