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What Are The Great Female Stage Roles Of The Western Theatre?

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Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
I'd throw a couple of modern roles and musical roles out there too.

Mrs. Lovett from Stephen Sondheim's SWEENEY TODD is a one of the great villainous roles in musical theater, with a lot of room for interpretation and nuance.

Mama Rose from GYPSY, another Sondheim work, is one of the most coveted roles in history.  The show's finale, "Rose's Turn", is one of the most powerful monologues, sung or spoken, in all of American theater.

Of course, Blanche Dubois from Tennessee Williams' A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE is pretty much the most iconic female role in modern American theater.  Williams generally wrote great roles for women; he is also responsible for Maggie from CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF and Amanda Wingfield from THE GLASS MENAGERIE.  Essentially, he could write the Hell out of a Southern dame.
Mark Westbrook Profile
Mark Westbrook answered
I will answer this question from the British perspective, almost certainly my colleague Billnut will answer from the American perspective (although I have included a smattering of US roles) and you will get two Western perspectives. The great female roles might not necessarily be the most popular, or the most famous, but I have made a list of the parts that I consider to be great roles for any female actor to have played in their career.

These are in no particular order:

Shakespeare's Juliet - for a young actress this is a beautiful challenge, matching youthfulness of the role with the sense of discovery as she matures in the play.

Shakespeare's Ophelia - a difficult part to get right, the balance between madness and sanity, between innocence and unkept sexuality, a young girl in love with a thirty year old man.

Bessie in Clifford Odet's Awake and Sing! Strong, defiant, one of the best roles for women I've seen.

Perhaps I should also include Peggy in 42nd Street.

Arkadina in the maturing actress, pride and aging grace, a mother and a lover, one of the greatest roles in Chekhov.

Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth, the power behind the crown, she must portray the strength of early LM and the madness of late LM, without unintentional comedy.

Lady Bracknell in Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, the battleship Bracknell, powerful, mannered, unflinching, with a twinkle in her eye.

Vivian Bearing from Margaret Edson's Wit - a mature role, moving, composed, astonishingly heart breaking.

Meg in Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party, scatty, child-like, naughty, easily shocked, Meg is the landlady from hell.

There are so many more, but so little space here

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