11 of the best ballads in musical theatre
With each musical comes a host of songs, with many musicals featuring a ballad somewhere in the score. Ballads are able to tug at our heartstrings as well as inspire audiences and no matter how many times you press the repeat button, an emotional ballad will leave you shedding a tear. Here’s a rundown of some of the best ballads in musical theatre across the West End and Broadway.
Musical theatre ballads you need to listen to
She Used To Be Mine – Waitress
Sung by waitress and pie maker Jenna Hunterson, “She Used To Be Mine” is a heartfelt ballad where she wishes for a new start. Breaking down, Jenna pours out her emotion over her state, where she is losing control over her relationship, her pregnancy and her job.
The Music of the Night – The Phantom of the Opera
As the Phantom comes to term with convincing Christine to his underground lair, “The Music of the Night” is a haunting ballad that has become one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most celebrated songs. Ever since The Phantom of the Opera opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre, numerous actors have taken on this musical beast including Michael Crawford, Colm Wilkinson and Ramin Karimloo. Playing since 1986, the musical has gained legendary status in the West End and has been seen by millions worldwide.
The Impossible Dream – Man of la Mancha
Arguably the greatest song from Man of La Mancha, “The Impossible Dream” is sung by Don Quixote as he follows his self-determined quest to become a Spanish knight. The song is performed four times during the show, as Don Quixote faces the Spanish Inquisition. Since performed by Richard Kiley on the cast soundtrack in 1965, famous covers include Frank Sinatra (1966), Andy Williams (1968) and Alfie Boe (2010). “The Impossible Dream” is sure to astound audiences at the English National Opera’s revival of Man of La Mancha starring Kelsey Grammar, coming to the London Coliseum in 2019.
I’m Still Hurting – The Last Five Years
Sung by Sherie Rene Scott in the original soundtrack, “I’m Still Hurting” opens The Last Five Years, a heartfelt ballad sung by Cathy as she comes to terms with her relationship to her partner Jamie coming to an end. The musical only has two characters, Jamie and Cathy, with Cathy’s story told in reverse chronological order while Jamie’s is told in a conventional timeline. Only meeting once, the musical gets deep into the individuals and this song is a harrowing insight into the relationship breaking down.
The I Love You Song – 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
In the middle of a comedic musical set at a spelling bee comes “The I Love You Song”. Played by Celia Keenan-Bolger, Olive is a spelling bee contestant who sings this in the middle of the competition as she wishes for her parents to give her more attention. Imagining her parents are there, Olive and her parents sing a powerful trio about love, family and the future. Although this show has never been performed in the West End, it’s a must-listen to ballad that will stick with you for a long time.
Suddenly Seymour – Little Shop of Horrors
This ballad between Seymour and Audrey comes at the beginning of the second half of Little Shop of Horrors, recently performed at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. In this song, the pair confess their romantic feelings to each other, making a plan to live together and stay by each other’s sides. This rock musical was first performed in 1983, with recent versions of “Suddenly Seymour” in the West End performed by Sheridan Smith and Paul Keating, as well as Marc Antolin and Jemima Rooper.
I Am Changing – Dreamgirls
Sung by Effie White in Dreamgirls as she wants to leave her past again, “I Am Changing” is just one of many anthemic power ballads in the musical. Over the years, the song has been performed by legendary artists including Jennifer Hudson and Jennifer Holliday. The West End production of Dreamgirls received two Olivier Awards, including best actress for the original performer of Effie White, Amber Riley. Dreamgirls played at the Savoy Theatre until Saturday 12th January 2019.
One Song Glory – Rent
An intimate yet powerful song, “One Song Glory” is one of Rent’s most popular songs, with a soundtrack including “Take Me or Leave Me” and “Light My Candle”. This boisterous song is performed by Roger as he strums on his guitar, trying to write a smash-hit to be remembered by. Set in New York City, the storyline of Rent is inspired by Puccini’s La Boheme, but is modernised to orient around the HIV/AIDS crisis during the 1980s, with the characters coming to terms with the medical epidemic. Most recently, this song was performed by Ross Hunter as part of the 20th anniversary tour.
I Know Him So Well – Chess
“I Know Him So Well” is sung by the characters Svetlana and Florence, as they talk about their feelings for Anatoly, a Russian chess champion. Chess premiered in the West End in 1986, with Elaine Paige and Siobhan McCarthy tackling the ballad duet. Siobhan’s part was originally sung by Barbara Dickson on the concept album. The show ran for a limited engagement in 2018 at London Coliseum, with a cast including Michael Ball and Alexandra Burke.
Wait For It – Hamilton
A modern musical theatre classic, Aaron Burr sings about the state of America in the rousing gospel ballad “Wait for It”. The song brings a quieter moment to Hamilton, as we get to understand their growing rivalry. In a soundtrack that won a Grammy Award for best musical theatre album, “Wait for It” is one of the leading songs in a musical that is sure to run on Broadway and in the West End for a long time to come.
Children Will Listen – Into the Woods
First performed by Bernadette Peters on Broadway, “Children Will Listen” is a beautiful Sondheim classic that begins to wrap up the interweaving fairytale narratives in Into the Woods. Bringing Cinderella, Jack, the Baker and Little Red Riding Hood, the witch advises them on what to do next, while making sure that they are sensible. The lyric “Careful the things you say, children will listen” has become a famous line from the production, later sung by Meryl Streep in the 2014 film adaptation.
For even more songs you have to listen to, check out our musical theatre songs you must listen to straight away. They’ll make you laugh and cry as you listen to the beautiful music and lyrics.