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9 Of Our Favorite Musical Theatre Roles For Young Performers

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.

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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!

Have you played any of these memorable roles? Let us know in the comments below…

Written by Kimberly Faye Greenberg

Kimberly Faye Greenberg is the first and only actress to play Leading roles in 2 OFF-BROADWAY musicals at the same time. In addition, Kimberly's numerous portrayals of a FANNY BRICE have been critically acclaimed by the NY Times, Huffington Post and Associated Press and currently her solo show Fabulous Fanny Brice is touring the country. Kimberly has worked backstage as a Broadway wardrobe swing dresser on over 20 Broadway shows. As a Performing Arts Consultant Kimberly loves to inspire, educate and work with proactive Artists.

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  1. More kids that have been on West End/Broadway/national tours as children: (some roles are regional)

    Molly Ringwald-best known leading roles in Pretty in Pink and 16 Candles, played orphan Kate in Annie, and eventually Sally in Cabaret on Broadway.

    Alyssa Milano-played orphans Kate and July, and Adele in Jane Eyre. Now owns NFL woman’s clothing line and still acts.

    Carrie Hope Fletcher-Jemima Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Jane Banks in Mary Poppins, and Little Cosette in Les Mis. Still does musical theatre! She will be playing Veronica in the West End’s Heathers and Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family,ast year.

    Kerry Ingram-Molly and Annie in Annie, Tallulah in Bugsy Malone, workhouse child in Oliver, unnamed ballet girl in Billy Elliot, and the leading role in Matilda. Kerry is known for playing Shireen in Game of Thrones.

    Lilla Crawford-She played Annie in the 2013 revival of Annie, Little Girl in Ragtime, and Julie Hope in Billy Elliot. Lilla is best known for playing Little Red in the movie adaptation of Into the Woods. Lilla still acts.

    Daniel Huttlestone-Dodger in Oliver. Played Gavroche on the West End and the 2012 movie. Also played Jack in the Into the Woods movie.

    Lea Michele-Her first role was Little Cosette/Young Eponine in Les Mis, Little Girl in Ragtime, and played Shprintze and understudied Chava in the 2005 Fiddler revival when she was a senior in high school. Of course, she still sings and acts, she came back to Les Mis as Eponine and Spring Awakening as Wendla. She’s known for playing Rachel in Glee.

    Janel Parrish-Another girl who played Little Cosette/Young Eponine in Les Mis, understudied Wendla in Spring Awakening, Beth Bradley in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and Susan Walker in Miracle on 34th Street. Janel is known for playing Mona on Pretty Little Liars.

    Christiana Anbri-Molly in the 1997 revival of Annie (later Annie) Gretl replacement in The Sound of Music, and she’s the longest running Little Cosette/Young Eponine in Broadway! She voiced a couple of roles on Dora, Moona the Fairy in Blue’s Room (live action Blue’s Clues) and Jelly Otter in PB&J Otter.

    Jenell Slack-Wilson-Also played Little Cosette/Young Eponine in Broadway, Little Girl in Ragtime. She voiced Jelly Otter as well.

    Jesse Eisenberg-Before playing Blue in Rio and Rio 2, he played the title role of Oliver and Young Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.

    Ashley Tisdale-Known for playing Sharpay in High School Musical and Candace in Phineas and Ferb, she was in regional productions of The Sound of Music and Gypsy before she went on national tours of Annie and Les Miserables.

    Christy Carlson Romano-Known for playing Ren in Kim Possible. She was in national tours of The Sound of Music and Annie. Later played Belle in Beauty and the Beast and Kate Monster/Lucy in Avenue Q as an adult.

    Andrea Bowen-Few people know her, she was in Hawaii Five-O, Law and Order, One Tree Hill and Desperate Housewives. She played Adele in Jane Eyre and Marta in the 1998 revival of The Sound of Music. She is also the youngest Little Cosette, portraying her at age 6.

    Laura Bell Bundy-originated the role of Tina Denmark in Ruthless. Obviously, she went on to originate Elle Woods in Legally Blonde OBC. Fun fact: understudied Kristen Chenoweth as Glinda in the OBC of Wicked.

    Eden Riegel-few know her. She played Little Cosette in Les Mis, voices some video games. She was in Prince of Egypt as the singing voice of Young Miriam.

    Lacey Chabert-Played Little Cosette in Les Mis. Later, she played Eliza Thornberry in Wild Thornberries and Gretchen Weiners in Mean Girls.

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