Good theatre draws an emotional response from its audience, be it happy or sad. And if you haven’t had the experience of leaving a theatre sniffly and puffy-eyed, you haven’t lived.
Here are 12 times that musicals left us sobbing our hearts out:
(Given that many of these contain some crucial plot points, it feels necessary to say spoiler alert before reading on.)
1. ‘I’ll Cover You Reprise’ from ‘Rent’
The pure love between Angel and Collins turns to heartbreaking loss when Angel finally succumbs to AIDS. Jesse L. Martin has two equally beautiful renditions of this song, one from the musical and the other from the film. The sadness of this song is punctuated by the tragic loss of the show’s creator, Jonathan Larson, at a young age. It’s a poignant reminder of how short life can be.
2. ‘Atención/Alabanza’ from ‘In The Heights’
The entire community learns of the death of the neighborhood’s beloved Abuela Claudia over the dispatch radios. Usnavi then reminds everyone to cherish the small things as the community comes together to mourn. Try not to shed a tear — we dare you.
3. ‘It’s Quiet Uptown’ from ‘Hamilton’
The lyrics of this song are a haunting picture of what loss feels like for those left behind. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s second act finds the Hamiltons learning to cope with the loss of their son after his untimely death. While the original version of this song is gorgeous, Kelly Clarkson’s rendition from “The Hamilton Mixtape” will give you chills.
4. ‘Words Fail’ from ‘Dear Evan Hansen’
After revealing his lie and being rejected by the Murphys, Evan hits rock bottom. Ben Platt’s emotional delivery of Evan’s desperation and shattered sense of self will leave you a sobbing mess.
5. ‘Little God of My Heart/Finale’ from ‘Miss Saigon’
Kim’s realization that her dream of being with Chris has come to an end, her desperation for a better life for her son and her eventual suicide all culminate in this tragic final number.
6. ‘She Used to Be Mine’ from ‘Waitress’
Feeling the frustration of living a life she has no say in, Jenna laments all she has been through and the woman she once was. The beautiful melodies are layered with haunting lyrics and an emotional depth that will tug at your heartstrings. Again, both the Broadway version and songwriter Sara Bareilles’ rendition are equally lovely.
7. ‘He’s Not Here’ from ‘Next To Normal’
In this song, Dan gently reminds his wife, Diana, that their son is gone. His words and the haunting melody come together as just one of many emotionally poignant moments in this musical. Have a box of tissues ready for this tear-jerker.
8. ‘Left Behind’ from ‘Spring Awakening’
When Moritz commits suicide, those close to him are left to grapple with his death. The lyrics of “Left Behind” are a touching and bittersweet remembrance of his life — both the good and the bad.
9. ‘Telephone Wire’/‘It Was Great to Have You Home…’ from ‘Fun Home’
This is a heavy one, as a father and daughter struggle to form a bond and grapple with their past. An emotional moment goes from difficult to painful when it’s revealed to be their last night together. When Alison’s father takes his own life, she spirals and questions the entire ordeal.
10. ‘Falling Slowly (Reprise)’ from ‘Once’
The ache and loss of love that can never be serves as the gut-wrenching end of “Once.” After riding the emotional rollercoaster of the relationship between Guy and Girl, there is no fairytale happy ending — just a reality that is as beautiful as it is sad.
11. ‘Finale’ from ‘West Side Story’
This iconic “Romeo and Juliet” love story is set to the soaring melodies of Leonard Bernstein and the poetic words of Stephen Sondheim. Watching Maria sob over what could have been as she and Tony reprise the hopeful “Somewhere” while the remaining characters realize the part they’ve played is enough to break your heart.
12. All of ‘Les Misérables’
This one doesn’t require any explanation. The number of character deaths speaks for itself, and there are too many sad songs to count.
We’ll leave you to go emotionally recover now.
Which musical moments tug at your heartstrings? Let us know in the comments below…