What You Don’t Know About Women: Top 10 Female Group Numbers
You know what we need more of in musical theatre? If you guessed “female duets and trios,” you’re correct! Sure, there are tons of songs from the Golden Age of musicals where ladies sing about their romantic trials (“Marry the Man Today” from Guys & Dolls, to name a classic), but despite the wonderful variety in subject matter we’ve come to accept as the standard in contemporary musical theatre, it’s not as easy as you might think to find recent pieces where female characters sing together. Thus, I present: a list of ten female group numbers that have debuted in a professional production over the past decade! I’ve tried to avoid listing songs where women sing expressly about men, but there are a few gems herein that I kind of love regardless of their failure to pass the Bechdel test. And even if they’re singing about men, there’s something fundamentally empowering about seeing two or three ladies owning that stage together.
1. “Lavender Drops” — Sense & Sensibility, Paul Gordon
From Sense and Sensibility, a female-driven period musical piece from Paul Gordon (whose other credits include Daddy Long Legs and Jane Eyre), this song was performed by Megan McGinnis and Sharon Rietkerk in the 2015 production at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. In the song, despite their heartbreak, sisters Elinor and Marianne find in each other the strength to go on.
2. “Sonya & Natasha” — Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, Dave Malloy
In “Sonya & Natasha,” Brittain Ashford as Sonya tries to persuade Phillipa Soo’s Natasha that her plan to elope with Anatole may spell disaster, but Natasha refuses to heed her cousin’s advice. The dramatic eclecticism of Natasha, Pierre is perfectly captured in this fast-paced exchange of recitative. Click here to watch a clip.
3. “Another Winter in a Summer Town” — Grey Gardens, Scott Frankel & Michael Korie
This lovely, elegiac duet between Little Edie and Edith traces their fragmented dreams of youth through the departure of vacationers in the Hamptons as summer turns inexorably to fall.
4. “Midnight Blues” — Giant, Michael John LaChiusa
In this second act duet from LaChiusa’s sprawling, sophisticated Giant, Vashti (Katie Thompson) and Leslie (Kate Baldwin) plaintively lament their disillusionment and the dissolution of their relationships with men.
5. “Flying Away” — Fun Home, Lisa Kron & Jeanine Tesori
The final number in Fun Home sees all three incarnations of Alison Bechdel plumbing the depths of their past one last time. Though the strange, searing death of her father will always cut to the quick, Alison finally manages to locate that “rare moment of perfect balance” when she “soared above him.”
6. “Finally to Know” — Death Takes a Holiday, Maury Yeston
Grazia (Jill Paice), Alice (Mara Davi), and Daisy (Alexandra Socha) rejoice in the joys of true love. Look no further for some of the most gorgeous, lush vocal harmonies in contemporary musical theatre writing. Click here to listen to a clip.
7. “Freedom” — The Unauthorized Biography of Samantha Brown, Kait Kerrigan & Brian Lowdermilk
Samantha and Kelly envision their road trip into freedom in this irreverent girl power anthem. With lyrics like “it’s so real and so like a memory / and the sun is so bright that I’m squinting / and it feels like I found freedom,” Kerrigan & Lowdermilk don’t pull any punches in illuminating the power and beauty of female friendships.
8. “Full Fathom Five” — Twelfth Night, Hem
Audra McDonald and Anne Hathaway duet sublimely on this track written for the Public Theater cast recording.
9. “Some Things Are Meant to Be” — Little Women, Mindi Dickstein & Jason Howland
In this poignant ode to sisterhood sung by Megan McGinnis (Beth) and Sutton Foster (Jo), Beth says goodbye and prepares to pass on, knowing she is loved deeply by her family.
10. “Secondary Characters” — [title of show], Jeff Bowen & Hunter Bell
Despite their earlier quarrels, in “Secondary Characters” Heidi and Susan bond over their relegation to supporting role status and resolve to become best friends.
What are your favorite female group numbers?
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