When Waitress opened on Broadway in 2016, it becomes the first musical in Broadway history to have an entirely female creative team. Just take a moment to digest that. No other show had a team of women writing, composing, directing, choreographing and designing it. The same could not be said for men, who for decades have monopolised the field in its various creative capacities.
There are hordes of amazing women writing musicals across the world, but how many can you name? Of course a Broadway run or being a household name to match Andrew Lloyd Webber shouldn’t be a marker of success, but even at a grassroots level there still seem to be fewer women having their voices heard. At a recent new musical theatre event we attended, two thirds of the writers were male. In 2017 The Stage newspaper revealed research regarding the gender of West End musical writers over the previous decade. Three quarters of them had no women in the writing team.
When Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron won the 2015 TONY award for Best Original Score for Fun Home, Tesori acknowledged conductor Linda Twine for opening her eyes to a career in music and it being something available to women. She remarked that, “for girls, you have to see it be it.”
Women are here, they’re writing musicals, and they’re writing good musicals! So, to acknowledge this - and in honour of Waitress opening in London - we thought we’d celebrate the women who’ve paved the way for us. We see you. And hopefully this post will allow others to do the same.
Nell Benjamin - musicals include Mean Girls and Legally Blonde
We recommend: I’d Rather Be Me from Mean Girls
Lynn Ahrens - musicals include Anastasia, Seussical, Ragtime, Once On This Island, to name a few!
We recommend: Journey to The Past from Anastasia
Lisa Kron - Fun Home (book and lyrics)
We recommend: Ring of Keys from Fun Home
Betty Comden - musicals include On The Town, The Will Rogers Follies, On the Twentieth Century, and many more!
We recommend: Veronique from On The Twentieth Century
Dorothy Fields - musicals include Sweet Charity and Seesaw, plus countless songs from the American Songbook
We recommend: If They Could See Me Now from Sweet Charity
Kait Kerrigan - musicals include Henry and Mudge, The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown and The Woman Upstairs
We recommend: Party Dress from Henry and Mudge
Mindi Dickstein - most known for Little Women
We recommend: Astonishing from Little Women
Barbara Anselmi - It Shoulda Been You
We recommend: A Little Bit Less Than from It Shoulda Been You
Jeanine Tesori - musicals include Fun Home, Violet, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Shrek and Caroline, or Change
We recommend: Lot’s Wife from Caroline, or Change
Lucy Simon - musicals include The Secret Garden and Doctor Zhivago
We recommend: If I Had A Fine White Horse from The Secret Garden
Kristen Anderson-Lopez - musicals include Frozen, In Transit and Up Here
We recommend: Monster from Frozen
Sara Bareilles - Waitress
We recommend: She Used To Be Mine (and performed here with Opening Up) from Waitress
Brenda Russell and Allee Willis (with Stephen Bray) - The Color Purple
We recommend: Mysterious Ways / I’m Here from The Color Purple
Cyndi Lauper - Kinky Boots
We recommend: Sex Is in The Heel from Kinky Boots
Amanda Green - musicals include Hands on a Hardbody, and lyrics for High Fidelity and Bring It On
We recommend: Joy of the Lord from Hands On a Hardbody
Lisa Lambert - The Drowsy Chaperone (written with Greg Morrison)
We recommend: Show Off from The Drowsy Chaperone
Georgia Stitt - musicals include Big Red Sun, The Danger Year and Samantha Spade: Ace Detective
We recommend: Stop from The Danger Year
This list is by no means exhaustive, more a quick run down of just some of our heroes.
Do share your favourite female musical theatre composers and lyricists in the comments below!