There are a lot of powerful songs in musical theater but some of the most gut-wrenching and expressive songs in them are duets. Whether the song is about love and friendship or hate and cunning, there are a ton of incredible duets out there that are worth your time to listen to. In this article, we’ll go over 25 of the best musical theater duets out there.
1. Take Me Or Leave Me – Rent
Rent is going to appear again on the list and frankly, it was difficult to avoid putting it on here more. A bit of a tearjerker, Maureen and Joanne are at the breaking point in their relationship. Both of them are asking the other to accept them as they are, knowing the only option is to end the relationship if it isn’t possible. The song is beautiful and even broke into the US Billboard Hot 100 and Canadian Hot 100, peaking at number 51 and 60 respectively.
2. For Good – Wicked
For Good is performed at the climax of Wicked and over time became one of the most recognizable songs from the musical. Glinda and Elphaba might have gone in different directions and drifted apart, but that doesn’t mean they no longer care for each other.
For Good is all about the two of them understanding the profound impact the other had on their own life. Their friendship has defined their lives, pushed their individual growth, and serves as the final farewell between the two of them.
3. The Confrontation – Les Misérables
Les Misérables has a bit of a special place in my heart. It became a huge part of my French language class in high school, serving as an interesting way to get us into the language. The Confrontation is one of the best scores in the entire show, pitting the obsession of Javert against the wily Jean Valjean.
During the duet, the two men fight, with Javert using a sword and Valjean only having a piece of wood at his disposal. Any version of the song is amazing, whether you prefer Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel’s viral rendition or the one from the 2012 movie with Hugh Jackman and Russel Crowe.
4. A Little Priest – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
If you or a loved one has ever happily debated the positive aspects of cannibalism and thought of people as pies, you should probably seek psychiatric help. However, that doesn’t mean the topic is completely off-limits.
A Little Priest is probably one of the funniest duets you’ll ever see performed on stage. The whole song is about Mrs. Lovett and Todd going back and forth as they decide what to do with all of Todd’s barbershop customers (how to dispose of the bodies) and deciding that just burying them is too much of a waste of perfectly good meat. You might also what this one referred to as “The Pie Song.”
5. Another Day – Rent
Another Day is a sad twist and takes a look into the mind of a scared dude (pardon the phrasing). Essentially, Mimi plants a big old smooch on Roger, and while it’s what he wants, his fear ultimately forces him to push her away from him. Roger repeats that it’ll happen another day and romance could happen, just not now. Mimi, on the other hand, is full of trust and love, trying to live in the moment and attempting to convince Roger to do the same.
6. Falling Slowly – Once
Falling Slowly is a wildly popular song to play on the guitar and even took home the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 80th Academy Awards. The entire Once musical was shaped around songs (Falling Slowly included) written by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, a film that was the ultimate story of hope and unrequited love.
7. What Do You Know About Love? – Frozen
The broadway version of Frozen is wonderful and probably less annoying for parents than the Disney film was. This duet is changed in the theatrical version of the story to replace the banter between Anna and Kristoff during the wolf chase scene. The two disagree on the idea of true love while crossing over a bridge, but when the bridge breaks under Kristoff, Anna saves him and they realize they’re beginning to trust each other. It’s a duet that brings more personality to the two than in the movie, a much-needed extra layer.
8. You and Me (But Mostly Me) – The Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is hilarious and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a funnier comedic duet in theater than You and Me (But Mostly Me). Elder Price is absolutely the domineering member of the partnership, calling himself the main dish, hero, and captain all in the span of a few lines. Funnily enough, Elder Cunningham is fully onboard with being the sidekick. The song itself is mostly about the two dreaming about changing the world with their mission trip to Uganda, though it also defines the relationship between them.
9. It Takes Two – Into The Woods
This one is heartwarming as the Baker and his wife gets to know each other better. The Baker’s wife seems to notice a change in the Baker as he acts more confident, bold, and passionate in the woods. The Baker corrects her, though, saying he’s only that way because she’s there with him, and it takes the two of them to be strong and take on challenges together. The song coalesces with the two of them finding strength in each other on their journey.
10. Dear Theodosia – Hamilton
Dear Theodosia is a song many parents will be able to relate to. Sung by Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, the duet is the proclamation by each of them that they will fight to make the world a better place for their children. Changed by the birth of Theodosia and Philip (respectively), the two reflect on their own horrible childhoods and resolve to become better father figures for their children than they had for themselves.
11. Lay All Your Love On Me – Mamma Mia!
This duet is the moment in Mamma Mia! that really hammers home the chemistry between Sophie and Sky and makes it known to the audience that Sophie isn’t just some kid trying to take Sky away. It’s incredibly fun and lighthearted, but the exposition for their love story is the piece missing from the play leading up to that moment.
12. Barbara 2.0 – Beetlejuice
This song is essentially a realization from Barbara that her fears have held her and Adam back. The two of them sing, discussing how they will move forward, becoming bolder and better people. It’s the moment they break free of their chains and change their lives, beautiful and haunting at the same time.
13. Hey Little Songbird – Hadestown
If the devil himself offered you a job would you take it? This duet is creepy and dark, but still, one of the best, featuring Hades trying to convince Eurydice to accept his offer to work for him in Hadestown.
14. Legally Blonde – Legally Blonde The Musical
This song is sad simply because it’s the first time you see Elle doubt herself, even if everyone else is doubting her the rest of the time. It’s a simple, heart-wrenching duet between Elle and Emmett that will leave you feeling a bit disheartened.
15. Children of Rock – School of Rock
School of Rock is one of the best rock musicals, and this duet between Ned and Dewey is a high point for it. It shows off both the character’s personalities, is fairly catchy, and really sets up the big team-up between them for the Battle of the Bands.
16. Agony – Into The Woods
Agony is a duet performed by two princes: Cinderella’s prince and Rapunzel’s prince. The song basically boils down to the two despairing about their current situations with their chosen princesses out of reach.
In the end, it’s two dudes singing about their problems while also wondering how bad things could have happened to such a great guy. The message behind the song is that the things that are just out of reach can be some of the most painful problems to bear, but it’s kind of hilarious coming from these two.
Fun fact, though, in the original musical, there’s an additional reprise of Agony that sees the two princes singing about meeting two new women. Unfortunately for them, it’s Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, two women who are, again, out of their reach.
17. Nowadays – Chicago
Chicago is one of those classic musicals that you’ve probably heard of even if you aren’t a theater fan. Nowadays is sung by the newly freed murderers Velma and Roxie, describing how fleeting fame can be.
They agree during the song that it’ll last much longer if they team up, leaving the finale on a bit of a cliffhanger as to how their careers will eventually pan out. Just remember, it’s more about the timing and what’s hot now instead of what you’ve already done.
18. A Boy Like That/I Have A Love – West Side Story
This one has been recorded quite a few times since West Side Story has been made into films several times and has additional soundtrack recordings made as well. The duet is sung by Anita and Maria shortly after Bernardo is murdered by Tony. Anita just lost the love of her life and Maria is still in love with Tony despite his crimes. It’s a powerful duet and one you won’t soon forget after listening to it.
19. Bad Idea – Waitress
You know, most love song duets are between lovers, but usually, both are either single or together already. This one is odd because it’s between a woman and her doctor, with both of them already married. The title kind of says it all, they know it’s a bad idea but they can’t really help themselves.
20. If I Loved You – Carousel
Most love songs happen after the characters have already fallen in love, but this one flips the script and is placed at the beginning of the show. The duet is the characters dreaming about what it would be like if the two fell in love, and it’s not only sweet but also sets the stage for the story exceptionally well.
21. You’re The Top – Anything Goes
If you’re ever feeling down in a relationship, take a page out of Anything Goes and mimic You’re The Top. The duet is a man and woman taking turns complimenting each other and while a lot of the references are dated today, it’s still a song that will make you smile and might serve as a good example of how to bring some intimacy back into your relationship.
22. As Long As You’re Mine – Wicked
Wicked is full of duets and this one is both amazing and heartbreaking. Elphaba and Fiyero finally express their love to each other, but Glinda ends up with a broken heart. It’s also a good change-up, with the wicked witch being the one to find love and the good witch being left in the cold.
23. Sunrise – In The Heights
Sunrise is a cute song between Nina and Benny after they’ve spent the night together. Nina is teaching Benny Spanish throughout the song, but Benny flips it into an adorable love song as they ask each other to promise to stay beyond the sunrise.
24. A Whole New World – Aladdin
The most iconic song from an iconic movie/play/story has to make it on the list. Listening to Jasmine and Aladdin sing from atop a magic carpet is beautiful and fills your heart to the brim with hope.
The song is also important because of the perspective of the two singers. Aladdin is disguised as a prince and knows he has no shot with the princess, so he’s dreaming of their future, while Jasmine is seeking freedom from her strict father and the soul-smothering intricacies of the palace. This one is probably up near the top in the long, long, list of Disney duets.
25. Suddenly Seymour – Little Shop of Horrors
The feelings between Seymour and Audrey finally come to a head after the death of Scrivello. Audrey is full of guilt, but the two finally reveal their feelings and set up the drama for the rest of the show.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.