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5 Iconic Broadway Musical Roles for Women

Category Broadway

|by Marshall W. Mabry IV |

In honor of Women’s History month, we’re rounding up five of Broadway’s best leading lady roles

There are a few roles that nearly all legendary Broadway divas are bound to play. From the moment they reach the heights of stardom, some roles naturally seem to come around for them. Everything comes with time, and it seems to be the case for the actresses who portray these characters, who run the gamut from brainy to brassy and everything in between. In honor of March being Women’s History Month, we’re taking a look back at 5 of the most iconic musical theater roles for women.

Dolly Levi, Mama Rose and Elphaba rank among our favorite roles for women (Photos: Joan Marcus; Theo Wargo/WireImage; ‘Wicked’)

Dolly Levi, Mama Rose and Elphaba rank among our favorite roles for women (Photos: Joan Marcus; Theo Wargo/WireImage; ‘Wicked’)

Julie Jordan & Carrie Pipperidge, Carousel
It seems that every decade or so, there’s another timely revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. The last revival starred Tony winners Jessie Mueller and Lindsay Mendez in the roles. Before that, Sally Murphy starred as Julie, alongside newcomer Audra McDonald, who won a Tony for her portrayal of Carrie. The roles require an actress who can play a full emotional wheelhouse, and only the best take them on.

Elphaba, Wicked
Since it opened on June 10, 2003 Wicked has become a cultural phenomenon. Playing the role of Elphaba has become a signifier of a true broadway diva. Past Elphabas include Idina Mendel, Stephanie J. Block, Lilli Cooper, Cassie Levy, Saycon Sengbloh, Eden Espinosa, Jessica Vosk…the list of now-notable names goes on and on. These are women that are now leading shows across the world, and on Broadway, so it looks like donning the green makeup is a rite of passage.

Marian Paroo, The Music Man
Marian the Librarian is THE role. Since The Music Man opened on Broadway in 1957, Marian has become one of the most celebrated roles in musical theater. Marian is known for her bookish charm, and every person to take on this role has brought a new life and light to her. Barbara Cook, Kristen Chenoweth and Jessie Mueller are just three women Broadway loves that have played the role. And, as was just announced this week, in 2020 revival, which will star Hugh Jackman, two-time Tony winner Sutton Foster will join their ranks as River City’s newest librarian.

Mama Rose, Gypsy
Mama Rose is arguably the most coveted role in the musical theater canon. Gypsy is regarded as a perfect piece of theater, and with it comes this powerhouse character of a domineering stage mother who will stop at nothing to make her daughter a success. Merman, Lupone, Peters, Lansbury, Daly – these are Broadway legends we know by their last names alone, and they all have one thing in common. They have all taken “Rose’s Turn.”

Dolly Levi, Hello, Dolly!
And lastly, we have everyone’s favorite matchmaking philanthropist, Dolly Levi, who has been played by everyone from Carol Channing and Pear Bailey to Bette Midler and Donna Murphy. Dolly is the epitome of “elegance.” With the show’s last revival – starring Bette Midler, Donna Murphy, Bernadette Peters and now Betty Buckley – Hello, Dolly! became the season’s must-see show. If you wanted to see a Broadway diva, there was only one place to go to, and it was the Shubert Theatre.

For more of the best of Broadway, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in April 2019


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