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West End Avenue - Lyrics &

Info from Stephen Schwartz

"West End Avenue" is from The Magic Show musical

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

"West End Avenue" sheet music: Stephen Schwartz Songbook

"West End Avenue" - by sheet music Digital Download

"West End Avenue" CDs - recordings of the song

Hear clip fo the song sung by Joan Ryan - Joan Ryan (LML Music, 1999) Joan Ryan at Amazon.com [new browser window]

West End Avenue Lyrics

West End Avenue

All of your life you wake up to the taxis and the chimes
To the bathroom with the roaches and the breakfast with the Times.
And you subway to school with kids whose folks all live in twenty blocks
In a high-rise rented carton or a co-op brownstone box, with double locks.

West End Avenue.
Babies in carts and poodles barking,
West End Avenue.
Planning your day around the parking.

You tell yourself, "I will be free."
West End Avenue,
You won't get me.

All of your life you watch the shrinks and lawyers on parade,
Watch the brokers in their worsted and the ad men in their suede.
While upstairs a soprano tries to sing the waltz from "La Boheme."
And you watch 'em and you listen and you judge and you condemn:
You're not like them.

West End Avenue.
Delis and laundromats and gay bars,
West End Avenue.
Only a block away from Zabars.

[alternate lyrics: Cable TV's and radar ranges, Everything moves but nothing changes]

But you were meant to really fly.
West End Avenue,
Good bye, good bye.

And then suddenly you're out there on your own.
But you forgot that free could also mean alone.
And when all that freedom gets too much for you,
Ooh, what do you do?

You pack up your boots and blue jeans and your records and your pride,
And you tell yourself you ventured and you tell yourself you tried.
And it's back to the surly doormen and the canopies you go.
And the buses seem to chuckle and the towers seem to crow:
"We told you so."

West End Avenue,
Find me a golden cage to perch in.
West End Avenue,
Open your arms to one more urchin
Who's crawlin' back to mama's den.
West End Avenue,
You win again!

Copyright by Stephen Schwartz (ASCAP)

Also see the full page on The Magic Show

"West End Avenue" sheet music: Stephen Schwartz Songbook

Q and A about "West End Avenue"

Notes from the StephenSchwartz.com forum


My voice teacher chose West End Avenue for me to perform at her next student recital. In rehearsal ,when I performed the song, she said I was too angry. I think the singer is angry and maybe disappointed that she is back where she didn't want to be. My voice teacher says she thinks it is just an energetic picture of life in the city and I should "act" more positive. She is the boss- so I am changing my approach. Still, what was the tone meant to be? I saw the show when I was 10 years old ( the first Broadway show I ever saw) but I don't really remember this part. Thanks


Dear Barb: I agree with you that the character is disappointed and bitter about having to go back where she started from. That feeling certainly should be contained in the performance, and given the lyrics and character of the music, I think it's unavoidable. Perhaps your teacher was trying to encourage you to find other colors in the performance -- irony, humor, wistfulness, determination, etc., all of which can be found in different lines and sections of the song. Also, sometimes a performance is more interesting if some of the emotion is subtextual, and this may be what your teacher meant in suggesting you "act" as if you are positive, at least at some points in the song. To do the entire song angrily would I think be too one-note, and this may be what your teacher was objecting to. But I would agree that it is certainly not a positive song celebrating the energy of the City, that it is essentially an angry and ironic song. Sincerely, Stephen Schwartz

QUESTON: Dear Mr. Schwartz & the Schwartz Team
I have been asked to sing "West End Ave" at a fundraising concert... I'm not sure what the deal is with the character singing it, does she hate NY in general? or just The West Side?

I am from Melbourne in Australia and although I would love to be able to say I had been to New York, I have not, therefore I don't really understand the New York references. Is West End Avenue a lower, middle or upper class area? I take it she is having to return home because her relationship with Doug didn't work out, professionally or romantically? Please help. I can't sing the song if I don't understand it.



Dear Rebecca: West End Avenue is basically a middle to upper-middle class neighborhood. It is the type of neighborhood from which rebellious teenagers flee, swearing not to grow up to be their parents, only to return (in many instances) some years later and grow up to be precisely their parents. Does that help? Sincerely, Stephen Schwartz

Answer from fan Shawn McCarthy: Rebecca,

I think, in a nutshell, (and this is just my interpretation of it, which by the way, is one of my favorite Stephen Schwartz compositions) West End Avenue is about Cal coming to the conclusion that both her career goals (being a lion tamer) and romantic aspirations (Doug) are not going to materialize the way she's hoped they would. Therefore she must return home to her roots, West End Avenue, a place that she doesn't want to become a part of again because she doesn't relate to the neighborhood, the people there i.e. the lawyers and the shrinks, the surly doorman etc. or what they represent.

By the end of the song she's convinced that there's no point fighting the inevitable, thus the lyric, "West End Avenue, you win again."

QUESTION: [Peggy Kern asked how long it takes to write a song]

ANSWER from Stephen Schwartz:

Dear Peggy: Interesting questions, as usual. I would say the average time for me for writing a song, once I know what the title is going to be and have a basic idea of the content, is about five days to a week. If it's a song that involves a lot of research, it can take a bit longer. Once I'm really into working on a show and I have a clear grip on the characters and musical style, songs can come pretty fast for me, say three or four days. On occasion I have written something really fast. "The Virgina Company" for POCAHONTAS took about five minutes, but that doesn't really count as a whole song. But for instance, "West End Avenue" from THE MAGIC SHOW came more or less fully formed in a matter of hours. On the other hand, the longest for me, if I am really focussed on a song and working on it every day, would be about two weeks. This tends to be for songs like "If I Never Knew You" from POCAHONTAS, ...

QUESTION: I loved in West End Avenue and Lion Tamer in The Magic Show how the music flowed in 7/4 and/or 9/4 time. Wonderful. I wanted to know if that was a deliberate choice, or was the melody or words just taking you there? It feels so normal hearing it that way, but it is so inventive. Btw - I finally got to visit West End Avenue in NYC on a recent visit and couldn't resist bursting into song. Fortunately, it was New Year's day and there weren't many people in that particular block at that moment! ;-) - Lisa in Los Angeles!

ANSWER: In a song like "West End Avenue", the lyrics and music more or less came together, and so the rhythms were determined by the natural flow of the words. I tend to write at the piano and then write the music out later. I was quite surprised when I wrote out "West End Avenue" by all the changing time signatures! But since that was what I felt the lyrics demanded, I didn't try to "neaten them up". I don't really think about time signatures per se when I'm writing, except to be aware of something like: "Well, every other song in this show has been in 4/4 so far, so maybe I ought to do something in 6/8".

Sincerely, Stephen Schwartz

QUESTION: [Stephen's friend Michael Dube asked about Radar ranges]

Hey Michael: A radar range was a frequent consolation prize on quiz shows, as in "and an Amana Radar Range." It's the kind of thing upper-class Westsiders might have in their kitchens. The alternate line is offered for those whose audience is not familiar with Zabar's. Best, Stephen

The Magic Show - Recordings Compact Disk icon

Music CDs

The Magic Show
[1974 Original Broadway Cast], January Records, 1998. The CD notes include complete lyrics. Best Source: drgrecords.com [new browser window]
Sometimes available used from Amazon.com:The Magic Show [new browser window]
  • Includes: Up To His Old Tricks, Solid Silver Platform Shoes, Lion Tamer, Style, Two's Company, Charmin's Lament, Goldfarb Variations, West End Avenue, Sweet, Sweet, Sweet, Before Your Very Eyes, Finale

    "West End Avenue"


DVD Cover: "The Magic Show".Enjoy a version of The Magic Show on DVD or video. From the Canadian film (somewhat altered from the Broadway production).

This version does NOT include "West End Avenue"

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Also available in Europe: Magic Show (REGION 1) (NTSC)

Also see the full page on The Magic Show

copyright March 2005 by Carol de Giere