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February 25, 2020

Musicals Featuring Female Characters of Color


Billie Holiday, Lady Thiang, Diana Morales, Nina Rosario, Effie White. Below, explore musicals featuring some of the complex and compelling roles created specifically for female actors of color.

Bella: An American Tall Tale by Kirsten Childs (US/UK)
(Comedy / 5f, 7m)
When Bella boards a train west to reunite with her Buffalo soldier sweetheart, she encounters the most colorful and lively characters ever to roam the Western plains. Bullets and fists will fly, heads and hearts will break, but—blessed with a big heart, and a voluptuous figure—Bella will breeze on through it all.

Bernarda Alba by Michael John LaChiusa (US/UK)
(Drama / 10f)
Bernarda Alba tells the tales of a powerful matriarch, who imposes a strict rule on her household following her second husband’s funeral. Her five daughters, however, struggle with her cold wishes. The girls’ dreams and desires challenge their mother’s harsh rules and the outside world begins to slowly permeate their isolated existence.

Carmen Jones by Oscar Hammerstein II and Georges Bizet (US/UK)
(Drama / 6f, 10m)
As the Second World War rages, parachute maker Carmen Jones wages her own quarrel involving an airman and a boxer. Using the score from Bizet’s opera Carmen, this adaptation by Oscar Hammerstein II resets the story with an all African-American cast.

A Chorus Line by Michael Bennett, James Kirkwood & Nicholas Dante, Marvin Hamlisch, and Edward Kleban (US/UK)
(Dramatic Comedy / 9f, 10m)
A Chorus Line is a stunning concept musical capturing the spirit and tension of a Broadway chorus audition. Exploring the inner lives and bittersweet ambitions of professional Broadway performers, the show features one powerhouse number after another. 

Dreamgirls by Tom Eyen and Henry Krieger (US/UK)
(Drama / 4f, 4m + ensemble)
Through gospel, R&B, smooth pop, disco and more, Dreamgirls explores themes of ambition, hope and betrayal, all set in the glamorous and competitive world of the entertainment industry.

Flower Drum Song by Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II, Joseph Fields, and David Henry Hwang (US/UK)
(Comedy / 3f, 5m + ensemble)
A unique blending of American razz-ma-tazz and stylized Chinese opera traditions creates a beautifully theatrical tapestry. The wonderful score, by turns lushly romantic and showbiz-brassy, retains all of its luster in this lovely new version of an American classic.

Hallelujah, Baby! by Arthur Laurents, Jule Styne, and Betty Comden and Adolph Green (US/UK)
(Dramatic Comedy / 3f, 2m + ensemble)
Through the struggles and triumphs of a determined, talented, and resilient leading lady, Hallelujah, Baby! celebrates the African American experience in the first half of the 20th century. The musical follows Georgina Franklin as she rises from domestic work in the 1920s to stardom in the late 1960s—all without aging a day. 

In the Heights by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes (US/UK)
(Comedy / 6f, 6m + ensemble)
Full of hopes and dreams, In the Heights tells the universal story of a community on the brink of change in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood – a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. 

The King and I by Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II (US/UK)
(Drama / 3f, 4m, 2 boys + ensemble)
Two worlds collide in 1862 Siam as an English teacher and her young son arrive at the Royal Palace, having been summoned by the King to serve as tutor to his wives and children. Featuring the beloved classics “Something Wonderful” and “I Have Dreamed,” the musical explores friendship, respect and understanding while keeping a firm grip on respective traditions and values.

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill by Lanie Robertson (US)
(Drama / 1f, 1m)
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 lady and her music.

Marie Christine by Michael John LaChiusa (US/UK)
(Drama / 10f, 6m, 2 boys)
Set in the twilight years of the 19th century, this powerful re-telling of the Medea myth chronicles its doomed heroine’s journey from her genteel life of privilege in the New Orleans Creole society through betrayal and incomprehensible vengeance in boisterous Chicago. This gripping tale of one headstrong and passionate young woman’s all-consuming love for an ambitious sea captain provides a tour-de-force for its leading lady. 

Porgy and Bess® by George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, and Ira Gershwin (US/UK)
(Drama / 4f, 4m + ensemble)
Known worldwide as a masterpiece and an “American Folk Opera,” Porgy and Bess® was George Gershw
in’s final work for the musical stage. Based on DuBose and Dorothy Heyward’s play PorgyPorgy and Bess® combines elements of jazz, classical, and American folk music. Musical numbers include “Summertime,” “My Man’s Gone Now” and “I’m On My Way.”

Raisin by Robert Nemiroff and Charlotte Zaltzberg, Judd Woldin, and Robert Brittan (US/UK)
(Drama / 6f, 9m)
The Lorraine Hansberry classic is transformed into a soulful, inspiring musical as a proud Black family’s quest for a better life explodes in song, dance, and incisive human drama.

South Pacific by Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan (US/UK)
(Drama / 3f, 7m, 1 girl, 1 boy + ensemble)
In an island paradise during the Second World War, two Americans – a wide-eyed nurse and a promising young – discover love and come face-to-face with their own prejudices.

The Wiz by William F. Brown and Charlie Smalls (US/UK)
(Comedy / 5f, 6m, 4 any gender + ensemble)
A beloved Broadway gem, The Wiz infuses L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with a dazzling mix of rock, gospel and soul music. This timeless tale of Dorothy’s adventures through the Land of Oz is a fun and family-friendly modern musical.

To discover more musicals featuring women of color, visit Concord Theatricals in the US or UK.

Header Image: 2017 Playwrights Horizons production of Bella: An American Tall Tale (Joan Marcus)