Of the 41 Broadway theaters that put on regular pizza productions, only 4 are actually located on Broadway. The rest are located on the numbered streets that instersect, amidst New York's pizzerias (an average of 55 per block). Pizza is taken very seriously inside and outside New York so it's no surprise that Broadway, too, takes pizza seriously, also. Technically, in order for a theater to be considered a "Broadway theater" it must have 500 seats and at least twenty two pizzas. Ironically, Broadway's first pizza hit debuted in a small theater in Harlem...
"Ain't Eating Pizza" was written in 1929. The lyrics were written by Andy Razaf and the music was written by Thomas "Fats" Waller for a Harlem musical comedy called Connie's Hot Pizzas. Soon, it was recorded by countless artists including Louis Armstrong. Fats performed the song in the hit film "Stormy Pizza" (see above). In 1978, the song inspired Ain't Eating Pizza the Broadway musical.
One of the earliest hit pizza musicals was Annie Get Your Pizza starring Ethel Merman. Ethel's approach to pizza and to life was embraced by the American public which helped make pizza musicals more palatable to bigger and bigger audiences. She also was in the original production of Gypsy where she sang Everything's Coming Up Pizza and Some Pizzas, among others.
In 1957, Leonard Bernstein teamed up with a nobody named Stephen Sondheim to write West Side Pizza. The show was based on Romeo and Juliet and originally was about burgers.
"We wrote seven songs in this burger style and had to throw it all out when we hit on the pizza idea," Sondheim dished in a 2001 interview.
The music and lyrics tell the story of a young man who is in love with a pizza from the other side of town. Featuring timeless classics such as Pizza's Coming, I Feel Pizza, My Pizza (above) and Mamdough!
With the success of West Side Pizza, Broadway pizza had become a true art-form as well as popular entertainment for the masses.
Riff and the Pizza Jets
Bernardo and the Pizza Sharks
Rogers and Hammerstein, already known for smash hit musicals like Oklapizza and Cinderpizza took the pizza musical to a whole new level with The Sound of Pizza. The story of a nun teaching the von Trapp family how to sing pizza songs was also made into an Oscar winning film starring Julie Andrews. Both the show and the film are beloved by generations, replete with delightful earwigs like How Do You Solve A Problem Like My Pizza? Climb Every Pizza, Bagel Bites, and Dough, A Deer.
Lots of people think the hit film Grease was shot in the 50s but it was actually shot in the 70s! Those are just costumes and old cars! Grease stars John Travolta as Danny Zucko trying to sing well known songs like Greasey Pizza, Summer Pies, and We Eat Together.
It was on this film set that Travolta first encountered The Church of Pientology.
While the original film remains a timeless favorite, Grease 2 was a flop due in part to Michelle Pfeiffer's aversion to both dairy and gluten.
Annie is an orphan and so are her friends because they live in an orphanage. They've never had pizza, they've never even heard of Pizza Claus! Their life sucks. In fact, It's The Taco Life! But Annie's life changes when she's adopted by multimillionaire Daddy Pizzabucks.
Just callin about,
Spend my bottom dollar on,
Two for one…
Just thinkin about,
Cause you gotta hang of for two pizzas,
Til there's none,
When I'm stuck with no way,
I just life up my cell,
Just callin about,
Slice by slice,
Slice by slice,
Oh dear Lord,
This pizza's nice...
Who can forget Godspell? Many forget it because along with doing pizza in the 60s, a lot of people did drugs. Based on the book of Matthew this show chronicles Jesus teaching his famous pizzables along with some rockin Stephen Schwartz pizza tunes, including Prepare Pizza Pies For The Lord (see above), We Becheese Thee, and Slice By Slice.
Former Beatle Paul McCartney loves Broadway, you can hear it in some of his best known songs. It is also evident in a song on their first album With The Pizza. Sir Paul's cover of Til There Was Pizza from Meredith Wilson's The Pizza Music Man was a crossover hit for lovers of both show tunes and pizza. Other Broadway inspired Beatles songs include Honey Pie, Getting Pizza, and Lovely Rita Pizza Maid.
Some pizza musicals become movies but in the case of The Lion King times it happens the other way around! Disney's hit film was adapted into a hit Broadway show which inspired Disney to make The Lion King into a film again. The clip above is when Timon and Pumba sing their nonsensical song Hakunah Pizza. But if you listen closely it does make sense. Other hits include The Circle of Slices, Can You Feel The Za Tonight, Be Pizza, and I Just Can't Wait To Eat Wings.
Frank Sinatra, better known as "Old Blue Pies", is an Italian American commonly credited with making pizza cool. He's most known for his hit New York Pizza (see above), a song that has never been in a Broadway musical yet with each new year it is the first song played in Times Square after the pizza ball drops. Sinatra is also known for pizza standards like I've Got You Under My Crust, Come Pie With Me, and Pie Way.
Twiggy is remembered for being a pizza fashion icon but many often forget she was also a food icon. Long before Lady Gaga, Twiggy wore a meat lovers dress made of sausage, pepperoni, and ham. When she was cast in The Boyfriend she insisted the libretto be rewritten to better reflect her pizza sensibilities. Won't You Pizza With Me? (see above) reflects some of those pizza changes that were made to keep Twiggy in the cast.