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15 Most Vocally Challenging Contemporary Female Roles

Women in contemporary musical theatre have become living legends. Idina Menzel, Alice Ripley, Sutton Foster and, more recently, Cynthia Erivo are forces with which to be reckoned for future generations. These women (among other great stars) have conquered some of Broadway’s most formidable, sought-after roles. These figures have made contemporary theatre a time of dynamic, proactive characters with demands reserved for only the cream of the crop.

For any ladies looking for a challenge, here are 15 of the most vocally challenging contemporary female roles. Disclaimer: For the purpose of this article, “contemporary” refers to musicals from “Rent” onward.

1. Elphaba in ‘Wicked’

The Wicked Witch of the West in Stephen Schwartz’s hit musical is arguably Broadway’s most coveted role. The character, for which Menzel won a Tony, has four solo numbers, numerous duets and a dynamic descent into darkness.

2. Veronica Sawyer in ‘Heathers: the Musical’

The protagonist of “Heathers” has a candy store rich with superb vocal writing, including countless riffs, jaw-dropping high notes and rock singing that tests each mezzo-belter’s stamina.

3. Angelica Schuyler in ‘Hamilton’

The eldest Schuyler sister accomplishes a broad range of demands, such as rapping, to keep her audience satisfied.

4. Elle Woods in ‘Legally Blonde’

Originated on Broadway by Laura Bell Bundy, Elle sings for almost the entire show. In between all the bends and snaps, the vocal demands for this daughter of Delta Nu are so much better than you could ever imagine!

5. Vivienne Kensington in ‘Legally Blonde’

Capping her big eleven o’clock number with a high A-flat, Elle’s Harvard rival Vivienne wins the case every time.

6. The Lady of the Lake in ‘Spamalot’

Sara Ramirez won a Tony for her epic performance as the main female character of “Spamalot.” Her two solo numbers are tributes to ‘90s ballad singers and musical theatre divas.

7. Sour Kangaroo in ‘Seussical’

As the main antagonist of “Seussical,” the Sour Kangaroo mocks Horton for supporting the Whos, who she does not believe are real. The Sour Kangaroo’s music is full of soul, sass and commanding personality.

8. Aimee McPherson in ‘Scandalous’

In this musical, Carolee Carmello portrayed the real-life Aimee McPherson, an evangelist who created the Foursquare Church. The role is so demanding that Carmello went on vocal rest in the middle of its run, according to Playbill.

9. Celie in ‘The Color Purple’

This musical tells the story of Celie’s journey as an African-American woman living in the deep south as she learns to love herself. The role was originally created on Broadway by LaChanze, and Erivo won a Tony for her performance as Celie in the musical’s 2015 revival.

10. Diana Goodman in ‘Next to Normal’

Originally performed by Ripley, Diana is a suburban mom who has bipolar disorder and has delusions from it.

11. Maureen Johnson in ‘Rent’

Maureen is a performance artist who cannot stay faithful to any lover. A belt-heavy role, her most famous interpreters include Menzel, Eden Espinosa and Nicole Scherzinger.

12. Princess Fiona in ‘Shrek’

A self-declared “Morning Person,” Princess Fiona is eager to end her mysterious curse with “True Love’s First Kiss.” Throughout the musical, she belts and sings fluttery soprano phrases.

13. The Hilton Twins in ‘Side Show’

Based on the real-life Daisy and Violet Hilton, “Side Show” tells the story of the famous performing conjoined twins. The plethora of duets that the twins share climaxes in their eleven o’clock power ballad “I Will Never Leave You.”

14. Nina Rosario in ‘In the Heights’

A soprano character who belts, Nina has dropped out of Stanford University and falls in love with Benny, who works for Nina’s parents.

15. Phoebe D’Ysquith in ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’

A member of the wealthy D’Ysquith family, Phoebe marries a distant cousin, Monty Navarro. She sings notes that even “Phantom’s” Christine Daae would envy!

Did we leave out your favorite role? Let us know in the comments below…

Written by Joseph Kisiday

Joseph Kisiday is a 2016 graduate from Christopher Newport University, majoring in Music Composition. Joseph's love for theatre came at a young age through discovering the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber, such as "Cats" and "The Phantom of the Opera." When he is not writing, Joseph can be found watching operas or Miyazaki films.

25 Comments

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  1. “Danielle” and “Bridgette” (‘Bring It On!’ The Musical) Those characters contain huge power house vocal parts in the show that can be very challenging for most theaters to follow after the original actresses. “Skylar” is kind of up there with “Bridgette” and “Danielle”, but it’s not too difficult to achieve. Her only power house moment is early on in Act I (“Try Outs”).

    “Asaka” (‘Once On This Island’) ‘Mama’ Will Provide’ is quite a power house solo number.
    “Effie” (‘Dream Girls’).

  2. Interesting read. However it needs to be noted that contemporary musicals are not just piece’s written post Rent. To only include millennial musicals discredits musicals that are technically more challenging than the ones you have written about. Otherwise great article

    • Christine is a very vocally demanding role but it is traditional musical theatre, not contemporary. She would be on the most vocally demanding roles of all time list.

  3. KIM FROM MISS SAIGON
    she has to scream and yell at people and belt high notes. Not to mention it’s so emotionally draining.

    • Zoe isn’t incredibly vocally challenging, in my opinion – She doesn’t have any full belts in her songs, and her notes are all in a good mezzo range. Jenna and Chole however, again in my opinion, are harder however. BMC never made it to Broadway though, which is probably why it didn’t make this list.

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