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June 30, 2023

Plays and Musicals Featuring Strong Mother Figures

A production photo from the 2016 Classic Stage Company Production of Mother Courage and Her Children.

From stern and ruthless to loving and warm, the mothers in these plays and musicals showcase a wide range of passions and challenges – but there is one trait they all share. Explore this selection of Concord Theatricals shows featuring strong mother figures.

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (US/UK
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 3f, 7m, 1 boy)
Lorraine Hansberry’s groundbreaking drama, a searing and timeless portrait of a family on Chicago’s South Side, is an American classic. The play concerns the divergent dreams and conflicts in three generations of the Younger family: son Walter Lee, his wife Ruth, his sister Beneatha, his son Travis, and matriarch Lena. Hansberry’s portrait of one family’s struggle to retain dignity in a harsh and changing world is a searing and timeless document of hope and inspiration.

A Taste of Honey by Shelagh Delaney (UK)
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 2f, 3m)
Teenage heroine Jo is deserted by her nagging, peroxided mother, who is unaware that her daughter is pregnant. To soothe, clean and cook for her is Geof, an effeminate art student, with whom she makes a temporary home. Bruised by insensitivity and rejection, they find comfort in each other until her mother returns to threaten this new life.

Bye Bye Birdie by Michael Stewart, Charles Strouse and Lee Adams (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 6f, 5m +Ensemble)
Teenagers, rock & roll and national television. The musical captures the energy and excitement of the late 1950s with a tuneful, high-energy score. Songwriter Albert Peterson finds himself in trouble when his client, teen heartthrob Conrad Birdie is drafted, so he organizes a farewell kiss with an All-American girl as a publicity stunt to promote his new song. Trouble comes, however, when Albert’s hilariously overbearing mother, Mae, swoops into town to end his longtime romance.

Carrie: The Musical by Michael Gore, Dean Pitchford, Lawrence D. Cohen and Stephen King (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Drama / 5f, 2m +Ensemble)
Carrie White is a misfit. At school, she’s an outcast who’s bullied by the popular crowd, and virtually invisible to everyone else. At home, she’s at the mercy of her loving but cruelly overprotective mother. But Carrie’s just discovered she’s got a special power, and if pushed too far, she’s not afraid to use it. Based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel, Carrie.

Gypsy by Arthur Laurents, Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim and Gypsy Rose Lee (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Dramatic Comedy / 6f, 2m +Ensemble)
The Mother of All Musicals! This jewel of Broadway’s Golden Age reveals the world of vaudeville and burlesque with an incomparable score, a brilliantly conceived book and one of the greatest leading roles ever to grace the Broadway stage: Rose, a domineering mother determined to make her children into stars.

I Remember Mama by Richard Rodgers, Martin Charnin and Thomas Meehan (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 5f, 4m, 4 girls, 1 boy)
This musical about a Norwegian family’s survival in the New World is based on John van Druten’s hit play (US/UK), in which a successful writer recounts her childhood in San Francisco following the turn of the century. She recalls familial hardships and triumphs, including the near loss of their home, Papa’s desperate return to Norway when he can no longer find work, and the sale of her first story – this one. But, of course, it’s Mama she remembers most of all, always guiding their precarious journey with a firm hand and a warm heart.

Lettie by Boo Killebrew (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Dramatic Comedy  /  4f, 2m)
Inspired by real Chicago stories, Lettie is a powerful, moving and funny play. After her release from prison, Lettie is desperate to regain custody of her teenage children. Training to be an iron welder, she will stop at nothing to reclaim her family and start life anew.

Mame by Jerome Lawrence, Robert E. Lee, Jerry Herman and Patrick Dennis (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 6f, 6m +Ensemble)
When the ebullient and convivial socialite Mame Dennis suddenly becomes responsible for the upbringing of her nephew Patrick, the wealthy sophisticate embraces the challenge, introducing the boy to all of life’s wonders. With spirit, humor, class and wit, Mame continues to thrill audiences around the globe.

Minnie’s Boys by Robert Fisher, Arthur Marx, Larry Grossman and Hal Hackady (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 8f, 16m)
This touching, song-filled celebration of the origins of show-business legends The Marx Brothers centers on matriarch Minnie Marx – the extraordinary woman who gave birth to a generation of laughter in the form of the maddest, merriest quintet that ever drove a mother – and then the world – wild.

Mother Courage and Her Children by Bertolt Brecht
(Full-Length Play, Drama)
Brecht’s classic play follows Mother Courage and her three children during the Thirty Years’ War of the early 17th century as she pulls a wagon of wares through Sweden, Poland, Finland, Bavaria and Italy. Filled with hardship and tragedy, this tale of strength is considered by many to be the greatest anti-war play of all time.

These English translations of the play are available for licensing from Concord Theatricals:

  • Version translated by Eric Bentley (US/UK)

  • Version translated by David Hare (US/UK)

  • Version translated by Lee Hall (UK)

  • Version translated by Michael Hofmann and John Willett (UK)

  • Version translated by Hanif Kureishi (UK)

  • Version translated by Tony Kushner (UK)

  • Version translated by Ralph Manheim (US/UK)

  • Version translated by Robert David MacDonald (UK)

  • Version translated by Peter Watson (UK)

  • Version translated by John Willett (UK)

Mother of the Maid by Jane Anderson (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 4f, 3m)
The story of Joan of Arc’s mother: a sensible, hard-working, God-fearing peasant woman whose faith is upended as she deals with the baffling journey of her odd and extraordinary daughter. This riveting play is an epic tale told through an unexpected and remarkable perspective.

Porcelain by Margaret Perry (UK)
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 3f, 2m, 1m or f)
Porcelain weaves past and present, myth and fact to explore the parallel stories of two Irish women. Tipperary, 1895: Bridget Cleary’s not feeling quite herself. Her husband believes she has been taken by fairies and a changeling left in her place, with devastating consequences. London, 2017: Hat is a new mother. She has a great life. So why does she want to disappear? The real-life tragedy of Bridget Cleary provides a harrowing backdrop to a modern-day thriller.

Ruthless! by Joel Paley & Marvin Laird (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 7f, with flexible gender casting)
Eight-year-old Tina Denmark knows she was born to play Pippi Longstocking, and she will do anything to win the part in her school musical, including murdering the leading lady! But when a family history of stardom is discovered, Tina’s mother steps into the limelight herself. This aggressively outrageous musical hit garnered rave reviews during its long off-Broadway run.

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 5f)
Supporting herself and her two daughters by taking in a decrepit old boarder, acid-tongued Beatrice Hunsdorfer wreaks a petty vengeance on everyone around her. Proud but jealous, too filled with her own hurt to accept her daughter’s success, Beatrice can only maim when she needs to love and deride when she intends to praise. Yet, as her younger daughter Tillie’s experiment proves, something beautiful and full of promise can emerge from even the most barren, afflicted soil.

The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico García Lorca
(Full-Length Play, Drama)
Bernarda is a stern matriarch obsessed with family honor. Just widowed, she announces to her five daughters that they will enter a traditional eight-year period of cloistered mourning. Each daughter desires love, but with the doors clamped shut, they silently turn to other pursuits. All except one, who manages to have a secret tryst with a scurrilous suitor who is betrothed to the eldest daughter.

These English translations of the play are available for licensing from Concord Theatricals:

  • Version translated by Michael Dewell and Carmen Zapata (US/UK)

  • Version translated by James Graham Lujan and Richard O’Connell (US/UK)

  • Musical version by Michael John LaChiusa (US/UK)

The Light in the Piazza by Craig Lucas and Adam Guettel (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Drama / 4f, 4m)
In this lush, romantic musical set in 1958, Margaret Johnson is touring the Tuscan countryside with her daughter, Clara. While sightseeing, Clara meets Fabrizio Naccarelli, a handsome Florentine, and sparks an immediate and intense romance. As events unfold, a secret is revealed and Margaret is forced to reconsider not only Clara’s future, but her own hope as well.

The Mother by Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton (UK)
(Full-Length Play, Drama)
Anne loved the time in her life when she prepared breakfast each morning for her two young children. Years later, spending hours alone, Anne convinces herself that her husband is having an affair. If only her son were to break up with his girlfriend, he would return home and come down for breakfast… she would put on her new red dress, and they would go out. This English translation is translated by Christopher Hampton.

The Revlon Girl by Neil Anthony Docking (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 5f)
Eight months after the Aberfan Disaster of 1966, in which 144 people were killed (116 of them children), a group of bereaved mothers meet weekly above a local hotel to talk, cry and laugh without feeling guilty. At one of their previous meetings, the women looked at each other and admitted how much they felt they’d let themselves go. Afraid that people will think them frivolous, they’ve secretly arranged for a representative from Revlon to come and give them a talk on beauty tips.

The Rink by Terrence McNally, John Kander and Fred Ebb (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Drama / 3f, 5m)
In a sort of Coney Island of the mind, streetwise Anna Antonelli discovers that her roller rink is about to be demolished, and with it, Anna’s sour memories of her philandering husband and painfully shy daughter, Angel. When Angel returns to Coney Island after years of aimless wandering, the rink becomes an arena in which mother and daughter examine their past, present and future.

The Stepmother by Githa Sowerby (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play / 5f, 4m)
Lois Relph, a young woman with two beloved stepdaughters and her own thriving business, appears contented and in charge. But the year is 1924, so does she really have control of her own money, or even her life? And what will she do if things go wrong personally or professionally? It takes courage and determination to define the roles of wife, mother and businesswoman, and Lois knows it will not be easy.

Unexpected Joy by Bill Russell and Janet Hood (US/UK
(Full-Length Musical, Dramatic Comedy / 4f)
Unexpected Joy
is the story of three generations of female singers, long-held family tensions, and a week together where change is in the air. In modern-day Cape Cod, Joy, a baby boomer and proud hippie, is holding a memorial concert for the other half of her popular musical duo, Jump & Joy. When her tightly wound, conservative daughter and her sweet, rebellious granddaughter arrive from Oklahoma, sparks fly. A heartfelt and hilarious story celebrating diversity and acceptance, Unexpected Joy weaves folk-rock, pop, and blues in a fresh, dynamic score.

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

Header Image: 2016 Classic Stage Company Production of Mother Courage and Her Children (Joan Marcus)