The hit ABBA musical is celebrating 20 years in the West End.
To kick things off, here’s our hand-picked playlist of musical theatre songs that celebrate strong women, female empowerment and kick-ass ladies from the stage.
Defying Gravity – Wicked
In hit musical Wicked, Defying Gravity illustrates a significant moment in heroine Elphaba’s journey. It is here that the green-skinned girl changes from a naive sorcery student to a young woman as she makes a stand against the Wizard’s propaganda and begins her journey to become the Wicked Witch of the West. [Buy tickets]
And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going – Dreamgirls
Dreamgirls is a huge celebration of femininity and womanhood, but no moment in the production defines these themes more than this vocal-busting number at the end of act one. Here, Effie White stands defiant against her lover, Curtis, as he tries to cut her from the group she helped to create – the Dreams – and she delivers one of the most musical theatre’s most iconic numbers. [Buy tickets]
Take Me or Leave Me – RENT
Jonathan Larson’s seminal classic is full of straight-talking, shoot-from-the-hip women. In this song, which celebrates the truth of who these characters are, on/off lovers Maureen and Joanne go toe-to-toe as they bicker about each others’ foibles and argue that they should consider themselves lucky to have the other in their lives (and not a man in sight).
Cell Block Tango – Chicago
We’re not condoning murder here, guys. But when the murderesses of Cook County Jail get together to lament about how they’ve ended up on death row, it’s one helluva number for kick-ass women and thwarted feminism. [Buy tickets]
The Schuyler Sisters – Hamilton
For a musical that begins in 1776, Hamilton’s the Schuyler Sisters are certainly doing their bit to empower women. As demonstrated in this powerful refrain: “So listen to my declaration/ “We hold these truths to be self-evident/ That all men are created equal”/ And when I meet Thomas Jefferson/ I’m ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel!” [Buy tickets]
Big Blonde and Beautiful – Hairspray
Hairspray does plenty to champion young women and to make them feel like they matter. In Maybelle “Motormouth” Stubbs, the production offers us one of the best celebrations of femininity on stage ever with this catchy R&B number.
I Will Never Leave You – Side Show
Conjoined twins Daisy and Violet go through life feeling, oddly, like just half a person. But through the thrilling, emotional story of Side Show they learn to love themselves and discover they don’t need men to be happy – they’ve got each other!
Does Your Mother Know? – MAMMA MIA!
MAMMA MIA! is one of those stories that celebrates womanhood in all its forms. At the heart of the show is the rocky relationship between Donna and her daughter, Sophie, but the show also shines a light on the beauty of true friendships between women. In terms of attitude, perhaps no one in the show can ever really match Donna’s feisty pal Tanya – not even the boys. [Buy tickets]
Rose’s Turn – Gypsy
The queen of all stage mothers, Gypsy‘s Rose is brash, impetuous and unpleasant (not the kind of role model we should be championing today). But she’s also a mightily strong woman, who – whether rightly or wrongly – believes she’s making the best for her children by pushing them in the limelight. This number, at the end of show, sees Rose finally succumb to her desires to see her own name in lights and brings the house down every single time.