This was a hard list to put together. More and more musicals are being released with fantastic roles for women that empower us and remind us of the strength of a woman's spirit. But there are some roles that just stick with you long after you've performed them, or long after you've watched them from the audience. Here are the ones that stuck with us - what we think are the best musical theatre roles for women.
Eva Peron - Evita
Evita is a brilliant and powerful musical about Eva Peron, the infamous wife of Argentine political leader Juan Peron. She was a driving force for women's suffrage in Argentina, and even started the country's first female political party. Paired with a required vocal range that comes compulsory with any Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, this is a show that requires a powerhouse performer.
Mama Rose - Gypsy
Mama Rose features on a lot of actor's performance bucket lists, and it's easy to see why. Played by the likes of Patti LuPone and Bernadette Peters, this role has very few breaks and requires the actor to carry so much of the weight of the score. An exhausting yet rewarding role for any performer.
Celie - The Color Purple
Celie's role in The Color Purple requires not only a killer set of vocals, but some pretty impressive acting chops as well. The story arc spans over 45 years of her life, meaning the actor needs to be able to play a vast range of ages with ease. With only one short break in each act, this is a physical challenge as well as an emotional one.
Elphaba and Glinda - Wicked
We just couldn't choose between these two incredible women for this list! Both Elphaba and Glinda undergo incredible transformations throughout the show, and these are great roles that really celebrate female friendship. Plus, Elphaba gets some of the biggest power ballads in modern musical theatre history.
Elle Woods - Legally Blonde the Musical
Elle Woods consistently makes the list for strong female leads in theatre, and this is no exception. By the end of the first act, she realises that her own personal success is more important than changing herself for a man, and continues down a path to becoming a successful lawyer while also being her authentic self. Of the 18 musical numbers in the show, Elle is missing from only one of them - a huge undertaking for a performer!
Jenna - Waitress
Waitress follows the story of Jenna, a woman trapped in an unforgiving relationship in an equally unforgiving town. She escapes the pain of her life by baking pies at the diner where she waitresses, and throughout the play we see her begin to find herself, and except the love she really deserves.
At its core, Waitress is truly a story about women. All three waitresses pave paths for themselves in a world that wasn't made for them, and uplift and inspire each other to follow their dreams. This celebration of female friendship is what makes Waitress so wonderful. Plus, the story was created and written by a team of all women!
Angelica and Eliza Schuyler - Hamilton
Hamilton very quickly took over the theatre world, and with this historic show came two strong sisters who display their power in vastly different ways. Angelica spends her life fighting for change and equality, while Eliza finds her strength after her entire life is pulled out from underneath her. For a show set in a period where women were frequently without a voice, these two roles amplify women's stories and empower audiences.
Kim - Miss Saigon
Not only does this role take a physical and emotional toll on the body, it is absolutely gut-wrenching for the audience. We meet Kim at 17 years old, and as the play unfolds we speed through her life to a point where she has a child and chooses to take her own life to save him - all in a 2 hour period. This is one of the most challenging roles in musical theatre for a young actor, but if they can pull it off... it will get them noticed.
Effie White - Dreamgirls
Effie may seem like a smaller role, but she is a huge undertaking, so much so that in the West End production of Dreamgirls the role of Effie was shared by three performers! Each of Effie's songs are powerful solo moments, and the acting range requires the actor to play her from a very young to a fully-grown adult with a child of her own.
Caroline - Caroline, or Change
Set against the backdrop of the American Civil Rights movement, Caroline, or Change looks at how a nation and its people deal with change. Caroline's role requires a huge character arc, and she rarely leaves the stage. This is a great challenge for a performer who wants to test their stamina on stage, and bring to life a character that has such immense strength within her.
Alison - Fun Home
After the unexpected death of her father, Alison is forced to confront his secrets that come to light. Shifting between past and present, we meet present-day Alison, college-age Alison, and child Alison, each on the brink of their own discoveries about themselves. All three Alison's are played by different actors, so in collaboration with the other two Alison's, you get to present a beautiful story about recognizing yourself, coming to terms with your sexuality, and how these things can define a relationship with your family.
Elsa - Frozen
Besides the fact that performing as Elsa would give you magical powers and awe-inspiring costume changes, Elsa is a fantastic character to play. She's an independent, powerful woman who refuses to dull herself for any prince. Frozen is also a great representation of the unwavering bond between sisters.
Bea - Something Rotten
Bea is a strong, independent woman who wants to do everything she can to help her husband. She continuously defies the gender roles that are thrust upon her, and when Nick refuses her help she disguises herself and goes out to work jobs that are apparently only for men. Disguising herself as a lawyer, she saves her husband from being beheaded and gets them to America. Continuously funny and constantly breaking out of her box, Bea is a fantastic feminist character to sink your teeth into!
Dolly Levi - Hello, Dolly!
Hello, Dolly is set in 1890s New York City and features Dolly Levi, a widow and socialite-turned-matchmaker. The show has become one of the most enduring musical theater hits, with four Broadway revivals and international success. Dolly is a great role to tackle because she's strong woman who, despite her times, continuously proves her independence.
Emma - The Prom
Emma displays an incredible amount of courage for the entirety of The Prom. When we first meet Emma, her high school prom has been cancelled for the PTA because she wanted to bring her girlfriend as her date. She faces humiliation, homophobia, and a number of people trying to control her narrative. When Emma decides she is proud of who she is and won't hide anymore, it becomes a catalyst for love and acceptance of both herself and other LGBTQ+ kids, resulting in a prom where Emma can take her girlfriend and be proud.
What would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!