Valentines Day and Theater: Love and Kisses on Stage Through the Years

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are Broadway plays about love dating back to 1750,  photographs of stage kisses dating back to 1887, and recaps of some of my love and kisses posts dating back to 2012.


Stage Kisses: When a Kiss is Not A Kiss

The same-sex kiss in The Prom is just the latest dramatic moment on stage involving the artful locking of lips. Much theater has revolved around a kiss, certainly in the title: Kiss Me Kate (a Broadway revival of which begins previews today!), Kiss of the Spider Woman, Kiss and Tell, The Kiss Burglar — 26 titles on Broadway alone. Stage Kiss, Sarah Ruhl’s 2014 Off-Broadway play, begins with the actress about to begin rehearsal; turning to her co-star, she asks whether he would mind if they would actually kiss: “You look young, I don’t want to traumatize you.”

Stage kisses are different enough from off-stage kisses as to require guidance, judging by How To Stage Kiss (Set ground rules, pay attention to hygiene, make sure you know your lines) and Tell and Kiss: A Manual for Actors (Boundaries—to tongue or not to tongueFor me, this is an easy one: open mouth, no tongue…. Make sure your makeup won’t rub off on your partner. ..Use good sense. Be respectful. Speak up for yourself.”)

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged and learn who is kissing whom and in what, e.g. Elizabeth Taylor kisses John Culllum in Private Lives in 1983, and Tallulah Bankhead kisses Donald Cook in Private Lives in 1948. Sydney Chaplin kisses Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, 1964. Faith Prince kisses Nathan Lane in Guys and Dolls in 1992. Caitlin Kinnunen kisses Isabelle McCalla in The Prom in 2018.


Most Romantic Theatrical Experience

When asked for their most romantic experience, many theatergoers picked “Phantom of the Opera, but Lourdes Pagan picked Pippin and, after hearing her story, it was hard to disagree. She went to the original Broadway production with a co-worker. He reached for her hand, “and held it for the whole show.
“That was just the beginning,” she recalled in 2013. “It was a little like Romeo and Juliet. My father didn’t like him; his mom didn’t like me.
“We have been married for 35 years. We had two sons and are now grandparents And our parents said it wouldn’t last.”

Love Lessons from the Stage

Can theater teach us anything about love? Yes, answered theatergoers, theater artists, and theater critics in 2012, with some intriguing choices.  Monica Bauer said she learned about love from “Death of A Salesman.” “It taught me that love survives even after respect is gone: Biff will always love Willy, as Willy loved Biff.”

Theater as Love Song

Can any theater define love the way so many songs do?

The musical “Aida” did for Starleisha Gingrich.  “As an African American woman dating a man who is half Irish and half Eastern European, I connected with the love story between Radames and Aida right away,” she says. “To imagine a love so strong that you’re willing to sacrifice your life to be with that person for all eternity….that gets me.” Gingrich was one of several in 2014 who answered the question, “What play has most defined love for you,”

Some Love Songs in Musical Theater


One Hand, One Heart from West Side Story

It Only Takes A Moment from Hello Dolly

Bess You Is My Woman Now from Porgy and Bess

Falling Slowly from Once

Never Ever Getting Rid of Me from Waitress

Always True To You In My Fashion from Kiss Me Kate

Seasons of Love from Rent

Do You Love Me from Fiddler on the Roof

Somewhere from West Side Story


“Love” on Broadway

A list of Broadway shows, alphabetically, that have “love” in the title, more than 200 in all. The earliest is “Love for Love” by William Congreve in 1750, a play that popularized the line “you must not kiss and tell,” and that has been revived on Broadway six times, most recently in 1974. Title in 2015, when this was put together, included Living on Love and Fool for Love. Best titles: “Love in a Coffee Cup,” “Love and Libel,” “Love Laughs,” “Love Kills.”…The longest-running show on Broadway with “love” in the title was: “I Love My Wife,” the Cy Coleman musical from the 1970s, which ran for 857 performances.  Five were performed only once. “Love” doesn’t always last, but it never ends.


Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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