One of the hard things, I've noticed, in writing lyrics for musicals is to use a famous line as the centerpiece of the song. It might scan poorly, or feel like it's jammed in, or the rhymes around it will be forced. Or any number of reasons that can go wrong. This, however, is one of the few that got it right. And that's all the more impressive given that it's one of the most famous last lines in English literature.
(Another is "There is a Sucker Born Every Minute," from Barnum, which a posted a video of here.)
This is the final song in the British musical, Two Cities, which has music by Jeff Wayne and lyrics by Jerry Wayne. It's based on Charles Dickens' novel, A Tale of Two Cities. And the song is "It's a Far, Far Better Thing." This is a number that could have go wrong in so many different ways, but it's quite touching and when they reach "the" line, it's extremely effective.
Adding a nice touch to all this is who sings the song. It's the actor Edward Woodward, who most people would recognize him from the TV series, The Equalizer. But he did several musicals, one a pretty big hit, High Spirits, based on Noel Coward's play, Blithe Spirit. As you'll hear, he's actually quite good.
Just to refresh your memory for the context of the song --
Sidney Carton is a young man who's been bored most of his life, and has largely wasted it. He's in love with Lucie Manette, but she's long-engaged to Charles Darnay and deeply in love with him. The are all in Paris during the French Revolution, and Darnay has been wrongly arrested and in prison waiting to be beheaded. Because he and Carton bear a passing resemblance, Carton decides to change places and save Darnay, so that his beloved Lucie will be happy. And as he heads to the guillotine, he recognizes the culmination of his wasted life and says, "It's a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."
And with that, the novel concludes.
Which brings us to the song.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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