Inspirational Female Characters In Musical Theatre Part 3
One of my very first blog posts featured ten of my favourite inspirational female characters in musical theatre in honour of Women’s History Month, and it has become a yearly tradition.
So, here I am with PART THREE for 2021!
Gloria Estefan - On Your Feet!
On Your Feet tells the real-life story of pop sensations Gloria and Emilio Estefan from their first meeting, professional and romantic relationship, to their success and influence in the music industry.
Gloria and Emilio Estefan have had a huge influence on the music industry in being one of the first acts to successfully cross-over to the mainstream for Pop music while staying true to their Latin roots.
Over the course of the musical, we see the duo face pressure to become mainstream for English-speaking audiences, in changing their names, and leaving the Latin influences out of their music. The Estefans stayed true to who they are, and found success in doing so.
The stage show also covers Gloria’s tragic bus accident, road to recovery, and her eventual return to the stage.
On top of all these experiences, she is a wife, mother, artist, and entrepreneur who always carries herself with grace, positivity and strength. She’s a dreamer, who is fearless in pursuit of her dreams.
Jo March - Little Women
Based on the novel of the same name, Little Women tells the story of the March sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy as they come of age in America during the Civil War.
The story is told in flashback, as Jo, an aspiring author, tells their story after being advised to write more from the heart.
Jo is a woman ahead of her time, and is constantly fighting the terms society sets out for her. She refuses to be locked into any destiny but their own.
She isn’t afraid to fight for herself, but she also fights for her family, determined to keep them safe, healthy, and thriving, even sacrificing her own hair to pay for her mother’s trip to bring her wounded father home from the war.
Her family and her writing are her top priorities and she’s single minded in her pursuit.
Along the way, she comes to realize that letting in the right kind of love doesn’t mean putting your dreams on hold.
Barbara Maitland - Beetlejuice
Following a plot line similar to the original film, the musical focuses on the recently deceased Adam and Barbara Maitland, who turn to ‘bio-exorcist’ Beetlejuice when their former home is inhabited by the wealthy Deetz family. The Maitlands begin to haunt the house, hoping to scare away the newcomers. The two ghosts quickly form an unexpected bond with Lydia Deetz, a teenage girl mourning the loss of her mother. Beetlejuice works to aid the three in hopes that he can convince Lydia to summon him by saying his name three times.
Barbara is adaptable, and I love her character journey in the stage show!
She starts the show with insecurities which holds her back from moving forward with the big plans in her life.
Everything changes when she finds herself recently deceased alongside her husband, Adam. Their afterlife isn’t easy between a new family taking over their house, a ghost-demon who is more scary than helpful, and a teenage girl who needs someone to fight for her.
Barbara’s death brings her a new lease on life, giving her the confidence to make decisions, face her fears, and embrace a new kind of family.
Elsa and Anna - Frozen
This stage adaptation of the hit Disney film follows a similar storyline.
After being hidden away most of her life for powers she cannot control, Elsa finally enters the world outside the castle when she is crowned queen. When she accidentally sets off an eternal winter in the kingdom, her sister Anna, along with her new friends, follows her to the North Mountain to bring back summer.
I love shows that focus on the love between sisters, especially when both sisters are so powerful in different ways.
Elsa’s strength lies in her vulnerability. Once she lets go of her fears and is able to open up, she gains control of her ice powers, and of her life.
Anna’s biggest strength is her optimism and ability to connect with those around her. She’s fearless as she fights for her sister and her kingdom, and embraces everyone she meets.
The show tells us that the love of family, birth or chosen, is the most powerful love there is, as well as the fact that as women, we are stronger together.
Diana and Natalie - Next To Normal
Next To Normal is a rock musical about a typical American family hiding mental illness from the world. Diana Goodman has been struggling with bipolar depressive illness and delusions for seventeen years following the passing of her infant son. The show recognizes the strain her mental illness puts on her family, and their struggle to find their own “normal.”
This mother-daughter duo has such a special place in my heart.
While the story focuses on Diana’s journey with mental illness and how it affects her family, it covers Natalie’s own struggles as she works to cope with her family and her own mental illnesses.
I love the realistic way this show presents mental illness and grief in a family setting.
Tina Turner - Tina!
Tina is the story of the iconic Tina Turner, from her humble beginning in Nutbush, Tennessee, to rock and roll icon, as well as her personal and professional relationship with Ike Turner.
While most people know who Tina Turner is, most people, myself included, didn’t find out about all the hardships she had to face before becoming the legend she is.
The show presents the various challenges she had to face such as an abusive relationship, an overdose, and her choice to leave Ike personally and professionally.
We then get to see her find success in a solo career, fight for what she wants, and begin to heal.
Janet Weiss - The Rocky Horror Show
Newly engaged sweethearts Brad and Janet start off on a trip to visit their old friend and mentor Dr. Everett Scott. When their car breaks down during a thunderstorm, they seek shelter at a castle belonging to the mysterious Dr. Frank N Furter. They soon discover that the doctor is celebrating his newest project, that he has made a man (with blond hair and a tan), who is to be born that very night - and Brad and Janet find themselves trapped to bear witness to this once in a lifetime event.
Fans of Rocky Horror LOVE to hate Janet… And I totally get it.
Like every other character in this cult classic musical, she’s a caricature and an archetype brought to life with a high level of camp.
Yeah, she’s a little annoying… But she does literally survive alien abduction, so that gives her points for sure.
So let’s take the Rocky glasses off for a minute and look again.
At her core, Janet is a young woman exploring her sexuality and beginning to find herself through the new opportunities presented. Circumstances aside, it’s something most people experience, and as much as it’s fun to yell at her in context of the show, I love her because she’s someone relatable.
(I too, would be whiny if I had to walk through a thunderstorm only to be held captive in a castle by aliens.)
Donna Sheridan - Mamma Mia!
Donna Sheridan is hard at work preparing for her daughter Sophie’s upcoming wedding. What she doesn’t know is that Sophie has invited the three men who could possibly be her father to the event, hoping to meet her father and have him walk her down the aisle.
Even though we meet Donna as a hard-working single mom, we quickly learn that in her past she was an adventurer and free spirit. It’s something she still longs for, but despite her desires for a better life for herself and her daughter, she works hard every single day to keep the one they have happy.
Daisy and Violet Hilton - SideShow
Side Show is based on the real life story of conjoined twins, Daisy and Violet Hilton and their rise to fame as entertainers on the vaudeville circuit.
I love Violet and Daisy so much.
If you have seen the show, you know the hardships they had to endure: abuse, being outcast from society, and even being taken advantage of in the vaudeville circuit.
But these girls and fighters and dreamers. They keep pushing to reach their dreams both in their personal and professional lives. Despite all the hurt and heartbreak, they are determined to find love and happiness.
The Hilton sisters have a special relationship dependent on each other, and I love seeing a show that focuses on the bond between sisters.
Click the links below to discover more of my favourite strong female characters in musical theatre, and leave a comment to share who inspires you!