Theatre / Feature

9 of the greatest summer show tunes

Kick off the season with these bright anthems from musicals and movies.

June is here and with it comes the official start of summer. Are you ready to turn up the volume on the season’s hottest songs? Both musicals and movies are filled with iconic numbers celebrating the pleasures of this time of year.

From sizzling temperatures and ice cream cones to seaside visits and new loves, here are ten anthems that truly capture the spirit of these sun-drenched days – and can provide some much-needed escapism in challenging times.


June Is Bustin’ Out All Over (Carousel)

Featured in Carousel, which opened on Broadway in 1945, June Is Bustin’ Out All Over is one of the most exuberant numbers ever written by Rodgers & Hammerstein. Although this musical about the doomed marriage between a bad boy carousel barker and a sweet factory girl has some dark undertones to it, when this song plays during preparations for the town’s summer clambake – with all the cast singing and dancing “just because it’s June, June, June” – it fills you with absolute delight.


Summer Nights (Grease)

Nothing expresses the bliss of teen romance better than Summer Nights. Whether you see Grease The Musical on stage or watch the classic hit movie with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, it will transport you to Rydell High School in the ’50s. Tell me more, you say? From the moment cool Danny brags “summer loving had me a blast” to impress his greaser gang, while sweet Sandy recalls that “summer loving happened so fast” to bond with the Pink Ladies, their boy-meets-girl story – told from completely different perspectives – brings back the joy of strolling on beaches, drinking lemonade and making out under the dock (or wherever).


Our Last Summer and Lay All Your Love On Me (Mamma Mia!)

Based on the feel-good songs of ABBA, everything in Mamma Mia! is a shining summer anthem… so instead of picking just one, we’ve selected two. Set on a Greek island (the most appropriate summer backdrop if ever there was one), the plot revolves around a mum unexpectedly confronted by three old flames. The poignant number Our Last Summer sees her looking back at the “memories that remain”, and it’s sure to make you nostalgic for summers past too. On the other hand, her daughter is getting married and you see the young couple declare their love through the powerful rock’n’roll-infused ballad, Lay All Your Love On Me. This gets even more sultry when the groom’s muscular buddies arrive in tight blue scuba suits and perform a steamy dance in flippers.


Another Day Of Sun (La La Land)

This six-time Oscar-winning film has it all: romance, beautiful choreography and, of course, knockout music. It also doesn’t hurt that 2017’s La La Land stars the very swoon-worthy Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. A story about two Los Angeles dreamers, the opening sequence kicks off during a blazing sunny day on a gridlocked freeway ramp. Horns honk, but instead of getting angry the drivers get out of their cars and… dance. A traffic jam has never been so much fun! From the first few notes of the piano, Another Day of Sun oozes magic and before you know it, you’ll want to hop on the roof of your car to shake your hips and wave your arms.


Too Darn Hot (Kiss Me, Kate)

Naturally, the summer months bring high temperatures. Everyone who’s endured long sweaty days that stretch into similarly stifling nights will appreciate Too Darn Hot. Written by Cole Porter in 1948, Ella Fitzgerald made this song famous with her 1956 recording. It opens Act 2 of Kiss Me, Kate, a musical about the behind-the-scenes high jinks that go on during a production of Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew. While relaxing in an alley behind Ford’s Theatre in Baltimore, you see the thermometer climb and the cast lament not being able to meet their lovers tonight because it’s just “too, too, too darn hot”.


(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life (Dirty Dancing)

Still a classic after more than 30 years, no summer would be complete without a viewing of Dirty Dancing. The 1987 film starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey tells the story of 17-year-old “Baby” who goes on holiday with her family to the Catskills and falls in love with Johnny, the hot dance instructor. At the camp’s end-of-season talent show, we can’t get enough of the pair and their last dance to Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ hit (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life which, of course, culminates with that epic lift.


In Summer (Frozen)

You wouldn’t expect a summer song in the ultimate winter movie, would you? But that’s exactly what you get from Olaf in 2003’s Frozen. With In Summer, the lovable little wisecracking snowman shares his idyllic vision of the warm-weather season, and it’s full of quintessential sights and experiences. Bright blue skies. Tick. Buzzing bees. Tick. Dandelion fuzz. Tick. Sunbathing. Double Tick. You see, Olaf’s got a strange fixation with all things warm… even though he’d probably be shocked to find out “what frozen things do in summer”.


It’s Hot Up Here (Sunday In The Park With George)

Premiering back in 1984, The Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece Sunday In The Park With George is set in 1884, and is famed as one of the most intellectually ambitious musicals ever made by Stephen Sondheim. Inspired by the painting A Sunday Afternoon On The Island Of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat, the music cleverly mimics the French painter’s pointillist style while the lyrics examine the process of artistic creation. Opening the second act, you’ll be captivated by It’s Hot Up Here as you listen to the subjects of the painting talk about how they’ve been posed by the artist – including complaints about everything from the heat to hating their clothes and having a tree block their view.


Discover more:

Feature: 12 of the funniest supporting roles in musicals
Feature: Our guide to streaming the best theatre at home

Feature: 6 of the most emotional music moments


Find inspiring theatre productions for any season by heading to our Theatre Guide.

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