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Top 10 Best Musical Duets

VO: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Mark Sammut
The best musical theatre duets are always worthy of a standing ovation. We’re looking at the greatest theatre duets based on recognisability, the chemistry between the characters, and harmonies, while also highlighting the ways different types of songs can be effective. Quartets will not be considered, and the duet must have originated on the stage. MsMojo ranks the best musical theatre duets. What’s your favorite musical theatre duet? Let us know in the comments!
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Worthy of a standing ovation. Welcome to MsMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Best Musical Theatre Duets.

For this list, we’re looking at the greatest theatre duets based on recognisability, the chemistry between the characters, and harmonies, while also highlighting the ways different types of songs can be effective. Quartets will not be considered, and the duet must have originated on the stage. Consequently, "Once's" "Falling Slowly" shall not be included.

#10: “Suddenly, Seymour”
“Little Shop of Horrors”


For a musical about a flesh-eating plant named Audrey II, "Little Shop of Horrors" has some rather poignant tracks. Composed by Alan Menken with lyrics by Howard Ashman, "Suddenly, Seymour" is a wonderful duet that finally sees Seymour Krelborn and Audrey express their feelings for one another. Transpiring quite early in Act II, "Suddenly, Seymour" amounts to more than a simple love song. The duet elegantly displays Audrey's insecurities stemming from a tragic childhood and abusive relationships before Seymour steps in to lend a sympathetic hand. Rather than "I love you," "Suddenly, Seymour" says "I understand you."

#9: “Ten Minutes Ago”
“Cinderella”


The duo of composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II are responsible for creating numerous Broadway classics during the golden age of musical theatre. Seven years after Disney's "Cinderella," Rodgers and Hammerstein adapted the fairy tale into a live television broadcast starring Julie Andrews and Jon Cypher; unsurprisingly, the music frequently hits the mark. Sung by the Prince and Cinderella, "Ten Minutes Ago" serves as the musical's centerpiece, as this single track carries the responsibility of needing to convincingly convey the couple's instant mutual attraction. A classic ballad crafted by two industry heavyweights, "Ten Minutes Ago" is magical.

#8: “If I Loved You”
“Carousel”


Along with "Oklahoma!", "Carousel" serves as a prime example of a quintessential Rodgers and Hammerstein production, and the same can be said for the musical's iconic duet. Meeting earlier the same day and both out of a job, "If I Loved You" basically consists of Julie and Billy sheepishly trading hypothetical declarations of love. Coinciding with the iconic bench scene, "If I Loved You" brilliantly reflects the couple's unfortunate tendency to self-destruct while suggesting certain romances are better ignored. "Carousel" explores complex themes like domestic abuse, and "If I Loved You" subverts the traditional love song.

#7: “All I Ask of You”
“The Phantom of the Opera”



Picking out a single duet from "The Phantom of the Opera" is a near impossible task, but there is just something about Christine and Raoul's piano ballad that demands attention. Created by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart, and Richard Stilgoe, "All I Ask of You" is Broadway's attempt at a pop song. Lyrically, the duet showcases Christine's inherent hunger for romance, a need Raoul is more than happy to satisfy. Devoid of cynicism or irony, "All I Ask of You" embodies a fundamental desire to discover warmth, safety, and freedom through a relationship. Even if the duet's themes are straightforward, "All I Ask of You's" brilliance lies in its masterful composition and lyrical sincerity.

#6: “Tonight”
“West Side Story”


A modern retelling of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," "West Side Story's" focus on social commentary, dance sequences, and electrifying music changed theatre forever. While the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks often overshadows Tony and Maria's romance, the star-crossed lovers sing one of "West Side Story's" greatest tracks in "Tonight." Occurring during the musical's equivalent of "Romeo and Juliet's" iconic balcony scene, "Tonight" boasts a legendary melody and immaculate lyricism that highlight Tony and Maria's passionate romance while foreshadowing the eventual doom awaiting the couple.

#5: “Take Me or Leave Me”
“Rent”


Although much of the plot takes place in 1989, everything about Jonathan Larson's musical screams the '90s. Taking place in the aftermath of the AIDS crisis, "Rent" combines alternative rock and an impressively diverse cast to tell a story fitting of its era. Joanne and Maureen's break-up duet, "Take Me or Leave Me," is just as much about the characters' refusal to change as it is about the couple's relationship. Backed by an energetic composition wisely removed from the musical's predominantly rock sound, "Take Me or Leave Me" is a product of a bygone era that has aged gracefully.

#4: “The Confrontation”
“Les Misérables”


The longest-running musical in London's West End, "Les Misérables" persevered in the face of initial critical backlash to emerge as a landmark production. Taking place in 19th-century France, "Les Misérables" quickly establishes the adversarial dynamic between the reformed fugitive Valjean and the police officer obsessed with arresting him, Javert. A slow-paced but intense number, "The Confrontation" marks the point these two finally came face to face. Pitting Javert's staunch legalism against Valjean's sense of justice in a phenomenal alternating stanza, "The Confrontation" is critical in establishing arguably "Les Misérables'" central relationship.

#3: “For Good”
“Wicked”


Based on Gregory Maguire's 1995 novel, "Wicked" retells "The Wizard of Oz" from the perspective of Elphaba – the Wicked Witch of the West – and Galinda the Good Witch, who form an unlikely friendship despite the pair's conflicting personalities. As the musical's penultimate track, "For Good" immortalizes Elphaba and Glinda's charming relationship that helped both witches mature into better people. (xref) Elphaba and Fiyero's "As Long As You're Mine" also deserves a shout out, but the bittersweet "For Good" caps an emotional journey and provides closure to Elphaba and Glinda's endearing dynamic.

#2: “Anything You Can Do”
“Annie Get Your Gun”


Once in a blue moon, a song comes along that transcends Broadway but remains inherently associated with musical theatre. Debuting in 1946, "Annie Get Your Gun's" songs have been covered by countless famous musicians, but the playful "Anything You Can Do" requires the stage to truly come alive. Seeking to outdo each other, Annie and Frank put their vocals through the wringer to see who can strike a higher or hold a longer note. For the era, "Anything You Can Do" was powerful and progressive. Stripped of context or subtext, "Anything You Can Do" is just a plain-old entertaining duet sung by two talented people who can do everything but bake pies.

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

“Say It Somehow”
“The Light in the Piazza”

“Lily's Eyes”
“The Secret Garden”

“A Little Priest”
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”

“The Next Ten Minutes”
“The Last Five Years”

“Sixteen Going on Seventeen”
“The Sound of Music”

#1: “You're the Top”
“Anything Goes”


Somehow, Cole Porter's song is simultaneously timeless and painfully dated; however, rather than diminish "You're the Top's" appeal, this only serves to enhance the duet's charm. Spawning countless parodies, "You're the Top" sees Billy and Reno trade compliments while referencing everything from Mickey Mouse to the Tower of Babel and even broccoli. "Anything Goes" debuted during a time when stage shows seldom used musical numbers as tools to express serious dramatic plot points, and "You're the Top" exemplifies this practice. Porter's bouncy duet is bigger than Billy and Reno or "Anything Goes," "You're the Top" is the 1930s.
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