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40 Songs about Love from Stage Musicals

Animated white girl with orangey-blond hair happily listening to music through white headphones with hearts on them. She is wearing a white and pink shirt featuring two hearts, a denim skirt, and black tights. A pastel pink, yellow, and blue background has musical notes on it

There are a million different types of love in the world and, further, a million different perspectives on each. If there's one thing that knows how to capture the myriad emotions and opinions tied up in the concept of 'love' it's the musical theatre song. Here, in honor of however you feel about Valentine's Day (and admittedly, it isn't one of my favorites), is a list of some of my favorite songs from the stage that tackle many of love's various forms. I hope you can enjoy them all and maybe even find one that resonates with you.

Note 1: For this post, I did not include multiple love songs from the same show, nor did I include songs from jukebox musicals.

Note 2: I intended for this post to be 24 songs. It ended up being 40, and it would have been longer if I didn't cut myself off. Maybe I will do a second part next year since there are so, so many that did not make it into this one.

  • "If I Can't Love Her" from Beauty and the Beast This is the song that made me fall in love with live theatre. Despite loving Disney, Beauty and the Beast was never one of my favorite musicals. Then, when my father took me to see the Broadway production in 1995, I was absolutely blown away by "If I Can't Love Her", which is not in the film. Saddled with the knowledge that he must get Belle to love him in order to be saved, the Beast ruminates on whether or not he is capable of loving Belle, or anyone at all, and what that means. It's a forever favorite for me and I hope it is for you, too. (If you've ever watched the tv series Galavant, the theme sounds eerily like a sped up version of this masterpiece, and also the instrumental version has been known to play in the entrance of Be Our Guest restaurant in Walt Disney World.) Listen to Terrence Mann sing it here.

  • "The Next Ten Minutes" from The Last Five Years The Last Five years chronicles the rise and fall of a relationship with one character (Jamie) going through it from start to end while the other (Cathy) begins at their breakup and ends at the optimistic start of it all. In "The Next Ten Minutes" they are, for the only time in the show, both present in the same moment. It is stunning not just for the framing, but also for its beautiful lyrics at the moment of proposal and marriage. My favorite part of their singing together is when they reach the utterly romantic lyrics "For a million summers/'Til the world explodes/'Til there's no one left/Who has ever known us apart." Hear Norbert Leo Butz and Sherie Rene Scott sing it here.

  • "The Streets of Dublin" from A Man of No Importance The ultimate (and I do mean, in my opinion, the ultimate) love letter to a city. In addition to being arguably my favorite male solo number ever, "The Streets of Dublin" is overflowing with love for Dublin, Ireland and the amazing, ordinary people that make it what it is. Hear Steven Pascale sing it here.

  • "Bare" from Bare "Bare" is the title song to this musical for a reason: it is the culmination of everything in the plot and the moment of true love, connection, vulnerability, and tragedy for the main couple, Peter and Jason. Bare is a coming-of-age masterpiece, to me, that follows Peter and Jason as they navigate a high school world where they have different views on what it means for them to be together and have to cope with those in their world who would never approve of their relationship. While it has been revised and changed in some ways since I first saw it in the early 2000s, Michael Arden and John Hill are still who I picture in the roles. However, their production was not fully recorded for release. A few years later, though, we got a great studio album and you should listen to the whole thing through to get the full weight of it...but "Bare" on it's own is stunning enough, so at least listen to that. Listen to Matt Doyle and James Doyle sing it here.

  • "The History of Wrong Guys" from Kinky Boots Have you ever found that your taste in men always ends up being terrible? If yes, then this comedic lament is for you. In it, factory worker Lauren has just realized she has a crush on her very-much-taken employer, Charlie. She knows everything about this is a bad idea, but there she is, anyway, trying to sort it all out. After all, as she says, "Women have been making bad choices since the beginning of time." Listen to Annaleigh Ashford sing it here.

  • "Dividing Day" from The Light in the Piazza As much as The Light in the Piazza is about the budding love between two young people, Clara and Fabrizio, it is also about Clara's mother Margaret confronting many aspects of her own life...including when and why her marriage stopped being one filled with love. This soft, sad song is often overlooked but it is poignant and heartbreaking. Listen to Victoria Clark sing it here.

  • "Fine, Fine Line" from Avenue Q Avenue Q has a special place in my heart (and if you've ever followed me on social media, you probably get that because my username is generally a reference to this show) but as much as it's known for its over-the-top comedy and ingenious use of puppets, it also has a moving, touching center. One of the best moments in the show is when Kate Monster, having just had her sweet romance with Princeton abruptly ended, reflects on how quickly things can go from sky-high love to a depressing waste of time. Listen to Stephanie D'Abruzzo sing it here.

  • "The I Love You Song" from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Sweet Olive just wants one thing, love from her disconnected parents. In this song the spelling bee fades away as Olive imagines interactions with her mother and father in which, despite their obvious flaws, they tell her how much they love her and she is able to voice how much she loves and needs them. Hear Celia Keenan-Bolger, Lisa Howard, and Derrick Baskin sing it here.

  • "Unworthy of Your Love" from Assassins Definitely the most disturbing song on this list. In it a man and woman sing about their adoration for two people you never see. However, the man is actually John Hinkley, Jr. singing about Jodie Foster (whom he stalked) and the woman is actually "Squeaky" Fromme singing about Charles Manson (who she devoted her life to). Both ultimately attempted to kill presidents in honor of their objects of obsession. Interestingly, this song can--and has been--repurposed. By removing the references to "Jodie" and "Charlie" the song found a second life in the revue Putting it Together, as a much less creepy version of the song. Hear Alexander Gemignani and Mary Catherine Garrison sing the original context version of it here.

  • "Not While I'm Around" from Sweeney Todd When Mrs. Lovett takes in Tobias following the "disappearance" of the man he worked for, the boy develops a fiercely protective attitude toward her. Here he expresses his adoring love while warning her about the nefarious nature of her beloved Sweeney Todd. Listen to Manoel Felciano and Patti LuPone sing it here.

  • "The Proposal/The Night was Alive" from Titanic There are a million things to love about the song but one of them is that it's two men singing about two completely different types of love at the same time. While aboard the Titanic, stoker Barrett visits Bride, who is in charge of wireless communication. Bride allowed Barrett to send a message proposing marriage to his beloved. As Barrett rhapsodizes about his love for her, Bride expresses equally-passionate sentiments for the magic of the communication technology, and both sides are moving and genuine. Listen to Brian D'Arcy James and Martin Moran sing it here.

  • "Sarah, Brown Eyes" from Ragtime There is no happy ending for the romance between Colehouse Walker and Sarah in Ragtime, but still, a soft moment is given to the audience when, late in the show Colehouse is reminded of the sweet time when he first met his love. Given that the audience already knows Sarah's fate by this point, it makes the song have even more impact. Listen to Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell sing it here.

  • "Fly, Fly Away" from Catch Me if You Can Based on the book and film of the same name, Catch Me if You Can tells the story of conman Frank Abignale, Jr. Here, as Frank goes on the run, his love interest, Brenda, sings about how she loves him and will never betray him to the police. Over the course of the song she reveals her feelings about who he is really is and how much she appreciates the way he saw the true her. Her plaintive "Maybe it's because you'll fly back home to me one day" is everything. Listen to Kerry Butler sing it here.

  • "Where's the Girl?" from The Scarlet Pimpernel Sultry, moody, and beautiful, "Where's the Girl?" sees Chauvelin, the former lover of actress Marguerite, tries to remind her that while now they are on opposite sides of the French Revolution, they were once in a passionate relationship. It's impossible not to sigh at how seductive it is when Terrence Mann sings it. I have vivid memories of sitting in the theater and this song being so impactful that you could hear a pin drop as it finished, then everyone breathed. Listen to him sing it here.

  • "Love Changes Everything" from Aspects of Love The title of this song really says it all. It's an anthem for anyone who has ever experienced a love that made you see and feel every single thing differently. This song is very much associated with Michael Ball, so you can hear him sing it here.

  • "Funny Honey" from Chicago Ruthie Henshall does my absolute favorite interpretation of this song in which Roxie Hart, who recently murdered her lover, sings the praises of her push-over husband who has her back...until he doesn't. The shift from appreciation to derision in her voice is top notch. Listen to Ruthie Henshall sing it here.

  • "I Will Never Leave You" from Side Show Side Show is inspired by the real story of conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton. In this song, they display their love and support for each other no matter what life throws at them. Hear Erin Davie and Emily Padgett sing it here.

  • "Take a Chance on Me" from Little Women This one is for anyone who takes the chance to make the first big move to begin a relationship, of any kind. Here, Laurie attempts to get Jo March to dance with him in order to get to know her better. In it, he talks about the importance of friendship and his admiration for her, and how great it would be if she, well, took a chance on him. If she does, he promises, they will "be the best of friends." Listen to Danny Gurwin sing it here.

  • "When Did I Fall in Love?" from Fiorello In this number, Fiorello LaGuardia's wife Thea considers her life and the love she has for her husband all the while realizing that it crept up on her instead of crashing on her like a wave. It's one of my favorite traditional soprano love songs. Listen to Ellen Hanley sing it here.

  • "In a Little While" from Once Upon a Mattress Upon learning that Lady Larken is pregnant, she and her lover, Sir Harry, duet about the joys of planning to marry and become a family. This is from a comedy, though, so of course getting married is easier said than done, but the excitement experienced when pondering a future together is adorable in this song. Listen to Allen Case and Anne Jones sing it here.

  • "I'd Give it All for You" from Songs for a New World This magnificent duet captures what it's like to have someone, let them go, realize you need them again, and experience the bliss of getting a second chance. "Nothing about us was perfect or clear/But when paradise calls me I'd rather be here" is just one of the beautiful lyrics that expresses the titanic emotions that come along with realizing who you really want. Listen to Jason Robert Brown and Lauren Kennedy sing it here.

  • "Unexpected Song" from Song and Dance If you've ever found yourself suddenly blown away by how much you care about someone, you must listen to this. Especially when sung by Bernadette Peters, lyrics like "I don't know what's going on/Can't work it out at all/Whatever made you choose me" take you on an emotional ride that makes you feel like you, too, are trying to express the gravity of this new experience and your embracing of it. Watch Bernadette Peters sing it here.

  • "As Long as You're Mine" from Wicked The ideal duet for anyone who ever felt like a relationship they wanted could never, ever happen (or maybe they were afraid to want it)...but then it did happen and it was everything. Hear Idina Menzel and Norbert Leo Butz sing it here.

  • "I'm Here" from The Color Purple After a lifetime of abuse, neglect, and her voice being stifled, Celie steps into her light. Finally, she has the love and life she deserves. Celie now recognizes who she is and loves herself, and it radiates from her in this 11 o'clock triumph of a number. Listen to LaChanze sing it here.

  • "In Whatever Time We Have" from Children of Eden Children of Eden is based on the Book of Genesis and has possibly my favorite Stephen Schwartz full score. This duet about a forbidden love match contains lovely lyrics like "I could make it on my own/Let me know that I don't have to." Listen to Darius deHaas and Kelli Rabke sing it here.

  • "All the Wasted Time" from Parade Parade follows the story of Leo Frank, who was convicted for the murder of a young woman named Mary Phagan in the 1910s (I covered the history of it for Footnoting History, here). At the center of the musical is Leo's imperfect relationship with his wife, Lucille. Over the course of events, Lucille becomes Leo's more ardent supporter and champion and he realizes how much he loves her. This powerful duet is all about finally achieving the highest level of connection and admitting all the errors of the past. Hear Ben Platt and Micaela Diamond sing it here.

  • "I Am Who I Am" from La Cage aux Folles Is there a song from the musical theatre canon that more completely embodies the fierceness of defying the world and being boldly true to yourself? Arguably, no. This one is for all the folks who have the courage to be wholly authentic or who need to be cheered on to reach that level of confidence. Listen to Douglas Hodge sing it here.

  • "Marry Me a Little" from Company Company centers on the 35th birthday of its main character Bobby (or, in more recent gender-swapped versions, Bobbie) and his (or her) relationship status. All of Bobby's friends are involved with others while he remains single. Then, over the course of events, Bobby begins to consider what he might want. The result of this, placed at the end of Act I, is a killer. It's about the messiness of love and relationships and realizing maybe you are ready for something, with someone. Many people will choose "Being Alive", from the same show and which has similar themes, but for me, it'll always be "Marry Me a Little". I've shared John Barrowman's version before, from the revue Putting it Together, and I'm sure I'll share it again, but you can watch it here, because it's fabulous.

  • "Asheville" from Bright Star Any time I get the chance to share "Asheville", I take it. It's folksy twang and the innocent longing of the character, Margo, really speaks to me. She supports her friend, who she had romantic interest in, moving to Asheville, but it breaks her heart at the same time. As she reflects on his decision, her worry that her chance at romance is over mixes with her expressions of hope that he won't forget her and might even come back. There's a rawness to it that I adore. Listen to Hannah Elless sing it here.

  • "Breeze Off the River" from The Full Monty The Full Monty is one of my favorite screen-to-stage adaptations. In this song the lead character, Jerry, is having a quiet moment of reflection. He admits that, while he doesn't always feel good or have faith in himself, the one thing he is certain of is he loves and admires his son. It's a beautiful song about the awe that can come with parenthood. Hear Patrick Wilson sing it here.

  • "I Love You Like a Table" from Waitress This true song of nerd love is adorable and more than a little kooky. Hear Christopher Fitzgerald and Kamiko Glenn sing it here.

  • "Near to You" from Damn Yankees In Damn Yankees, an older man named Joe makes a deal with the devil in order to help his beloved baseball team win. As a result, he becomes a different, younger man, who has the ability to save the team's season. Unfortunately, though, this means abandoning his wife, Meg. Although this song is specifically about Joe missing his wife and letting her know (in a coded way) that the real him is still there, I always feel like it is a good song for anyone who is unable to be with someone they love but hopes to feel their presence. Listen to Jarrod Emick, Linda Stephens, and Dennis Kelly sing it here.

  • "Do You Love Me?" from Fiddler on the Roof I think people would have come after me if I didn't include this deservedly iconic number. After being together for 25 years, as the result of an arranged marriage, Tevye and Golde mull over whether everything that they've gone through together amounts to loving each other and realize that yes, it's a nice thing to know you are loved. Hear Alfred Molina and Randy Graff sing it here.

  • "What Do You Know About Love?" from Frozen In this song, which is not in the original Frozen film, Anna and Kristoff have it out because Kristoff begins to questions Anna's alleged love for Hans, someone she doesn't know at all. It turns into a sparring contest as each of them accuses the other of not being in the place to criticize. Knowing that they become a couple makes this original conflict incredibly sweet. Listen to Patti Murin and Jelani Alladin sing it here.

  • "Ready to Settle" from High Fidelity Sometimes, you just don't have it in you to keep fighting the good fight anymore. This song is an entertainingly serious (yet funny) number about not wanting to be alone but also being cynical, jaded, and prepared to be with someone just for the sake of it. Listen to Emily Swallow and Ann Warren sing it here.

  • "The Origin of Love" from Hedwig and the Angry Inch For the classicist in your life (which might be yourself!) this song from Hedwig and the Angry Inch explains how in Aristophanes' speech in Plato's Symposium, once upon a time, humans were double, not single. Then, after Zeus cut everyone in two (to the form we are now) it caused humans to always be searching for the person who brings them back to completion again. This, Hedwig explains, is the origin of love, and finding your missing piece is the ultimate goal. Listen to Neil Patrick Harris sing it here.

  • "Not That Kind of Thing" from The Wedding Singer Are you a big fan of the friends-to-lovers trope? If yes, this song is for you. In this stage adaptation of the famous Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore film, "Not That Kind of Thing" is the perfect song for anyone who has ever tried very hard to deny they have feelings for their bestie. Hear Stephen Lynch and Laura Benanti sing it here.

  • "There Once was a Man" from The Pajama Game I've never been the world's biggest fan of The Pajama Game but I find the joy in this over-the-top, fast-paced love-declaring duet to be a whole heck of a lot of fun. Listen to Kelli O'Hara and Harry Connick, Jr. sing it here.

  • "On My Own" from Les Misérables While "On My Own" is sometimes dismissed as simply a song about unrequited love, it's more complex than that, and to me it's that complexity which made it a classic. It's about hoping for that romantic love (and imagining it vividly) in order to cope with the horrors of your life and the dreams you know will likely go unfulfilled. My favorite recorded version of it will always be Lea Salonga's from the 1995 10th Anniversary Concert. By the time she reaches the lyric "A world that's full of happiness that I have never known", my heart breaks. Listen to Lea Salonga sing it here.

Honorable Mentions: These two songs were cut from their respective musicals, so you likely will never see them performed in their original context. However, they are two of my absolute favorite songs in the history of the world, so I had to feature them:

  • "I Could Be in Love with Someone Like You" by Jason Robert Brown This song was originally part of The Last Five Years, but was later replaced by "Shiksa Goddess." It's bursting with frenetic energy and quick, witty lyrics that are equal parts passionate and humorous, as the Jewish man declaring his overwhelming adoration for an Irish girl makes continuous references to both of their cultures. If the lyrics "I don't know what I'm doing/But come in and ruin me!" don't speak to your soul then...I don't know what to tell you. I just love it so much. Listen to Jason Robert Brown sing it here.

  • "The Glamorous Life" by Stephen Sondheim Originally written for the musical A Little Night Music, this song is rightfully the stuff of legends. It's about a daughter's adoration for her largely-absent mother whose life is anything but glamorous. The love for (and, arguably, passionate defense of) a mother who doesn't quite deserve it is remarkable. While you'll almost never hear a child tackle it, it sounds brilliant when a powerful soprano takes it on. Listen to Audra McDonald sing it here.


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