It Truly Takes Two: My Top Five Male Broadway Duets

Patrick Connolly

Is there anything better than a powerful duet in musical theatre. In fact, some of the most iconic songs in musical theatre history are duets. From "Anything You Can Do" to "Tonight" to "For Good", these numbers can be the highlight of an entire show. 

Interestingly enough, when thinking about some of the best duets, you usually don't consider duets performed between two men.  So to give songs like these their due today, here are my five favorite. 

“Agony” from Into the Woods

I’m pretty biased when it comes to this song: I was Rapunzel’s Prince in a production of Into the Woods, Jr. in 2005, and I was responsible for singing his part. But even taking the bias out of the picture, this is easily one of the wittiest male duets ever written for the stage. Of course, it is written by Stephen Sondheim, who is arguably one of the greatest musical theater composers of all-time, so I shouldn’t have expected anything less. 

“The Confrontation” from Les Miserables

Again, a little bit of bias considering a.) It’s Les Miserables, and b.) I sing this with one of my best friends—also a musical theater geek—every single time we get the opportunity. I don’t care. Even though this duet lasts for a brief amount of time, the amount of power this song has is astonishing. I’m a huge sucker for voices that overlap each other, and it’s done so well in this song. I could listen to (and perform) it over and over again, ESPECIALLY if it’s performed by Alfie Boe and Norm Lewis. 

“Lily’s Eyes” from The Secret Garden

No, this song is not a duet between Severus Snape and James Potter expressing how much a little girl reminds them of Lily, but I can understand the confusion (Perhaps a parody could be created in A Very Potter Musical: The College Years?). In what is easily one of the very best songs of this musical, this duet is a marvelous expression of the grief presented in two perspectives: one who longs for his wife, and another who longs for an opportunity. It also helps if you listen to the version with Mandy Patinkin and Robert Westenberg first. An absolutely beautiful duet.

“What You Own” from Rent

Whenever I get into a conversation about their favorite songs from RENT, I mostly receive “Seasons of Love” and “La Vie Boheme” as answers. While those answers are absolutely valid, one of my favorite songs from the musical seems to get sidelined. It is a duet between Mark Cohen and Roger Davis that appears in Act Two; I don’t know why most people talk about it more. Not only is it unbelievably catchy (as are the majority of the songs in the musical), but by God, listen to those harmonies by Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp. Harmonies were practically born for music, and this song is a shining example. Also, there’s an overt reference to “The Twilight Zone” found in this song, and I am totally okay with that. Thank you, Jonathan Larson. 

“I Am The One (Reprise)” from Next to Normal

My favorite male duet in all of musical theater. Despite being oh-so-brief in under two and a half minutes, it contains more raw emotion and power than ANYTHING that’s played on the radio today. The amount of complexity is astonishing: listen, for instance, to the words “I am the one who watched while you died”, and how it is sung by both Dan and Gabe. With both characters singing this line, it means two completely different things to each of them. With Dan singing this line, it represents his grief for when Gabe died as an infant. With Gabe singing this line (or at least, the visual representation of how Dan would see Gabe as a teenager if he continued to live), it represents his perspective of seeing his father grieve for such a long period of time. Both Aaron Tveit and J. Robert Spencer kill it with their incredible vocals, but any great actor/singer can perform this song, and the song’s message would still come across powerfully. It’s that good.  

Comment below what your favorite male duets are in musical theater history!