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Top 10 Hardest Roles in Musicals

VO: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Cassandra Kalley
Own that stage. For this list, we’re looking at parts from musicals that are feared and revered the world over for the acting, singing and/or dancing requirements needed to pull them off. We’ll be combining both female and male roles, but be sure to check out our separate lists on the topic! Our list includes “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Wicked,” “Les Misérables,” “Evita,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” and more! Join MsMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Hardest Roles in Musical Theatre.
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Top 10 Hardest Roles in Musical Theatre


Own that stage. Welcome to MsMojo, and today, we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Hardest Roles in Musical Theatre.

For this list, we’re looking at parts from musicals that are feared and revered the world over for the acting, singing and/or dancing requirements needed to pull them off. We’ll be combining both female and male roles, but be sure to check out our separate lists on the topic!

#10: Christine
“The Phantom of the Opera”


When Andrew Lloyd Webber writes a musical, he does NOT mess around. Whether you’re a woman or a man, there’s a role in “The Phantom of the Opera” that’s singing your name; the Phantom has been charming us ever since Michael Crawford brought him to life. When it comes to incredibly demanding notes though, there’s few that have to hit higher ones than Ms. Daaé. From the moment the Phantom chooses her, Christine goes through emotional turmoil, torn between her love Raoul and her Angel of Music, losing her innocence along the way. With incredible songs like “Think of Me,” “All I Ask of You,” and of course, the titular number, though, the lightness comes from the sound of her soprano voice.

#9: Elphaba
“Wicked”


From her days as belt-crazy role of Maureen Johnson in “Rent,” (xref) we all know Idina Menzel has left behind some tough but highly coveted shoes to fill on The Great White Way - and “Wicked”’s Elphaba is certainly no exception. With the ability to make the audience love her while knowing she’ll ultimately become the wickedest villain in Oz, it takes a special type of woman to take on this role. Mix that with some of the most powerful numbers on modern Broadway - both solo and duet - and you’ve got yourself one green-skinned powerhouse of a part.

#8: Dr. Henry Jekyll / Edward Hyde
“Jekyll & Hyde”


We all know this story. Dr. Jekyll gets curious about good and evil in men and makes a formula, using himself as the subject of the experiment. This potion causes a duality, creating a new persona within him: Mr. Hyde. Yep, a tale as old as time. And this eponymous split character is one that requires accessing all aspects of the male voice and the human spirit. From the bright timber of Dr. Jekyll to the frightening snarl of Mr. Hyde and back again, the actor for this challenging role must possess a flawless capability to carry this haunting tale of a battle within the self.

#7: Diana Goodman
“Next to Normal”


As the plot of this musical unravels, it reveals that, like every family, there is more going on behind closed doors and the unsteady center of this story, Diana Goodman, has it the hardest. Playing a suburban mother who suffers from bipolar disorder, as well as delusions of her dead son, is quite the difficult role. This modern musical touches on subjects that hit close to home for some and make issues of mental illness more accessible to those who have not always understood them. As such, this heavy matriarch role is one that must be played with an understanding hand but emotionally raw voice.

#6: The D'Ysquith Family
“A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder”


One actor. Several parts. And for a second there, we thought playing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was rough! But this role could make even the best swing actors blush. Though each family member - and therefore each character that must be played - is killed off throughout the performance of this darkly comedic opera, it still requires quite a lot of acting expertise. Both male and female characters are represented through one actor, and costume quick-changes in the wings are ones for the ages. A word of advice should you ever have the pleasure of playing this crazy role: don’t get too dizzy; and of course, knock ‘em dead.

#5: Celie
“The Color Purple”


This powerful musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel might have only had a few years on The Great White Way, but that has not stopped it from having international success. And over the course of this melancholy story, Celie grows and changes right before the audience’s eyes. And much of the drama of this musical rests squarely on her shoulders as she loves and learns the ways of the world she lives in. And with jazz, the blues, and other folk and soul sounds riddled throughout this classic tale, it takes a strong woman to carry that weight.

#4: Jean Valjean
“Les Misérables”


Of all the entries on this list, “Les Misérables” is probably the most widely known in and out of the entertainment world. Anyone who’s worth their salt on Broadway and in Hollywood knows this classic tale. And the lead role in this intense story of war, love, life, and loss must have an equally intense vocal and acting power. The ability to command a stage is essential to this complex role. And with his solos going from the low tenor in “Who Am I?” to the falsetto in “Bring Him Home,” bringing an extraordinary vocal range to that audition obviously wouldn’t hurt.

#3: Eva Perón
“Evita”


This Broadway classic follows the true rags to riches story of Eva Peron as she steps into the limelight of 1940s Argentina. And the moment she takes the stage, it’s clear she’s a presence to be reckoned with. Much like Celie, the audience watches this incredible character grow from a young girl into a powerful first lady of her home country. With each song being a monologue, turning the page on a new chapter of this amazing woman’s life, an actress must handle this role with a strong voice and acting range. But if you wish to join the ranks of Patti LuPone and Madonna, Argentina just may be crying for you.

#2: Evan Hansen
“Dear Evan Hansen”


A newer entry into the annals of Broadway, “Dear Evan Hansen” has quickly become an easy favorite for theatergoers. But handling the balance of this main character can be tough. Evan Hansen is an anxiety-ridden but well-meaning high school kid who takes his part in a tragedy a little too far; but ultimately, he helps his entire school. Finding that line and walking it with this character - plus the clear intonation required of the singing voice - can be very tough for any less-experienced actor. Ben Platt might have made this look effortless, but like many on this list, not everyone can pull it off quite so well!

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

Marquis de Lafayette / Thomas Jefferson
“Hamilton”

Hedwig
“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”

Reno Sweeney
“Anything Goes”

Jerry Mulligan
“An American in Paris”

Fanny Brice
“Funny Girl”

#1: Mama Rose
“Gypsy”


Long before the days of Honey Boo Boo and Mama June, there was Mama Rose, pushing her daughters into the limelight, in order to live vicariously through them. And “Gypsy” puts this quintessential stage mom’s descent into madness on full display. Carrying most of the weight of this musical right up until the final killer number, this hellish tour de force takes a lot out of an actress with raw passion and wild emotions. The energy level required of this role could drain even the best of actresses. And you best make Mama proud.
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