Welcome back! If you saw yesterday’s article, then you already know what today is going to be! If you didn’t, or don’t remember, let me tell you! Yesterday, covering for our beloved Hayley St. James (who is at BroadwayCon), I wrote about the top ten male performances that I’ve seen live. And today, I’m coming back with the top ten female performances that I’ve seen live! So without any further delay, let’s jump in!
Like last time, let’s start with our honorable mentions! Ruby Gibbs as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in Finding Neverland, Molly Jobe as Jenna in Waitress, Carrie St. Louis as Glinda Upland in Wicked, Audrey Cardwell as Ella in Cinderella, Jenn Colella as Beverly and Others in Come From Away, Ashley Blanchet's performance of Burn at Pronoun Showdown, Taylor Iman Jones as Mopsa in Head Over Heels, and Julia Knitel as Carole King in Beautiful!
10. Lauren Nicole Chapman - Riley, We Are the Tigers
You may not have heard of We Are the Tigers yet, but believe me, you will. Whether that’s because it’s having its Off-Broadway premiere soon or because I intend to start writing about it (and never stop) is anyone’s guess. I adore We Are the Tigers, and of all the people I’ve seen in it, Lauren Nicole Chapman (Broadway Frozen’s internal understudy for Princess Anna) absolutely blew me away as Riley, team captain of the worst cheer team in the state. The role is fantastically written, and while Lauren is not going to be in the Off-Broadway production, her role will be played by the beloved Broadway Comet’s Lauren Zakrin.
9. Becca Petersen - Regina George, Mean Girls
I spoke at length about my love for Newsies in my last article, and while this list has two girlsies, neither made the cut for their performance in Newsies. However, it was their involvement in Newsies that got my attention and held it, and I actually planned my trip to New York last August to see her as Regina George—and she did not disappoint! I was used to Taylor’s Regina from seeing the show in previews and listening to the cast album non-stop, so seeing Becca’s was like coming home and finding all of my furniture had been moved directly three inches to the left. I loved every second of it. She was everything I always thought Regina should be but was missing from Taylor’s performance.
8. Stephanie Styles - Suz, Kingdom Come
Kingdom Come was a strange little show, but I absolutely hold that had it transferred with its cast to Broadway, Stephanie Styles would have won Best Supporting Actress in a Play. Hands down. The role required everything from deadpan to physical comedy, and she never missed a single beat. Suz is the kind of girl I would hate if I met her in real life, but I adored Stephanie Styles’ portrayal of her. When I think back on seeing that show, I only regret that it played a limited run in a small black box theatre, so most people missed out on her shining star.
7. Brittain Ashford - Sonya Rostova, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812
I love Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. This isn’t a surprise to anyone, but I love it so much that I feel it bears repeating. One of the reasons I loved it so much was none other than Brittain Ashford as Sonya, the sweet and sterile flower from War and Peace, who on stage translates to the most loving, supportive friend that Broadway may ever have seen. While I saw three Sonyas in total, the Sonya of my heart will always be the one the role was written for: Miss Brittain Ashford.
6. Betsy Wolfe - Cathy Hiatt, Last Five Years
Last Five Years is a very special show to me, and Cathy is always a character I’ve related to very heavily—particularly when portrayed by Broadway’s best, Betsy Wolfe. While I’ve seen Betsy multiple times in many shows, she makes the list because of Cathy, the young divorcée/bride/girlfriend of Jamie Wellerstein, whose story we see backwards. Despite the unnatural storytelling method, Betsy nailed every beat, making us laugh, cry, and feel every single one of Cathy’s emotions with full force.
5. Gelsey Bell - Angelmakers
I already wrote an entire article about this, so I won’t waste your time by repeating myself.
4. Amber Gray - Hélène Bezukhova, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Amber Gray deserved a Tony nod, if not the Tony itself, for her portrayal of Hélène in Great Comet. While she was never a character I noticed on the cast album, when I saw her live, she was breathtaking. I chose my seat the second time I went just because I wanted to be closer to her, and she did not disappoint. She gave 150% to the role every time I saw it, and when she sang Charming, it was like the rest of the world disappeared, and it was just her. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
3. Abigail Bengson - Herself, The Lucky Ones
I’m going to write an entire article one of these days about the beauty of the Bengsons and how raw and vulnerable they are. But for now, I will say that in addition to having the kind of story that makes you believe in love again, they are some of the greatest musicians of our time. I am grateful to be on the planet at the same time they are.
2. Bernadette Peters - Dolly Levi, Hello Dolly!
Ah, what list would be complete without Broadway’s very own GOAT, Bernadette Peters? I saw Hello, Dolly! from the front row one day without knowing anything about the show, and it was like the first time I had ever seen a show. I laughed, I cried, and I felt safe in Bernadette Peters’ more than capable hands. She’s beloved by all of Broadway, and I can see why. She would have full permission to steal every scene, to make it Hello, Bernadette! instead, but she didn’t. She was modest when it was her turn to steal the stage, but she also let others have their time, making her one of the most gracious leading ladies I’ve ever seen, not just one of the best.
1. Christy Altomare - Anya, Anastasia
If you know me, you know I love Anastasia. The Broadhurst has become my home away from home, and I’ve seen Anastasia five times (and of course, made the beloved legend known as Creepy Anya). But what keeps drawing me back to the Broadhurst? Well, I can tell you, it’s not the signature cocktails. It’s the cast, led by Christy Altomare’s absolutely heartbreaking, show-stopping, incredible performance as Anya, the amnesiac-turned-princess that cries three times in one act, and always makes it seem so real that I can’t help but tear up too. This is another Tony snubbed role: Christy Altomare carries the weight of the show on her shoulders and makes it look like a pair of wings. I will never fail to be impressed by her.
So that’s that! My top ten female performances! I’ve seen so many incredible productions and phenomenal actresses, and I’m sure that as I go and see more shows, the list will simply go on and on. But for now, this is where I must leave it! Do you agree with any of my picks? What are your favorites? Let us know in those comments or on Twitter!
(Photo credits are Lauren Nicole Chapman, Becca Petersen, Joan Marcus, Chad Batka, Randhy Rodriguez, Paloma Young, Ben Arons, Julieta Cervantes, and Matthew Murphy.)