Duets have been some of the most popular forms of songs, likely since ancient history. When it comes to the world of musical theatre, there are plenty of instances of duets that have played a pivotal role in a production.
If you’re looking for a duet to perform with another female, you’ve come to the right place. All of the following are duets that have remained especially memorable long after the original production year of their respective shows.
“Marry The Man Today” from Guys and Dolls
1950’s Guys and Dolls remains a very popular show on and off Broadway. The musical’s plot is weaved with gambling as many of the story’s major events are dependent upon the results of major bets.
Like many musicals, Guys and Dolls is hinged on the story of 2 different romances, which intersect through differing degrees. One of these is between the characters Nathan and Adelaide, as well as Sky and Sarah.
Nathan and Sky end up raising the stakes among themselves by means of a couple of bets, primarily because Nathan hosts games but is financially broke. In the meantime, Adelaide and Sarah are initially affected by Nathan and Sky’s decisions as they are preoccupied.
The song, Marry The Man Today, comes toward the very end of Act 2 and is sung by Adelaide and Sarah. At the beginning, each character makes a metaphor about how you can’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched.
After all, you have to take a chance on something with an outcome that isn’t set in stone. Upon coming to this conclusion, both Sarah and Adelaide realize that this relates to their love lives.
It is then that both of them hatch a plan to get married to their partners despite their obvious gambling problems. They are convinced they can change them into who they wish them to be in the future.
Guys and Dolls gets its name from a line a character says about the sacrifices men will go through for their love. However, it’s pretty clear by the end of the musical that both genders make silent sacrifices on behalf of the other’s happiness.
“A Boy Like That/I Have A Love” from West Side Story
1957’s West Side Story remains a colossal masterpiece that is still relevant in many ways despite its datedness. It just goes to show that Shakespeare’s influence was far ahead of its time as this Romeo and Juliet adaptation lives on.
The stage settings and the character development are just one factor that West Side Story is so acclaimed. It’s also the songs, which are the result of Bernstein’s music and Sondheim’s lyrics.
The songs, A Boy Like That and I Have A Love are sung by the characters Anita and Maria as the 2nd to last song in Act 2. These songs play into the musical’s plot, which involves a forbidden love that includes a gang member (remember, it's a Romeo and Juliet adaptation).
A Boy Like That launches into an attack from Anita, warning about the dangers of falling in love with someone of such a bad reputation. This is then followed by I Have A Love, which completely shifts the mood into one of somber gratefulness.
It is during the 2nd song that Maria tells Anita how it's her love that is the joy of her life. They both join in at the end to exclaim that a strong love can blur the lines of “rightness” because they see the person for who they are.
Interestingly enough, the A Boy Like That portion of this duet found life during the mid-1990s outside of the musical. The internationally acclaimed pop star Selena released a rendition of this for a compilation album.
“Three Bedroom House” from Bat Boy: The Musical
If you frequented the grocery stores during the 1990s and 2000s, you’ve probably seen an image of Bat Boy. This character’s picture helped define an era of tabloid newspapers that won’t be forgotten any time soon.
As you can imagine, Bat Boy was some cave-dwelling humanoid bat. Yet, it seems every time he was supposedly captured, Bat Boy would make his escape.
In 1997, Bat Boy: The Musical made its debut, showing that nothing is off the table when it comes to theatre productions. The musical has never premiered on Broadway but has been featured in the West End and beyond.
One of the things that makes Bat Boy: The Musical so interesting is that just 10 stage players carry out the musical’s entire cast of characters.
If you think that the idea of using Bat Boy for inspiration is weird, wait until you learn about its story. This really does have it all, including some shocking romances and a vampiric thirst for blood.
The duet, Three Bedroom House, takes place during Act 2 as 2 of the characters are searching for Bat Boy. It is during this that one of the characters mentions that she has romantic feelings for Bat Boy, the mutant half-human, half-bat being from a cave.
If you think that’s a bit crazy, it gets revealed later that Bat Boy had even slept with the other character of the duet. Of course, he only mentions this when his carnal damage has gotten to a point of no return.
Bat Boy: The Musical is a fun exploration of what can happen when experiments go wrong. Plus, it’s a production innovation, with even its music being played by a minimalist band that includes bass, guitars, drums, and keyboards.
“Ohio” from Wonderful Town
New York City has always been held a central hub of culture, and a desirable destination for almost anyone. To be able to move and live there sustainably is something that has probably crossed just about anybody’s mind.
If you do happen to follow through and make the move, sometimes it can be hard to remember why you moved to begin with. After all, who doesn’t have at least a smidgeon of nostalgic fondness for their old home places?
This very thing is what Wonderful Town’s sister characters Ruth and Eileen take some time to contemplate. The beginning of the musical opens up with them essentially having just moved to the city to follow their professional dreams.
Like anyone, while they were probably excited, the feeling they were feeling the most upon their arrival was fear. What if they had made a mistake?
It’s at this point during the beginning of Act 1 that Ruth and Eileen sing the song, Ohio. They take the opportunity to remind themselves of the very things that made them move out to New York City in the first place.
Their complaints are the common complaints of any teenager who desires to break free from the rules and restrictions of their parents. The sisters also recognized the locational limitations surrounding what their own ambitions were for life.
While the sisters sing Ohio, they are transformed from being a little homesick to being confident of their decision. After all, if they had packed it up and moved back to Ohio then and there, the musical would be boring and ridiculously short.
“For Good” from Wicked
It’s a telling tale of success that The Wizard Of Oz remains such a culturally relevant story over 100 years after its first appearance. Of course, it's the 1939 film that most of the world’s population is probably familiar with on some level.
It only makes sense that Wicked would be such a cultural phenomenon 20 years after it first debuted. For some people, Wicked’s story is even more interesting and entertaining than Dorothy’s plot in the original.
If you’re not familiar, Wicked takes place in the land of Oz during and after the time that Dorothy appears and follows the yellow brick road. As you probably know, she can’t return home until she is able to destroy The Wicked Witch Of The West with water.
Well, Wicked tells the tale of the Wicked Witch Of The West and her longtime relationship with Glinda The Good Witch. Along the way, you learn so much about what life was like in Oz before Dorothy and the team got their wishes granted.
What makes this musical so wickedly fun is that you can easily locate its timeline in relation to what you already know. Another is the music throughout the production.
We simply cannot talk about Wicked, or musical theatre duets for females in general, without mentioning the song, For Good. This song is what ends the musical on such a powerful note, often cementing the experience for the audience and keeping them coming back for more.
For Good is sung between The Wicked Witch Of The West and Glinda. In it, they mention how impactful their friendship has been to their lives and serves as a final farewell between the very best of friends.
If you’re somebody who has aspirations to be a musical theatre singer, For Good is one of those songs you’re going to want to know. It’s essentially a classic of contemporary theatre at this point.
“Class” from Chicago
Bob Fosse and his unmistakable style can be experienced in almost every level of the hit 1975 musical, Chicago. It pushes boundaries in both language and choreography, as you might expect.
Chicago follows the story of Roxie Hart, who opens the musical with a murder, eventually landing her in prison. There, she meets a number of other women who were also convicted for killing the men in their lives.
As Roxie was already a known vaudeville player, her popularity only grew as a result of her conviction. In fact, she does a number of things throughout the musical that are fairly questionable but done for the sake of fame and popularity.
This reaches a culmination during Act 2 when the song Class is sung by characters Velma and Mama. These characters had already been well-acquainted with Roxie’s unyielding greed for the public eye, but she had used them one too many times.
In a way, the lyrics of Class are words that just about any aging member of society can probably relate to. Taken out of context, this really is the old grandpa sitting on a porch telling kids to stay off their lawn and that their generation was better.
Because let’s face it, everyone grew up having to hear from elders about how nobody knows their manners or how to show respect. It’s a complaint that will exist as long as humankind continues to shift their tendencies with each passing generation.
So, maybe the next time you’re feeling a little crotchety about how society has lost its way, you might do well to sing Class to lighten the mood.
“If Momma Was Married” from Gypsy
1959’s Gypsy might be one of the most influential musicals of all time, partly because of its songs. So many aspects of Gypsy (and its lead character, Rose) have become embedded in pop culture.
One thing that has become a stereotype is how parents typically act when their children are rising stars. More often than not, they want their children’s success more than the children do, often performing only to satisfy the parent’s desires and annoyances.
That kind of scenario is exactly what is at play in Gypsy, which features Rose and her 2 daughters, June and Louise. Throughout most of Act 1, the audience bears witness to Rose being somewhat of an overbearing parent, pushing toward success for her daughters with their vaudeville act.
Rose even turns down a marriage proposal, along with a few opportunities for her children, all for the sake of the show. Eventually, June hints that she’s become disillusioned with her mother’s delusions.
This leads her daughters to ponder life’s possibilities had Rose settled down. As you can probably guess, it’s at this point in time that June and Louise sing, If Momma Was Married.
If Momma Was Married is filled with hilarious pleas and revelatory fantasies about how much happier everyone would be if Rose would just get married and live her own life.
This duet will have the audience laughing until the very end, which is sure to bring out some massive applause. Both characters build their plea to an elevating height of tension before making the request that she get married one final time.
Of course, not long after this, the family becomes splintered and years later, Rose reveals her true intentions. The greed for success alienated her from her family as she used her daughters for her own status.
Like any good story, Gypsy has an obviously potent message to deliver to its audience. Gypsy will remain relevant as long as humanity continues to reach for new heights at all costs.
“Bosom Buddies” from Mame
Most people (hopefully everyone) have friends of varying degrees, from mere acquaintances to friends you’ve known since childhood that you can still count on year after year.
Sometimes, it’s those long-standing friendships that allow each side to be honest with one another. More often than not, it’s only these people who will tell you the harshest truths, no matter how sharp.
In a way, that is sort of the gist behind the iconic duet, Bosom Buddies, from the 1966 musical, Mame. The song is sung by the character Mame and her friend Vera.
Bosom Buddies is a celebration of Mame and Vera’s friendship and their enduring promise to one another. Of course, like any good friends, they take a good few opportunities to make a crack on one another, too.
Bosom Buddies is a true Broadway classic and takes place during Act 2 of Mame. The musical itself follows the story of Mame as she has a sort of riches-to-rags-to-riches story during the Great Depression era.
While Mame is known to hang with some high-class people, she has to come to terms with her change in societal status as a result of her financial situation. Bosom Buddies highlights the fact that her status doesn’t affect the bond on which Mame and Vera’s friendship is based.
Throughout its history, Mame has had some big names in its cast. Angela Lansbury debuted as the main character, which was eventually played by Lucille Ball in a major motion picture adaptation.
“Take Me Or Leave Me” from Rent
Rent is one of those Broadway musicals that really benefited from having a motion picture adaptation. The 2005 film essentially became integrated into young adult culture as a favorite among many.
One of Rent’s biggest achievements is the fact that it has so many standout songs. Many of these have done quite well on their own outside the context of the musical.
Take Me Or Leave Me is a duet that is widely considered a fundamental song that everyone who is interested in contemporary theatre knows. If you take voice lessons, there’s a good chance you could end up singing this with another student.
Take Me Or Leave Me takes place during Act 2, and is sung by the characters Joanne and Maureen. At this point in the musical, there is a dramatic breakup scene between these 2 characters.
Maureen actually left a heterosexual relationship with the lead character Mark to be with Joanne. Both have their criticisms against the other, and the duet serves as the method of dialogue delivery between them.
Eventually, they come to the conclusion that neither can live with the other without them making changes. The song highlights the notion that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and that you often end up with less than what you left something to gain.
In a way, this also highlights the tradition of using songs to portray moments of intense emotion during a theatrical production. Yet, it also illustrates that humanity can resolve conflicts amicably by seeing things from different sides of the story.
Rent really is full of some unforgettable songs. Take Me Or Leave Me wasn’t even sung by its lead characters, yet it’s managed to become a sort of rite of passage in a contemporary theatre singer’s journey.
Top Musical Theatre Duets For Females, Final Thoughts
It’s never a bad thing to have a few duets learned and ready to pull out of your repertoire at any moment. Think about it, how amazing would it be if you happened to run into somebody on the street who knew the words to the other part?
On the other hand, if you’re thinking of creating your own musical, studying these duets is just as important. A properly executed duet at the right moment is enough to bring the house down with applause.