I’ll often day dream about becoming a West End icon, lighting up the stage with the perfect song, the perfect line – and the perfect part. Just me then? Good. Musicals are a fantastic way of losing yourself in the often unbelievable story – a romance or a heartbreak or two, interspersed the a couple of dance breaks and some really good musical numbers.
Luckily, over the years there have been some classic female roles immortalised by some classic female singers, actresses and sometimes dancers – and maybe all three. As a former thespian and all round wannabe broadway star, I often ponder on which roles I’d love to have a go at. And not only that – I often wonder which female roles have been the best. Here are some of my favourites.
The karaoke classic
I think it is probably fair to say that in the using songs from musicals in your karaoke repertoire stakes, Grease is up there as a total classic. Both as a film and on stage (although the stage version was pretty poor), the musical is one of my all time favourites. John Travolta swinging his hips and curling his lips, excellent songs, a cheesy love story, school day angst and the fifties clothing makes this an undeniable hit. If you don’t like, I’d say you are dead inside.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGwVLJrhw5Q] As far as who was the best female character, it is without a doubt Rizzo. No question. Sandy, apart from that immortal line “tell me about it, stud“, is one of the most annoying characters ever to be created on stage and screen, and if I played her, I’d never get to sing There Are Worse Things I Could Do or chip in with a surly “he sounds like a drag“.
From the depths of history
There are some true classic in the world of musicals – Gershwin, Cole Porter and Rogers & Hammerstein all created some greats, immortalised by some of our musical royalty such as Natalie Wood and Julie Andrews. There are so many historical and groundbreaking roles for women to choose here, and I was lucky enough to play Eliza Doolittle on stage at age eighteen. Cue me learning both a cockney and posh accent, wearing a Kate Bush style wig and nearly losing my skirt during the very high note of I Could Have Danced All Night.
Eliza Doolittle might have clinched it for me…but then I only have to remember anything created by Doris Day…ever, to know that the character I most love from the back catalogue of historical musicals would be Calamity Jane. The original Miss Congeniality, this character was a sharp shootin’, straight talking, cowboy and indian chasing goddess – who got the guy of her dreams without compromising her sass.
Where rockers unite
Rock musicals, or operas as it were, have become even more common as the stage musical timeline has progressed. Where Jesus Christ Superstar began, musicals such as Fame (they had a punk rocking drummer called Grace Lamb in it – so much fun to play!), We Will Rock You and Rock Of Ages have carried on.
But none of these shows have really great rock star female roles that are both complex and sing their hearts out. Enter newcomer on the block American Idiot (the musical made up of Green Day songs), and the character Whatsername. She’s a rebel, crazed with sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll and she gets to angrily sing the Green day track Letterbomb to a cowering guy. Yep, I’ll take hat one.
High class comedy
Comedy female roles in musicals are sparse – for some reason the guys get all the funnies and it’s something I’m not happy about (I’m looking at you Singing In The Rain). However, Guys and Dolls, not necessarily known for being a particularly comedic musical has one of the best female characters in it ever – Adelaide. Not only does she sport some of the best costumes in the show, she also sings a song about getting a cold because her errant fiancée Nathan Detroit won’t marry her. Alright, it isn’t very “right on” for these times, but it is bloody hilarious.
“In other words, just from worrying if the wedding is on or off, a person can develop a cough”[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o51Lbuf7e0o]
The one with the pop star
I don’t need to say much here. However you feel about Madonna, she absolutely killed it as Eva Peron in Evita, despite all the naysayers and the harbingers of doom. I love that film musical. I loved her in it. For a while I listened to a lot of Madonna after watching it.
Who doesn’t want to be Eva Person standing on that balcony singing Don’t Cry For Me Argentina? What I’d really like to do though is flit about a train singing Buenos Aires. Man, she looks so cool in that.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aK7Nr8ag0aE]From the depths of musical history past and present, which female stage icon do you love?
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