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Top 10 Broadway Songs That Make Us Ugly Cry

VO: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Jessica Walsh
Do you hear the people sing these Broadway songs that make us ugly cry? We’ll be looking at happy songs, heartfelt confessions of love or death ballads - any type of tune, really, just so long as it sent us running for that box of tissues. We’re only considering musicals that had an actual on Broadway run and only including 1 song per musical. MsMojo ranks the most tear-jerking Broadway songs. Which Broadway song makes you ugly cry? Let us know in the comments!

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Do you hear the people sing? They’re singing a song that brings us to tears. Welcome to MsMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Broadway Songs That Make Us Ugly Cry.

For this list, we’ll be looking at happy songs, heartfelt confessions of love or death ballads - any type of tune, really, just so long as it sent us running for that box of tissues. We’re only considering musicals that had an actual on Broadway run and only including 1 song per musical/ Oh and because some of these songs take place during the climax of the musical, a spoiler warning is now in full effect!

#10: “Neverland (Reprise)”
“Finding Neverland”

Peter Pan is a character loved by many, and this musical explores the wonderfully sweet story of the family who provided author J.M. Barrie with his inspiration for the now iconic tale. Throughout the musical, we see shades of the characters and stories we’ve all come to know in Sylvia and her children. Though there are indeed many happy times, this tale isn’t without tragedy. Appearing near the end of the musical, “Neverland (Reprise)” is a heart-wrenching song during which Sylvia stands up from her sick bed and leaves with Peter Pan to live forever in Neverland.

#9: “Michael in the Bathroom”
“Be More Chill”

It’s hard to be the outcast in school, especially when your only friend decides to swallow a computer chip activated by Mountain Dew that sings, dances and tells him how to become more popular without you - wait, what? As strange as it sounds, that’s exactly what Michael experiences when his friend Jeremy ingests a “super quantum unit intel processor” computer chip and starts taking its advice to completely change his life and get the girl he wants. Michael is then left alone to panic in a bathroom at a party, coming to terms with the fact that he now has no one else to hang out with. The song might have an upbeat quality, but there’s an underlying sadness to it that’s incredibly relatable.

#8: “What Would I Do?”

Romance isn’t always as simple as boy meets boy. There are first romances, breakups, sexuality realizations, children, disease, heartbreak, death and yes... love. Throughout the story of “Falsettos,” Marvin and his boyfriend Whizzer have basically weathered it all and the journey has had quite the impact on their lives - both in good ways and bad. With this song, Marvin looks back and reflects, wondering whether it was all worth it and if he would have done it all the same if he’d known the outcome ahead of time. Ultimately, he decides that the answer is “yes”, because otherwise how would he have known what love really was? Okay… pass the tissues, please!

#7: “For Good”

Who doesn’t know the Wicked Witch of the West? In this fantastic musical, we meet Elphaba, the girl before the witch and her wicked ways. She’s green-skinned, shunned by her peers, ignored by her father and never given a fair chance in life no matter how hard she tries. Her history might not excuse her later actions, but with more context, we can’t exactly fault her for turning out the way she did. Still, no matter how wicked she might seem, this song reveals that there’s some good in her that she never let go of. It’s a celebration of true friendship and love between her and Glinda - the good witch - and how they’ve changed each other’s lives ‘For Good”.

#6: “She Used to be Mine”

Jenna is a waitress trapped in an abusive marriage, attempting to save money so that she and her unborn child can have a fresh start together. Unfortunately, her husband Earl finds her secret savings and takes them all, leaving her with nothing to show for all her hard work. It is at this emotional moment that Jenna delivers this moving song - a sweetly sad lament about all the pieces of her life that she’s lost control of. The ‘she’ Jenna sings of is herself and the pain in her voice is sure to resonate with anyone who has experienced loss or hopelessness. Though heart-wrenching, the song reminds us we don’t have to be perfect to deserve happiness.

#5: “Words Fail”
“Dear Evan Hansen”

This is a story about the best of intentions and how they can go completely awry. Evan is an awkward kid who pretends to have been good friends with a suicide victim, using the tragedy to get the love, attention and friendship he has always wanted but struggled to find. When the family of the victim inevitably finds out, Evan tries to explain all the reasons he did what he did, but words truly fail him - because not even the performer can sing the whole song. Instead, it comes out more as crying and pleading than anything else, as the family - and audience - struggle with how they should feel.

#4: “Do You Hear the People Sing? (Reprise) / Finale”
“Les Misérables”

“Les Mis” has no shortage of songs that get the waterworks going, like "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.” At the end of the musical, after Jean Valjean embraces death, the many faces of those we’ve lost throughout the show are seen once more and join together in a chant. Starting at barely a whisper and building gradually, the battle song of the youth is heard once more. The sheer power of that many voices unified is extremely moving, raising with such conviction that we almost can’t help but join in - through fits of sobs, of course. Ultimately, this is a song about the triumph of the human spirit, and makes us all want to stand up and march in our seats, fueled by raw emotion.

#3: “You Don’t Know / I Am the One”
“Next to Normal”

Diana isn’t just your typical suburban house wife. She is a woman dealing with bipolar disorder and psychosis, which manifest as her dead son singing and joining in on her musical numbers from the grave. While juggling these mental health issues, Diana is just trying to take care of her family, who won’t even say his name. It all comes to a head in this fight told through a rock song. As she struggles to put all her feelings and pain into words to express how alone she feels, she begs her husband to tell her if he feels the same way. Even though she’s surrounded by family, Diana is alone, with only her ghostly son to give her comfort.

#2: “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”

When “Hamilton” was released, it quickly worked its way into the ears and hearts of the masses with its unique combination of singing and rapping, which it uses to recount the life of Alexander Hamilton and the foundation of the United States of America. Rather than just repeating the facts, this musical introduced us to the founding fathers and those around them as real people with aspirations, dreams and flaws, with heartbreaking songs like “It’s Quiet Uptown.” At the very end of the show, as if watching this story wasn’t touching enough, we’re left with this final song reminding us that everything eventually fades away... unless, that is, there’s someone left to tell our story.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions

“West Side Story”

“Atención / Alabanza”
“In the Heights”

“Those You’ve Known”
“Spring Awakening”

“No One Is Alone”
“Into the Woods”

“I’m Here”
“The Color Purple”

#1: “I’ll Cover You (Reprise)”

Few places can be more lonely than a neighborhood of young, LGBTQ+ adults just trying to survive. Home is something we all yearn for, but it can be hard to find amongst mental illness, HIV, hatred, disinterest and a complete lack of money. “Rent” is depressing, yes, but it also manages to highlight how important finding those small moments of hope can be. Hope, and a home, can be found in a person or a coat or a single moment of warmth. Honestly, it’s hard to explain how painful the death of Angel is in this musical, but one need only listen to this heartbreaking reprise to understand.

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