5 Showtunes to Remind You Love Is Not All Sunshine and Rainbows

Love: Hollywood’s favorite subject. Love: sometimes a beautiful hallmark card, other times a bouquet of roses. Love: always sold as a fantasy, always approached as a prize to claim, yet rarely exposed for the depth of pain it can elicit. Love songs are always about one of three things, as the lyrics to “You’ve Let Yourself Go” remind listeners — the guy meets the girl, the guy gets the girl, or the guy loses the girl (always in dramatic, heart-aching fashion). But what about the rest? What about the difficulties? What about the fights and the betrayals and the lies and the neglect and the lost attraction? What about the truth? The five showtunes below (from Broadway and Off-Broadway productions) visit the darker side of love — the pain that comes from a loved one when they disappoint. 

Broadway showtunes
Broadway at the Palace Theatre on March 19, 2009, in New York City | Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

1. “I’m Still Hurting” from ‘The Last Five Years’ 

Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years recounts the five-year journey a couple takes from falling in love to falling apart. Yet, the show’s non-chronological fashion keeps the viewers in a state of emotional unrest — shifting rapidly from satisfying serendipity to somber sorrow and tearjerking trouble. “I’m Still Hurting” opens with the Cathy singing of the man who gets to decide it all. He gets to decide when it starts and when it ends — while she remains fixated on her loss, on her pain, on the fact that he is “over and gone,” while she has “nowhere to turn.” He decides it is time to move on, as she comes to claim the scars she did “nothing to earn.”

2.  “Not a Day Goes By” from ‘Merrily We Roll Along’

Sondheim writes about a woman who admits that she still loves the man who has been unfaithful to her. However, she cannot live with him knowing what he has done. Though she can’t accept his actions, she will “die day after day after day” until the days go by, and she will not spend one single day on thoughts unrelated to the man she has lost; she will, for the rest of her days, comes to terms with who she is without him, who he was to her, and who he longer can be. From “cursing and crying” to “waking” and “dying,” she has experienced love and betrayal, and now faces the lifelong heartache bound to follow suit, as he will always be “somewhere, a part of [her] life” and he “won’t’ go away.” 

3. “Stars and the Moon” from ‘Songs for a New World’

Stars and the Moon is a bittersweet, fast-paced love song about a woman who says no to all the men who offer her passion, all the men who offer her sincere love, all the men who offer her “stars and the moon.” Why? She dreams of a life like the movie stars lead. She dreams of champagne and yachts and Hollywood plots over true romance. And finally, she meets that man; they “honeymoon in Beijing.” She meets a man with a “fortune in the back,” who provides a “townhouse in turtle bay.” Yet, when the dust settles and the years go by, it doesn’t change, nor does it grow. She awakes one day and thinks, “My god, I’ll never have the moon.” 

4. “Losing My Mind” from ‘Follies’

This time around, Sondheim has written a Broadway tune about unrequited love. Need we say more when it comes to the lyrical genius who uses perfect rhyme to capture the intensity of every emotion and the complexity of thought tied to every single — some minor, others major  — human experience? “The sun comes up, I think about you.” “The coffee cup, I think about you.” She thinks about him at all moments, so intensely; she is so preoccupied with the man she might as well be “losing [her] mind.” 

5. “See, I’m Smiling” from ‘The Last Five Years’

Once again, Cathy comes in with the truth, yet this song stars out quite positive and takes a turn. When the man she’s been trying to fix her marriage with, Jamie, comes to visit her in Ohio (where she is starring in a low-budget stage production), she is happy to see him. She is happy he has made the time for her. However, she finds out he can’t stay for her show — as he hasn’t fully fit the visit into his busy schedule of parties and get-togethers tied to his recent success as an author. Such news leads her down a path of warranted hellfire. She thought he would stay with her on her birthday, but “god forbid [he] even see [her] show,’ for “if it’s not about [him],” it’s not the priority. She comes to accept that through all the anguish he has put her through, all the times he has failed to live up to expectations, she will never understand one thing: how he “can stand there, straight and tall, and see [she’s] crying, and not do anything at all.”