With Valentine’s Day coming up, this month I decided to celebrate by combing through the musical archives and finding the best romantic songs Broadway has to offer. Musicals are often an amazing treasure trove for heart-wrenching, tear-inducing love songs because romance is often at the heart (excuse the pun) of the plot. In this list, I’ve tried to highlight just a few of my favorite romantic songs that deal with the subject of love through multiple lenses, including longing, hope, joy, and humor.
Goodnight My Someone (Music Man)
Sweet dreams be yours, dear / If dream there be / Sweet dreams to carry you close to me / I wish they may and I wish they might / Goodnight, my someone, goodnight
What starts as a simple piano lesson turns into a truly heartfelt song expressing the gentleness of true love. Little Amaryllis wants to wish her future sweetheart goodnight on the evening star, but is discouraged by the fact that she doesn’t quite know who her sweetheart is yet. Lovely librarian and piano teacher Marian steps in to tell her that a specific name isn’t necessary–just say “my someone” until a boy comes along to fill in the gap. Tender and sweet, Goodnight My Someone works both as a song full of romantic optimism and a gentle lullaby, which is why it remains an enduring classic.
You’re The One That I Want (Grease)
You’re the one that I want / Ooh ooh ooh honey / You’re the one that I need / Yes, indeed / The one that I want
Not only a song from a musical but also a pop favorite the world over, this ensemble number will have you up and dancing in no time. As the second-to-last number in the show, You’re the One That I Want serves to finally create a joyful finale for the relationship between everyone’s favorite Pink Lady and T-Bird, Sandy and Danny. Although Sandy warns Danny he’s gonna need to “shape up” to be her man, she reassures him that no matter what happens, her heart will forever be set on him anyway. Catchy and fun, with a decided ‘50s bop rhythm, this song is absolutely–as Danny would say–electrifying!
Gimme Gimme (Thoroughly Modern Millie)
A simple choice, nothing more / This or that, either or / Marry well, social whirl / Businessman, clever girl / Or pin my future on a green glass love
One of the most iconic songs about love from a musical, in part because of Sutton Foster’s powerful vocals, Gimme Gimme offers a candid look into one woman’s choice of a lifetime. Millie Dillmount, recently arrived from Kansas to the great NYC, is an independent woman with a truly “modern” (for the 1920’s) goal: marry a man not for love, but for his money, and subsequently live out the life of wealth and security that she never had. Unfortunately, in just a few weeks she finds herself falling for Jimmy, a know-nothing with a winning smile and carefree attitude. This is the crux of the issue Gimme Gimme seeks to solve: whether Millie will follow the conventional plan she’s worked so hard to achieve, or throw it all away for the man she’s grown to love. The result is a slow burn of a song that gradually reaches a thrilling conclusion as Millie makes her decision once and for all.
Agony (Into the Woods)
Agony! / Beyond power of speech / When the one that you want / Is the only thing out of your reach
Quite literally, in this case, as a prince dramatically pines for the sweet but unattainable Rapunzel, stowed away as she is in her tower. A second prince, his brother, joins the song with his own troubles concerning his unrequited love, the mysterious Cinderella. Though the lyrics seem depressing on the page, the song is quite the opposite of a melancholy emotional ballad, as the brothers take turns trying to outdo each other in their supposed “agony” of being separated from the girls they love. (I highly recommend watching this clip from the 2014 movie adaption to see what I’m talking about). The result is a hilarious, over-the-top love song that still manages to pull at your heartstrings in the end.
Something To Believe In (Newsies)
And if I’m gone tomorrow / What was ours still will be / I have something to believe in / Now that I know you believed in me
Sweet, sincere, and utterly swoon-worthy is this song from the 2012 hit show Newsies. This moment is a long time coming between Jack Kelly, newsboy-turned-strike-leader, and Katherine Plumber, an aspiring star reporter who initially can’t stand Jack—but when they do finally get together, it’s well worth the wait. Knowing full well their relationship may not end perfectly (Jack is in danger for his involvement in the strike; Katherine is under the thumb of her disapproving father), they set aside those worries and instead appreciate what time they do have together in this uplifting and absolutely gorgeous duet.
What are some of your favorite Broadway love songs? Comment below; I’d love to hear them!