With all of the riffs, aggressive rock singing and seemingly impossible high notes, contemporary musical theatre is chock full of incessant demands for up-and-coming singers. While many such roles help turn a next-to-normal new actor into a Broadway phenomenon, other roles are written as vehicles to help immortalize legends. Demanding contemporary music is not just confined to rock musicals, though. Here are 15 of the most vocally challenging contemporary roles for men:
1. Evan Hansen from ‘Dear Evan Hansen’
Ben Platt’s awkward, well-meaning character is one of the most vocally demanding roles from the past Broadway season. The role calls for a clear tone while effortlessly executing long phrases in a high tessitura.
2. Gabe from ‘Next to Normal’
Originally premiered by Aaron Tveit, Gabe’s vocal writing is alive with riffs and thrilling high notes reserved only for the strongest rock tenors.
3. Jekyll/Hyde from ‘Jekyll and Hyde’
The dual title role is one of the greatest challenges for contemporary singing actors. The clean, beautiful tone needed for Jekyll and the contrasting growl needed for Hyde require superb technique.
4. Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson from ‘Hamilton’
Where Lafayette and Jefferson lack in stratospheric high notes, they make up for with tongue-twisting, record-shattering raps few have mastered.
5. Roger from ‘Rent’
Adam Pascal set a solid precedent for everyone after him playing the struggling singer-songwriter in Jonathan Larson’s best-known work.
6. J.D. from ‘Heathers’
The Baudelaire-quoting male lead in this musical is every young rock tenor’s dream, with riffs, high notes any Heather would envy and a killer second-act number (no pun intended here).
7. Anatole from ‘Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812’
The seductive, conniving main antagonist in Dave Malloy’s musical based on Book 8 of “War and Peace” has a range like few roles before it. The character’s last note in “Pierre and Anatole” was written as a joke before Lucas Steele attempted it, according to Malloy.
8. Pierre from ‘Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812’
Speaking of “Great Comet,” Pierre’s vocal range is incredible, reaching its zenith at a B4 in “The Duel.” Josh Groban’s powerful classical tone against a more contemporary ensemble sound is sheer perfection.
9. The D’Ysquith Family from ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’
One actor plays nine family members (of both sexes) in the 2014 Tony winner for Best Musical.
10. Quasimodo from ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’
The hero of the stage version of the classic Disney film is a challenge vocally and physically. The actor must maintain a hunched posture and speak in a raspy tone while singing angelically.
11. Elder Price from ‘The Book of Mormon’
The main character in the 2011 Tony winner for Best Musical has a show-stopping solo in which he reaffirms his faith and purpose in life.
12. The Phantom from ‘Love Never Dies’
This flawed but beautifully scored sequel to “The Phantom of the Opera” has spectacular vocal lines for the Phantom. The character not only sings higher than in the previous show, but has a more complex storyline involving Christine’s son, Gustave.
13. Frank Abagnale, Jr. from ‘Catch Me If You Can’
Another role created by Tveit, this character has a brisk, demanding eleven o’clock number to cap off an already arduous role.
14. Dewey Finn from ‘School of Rock’
Based on Jack Black’s character from the film “School of Rock,” Alex Brightman premiered a role with stratospheric rock solos as well as a contagiously energetic personality.
15. Huey Calhoun from ‘Memphis’
Loosely based on the real-life disc jockey Dewey Phillips, Huey Calhoun is a character whose rock-soul vocal writing climaxes with the eleven-o’clock number “Memphis Lives in Me.”