Hello, Hannah here, musical theater geek! The other week, I ranked Broadway solos of the last 25 years. Now I’m back to do duets!
Note: I have not seen EVERY broadway show of the last 25 years, so there will obviously be ones I miss!
Six, Hamilton, Hadestown, Hairspray, Wicked, Legally Blonde the Musical, Heathers, Waitress, Mamma Mia, Anastasia, Thoroughly Modern Millie, School of Rock, Matilda, Dear Evan Hansen, Rent, Moulin Rouge!, Spring Awakening, Once, Aladdin, Book of Mormon, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Waitress, Mean Girls, Beetlejuice, Bring It On, Shrek, The Wedding Singer
“A Million Miles Away” from Aladdin
If you take away the nostalgia factor of “A Whole New World,” I actually like this song better! It feels very much like a yearning Disney protagonist song (like “Part of your World” or “Belle (reprise),” which the animated
Aladdin film lacked. Plus, this one’s even better because they’re both yearning, rather than presenting the classic Disney trope of a woman’s desire for adventure being answered by a man.
“How The Other Half Lives” from Thoroughly Modern Millie
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Another great friendship duet! One thing that’s important for same-sex duets is that the two have different singing styles and/or vocal ranges, and in this song, Millie and Miss Dorothy really deliver on both fronts. I also love how the two verses of this duet work perfectly separate and together when repeated at the same time. A lot of musicals do this (think “Farmer Refuted” from
Hamilton), but this is one of my favorite examples.
“Children of Rock” from School of Rock
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I love a good rock musical. I feel like
School of Rock had some wasted potential for more solos and duets, but this is still a good one. It’s fun and intense, featuring Dewey trying to convince Ned to join him in the Battle of the Bands, and it’s a great show of both their characters — plus, it’s catchy!
“Legally Blonde” from Legally Blonde The Musical
This song is so heartbreaking: the entire musical everyone’s doubted Elle and her place in the world, and for the first time we see her doubt herself. Also, the musical’s version of Emmett is a vast improvement on the movie’s version of him, and this song is a huge point in the musical for him too. I love how simple it is: it’s basically just them and a door on set.
“No Reason” from Beetlejuice
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This song is such a great, almost cringey example of a stepmom-type trying to connect with their lover’s teenage daughter. But Lydia’s part is what really makes it — she actually makes some great points, and her existential attitude is perfectly contrasted with Delia’s idealistic one.
“Bad Idea” from Waitress
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Right from the start of this song, you know it’s going to be fun. It perfectly captures the feeling of falling for someone in the worst possible circumstance but doing it anyways. It’s also got this great sort of country rock that’s impossible not to sing along to.
“Hey Little Songbird” from Hadestown
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Man, is this song creepy. But that doesn’t stop it from being good! The darkness and desperation of this song really bleeds through, and I love their voices juxtaposed with each other.
“What You Own” from Rent
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Mark and Roger’s relationship is really the central tenet of this musical, romantic relationships be damned. I would love to nominate “Goodbye Love,” but that’s a group number — this feels like the resolution to Mark and Roger’s part of that song. It feels like they’re finally listening to what the other has said and making changes, but still remaining true to themselves and doing some serious soul-searching.
“Barbara 2.0” from Beetlejuice
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This is a great moment in the musical for Barbara and Adam’s characters, where they really let go of their old lives, but it’s also just hilarious and poignant at the same time. Whenever I hear it I want to dance, but also throw out all my old clothes and reinvent myself.
“Your Obedient Servant” from Hamilton
Hamilton really doesn’t have a lot of duets, which is a shame. This isn’t the best number in the musical, but it does finally give a long awaited pure duet between Burr and Hamilton where they finally confront the tension between them. It’s got this great barely-restrained fury and the fun sign-offs really make it memorable.
“Falling Slowly” from Once
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I’m not obsessed with “Once” because it feels like a musical for non-musical lovers, and…I’m a musical lover. But I can’t deny that this duet is absolutely gorgeous. It sounds more radio than Broadway, but it’s truly meaningful, romantic, soft, and a bit haunting all at the same time.
“What Is This Feeling?” from Wicked
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You can probably already tell I love a good friendship (or, in this case, non-friendship) duet. We already understand how different Glinda and Elphaba are, but putting them together and directly at odds provides them a great opportunity to sing about it. The song is all the more fun because we just know this isn’t going to last, and enemies-to-friends is one of my favorite tropes.
“Lay All Your Love On Me” from Mamma Mia!
This is such an underrated song in
Mamma Mia! Let’s face it, Mamma Mia! is really all about Donna and her love life, and her relationship with Sophie — it’s not Sophie and Skye’s love story. But this song is not only super fun and sexy — it’s needed. It provides the necessary exposition and chemistry between Sophie and Skye that makes us understand that relationship and not just see Sophie as a foolish kid or Skye as someone who’s taking Sophie away.
“You And Me (But Mostly Me)” from The Book of Mormon
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This is a truly hilarious comedy song, AND it’s catchy. It’s one of my favorites of the musical, duet or otherwise, and I love Josh Gaad in anything he does. I also love how it builds, making the comedic bits land even better.
“What Do You Know About Love” from Frozen
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Along with “Monster,” this is really one of the only songs where the Broadway musical improves upon its film. It’s a really sweet cheeky song that replaces the Anna/Kristoff banter we get in the wolf chase scene, and though that scene was fun, this song is somehow even better. In the film, a lot of their interactions happen in action, and it doesn’t feel like they get a lot of great one-on-one conversations about themselves or their lives. This song remedies that in the most catchy way.
“Wait For Me” from Hadestown
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I don’t know if I can 100% count this as a duet because of the Fates, but it’s my list so I’m going to. (Also, I prefer “Wait for Me II,” but I definitely don’t think I can consider that a duet.) This song just builds so well in intensity, and Hermes’ voice adds a dark undertone that really works. It’s one of the top five songs in the musical for sure.
“Seventeen” from Heathers
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This is a pretty sweet song considering the subject matter of the musical and also the plot at this point: Veronica is basically asking J.D. to stop killing people. But it still manages to be sweet. and almost makes you wish J.D. and Veronica could work it out, which is saying a lot considering what he’s done. It really captures the feeling of teenagers dealing with something far beyond what’s normal for their age and just wishing they could remain kids, which is a lot more relatable than what’s actually going on.
“Another Day” from Rent
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This is a way better Mimi/Roger duet than “Light My Candle.” I love how different their verses are (Roger’s is VERY rock) — they somehow work so well together and perfectly represent how different they are as characters. It’s a great example of two characters’ main traits or patterns coming into direct conflict, which is always great in song-format.
“For Good” from Wicked
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Oh god, is this one a tearjerker. The ultimate friendship song, TBH. I cry every time. It’s so bittersweet and appreciative, and is such a great show of female friendship. It proves saying goodbye to a friend can even be more heartbreaking than saying goodbye to a lover. I love the emotion of the song and how their voices blend. So good!
“Sincerely Me” from Dear Evan Hansen
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If we’re talking about comedy songs, this is really one of the best. Who would’ve thought a duet by an anxiety-ridden friendless teenager and his imaginary version of a dead classmate would be so fun? But it is!
“Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind” from Spring Awakening
Look, I’ll be honest here — a part of me wishes this is a solo. “Don’t Do Sadness” is the best song of
Spring Awakening, hands down. But I do think Ilse’s song adds a mournful, sensitive aspect to this song which fits with what’s about to happen to Moritz, and further gives clarity to his emotional state, which is not just bitterness and anger, after all.
“Take Me Or Leave Me” from Rent
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“Light My Candle,” “Another Day,” and “I’ll Cover You” are great romantic duets, but they’re nothing compared to this belted song between Maureen and Jo-Ann. It’s fun, sassy, sexy, angry, and a bit heartbreaking all at the same time — and come on, it’s got Idina Menzel! Plus, you already know I love fight duets.
“Crazy Rolling” from Moulin Rouge!
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Maybe I’m playing fast and loose with the term “duets” here, as Christian and Satine cannot even hear each other in this song, and it’s also a mashup of two existing songs (“Crazy” and “Rolling in the Deep”). But everything about this song just comes together so perfectly: plot, emotion, song choice, and even the way the song is split up. It’s so wonderfully dramatic and over-the-top (like the rest of the musical) while still being grounded and intense.