A "Couple" of Laughs - Comedy Duets for Valentine's Day
A month ago, I wrote a piece on the anti-love song, exploring the bitter and the scorned characters of Broadway musicals. With Valentine's Day just a few days away, I suppose I should provide an antidote to all the vitriol and tears. Since the straightforward love song is not particularly my bag, I have decided to celebrate Hallmark's pay dirt by reveling in my ten favorite musical comedy duets about love. It's not as romantic a topic, but infinitely more sincere and satisfying.
Top Ten Comedy Duets for Valentine's Day
10. "The Song That Goes Like This" from Spamalot
If you are going to spoof a musical, you undoubtedly have to skewer the love songs of this entertainment genre. It truly is funny to think about two lovers, so close to each other's faces, singing with gusto and spitting everywhere. "The Song That Goes Like This" from Spamalot takes the Broadway musical love song and elevates it to the most ridiculous of satires. It even takes the time to acknowledge the dramatic change-of-key that punctuates the growing intensity and passion is many romantic duets. It is hilarity on a grand scale.
9. "Nothing Is Too Wonderful to Be True" from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Pretending to be handicapped to try to win the lady (for her money) is a dirty rotten thing to do, especially when the lady is a little off her beam. American Soap Queen Christine Colgate is nuts, so she seemingly falls for Freddy Benson's elaborate ruse that includes a wheelchair and a guilt trip. As she sings a torchy love song about the moon and all the wonderful things in the world, he responds by listing the miracles that inspire him: hotels giving out free shampoo, Krazy Glue, winning a free set of tires. He gets his comeuppance in the end, though, when it turns out that she is a con artist scamming him. "Nothing Is Too Wonderful to Be True" has a gorgeous, sweeping romantic melody and transitions from an earnest love song into a great comedy duet.
8. "Agony" from Into the Woods
Two princes, each with perpetual erections, run around in the woods looking for maidens in distress (or is it maidens to undress?). "Agony" is such a terrific comic duet about the wandering eye of lust and how certain men are disgustingly comfortable with treating women as mountains to be climbed, then setting them aside for a new adventure. What makes the duet work is how expertly it paints their world while simultaneously making them look like the heels that they are. Sex does not equal love, gentlemen!
7. "Sue Me" from Guys & Dolls
Long engagements are usually a prudent idea. It gives a couple a chance to really get to know each other before taking the big plunge into marriage. Miss Adelaide has been engaged for fourteen years, and just as her gambler of a fiancée Nathan Detroit seems as though he will tie the knot, he loses a bet that forces him to miss their elopement. Adelaide finally tells him off in this hysterical duet that is equal parts diatribe and pathetic pleading. His only response: "Call a lawyer and sue me, sue me, what can you do me? I love you."
6. "All Er Nothin'" from Oklahoma!
Ado Annie Carnes likes the boys. In fact, she has a bit of a reputation for letting them go too far. Cowboy Will Parker wants to marry Ado Annie, but wants her to get her impulses in-check. I don't know if its all the layers of petticoats that gets her so hot in the pants, but Ado Annie vows to Will, through this comic interchange, that she will be his one and only. Maybe that wind sweeping down the plain will cool her off enough to say "No."
5. "The Tennis Song" from City of Angels
When the Detective named Stone shows up at the Hollywood palace of Alaura Kingsley, he is invited into a sexually explicit game of tennis. Sexual innuendos are volleyed back and forth as the match becomes a heated metaphor for unbridled lust (and ultimately, deception). David Zippel's lyrics seethe with libidinous overtones, punctuated by Cy Coleman's saucy melody.
4. "A Little Priest" from Sweeney Todd
Never, in musical theatre history, has the idea of cannibalism been, shall I go there, so delicious! Human beings seldom connect in this world, and it is understandable that murder can be a shared experience that creates bonds. Barber Sweeney Todd and his meat pie-making neighbor Mrs. Lovett devise a plan to perform multiple murders and to hide the bodies in her wares. This gruesome pact disintegrates into a laugh-riot, comedy duet that explores the many flavors of human flesh. It's the little things that bring us together.
3. "You Must Meet My Wife" from A Little Night Music
Every man must try the tactic of seducing a former lover by extolling the virtues of his much younger, much newer model. I imagine that this must work quite well. It certainly did for Fredrik Egerman in A Little Night Music as he aggravates the paramour of his youth, aging actress Desiree Armfeldt, by relating to her the insipid innocence of his child bride Anne. In the end, Desiree helps him see the errors of his ways and proves that youth cannot hold a candle to experience.
2. "Come Up to My Place" from On the Town
All the poor boy wants to do is see every famous site in his father's dated NYC guidebook. Boy jumps into cab to do so. Boy meets girl: a sassy cabdriver who has designs about getting him up to her place. As he lists each destination that he wants to go, she truthfully informs him that each locale is either no longer there, or has been outshined by something new. She assures him that the best time will be had in her apartment. Despite his protests, she stands her ground and, wouldn't you know, she gets the pretty little sailor boy exactly where she wants him; her place!
1. "You're Just In Love" from Call Me Madam
The fact that this song starts as two separate solos about the pangs of love, and then comes together in counterpoint, makes it one of my favorite musical duets of all time. Sally Adams, the newly-appointed U.S. ambassador to Lichtenburg, offers support to her assistant and friend Kenneth Gibson who seems to think he is going crazy. Through her assertive advice, she helps him realize that his mental instability is caused by nothing other than Cupid's arrow.
Mental instability = love, and that, my friends, sums it all up perfectly. Happy Valentine's Day. May you lose your mind with great joy and a little dignity still in tact.