Celebrating the mothers of musicals and their iconic songs

The mothers of musicals

Mothers in musicals often embody strength, sacrifice, and unconditional love, captivating audiences with their compelling stories and powerful songs.

In honour of Mother’s Day, let’s celebrate some of the most memorable mothers from Broadway and West End musicals, showcasing their iconic numbers that have left an indelible mark on the hearts of many.

Fantine from Les Misérables

Fantine’s story is one of the most heart-wrenching in musical theatre. As a single mother struggling to provide for her daughter, Cosette, in 19th-century France, her lament, I Dreamed a Dream, expresses her shattered hopes and dreams. It’s a poignant reminder of the lengths to which a mother will go for her child’s happiness.

 

Heidi Hansen from Dear Evan Hansen

In Dear Evan Hansen, Heidi Hansen is a single mother struggling to connect with her son, Evan, who deals with severe social anxiety. So Big / So Small is a poignant ballad where Heidi reassures Evan of her unconditional love and the lengths she will go to protect him, highlighting the challenges and rewards of parenting.

 

Donna Sheridan from Mamma Mia!

Set on a picturesque Greek island, Mamma Mia! is a celebration of love, friendship, and identity. Donna, a single mother, reflects on her daughter Sophie’s upbringing and their relationship in Slipping Through My Fingers. The song beautifully captures the bittersweet feeling of watching one’s child grow up and become independent.

 

Mrs. Johnstone from Blood Brothers

Mrs. Johnstone’s story is central to Blood Brothers, a musical that explores themes of class, family, and fate in Liverpool, England. As the mother of twins separated at birth, her powerful ballad, Tell Me It’s Not True, reveals her anguish and disbelief at the tragic fate that befalls her sons. It’s a heart-stopping moment that underscores the depth of a mother’s love.

 

The Witch from Into the Woods

The Witch in Into the Woods is a complex character who serves as both antagonist and mother figure, particularly to Rapunzel. In Stay With Me, she expresses her desire to protect her daughter from the dangers of the world, albeit in a controlling and misguided way. This song reveals the complexities of maternal love, infused with fear, love, and the pain of eventual separation.

 

Kim from Miss Saigon

Kim’s story in Miss Saigon is a powerful one of sacrifice and love. A young Vietnamese mother, she sings I’d Give My Life for You to her son, expressing her hopes for his future and her readiness to do anything to ensure his safety. It’s a testament to the depth of a mother’s love in the face of adversity.

 

Margaret New from Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Margaret New is the supportive and loving mother of Jamie, a teenager with dreams of becoming a drag queen. In a world that’s not always accepting, Margaret’s unconditional love for Jamie shines brightly, particularly in the song He’s My Boy. This ballad is a powerful testament to a mother’s love, showcasing her pride, fear, and unwavering support for her son’s ambitions and identity. Margaret’s character embodies the strength and resilience of a mother’s love in the face of societal challenges.

 

Jenna Hunterson from Waitress

Jenna Hunterson, the protagonist of Waitress, is a talented pie maker trapped in an abusive marriage, dreaming of a better life for herself and her unborn child. She Used to Be Mine, the show’s big 11’o’clock number, is Jenna’s poignant and introspective ballad, reflecting on her lost dreams, mistakes, and the hope of redemption for her and her child’s future. Jenna’s journey of self-discovery and empowerment, furled by her desire to provide a better life for her daughter, highlights the complexities of motherhood and the possibility of second chances.

 

Golde from Fiddler on the Roof

Golde, the matriarch of the Tevye family in Fiddler on the Roof, represents the strength and resilience of a mother navigating the challenges of tradition and change. In Sunrise, Sunset, she and Tevye reflect on the swift passage of time as their daughters grow up and marry, a song that resonates with parents everywhere.

 

Rose from Gypsy

Rose, the ultimate stage mother, drives the plot of Gypsy with her determination to make her daughters Vaudeville stars. Everything’s Coming Up Roses is her anthem of optimism and ambition, revealing both her unwavering resolve and the complexities of her love for her children.

 

Edna Turnblad from Hairspray

Edna Turnblad, the loving and supportive mother of Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray, is a beacon of acceptance and encouragement. In You’re Timeless to Me, a duet with her husband Wilbur, Edna celebrates the enduring love and partnership they share, providing a heartwarming moment that underscores the importance of family support in overcoming adversity.

 

Elizabeth from If/Then

Elizabeth, the protagonist of If/Then, explores two distinct life paths based on her choices, including her experiences as a mother. Always Starting Over is her powerful anthem of resilience and hope, reflecting on the challenges of motherhood, love, and the constant possibility of new beginnings.

 

Diana Goodman from Next to Normal

Diana Goodman, the mother at the heart of Next to Normal, grapples with bipolar disorder and the impact of her illness on her family. I Miss the Mountains is a hauntingly beautiful song where Diana expresses her longing for the emotional highs and lows she experiences, contrasting with the numbness of her medicated state. It’s a raw and honest look at mental illness and its effects on familial relationships.

 

Francesca Johnson from The Bridges of Madison County

Francesca Johnson, the lead character in The Bridges of Madison County, is an Italian war bride who experiences a life-changing romance. Almost Real is her introspective solo where she reflects on her journey from Italy to Iowa, her dreams, and the realities of being a wife and mother. The song captures the complexity of Francesca’s emotions and the choices she faces.

 

Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast

Mrs. Potts, the warm-hearted teapot in Beauty and the Beast, serves as a maternal figure not only to her own son, Chip, but also to Belle and the other inhabitants of the castle. Her rendition of Beauty and the Beast is a tender and wise observation of the blossoming love between Belle and the Beast, showcasing her nurturing and optimistic spirit.

 

Marmee March from Little Women

In the musical adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Marmee March is the strong and compassionate mother of the March sisters. Her song Here Alone is a reflective piece where she expresses her concerns and hopes for her daughters while their father is away during the Civil War. It’s a poignant moment that highlights the resilience and unconditional love of a mother during challenging times.

 

Margaret Johnson from The Light in the Piazza

Margaret Johnson, the mother in The Light in the Piazza, travels to Italy with her daughter Clara, who has a developmental delay due to a childhood accident. Margaret’s journey is one of acceptance and letting go, beautifully encapsulated in Fable, where she reflects on the realities of love and the pains and joys of motherhood. It’s a deeply moving exploration of a mother’s love and the courage it takes to allow your child to live their own life.

 

Elizabeth from Jagged Little Pill

Jagged Little Pill, inspired by Alanis Morissette’s album of the same name, introduces us to Elizabeth, a mother navigating the complexities of modern family life, including her own identity crisis. Smiling is a song that, while not sung by Elizabeth in the musical, embodies the themes of resilience and the facade one may maintain in the face of personal and familial challenges. The musical uses Morissette’s music to delve into issues of identity, trauma, and healing, with Elizabeth’s character central to this exploration.

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About the author: Rachel Wise

UK based freelancer journalist Rachel contributes regularly to Stageberry with features and interviews from the hottest new shows and stage stars.