Whether an orphan, an animal or a kid going on a great adventure, these iconic roles for young performers are hands down some of the best showcases in the musical theatre canon. They require big, great voices, acting chops and dance skills and, of course, the ability to command the stage and captivate the audience over the course of the show.
Here are eight of our favorites:
1. Annie in ‘Annie’
Whether singing “Tomorrow,” dancing with the other orphans or giving some cute love to Sandy the dog, this spunky, red-haired orphan is the centerpiece of “Annie.” Andrea McArdle, Sarah Jessica Parker and more got their start starring in this beloved role.
2. Oliver in ‘Oliver!’
Another titular role, orphan Oliver spends the show looking for a home and encountering the shenanigans of the Artful Dodger, the clever Fagin and the down-and-out Nancy. Our hearts and minds will forever remember him asking if he can have some more and singing “Where Is Love?”
3. Mary Lennox in ‘The Secret Garden’
Based on the beloved children’s book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, “The Secret Garden” centers around Mary Lennox leaving her home in India to live with her uncle, Lord Archibald Craven. After finding an overgrown garden behind the house, she and others in the house bring the garden and those around her back to life. Mary’s beautiful songs and heartfelt scenes really pull at the heartstrings.
Daisy Eagan, who played Mary in the original Broadway company, was the youngest person to win the Tony Award for her portrayal at 11 years old. The show is set to be revived in the 2018–2019 Broadway season, and we can’t wait!
4. The Von Trapp Children in ‘The Sound of Music’
We love every kid role in the “Sound of Music” because the show fits so many young performers like a glove. It’s no wonder it’s been revived so many times around the world. The Von Trapp roles represent a wide variety of voice types, abilities and dynamic personalities.
5. Dorothy in ‘The Wizard of Oz’
Dorothy, the leading lady in the iconic “The Wizard of Oz,” is a coveted role for young female performers everywhere. Imagine not only getting to sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” not leaving the stage for the entire show and performing the role alongside a live dog playing Toto. While there has never been an official Broadway production, it has been on tour and in theatres around the world.
6. Young Nala and Young Simba in ‘The Lion King’
The first act of “The Lion King” revolves around young Nala and Simba as they encounter evil hyenas and Scar and play in the jungle. Any young performer would love the opportunity to interact with puppets, sing the fun, “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” and perform alongside larger-than-life characters.
7. Winthrop in ‘The Music Man’
Winthrop may be a secondary lead in “The Music Man,” but when this young boy sings the memorable song, “Gary Indiana,” audience members inevitably fall in love with him. This role needs only minor training, making it a great start for young boys who want to try their hand onstage.
8. Charlie Bucket in ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’
Charlie may not sing too many tunes in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” but the action certainly centers around him. Any young performer would love experiencing the antics of traveling through Willy Wonka’s factory, flying in the bubble machine and interacting with the zany characters in this show.
9. Chip in ‘Beauty and the Beast’
This chipped teacup in “Beauty and the Beast” warms everyone’s heart throughout the show. This role requires minimal singing and no dancing required, as it’s just the actor’s head that is visible. Fun fact, Nick Jonas played this role on Broadway!