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8 Iconic Theatre Roles For Women

8 March 2017 by Emily Moulder
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It’s International Women’s Day today, and to celebrate we’re looking at some iconic female characters in theatre. Women who are strong, complicated, driven, funny and vulnerable. Characters who are leaders, mothers and revolutionaries. People who are murderous, virtuous and a real riot are real women.

Theatre can sometimes get a little heat for a lack of roles for women, and while there’s always room for improvement, here are a few iconic characters from theatre that any actress would love to play.

Effie White – Dreamgirls

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Photo Credit: Dreamgirls

She’s emotional, ambitious and stronger than you think, this time Effie White is gonna win. Effie is the powerhouse role of the show and we are telllllllling you, and you, and you, you’re gonna love Dreamgirls.

Eva Perón – Evita

Photo Credit: Samantha Pauly as Eva Peron, Marriott Theatre, Chicago
Photo Credit: Samantha Pauly as Eva Peron, Marriott Theatre, Chicago

She was glamorous, she was determined, she was Madonna in the movie, but that’s a different blog post. Evita‘s Eva Perón had a complicated life, both personally, politically and publicly but her short, whirlwind life is a dream role for any performer.

Elphaba – Wicked

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Photo Credit: Wicked/Matt Crocket

Everybody’s favourite high-flying witch, Wicked‘s Elphaba is smart, caring and has a dream to change the world for good. She might have hit a few bumps along the way but her heart was always in the right place.

Mrs. Lovett – Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Photot Credit: Jack Buxbaum. George Hearn and Angela Lansbury in the national touring production of "Sweeney Todd" (photo ran in 1980 and 1989).
Photot Credit: Jack Buxbaum. George Hearn and Angela Lansbury in the national touring production of “Sweeney Todd” (photo ran in 1980 and 1989).

Maker of the worst pies in London, the murderous Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Toddmade famous by Angela Lansbury, is a brilliant Sondheim character. Getting to play funny, weird, dark and dangerous – a performers dream!

Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly – Chicago

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Chicago, Set-ups, Cell Block Tour, September 20, 200. Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik

Straight from Cook County Jail, Chicago‘s Roxie and Velma are killer triple threats. Chicago represents the chance to perform that iconic Bob Fosse choreography, playing Roxie and Velma’s ambition at a different time in the world for women, and the chance to sing the incredible songs of Kander and Ebb.

Mother Courage – Mother Courage And Her Children

Photo Credit: Mother Courage/National Theatre
Photo Credit: Mother Courage/National Theatre

Mother Courage And Her Children is ultimately a story of reaping what you sow, as Mother Courage (pictured – an iconic portrayal by Fiona Shaw at the National Theatre) finds out in this classic Brecht play. Desperate times call for desperate measures and as Mother benefits from the spoils, she ultimately loses everything to war. Many performers lament the lack of roles for older women, citing Mother Courage as one of the few that stand out.

Celie – The Color Purple

Photo Credit: Cynthia Erivo in The Colour Purple
Photo Credit: Cynthia Erivo in The Color Purple

Not a lot of good things happen to The Color Purple‘s Celie, but you’d be hard pressed to find another character that goes on such a journey. From childhood abuse, to a violent marriage then discovering tenderness, affection and how to love herself, Celie gives a performer the chance to be incredibly vulnerable on stage. And the chance to snatch a few trophies – Cynthia Erivo received Best Actress in a Musical at last year’s Tony Awards.

Want more? Interview: Beginning Star Justine Mitchell

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