Save on Tickets for all the Top ShowsCall 1-800-838-8155

“Our Time”: A Broadway Playlist to Celebrate Graduation Season

Category Broadway

|by Mark Robinson |

Throw your caps and toast a new chapter with these showtunes

During this time of the year, graduations are happening in both high school and colleges, with many young people getting ready to start a new chapter in their lives. It is equally a daunting and exciting prospect to see what life will bring. As with many monumental moments in life, music will undoutedbly play a role in capturing the memories of the event, and the emotions of the experience. To mark the occasion, we’ve rounded up 13 numbers from some of Broadway’s greatest musicals that represent this milestone. Including numbers from Wicked to Carousel to Frozen and beyond, here is a Broadway playlist to underscore your post-grad journeys.


Celebrate commencement season with this Broadway playlist (Photo: iStock)

Celebrate commencement season with this Broadway playlist (Photo: iStock)

“The Best of All Possible Worlds” – Candide
Voltaire’s novella Candide finds the piece’s catalyst (and title character) in search of “The best of all possible worlds,” a rosy view of the possibilities, adventures and characters that await us when we pull up roots and, with an optimistic attitude about what we will find, begin our journey. For the musical adaptation of Candide, Leonard Bernstein and Richard Wilbur put this ideology to music, rose-colored glasses and all.

“Corner of the Sky” – Pippin
In the musical Pippin, the title character’s story begins with him leaving the university, where has graduated with top honors. Pippin has idealistic goals for his future, envisioning his life to be glorious and full of meaning. He’ll even tell you that he is “extraordinary” and that he refuses to settle for “everyday things.” In the Stephen Schwartz song “Corner of the Sky,” Pippin reveals his ambitions to excel, his hope to make a significant difference in the world.

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” – Carousel
Hymn-like and hopeful, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel is actually sung at a high school graduation within the context of the musical. Acknowledging the darkness and defeats that often stand in our way when going out into the cruel and unwieldy world, it prompts us to look in the direction of the “golden sky” and to continue to move forward.

“Out There” – Barnum
Here is a zesty showtune filled to the brim with buoyant positivity. The musical Barnum tells the story (long before The Greatest Showman), of the life of entertainment impresario P.T. Barnum. In the musical’s Act I conclusion, Barnum himself, the ultimate dreamer, sings of every larger-than-life vision he sees for his future in the Cy Coleman/Michael Stewart ditty “Out There.”

“Our Time” – Merrily We Roll Along
Composer Stephen Sondheim isn’t exactly known for optimism, the characters in his musicals typically embracing a more realistic, grounded and sometimes cynical view of the world. That being said, Mr. Sondheim occasionally has a brighter outlook, as is the case in the inspirational “Our Time” in the clock-rewinding musical Merrily We Roll Along

“Everybody Says Don’t” – Anyone Can Whistle
Speaking of Stephen Sondheim, he’s also groundbreaking for defying convention in the world of musical theater. One of his earliest shows as both composer and lyricist was a daring experiment called Anyone Can Whistle. Forward-thinking and radical for its time (1964), the musical exploded with this message to go against the norm, try new things and laugh in the face of adversity, best demonstrated in the song “Everybody Says Don’t.” For a recent graduate, this number plays as a dare to take risks and change the world.

“Defying Gravity” – Wicked
Part of going out into the world and having a hand in facilitating change requires empowerment, and what can be more empowering than Stephen Schwartz’s “Defying Gravity” from the musical Wicked? Being different can set you apart, in both good and bad ways. You may be judged negatively for the things that make you different, only to ultimately discover these are the things that make you special. A great message for all of us who doubt ourselves for being unique.

“Let It Go” – Frozen
For many, graduation is a time for reflection, remembering the past. For some, graduation is a time of liberation, leaving behind bad experiences, bullying, not fitting in and feeling trapped. What better song then than “Let it Go” from the movie and stage musical adaptation of Frozen to capture that sentiment? The Kristin Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez Academy Award winning song is great for thumbing your nose at the past and moving on.

“Believe in Yourself” – The Wiz
Self-confidence (or lack thereof) is often what holds us back from pursuing our dreams. In the musical The Wiz, both the Wizard and Glinda the Good Witch sing the song “Believe in Yourself,” a reassurance that you have everything that you need to get the wheels turning on a dream: the brains, the heart and the courage. The Charlie Smalls song is a gentle reminder of who and what you really are made of.  

“Climb Every Mountain” – The Sound of Music
Another Rodgers and Hammerstein song about marching, undaunted, into the future is “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music. In this case, however, we have to walk up a hill instead of through a storm, but they are similar metaphors for life’s challenges. Besides, who are we to challenge Oscar Hammerstein’s imagery? It is a song of great majesty and reverent determination, a dignified tune for the start of a new chapter in life.

“Open a New Window” – Mame
Jerry Herman may just be the most enthusiastic and optimistic Broadway musical composer of all time, so it should be no surprise that one of his upbeat ditties made this playlist. “Open a New Window” from the musical Mame reminds us to try something new every single day of our lives, whether it be whistling a new song or dancing to a new rhythm. Variety is the spice of life and the best way to face the future and keep it interesting is to challenge yourself regularly.

“The Impossible Dream” – Man of La Mancha
Making the world a better place should always be one of our goals, and though Don Quixote, the knight errant of the musical Man of La Mancha might be unrealistically optimistic about his chances of success, he has the right idea. Quixote refuses to see the ugliness in the world, only beauty and nobility. He sets a standard for himself (and everyone) in the Joe Darion and Mitch Leigh anthem “The Impossible Dream.”

“Make Our Garden Grow” – Candide
Coming full circle, we return to the “best of all possible worlds” of Candide, ending our playlist with one of the most-ethereal of all showtunes and certainly the perfect message to give you the inspiration for what comes next after high school or college or at any of life’s transitions. “Make Our Garden Grow” is all about the dreams we plan, and how imperfectly we set out to achieve them:

“We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We’ll do the best we know.
We’ll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow.”

Richard Wilbur’s lyric says it all, and the majesty of Leonard Bernstein’s music underscores the message. Post-graduation, remember to do your best and keep looking for new ways to move forward.

Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at


Recent Articles

  • Broadway Q&A: Sophia Anne Caruso of ‘Beetlejuice'

    Category Broadway

    |by Jeryl Brunner |September 17, 2019

    Caruso on playing Lydia: "She represents the unusual in all of us." 

  • Fall Theater Guide: 10 Reasons to See a Show This Season

    Category Broadway

    |by Ron Fassler |September 17, 2019

    Author Ron Fassler shares his fall Broadway & Off-Broadway picks

  • 5 Eighties Musicals That Deserve Broadway Revivals

    Category Broadway

    |by Marshall W. Mabry IV |September 16, 2019

    The ‘80s are back, and these shows should be, too

  • Broadway Q&A: Derrick Baskin of ‘Ain’t Too Proud’

    Category Broadway

    |by Jeryl Brunner |September 13, 2019

    Tony nominee Derrick Baskin shares the joy of playing The Temptations founding member Otis Williams