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March 5, 2021

Musicals Featuring Notable Women in History

2017 West End production of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (Tristram Kenton)

From the worlds of show biz, politics, literature and business, these women made an indelible mark on humanity. Celebrate their achievements with this list of dynamic musicals about renowned historical figures.

Annie Get Your Gun Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin / Original Book by Herbert Fields and Dorothy Fields (US/UK)
(Comedy / 3f, 6m, 2 girls, 1 boy + Ensemble)
Who: Annie Oakley, Sharpshooter (1860-1926)
Synopsis: In 1885, Annie Oakley, expert sharpshooter, earns a place in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Though she falls for headliner Frank Butler, she soon eclipses him as the main attraction which – while good for business – is bad for romance. Their rousing, sure-fire final shootout hits the mark every time in a testament to the power of female ingenuity.

Anastasia: The Musical Book by Terrence McNally / Music by Stephen Flaherty / Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens / Inspired by the Twentieth Century Fox Motion Pictures by special arrangement with Buena Vista Theatrical / From the play by Marcelle Maurette as adapted by Guy Bolton (US/UK)
(Full Length Musical, Dramatic Comedy / 4f, 5m, 1girl(s)
Who: Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia
Synopsis: This dazzling show transports its audience from the twilight of the Russian Empire to the euphoria of Paris in the 1920s, as a brave young woman sets out to discover the mystery of her past. Pursued by a ruthless Soviet officer determined to silence her, Anya enlists the aid of a dashing con man and a lovable ex-aristocrat. Together, they embark on an epic adventure to help her find home, love and family.

Asylum: The Strange Case of Mary Lincoln Book by June Bingham / Music and Lyrics by Carmel Owen (US/UK)
(Drama / 3f, 4m)
Who: Mary Todd Lincoln, First Lady of the United States (1818-1882)
Synopsis: Asylum explores the dark psychological warfare and unique historical conditions that drove Robert Lincoln to have his mother wrongfully committed to an insane asylum after the death of her husband, President Abraham Lincoln. Imprisoned at a time when women had few rights, Mary must draw on all her strength and cleverness to fight the system and set herself free. A haunting character study of a strong-willed woman and a dangerous man, Asylum sheds light on a fascinating time in American history.

Evita Lyrics by Tim Rice / Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber (US)
(Drama / 2f, 3m + Ensemble)
Who: Eva Peron, First Lady of Argentina (1919-1952)
Synopsis: Evita charts the young and ambitious Eva Peron’s meteoric rise to “sainthood.” Set in Argentina between 1934-1952, the Tony-winning musical follows Eva Duarte on her journey from poor illegitimate child to ambitious actress to, as wife of military leader-turned-president Juan Peron, the most powerful woman in Latin America, before her death from cancer at age 33.

Eleanor – An American Love Story Music by Thomas Tierney / Lyrics by John Forster / Book by Jonathan Bolt (US/UK)
(Drama / 2f, 2m, 1girl + Ensemble)
Who: Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the United States, diplomat & Activist (1884-1962)
Synopsis: A hit at regional theaters across America, Eleanor – An American Love Story chronicles the remarkable journey of the shy, insecure aristocrat who was destined to become First Lady of the World. Warmth, humor and insight inform the evolving relationship between young Eleanor and Franklin, their passionate courtship, tumultuous marriage and the courage that eventually lead to Eleanor’s emergence as a compelling catalyst for social change.

First Daughter Suite Words and Music by Michael John LaChiusa (US/UK)
(Dramatic Comedy / 7f)
Who: Five First Ladies of the United States and their daughters (1918-present)
Synopsis: Tony Award nominee Michael John LaChiusa imagines the inner lives and dreams of America’s best-known daughters with a funny and moving follow-up to his 1993 musical First Lady Suite. A historical fantasia in four parts, First Daughter Suite follows Patricia Nixon and daughters Tricia and Julie, Rosalynn and Amy Carter, Betty and Susan Ford, Patti Davis and mom Nancy Reagan, and Barbara Bush and daughter-in-law Laura as they strive to live meaningful lives in the public eye, while dealing with the complex private relationships all of us face with our parents and children.

Funny Girl Music by Jule Styne / Lyrics by Bob Merrill / Book by Isobel Lennart (US/UK)
(Dramatic Comedy / 3f, 3m + Ensemble)
Who: Fanny Brice, comedian (1891-1951)
Synopsis: In the Ziegfeld Follies, in Hollywood films, and on the radio, Fanny Brice was one of the most celebrated entertainers of her time. With humor, talent, and chutzpah, young Fanny, an awkward Jewish girl who “isn’t pretty,” defies the odds and becomes one of the greatest stars of her generation. Fanny’s rise to superstardom and her turbulent romance with gambler Nick Arnstein are explored through Bob Merrill and Jule Styne’s unforgettable score.

Goodtime Charley Book by Sidney Michaels / Music by Larry Grossman / Lyrics by Hal Hackady (US)
(Dramatic Comedy / 7f, 15m)
Who: Joan of Arc, French heroine and Roman Catholic saint (1412-1431)
Synopsis: In this Tony Award nominee, which originally starred Joel Grey and Ann Reinking, Charles the Dauphin meets his match in the Maid of Orleans, Joan of Arc. With her prodding and inspiration, “Goodtime Charley” grows from a fun-loving womanizer into Charles VII, King of France. Joan, meanwhile, follows her voices to a greater fate as martyr and saint.

The King and I Music by Richard Rodgers / Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II (US/UK)
(Drama / 3f, 4m, 2 boys + Ensemble)
Who: Anna Leonowens, writer, educator and social activist (1831-1915)
Synopsis: In 1862, an English widow named Anna Leonowens sails to the Royal Palace in Bangkok, Siam, to serve as tutor to the monarch’s many children and wives. The King, largely considered a “barbarian” by those in the West, seeks Anna’s assistance in changing his image, if not his ways. With both maintaining a firm grip on their respective traditions and values, Anna and the King grow to understand and respect one another in a truly unique love story.

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill by Lanie Robertson (US)
(Drama / 1f, 1m)
Who: Billie Holiday, singer (1915-1959)
Synopsis: The time is 1959. The place is a seedy bar in Philadelphia. The audience is about to witness one of Billie Holiday’s last performances, given four months before her death. More than a dozen musical numbers are interlaced with salty, often humorous reminiscences to project a riveting portrait of the fascinating lady and her music.

Love, Linda (The Life of Mrs. Cole Porter) Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter / Book by Stevie Holland, with Gary William Friedman (US/UK)
(Dramatic Comedy / 1f)
Who: Linda Lee Thomas, socialite and wife of Cole Porter (1883-1954)
Synopsis: Love, Linda is a one-woman musical about Linda Lee Thomas, the Southern beauty who married – and was a driving force behind – legendary songwriter Cole Porter. In this tour-de-force solo show, Thomas candidly recounts, through song and story, her life’s journey with Cole Porter. Though Porter was gay, their companionship and love lasted through 35 years of marriage and a spectacular, glamour-filled life.

Minnie’s Boys Book by Arthur Marx and Robert Fisher / Music by Larry Grossman / Lyrics by Hal Hackady (US/UK)
(Comedy / 8f, 16m)
Who: Minnie Marx, manager and mother of the Marx Brothers (1865-1929)
Synopsis: Head of the family and a driving force in the success of her sons, Minnie Marx was a gutsy, tender matriarch and a shrewd businesswoman. In this touching, song-filled celebration of the origins of the show-business legends, Minnie gives birth to a generation of laughter in the form of the maddest, merriest quintet that ever drove a mother (and later, the whole world) wild.

The Sound of Music Music by Richard Rodgers / Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II / Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse (US/UK)
(Dramatic Comedy / 7f, 4m, 5 girls, 2 boys + Ensemble)
Who: Maria von Trapp, writer and matriarch of the Trapp Family Singers (1905-1987)
Synopsis: In Austria, 1938, an exuberant young governess brings music and joy back to a broken family, only to face danger and intrigue as the Nazis gain power. The inspirational story, based on the memoir of Maria Augusta Trapp, follows the ebullient postulate who, as governess to the seven children of the imperious Captain Von Trapp, brings music and joy to the household. But as the forces of Nazism take hold of Austria, Maria and the entire Von Trapp family face a moral dilemma.

27 Rue de Fleurus (My Life with Gertrude) Book and Lyrics by Ted Sod / Music and Lyrics by Lisa Koch (US)
(Dramatic Comedy / 5-12f)
Who: Gertrude Stein, novelist, poet and playwright (1874-1946) and partner Alice B. Toklas (1877-1967)
Synopsis: Unlike most of the stage works about Gertrude and Alice, 27 Rue de Fleurus is told from Alice’s point of view. Alice tries to set the record straight about being Gertrude Stein’s life partner for nearly 40 years. The celebrated couple confronts each other about love, marriage, jealousy, genius and a few other delicious topics while Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mabel Dodge, Sylvia Beach and even Jean Harlow drop by for a visit.

Queen of the Mist Words and Music by Michael John LaChiusa (US/UK)
(Drama / 3f, 4m)
Who: Anna Edson Taylor, First woman over Niagara Falls (1838-1921)
Synopsis: In 1901, 63-year-old Anna Edson Taylor set out to be the first woman to shoot Niagara Falls in a barrel of her own design. Navigating both the treacherous Falls and a fickle public with a ravenous appetite for sensationalism, this unconventional heroine vies for her legacy in a world clamoring with swindling managers, assassins, revolutionaries, moralizing family, anarchists and activists. With a soaring score that incorporates turn-of-the-century themes with LaChiusa’s signature complexity and insight, Queen of the Mist is the story of a single great fall, and how one woman risked death so that she could live.

SIX By Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Dramatic Comedy / 6f)
Who: Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536), Anne Boleyn (1533-1536), Jane Seymour (c. 1508-1537), Anna of Cleves (1515-1557), Catherine Howard (c. 1521-25 – 1542) and Catherine Parr (1512-1548), wives of Henry VIII
Synopsis: Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss transformed the SIX wives of Henry VIII to Pop Princesses. The Tudor Queens take the mic to remix five hundred years of historical heartbreak into an exuberant celebration of 21st-century girl power at a pop concert setting, hoping to gain the band’s lead singer position by winning the audiences’ affection for having the worst experience with the King.

War Paint Book by Doug Wright / Music by Scott Frankel / Lyrics by Michael Korie (US/UK)
(Drama / 10f, 5m)
Who: Helena Rubinstein (1872-1965) and Elizabeth Arden (1881-1966), businesswomen
Synopsis: Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden defined beauty standards for the first half of the twentieth century. Brilliant innovators with humble roots, both were masters of self-invention who sacrificed everything to become the country’s first major female entrepreneurs. They were also fierce competitors whose fifty-year tug-of-war would give birth to an industry. From Fifth Avenue society to the halls of Congress, their rivalry was relentless and legendary – pushing both women to build international empires in a world dominated by men.

Yours, Anne Libretto by Enid Futterman / Music by Michael Cohen (US)
(Drama / 4f, 4m)
Who: Anne Frank, diarist and Holocaust victim (1929-1945)
Synopsis: Based on Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and the play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, this musical chronicles the experience of two Jewish families secreted in a cramped garret in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation. Remaining faithful to its deservedly acclaimed source material, Yours, Anne enhances the timeless story with a moving and lyrical score. Anne Frank’s heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting diary still stirs deep emotions in a reminder of the enduring strength of the human spirit.

For more great musicals, visit Concord Theatricals in the US or UK.