Cynthia Erivo, The Color Purple
When Cynthia Erivo opens her mouth to sing, the room falls silent. Seemingly effortlessly, Erivo employs her vocal cords to release a river of sound that trickles through the aisles of the Jacobs Theatre. With the grace of a member of royalty, Erivo captures the essence of courageous Celie’s story in The Color Purple, most notably in the song “I’m Here.” Erivo’s majesty onstage has not gone unnoticed — she won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical.
Ruby Lewis, Cirque du Soleil’s Paramour
When Ruby Lewis takes center stage as the red-headed Hollywood starlet Indigo, no one in the audience would guess that this is her Broadway debut. With the poise of a seasoned leading lady, Lewis impresses with her diverse rolodex of accents and choreographed moments throughout Cirque du Soleil Paramour’s high-flying storyline. Lewis sings, flips and toe-taps through the plot, keeping the audience engaged in Indigo’s desperate need to choose between two lovers — one leading to a dazzling film career and one leading to classic romance. Keep an eye on this actress — our guess is that she’s here on Broadway to stay.
Lesli Margherita, Matilda the Musical
“You’ve got to be loud!” Lesli Margherita, the Olivier Award winner and originator of Mrs. Wormwood on Broadway, has returned to the Shubert Theatre to reprise her hilarious role as Matilda’s nasty mother in the Tim Minchin musical. With her pink and blue outfit paired with a massive blonde wig, Margherita struts onstage, whipping out impressive choreography and ballroom dancer’s splits. If her charm alone does not win your applause, her killer comedic timing will. Run — don’t walk — to the Shubert Theatre to witness Margherita reprise the role which launched her into the hearts of the New York theatergoers.
Carrie St. Louis, Wicked
Stepping into the magnificent bubble of Glinda the Good Witch can be a formidable task — not, however, for Carrie St. Louis. The spunky actress, who made her Broadway debut in Rock of Ages, struts and “toss tosses” her hair eight times a week at the Gershwin Theatre as one of the two witches of Oz. No doubt, St. Louis was built both vocally and comedically to play Glinda — her spot-on timing and tickling inflections leave the audience in stitches, no matter how well one may know the “swankified” musical.
Eloise Kropp, Cats
OK — we know what you’re thinking: “Wait, there is not a leading lady in this musical!” In theory, that conjecture is correct. In this latest revival of the beloved Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, however, Eloise Kropp is the standout performer as the tap-dancing, chastising Jennyanydots. When this actress sheds her costume as the Old Gumby cat, she mesmerizes the audience with her pitch-perfect vocals, despite a striking combination of difficult Andy Blankenbuehler choreography.
Jessie Mueller, Waitress
She already won a Tony Award for her impeccable portrayal of Carole King in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Now, she is bringing audiences to their feet once again in her Tony-nominated performance of Jenna in Sara Bareilles’ first Broadway musical, Waitress. As seen on this year’s installment of the Tony Awards, Mueller’s elegantly captivates as the young, abused waitress, who is attempting to fight her way out of a toxic marriage. From Mueller’s first note onstage to her powerful, moving ballad in “She Used to Be Mine,” she proves both vocally and emotionally that she is one of the fiercest, most awe-inspiring leading ladies of contemporary New York theater.
Mandy Gonzalez, Hamilton
Many theater aficionados will recognize Mandy Gonzalez as the originator of Nina Rosario in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Tony Award-winning masterpiece, In the Heights. Today, Gonzalez is back as Miranda’s leading lady, Angelica Schyuler, in the blockbuster that is Hamilton. Gonzalez, stepping into the role originated by Tony Award winner Renée Elise Goldsberry, encompasses the power and strength needed onstage to showcase real-life Angelica Schyuler’s drive and determination. Gonzalez is a perfect addition to the Hamilton family with a performance that is reminiscent to her days belting out as Nina Rosario.
Lora Lee Gayer, Holiday Inn: The New Irving Berlin Musical
With her powdered pink dress and gorgeous red curls, Lora Lee Gayer embodies the air of a leading lady with her first steps onstage. Once she begins to sing, she solidifies her role as a force on Broadway. Last seen in Doctor Zhivago on Broadway, Gayer’s powerful vocals and commanding presence have been missed from the New York theater scene. No doubt, Gayer shines as the daunting love interest of both the dashing Ted (Corbin Bleu) and Jim (Bryce Pinkham).
Denée Benton, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
Our first encounter with Denée Benton’s haunting voice was during a summer installment of Broadway in Bryant Park; from Benton’s first note, the crowd went wild. Clearly, this Broadway newcomer possesses the skill and prowess to command the stage, even next to a musical powerhouse like Josh Groban.
Chilina Kennedy, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
When Chilina Kennedy sits down at the piano during the first scene of Beautiful, the audience is transported to a 1970s Carole King concert. Kennedy effectively embodies the chameleon who is Carole King, honoring the legendary vocalist with her own unique spin. To journey back to the age of the Drifters and the Shirelles, look no further than Kennedy’s stellar performance at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.