1. Jenna Hunterson- Waitress
"She's imperfect, but she tries. She is good, but she lies. She is hard on herself, she is broken but won't ask for help." - She Used to Be Mine
Adapted from an independent romantic movie, "Waitress" is a celebration of women and their many shapes, sizes and personal problems. Dawn is a nervous ball of energy afraid or love, Becky is a brass woman demanding the love she's been long denied, but it's the lead, Jenna who truly empowers. She is pregnant, stuck in an abusive marriage and bakes to find her way out, eventually discovering the strength to leave was in her all along.
2. Eliza Schuyler- Hamilton
"I put myself back in the narrative. I stop wasting time on tears. I live another fifty years; it's not enough." - Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?
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I'm sure Angelica is the first strong female people think of when "Hamilton" is mentioned, but I think Eliza is even stronger. Angelica is the oldest and wittiest, but Eliza is the heart of the show. She shows great courage under trying times and dedicates her life to preserving her husband's legacy. Her selflessness and kindness are attributes more people should strive for.
3. Esmeralda- The Hunchback of Notre Dame
"I ask for nothing, I can get by, but I know so many less lucky than I."- God Help the Outcasts
A stunning character from an under-appreciated off-Broadway adaption of an underrated Disney movie, Esmeralda's songs, "God Help the Outcasts" and "Someday" have become anthems for acceptance and tolerance. Beyond that, however, Esmeralda is a fierce woman who refuses to be sexualized, harassed, or put down. She won't give up on her beliefs, even if they will cost her life.
4. Tracy Turnblad- Hairspray
"And you can try to stop my dancing feet, but I just cannot stand still." -You Can't Stop the Beat
Tracy is a ray of sunshine. She is endlessly optimistic and stands up for what she believes in, whether it's wearing her hair the way she wants or de-segregating an entire city, this girl just won't stop until she makes things better.
5. Elphaba Thropp- Wicked
"I'm through accepting limits, 'cause someone says they're so. Some things I cannot change, but 'til I try, I'll never know."- Defying Gravity
Elphaba is a hero to many little girls who have their first theater experience watching "Wicked," and for good reason. She is brave, defiant, motivated, and compassionate. Is there any Act 1 finale more iconic than "Defying Gravity?" It'd be hard to find one that simply inspires you to be yourself in quite the same way.
6. Carole King- Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
"You've got to get up every morning with a smile on you face."- Beautiful
A real life woman, this musical shows the beginning of Carole King's career, from her first hit song she wrote to the release of her highly successful album, "Tapestry." We also watch her fall in love and get married at 16 and go through years of neglect and under appreciation before finally walking away and being her own woman. Carole is a tale of a woman who learns what her worth is.
7. Nina Rosario- In the Heights
"I'll make you proud of everything I know."- Everything I Know
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Nina is a mess. She is smart and ambitious, but can't help but feel out of place. She's too good for the neighborhood but can't hack it at college. In the end, she finds out that she has all the knowledge and support to be whatever and whoever she wants to be.
8. Celie- The Color Purple
"I'm thankful for loving who I really am. I'm beautiful. Yes, I'm beautiful. And I'm here." - I'm Here
Anyone who has read the book know Celie has had a rough life, but she finds her self through all the pain and comes out a stronger women because of it. In the eleven o'clock number, "I'm Here," Celie finally breaks free from the struggles of her life and it is truly beautiful.
9. Katherine Plumber- Newsies
"But all I know is nothing happens if you just give in. It can't be any worse than how it's been, and it just so happens that we just might win." - Watch What Happens
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A personal fictional hero of mine, Katherine is a reporter in a time where women were not reporters. The daughter of Joseph Pulitzer, the villain of the story, she takes a new name and goes out there to make a name for herself, writing about the Newsboy strike in order to move on from the society pages of the newspaper.
10. Elle Woods- Legally Blonde
"Maybe you will change your mind, but you might look up to find, I've gone on to better things, better jobs and bigger rings." - So Much Better
After falling in love with the character of Elle Woods as played by Reese Witherspoon in the film, musical Elle did not disappoint. No one thinks she can get into Harvard, so she does. They think she will fail, so she graduates at the top of her class. They think she is a dumb blonde, so she proves just how smart she can be. What like it's hard?
11. Jo March- Little Women
"I'll find my way. I'll find it far away. I'll find it in an unexpected and unknown way. I'll find my life in my own way." - Astonishing
Jo March is a literary icon for her spunk, intelligence and individuality. She is very much the same in the musical, refusing to be like other girls of her time, deciding she would rather be "astonishing."
12. Bonnie Parker- Bonnie & Clyde
"Seems you get to live your life just once. If that's how it's gotta be, then I'd rather breathe in life than dusty air." - Dyin' Ain't So Bad
So the real-life murderess might not be the best role model, but the character as portrayed in the criminally under-appreciated "Bonnie & Clyde" is all about breaking barriers. Sure, she follows her boyfriend into a life of crime, but she does this of her own volition. She could have married a small town cop and lived a simple, boring life, but she wanted adventure, and boy did she get it.