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Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton

Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton

BeingAlive44Ever
#1Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/24/23 at 8:28pm

I was just listening to Hairspray again and it occurred to me-- 

Edna isn't really in that much of the show. She has a good deal of book scenes and is featured in a good handful of songs, but there's no song that I really identify as an Edna song. She's a lead not because of how much she does, but because of the degree of focus placed on her. 

There are other roles of this type, as well. Eliza in Hamilton isn't in nearly as much of the show as George Washington, any of the double cast roles, or even half as much as Aaron Burr. Eliza is still considered a lead though, whether that be due to the conventions of a male and female duo of leads that are usually a tenor and a soprano who are romantically involved or due to how much weight she has in the story. She's a lead not for the actual size of the role, but for her part in the story. 

Other lead roles like this include: 

The Trunchbull in Matilda, Mary in Jesus Christ Superstar (and Jesus to some extent as well), Marvin in Falsettoland (though not in March of the Falsettos), Ladahlord in James and the Giant Peach, Marius in Les Mis, Usnavi in In the Heights, Princeton in Avenue Q, and Mark in Rent

And then you have roles like Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, which are generally considered supporting roles (or featured by awards shows), but that actually have a ton of material. In some cases actually more than the leads, or at least comparable to the leads, though they are not considered leading roles because their role in the story is "supporting". Some other examples of this are: 

Jason in Falsettoland (though not so much in March of the Falsettos), Hermes in Hadestown, Miss Honey in Matilda, Susan in Tick Tick Boom, Gary Coleman in Avenue Q, Roger and Mimi in A New Brain, Sibella and Phoebe in A Gentlemen's Guide to Love and Murder, Emmett in Legally Blonde, and every double cast role in Hamilton. 

Do any of you have any other examples or want to tell me why I'm wrong about these examples? 

mtcond
#2Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/25/23 at 8:14am

Another that comes to mind is Carrie Pepperidge in "Carousel". Carrie has more musical material than Julie, with "You're a Queer One, Julie Jordan", "Mister Snow" (and reprise), "When the Children Are Asleep", plus a solo section in "June is Busting Out All Over" and "This Was a Real Nice Clambake". In  recent revivals, both Audra McDonald and Lindsay Mendez received Tonys for the role. For McDonald it was the Broadway debut to a record-breaking career. Carrie is only a supporting role because she is in the secondary romantic plot of "Carousel", rather than the central Billy/Julie relationship.

Edna in "Hairspray" is an unusual case. Since the role was conceived to be played by a cis-male, it became a Tony-winning Leading Actor role (Harvey Fierstein). If it had been played by a cis-woman, it would have been in the Supporting Actress category I think, since Tracy is clearly the female lead.

Mary in JCC is a leading role only because there are no other female principals in the show. Also agree about Judas. If "Gethsemane" wasn't in the score, the show would belong to Judas, imho.

Marius is a tricky one. The primary plot belongs to Valjean and Javert, but once Javert (spoiler alert) jumps off a bridge and Valjean disappears, the last half hour rides on Marius' shoulders. If there is not a compelling singing actor in that role, it can be a long 30 minutes. 

In a related and perhaps apocryphal story, Grace Bumbry was playing Amneris to the Aida of Leontyne Price in a production of Verdi's "Aida". While sitting next to one another being wigged for the performance, Bumbry pointed out that Verdi had considered calling the opera "Amneris" since the character has so much stage time and musical prominence. Ms. Price stood to leave and said, "Well, tonight you'll find out why he called it 'Aida'".

Updated On: 7/25/23 at 08:14 AM

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Lot666
#3Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/25/23 at 8:42am

The title character in Phantom gets surprisingly little stage time and only one prominent solo song (The Music of the Night).


==> this board is a nest of vipers <==

"Michael Riedel...The Perez Hilton of the New York Theatre scene"
- Craig Hepworth, What's On Stage
Updated On: 7/25/23 at 08:42 AM

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BrodyFosse123
#4Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/25/23 at 8:49am

Madame Morrible and The Wizard in WICKED. 


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JoeW4
#5Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/25/23 at 10:14am

OP, is your question about the Tony designations, or about the roles/shows themselves?

Supporting roles get placed in the leading category all the time, for a variety of reasons. But I wouldn’t describe those cases as “leading roles that don’t do much” so much as just "supporting roles that were subject to category fraud."

To me, the more relevant/interesting examples are the ones like Phantom, where the role truly FEELS like a lead despite having a deceptively small amount of stage time. Or vice versa with supporting. 

An example I often go to is South Pacific; I was in a production once where I played Luther Billis, but I was also the understudy for Emile. And when studying for both roles, I was surprised to find that the roles are actually similar in size. But because of how they’re positioned in the plot, and because of the respective archetypes they’re built on, Emile feels like the male lead while Billis feels supporting. 

BeingAlive44Ever
#6Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/25/23 at 11:47am

JoeW4 said: "To me, the more relevant/interesting examples are the ones like Phantom, where the role truly FEELS like a lead despite having a deceptively small amount of stage time. Or vice versa with supporting."

That’s mostly what I’m talking about: The actual role size. I mostly brought up award shows because those really make you think about it. I mean, nobody puts role sizes in the playbill. I think that a really interesting thing to look at is how some award shows and other groups consider certain roles to be vastly different in size from themselves. A good example is the aforementioned Trunchbull, which Bertie Carvel was nominated for or won both featured actor and leading actor awards in different shows. The Phantom is very bizarre because he doesn’t really fit any typical archetype for a lead, he’s kind of like Beetlejuice in the original movie. You walk away thinking about him and what he did, but he’s not really in it that much. He’s still what it’s named after, though. 

mtcond said: “Edna in "Hairspray" is an unusual case. Since the role was conceived to be played by a cis-male, it became a Tony-winning Leading Actor role (Harvey Fierstein). If it had been played by a cis-woman, it would have been in the Supporting Actress category I think, since Tracy is clearly the female lead.”

I actually think that, with how huge the cast is in Hairspray and the way the story is presented, it’s likely that a woman in the role of Edna would still be considered a Leading Actress by the Tony committee, though that isn’t exactly what I meant by it being a leading role that doesn’t do much. I can’t help but wonder if it was written specifically with Harvey Fierstein doing it eight times a week in mind. I think Harvey Fierstein is an incredible performer and absolutely deserves every Tony award he’s ever won, but he definitely doesn’t have the vocal dexterity or stamina of many of his castmates, so if you told me that he was given a less demanding role for that reason I would believe you. 

Mtcond said: “Mary in JCC is a leading role only because there are no other female principals in the show. Also agree about Judas. If "Gethsemane" wasn't in the score, the show would belong to Judas, imho.”

I disagree with this as well. Look at Falsettos, where Trina is often considered a supporting role by pretty much every source in the world, even the wrong sources are consistent with it. She is the only principal female character and is arguably the most important character other than Marvin to the story, she has four solos, in a show that has almost no solo songs, and her material is absurdly challenging (and probably was the most difficult mezzo role on Broadway before the renaissance of absurdly difficult roles that are basically just there to belt an E5 in every song). Anyways the main point is that Mary always being considered a lead is a bit odd. Also, I think that JCS is Judas’s show even with Gethsemane. Judas’s material is so striking and poignant and complex and interesting and he is one of my favorite roles ever in a musical. He’s a big part of why JCS r easily my favorite Lloyd Webber show. I really can’t think of another supporting role that’s quite like that. 

“Marius is a tricky one. The primary plot belongs to Valjean and Javert, but once Javert (spoiler alert) jumps off a bridge and Valjean disappears, the last half hour rides on Marius' shoulders. If there is not a compelling singing actor in that role, it can be a long 30 minutes.” 

I mean, Valjean is still kind of there for that thirty minute stretch. Not to mention Enjolras having way more material than Marius for the first half of act two and the latter half of act one. Valjean is basically the only character who is consistently present in the whole story. Javert is almost there, but, as you said, he kind of jumps off of a cliff. There are stretches in which Valjean is nigh irrelevant, but there really aren’t that many parts of the show where I would say it’s all about Marius. In fact, for the latter half of act one, I’m rather certain that Gavroche has more material than him. Also, I’ve seen some productions in which the Marius was just dreadful and the Javert and Valjean completely carried. I’m not sure what point I’m making with that, but basically Marius definitely isn’t a leading role even though he’s basically always considered one. 
 

 

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NOWaWarning
#7Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/25/23 at 11:56am

My first thought was Tewfiq in the Band’s Visit. He’s got plenty of scenes and stage time, but he just about never sings. Pretty rare for the leading man of a musical.

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MrsSallyAdams
#8Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/25/23 at 12:01pm

Guys and Dolls is a good example. Sky and Sarah are the leads. But some productions bump Nathan and Adelaide to lead status. The Jerry Zaks revival made them the heart of the show. Nathan has no solos but a lot of agency. Adelaide has three solos but no agency whatsoever. She has about as much bearing on the plot as Nicely Nicely.


threepanelmusicals.blogspot.com

BeingAlive44Ever
#9Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/25/23 at 12:03pm

NOWaWarning said: "My first thought was Tewfiq in the Band’s Visit. He’s got plenty of scenes and stage time, but he just about never sings. Pretty rare for the leading man of a musical."


That makes me wonder if there are any leading roles that are exclusively spoken. Or book musical roles that are exclusively sung. Also, The Band’s Visit is so inconsistent with leads and supporting roles. With how the story is structured, you could make a case for more than half of the cast as to why they’re somehow a lead character. Honestly I never even really thought of Tewfiq as a lead (maybe because I’ve never seen the show live). 

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MrsSallyAdams
#10Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/25/23 at 12:17pm

Sondheim’s ensemble shows mix up the categories as well.

Follies begins with Sally, but pivots focus to Ben. Phyllis, meanwhile, gets the star turn.

Into the Woods first act is driven by the Bakers Wife and, to a lesser extent, the Witch. Act two pivots focus to Cinderella and the Baker.

A Little Night Music only gives Desiree a song and a patter verse.

 


threepanelmusicals.blogspot.com

BeingAlive44Ever
#11Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/25/23 at 12:23pm

MrsSallyAdams said: "Sondheim’s ensemble shows mix up the categories as well.

Folliesbegins with Sally, but pivots focus to Ben. Phyllis, meanwhile, gets the star turn.

Into the Woodsfirst act is driven by the Bakers Wife and, to a lesser extent, the Witch. Act two pivots focus to Cinderella and the Baker.

A Little Night Musiconly gives Desiree a song and a patter verse.


"

At least we can all agree that the only leads in Sweeney Todd are Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett 

 

... 

 

Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton

Everybody other than StageAgent can agree

Islander_fan
#12Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/25/23 at 2:04pm

BeingAlive44Ever said: "JoeW4 said: "To me, the more relevant/interesting examples are the ones like Phantom, where the role truly FEELS like a lead despite having a deceptively small amount of stage time. Or vice versa with supporting."

That’s mostly what I’m talking about: The actual role size. I mostly brought up award shows because those really make you think about it. I mean, nobody puts role sizes in the playbill. I think that a really interesting thing to look at is how some award shows and other groups consider certain roles to be vastly different in size from themselves. A good example is the aforementioned Trunchbull, which Bertie Carvel was nominated for or won both featured actor and leading actor awards in different shows. The Phantom is very bizarre because he doesn’t really fit any typical archetype for a lead, he’s kind of like Beetlejuice in the original movie. You walk away thinking about him and what he did, but he’s not really in it that much. He’s still what it’s named after, though.

mtcond said: “Edna in "Hairspray" is an unusual case. Since the role was conceived to be played by a cis-male, it became a Tony-winning Leading Actor role (Harvey Fierstein). If it had been played by a cis-woman, it would have been in the Supporting Actress category I think, since Tracy is clearly the female lead.”

I actually think that, with how huge the cast is in Hairspray and the way the story is presented, it’s likely that a woman in the role of Edna would still be considered a Leading Actress by the Tony committee, though that isn’t exactly what I meant by it being a leading role that doesn’t do much. I can’t help but wonder if it was written specifically with Harvey Fierstein doing it eight times a week in mind. I think Harvey Fierstein is an incredible performer and absolutely deserves every Tony award he’s ever won, but he definitely doesn’t have the vocal dexterity or stamina of many of his castmates, so if you told me that he was given a less demanding role for that reason I would believe you.

Mtcond said: “Mary in JCC is a leading role only because there are no other female principals in the show. Also agree about Judas. If "Gethsemane" wasn't in the score, the show would belong to Judas, imho.”

I disagree with this as well. Look at Falsettos, where Trina is often considered a supporting role by pretty much every source in the world, even the wrong sources are consistent with it. She is the only principal female character and is arguably the most important character other than Marvin to the story, she has four solos, in a show that has almost no solo songs, and her material is absurdly challenging (and probably was the most difficult mezzo role on Broadway before the renaissance of absurdly difficult roles that are basically just there to belt an E5 in every song). Anyways the main point is that Mary always being considered a lead is a bit odd. Also, I think that JCS is Judas’s show even with Gethsemane. Judas’s material is so striking and poignant and complex and interesting and he is one of my favorite roles ever in a musical. He’s a big part of why JCS r easily my favorite Lloyd Webber show. I really can’t think of another supporting role that’s quite like that.

“Marius is a tricky one. The primary plot belongs to Valjean and Javert, but once Javert (spoiler alert) jumps off a bridge and Valjean disappears, the last half hour rides on Marius' shoulders. If there is not a compelling singing actor in that role, it can be a long 30 minutes.”

I mean, Valjean is still kind of there for that thirty minute stretch. Not to mention Enjolras having way more material than Marius for the first half of act two and the latter half of act one. Valjean is basically the only character who is consistently present in the whole story. Javert is almost there, but, as you said, he kind of jumps off of a cliff. There are stretches in which Valjean is nigh irrelevant, but there really aren’t that many parts of the show where I would say it’s all about Marius. In fact, for the latter half of act one, I’m rather certain that Gavroche has more material than him. Also, I’ve seen some productions in which the Marius was just dreadful and the Javert and Valjean completely carried. I’m not sure what point I’m making with that, but basically Marius definitely isn’t a leading role even though he’s basically always considered one.



Valjean is the lead in Les Miserables. I mean he doesn’t leave the stage for pretty much all of act 1. In act 2, there’s a lot of important plot points that call be considered a catalyst of his actions. He wouldn’t have gone to the barricade if it wasn’t for Eponine giving him the letter from Marius. He was the one who asked to take care of Javert after it was discovered he was a spy and instead of killing him, released him and set him free. And, he got him away from the barricade after the fight was over so he could be work Cosette. My point in all this is that while it’s easy to focus on other characters in act two, even as far as singing material goes, I just feel that it’s important to realize that Valjean is the main lead through out the show regardless of singing material he has in act 2.

Also, if memory serves, initially the only two “leads” in this show were officially the actors playing both Valjean and Javert. Now that could have changed over the years. But, a lot of the side character appear in the ensemble before their character enters the story. For example, the actress who plays Eponine is one of the hookers in in Lovely Ladies. 

Penna2
#13Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/25/23 at 2:57pm

Lot666 said: "The title character in Phantomgets surprisingly little stage time and only one prominent solo song (The Music of the Night)."

But his presence off stage dominates the show. "He's here, the Phantom of the Opera. He's here, the Phantom of the Opera. He's here. He's here. He's here." laugh

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poisonivy2
#14Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/25/23 at 3:43pm

Nick in Funny Girl is a lead but it's a real nothingburger of a role. 

Jarethan
#15Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/25/23 at 4:54pm

BrodyFosse123 said: "Madame Morrible and The Wizard in WICKED."

Not sure of your point…they are featured roles by any definition.

Jarethan
#16Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/25/23 at 5:26pm

When Cabaret originally opened, 5 other people came after the emcee in the curtain call.  I remember feeling sorry for Lotte Lenya because the deafening applause and bravos that Joel Grey received - no silly screaming in those days - were dramatically reduced for the rest of the cast, but she was the next to come out.  Grey won a supporting Tony and Cumming lead…of course, Cumming did have more stage business than Grey.

I will go to my death feeling that Donna MacKechnie should not have even been nominated for lead performance, let alone won.  The fact that she beat Verdon and Rivera, not to mention, Christine Andreas for MFL, was absurd.  She should have won for supporting, although that would mean that Kelly Bishop would not have won…and she was great.

Dorothy Loudon May have won the Tony over Andrea MacArdle, but hers was definitely a much smaller role…she should have won in the supporting category.

Natalia Makarova won a well-deserved Tony, but in the wrong category.  Lara Teeter, in the lead role of the On Your Toes revival, was nominated for supporting and she won in the lead.  Part of the reason…I remember that the competition was really bad, but don’t remember who…must have been a bad season…at least for leading actresses.

then, of course, there is The Kind and I.  Definitely a supporting role when it originally opened, it eventually became seen as the lead role, presumably because Yul Brynner became a famous movie star and was so associated with the role.  Yet Anna is the lead performance.

I did not see the revival of 42nd Street, so I don’t know if they fattened the role of Helen, for which Christine Enersole won a lead Tony.  The role of Peggy was clearly the biggest role, but Wanda Richert was nominated for supporting in the original production.  She lost to Marilyn Cooper’s tiny role in the lousy Woman of the Year.  Of course, Cooper have one of the all-time great cameo performances, but I remember feeling sorry for Richert, not only did she only get nominated in supporting, but she lost.  In that case, at least, Tammy Grimes was not even nominated…but Ebersole won…was the role beefed up or was it a terrible season for lead actresses in a musical?

 

 

chrishuyen
#17Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/25/23 at 6:35pm

After watching Cabaret for the first time, my friend was like "wow, Cliff narrates the whole thing but no one cares about him".

I'm a little surprised no one's mentioned Company yet.  There's no disputing that Bobbie/Bobby is the main character, but technically they don't have a lot to do (though a lot of it depends on direction/actor choices, which makes each production so interesting).

I'd also say Joe is a bigger lead than Norma in Sunset Boulevard, and dramaturgically, Norma would technically be a featured role, but her presence is just so big it feels like she has to be a lead.

I remember thinking the distinction in Soft Power was interesting, as for the Lortels they put both Conrad Ricamora and Francis Jue in lead, but for Drama Desks Francis Jue was lead while Conrad Ricamora (and Alyse Alan Louis) was featured.  I could honestly see it go either way, as Conrad Ricamora is definitely the leading man in the internal story being told, but the whole thing is wrapped in Francis Jue's story as DHH.

Fordham2015
#18Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/25/23 at 7:38pm

poisonivy2 said: "Nick in Funny Girl is a lead but it's a real nothingburger of a role."

True, I saw it last weekend (Benko's great btw) and I was like "Why did Ramin Karimloo sign up for this?"

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JoeW4
#19Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/25/23 at 8:03pm

2 common threads that a lot of us are touching on here:

(1) Many stories center around one character, but we're seeing them through the perspective of another character. The latter character is effectively the protagonist because we're seeing the story through their eyes, but the former person is the one we often walk away remembering the most. Because they are extraordinary in some way, which is why the protagonist was focused on them in the first place. Norma Desmond, The Phantom, Willy Wonka, Sally Bowles, Jesus, Hamilton, etc.

(2) we also have a trend (moreso in musical theatre than in other mediums) of automatically designating a male and female lead, wherever humanly possible. Even when, by most metrics, one of them could very easily be categorized as supporting. Nick Arnstein is a great example of this. We see him as a leading role primarily because he's "the male lead," he's the romantic interest playing "opposite" Fanny. Eliza in Hamilton is kind of in that category too, though she has the advantage of having the show end on her, which makes her feel more like a lead.

Obviously there are plenty of cases where the male and female leads genuinely are co-leads, I'm just pointing out a separate, concurrent trend.

BeingAlive44Ever
#20Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/25/23 at 10:57pm

JoeW4 said: "2 common threads that a lot of us are touching on here:

(1) Many stories center around one character, but we're seeing them through the perspective of another character. The latter character is effectively the protagonist because we're seeing the story through their eyes, but the former person is the one we often walk away remembering the most. Because they are extraordinary in some way, which is why the protagonist was focused on them in the first place. Norma Desmond, The Phantom, Willy Wonka, Sally Bowles, Jesus, Hamilton, etc."
 

That is a very, very good analysis, I must say. Although I don’t think Hamilton fits into that category, really. He doesn’t get a full length solo, but when you look at how much material he has, he really does more than anybody else in the entire show by virtue of just how many extremely long songs he basically gets half of. I think Hamilton and Jesus are meant to be similar roles, but the difference is that Jesus is little bits and pieces where you get to hear his soaring and incredible songs (although I kind of like Judas’s material way better) and Hamilton is kind of just literally always in the show, to the point that sometimes you really want it to be about somebody else. Another example of a lead role in a very similar vein to Hamilton is Valjean, actually. Mostly in that he has a ton of the show and yet it kind of feels like we’re viewing this story from his enemy’s perspective. It’s like the illusion of a Judas/Jesus dynamic in which the protagonist is actually still the protagonist. 

JoeW4 said: "(2) we also have a trend (moreso in musical theatre than in other mediums) of automatically designating a male and female lead, wherever humanly possible. Even when, by most metrics, one of them could very easily be categorized as supporting. Nick Arnstein is a great example of this. We see him as a leading role primarily because he's "the male lead," he's the romantic interest playing "opposite" Fanny. Eliza in Hamilton is kind of in that category too, though she has the advantage of having the show end on her, which makes her feel more like a lead.

Obviously there are plenty of cases where the male and female leads genuinely are co-leads, I'm just pointing out a separate, concurrent trend."


I think there are a lot of places this idea originates from. I mean, first off, something I’ve heard a lot is that there are no great stories without a romantic plot. This isn’t entirely true, yet I kind of struggle to think of a great story without some kind of romantic pairing. Eliza is such a bizarre role. I have no doubt that, both vocally and acting-wise, it’s an incredibly challenging role. It’s also a soprano role playing opposite of the protagonist, which is exactly what a traditional leading lady in an opera is. She even has the only actual solo in the entire show, with every other instance of a full length solo song having some sort of ensemble involvement if nothing else. Now, these aren’t necessarily lead qualities. King George would be a lead if they were. It’s a very challenging role. It’s a tenor role in a show with no other tenor roles, which most leads in operas are tenors… He even gets three solos! I mean, one of them has ensemble bits at the end, two of them aren’t full length, but still. Obviously, though, King George isn’t a lead, because he’s not in very much of the show. He’s only on stage for about nine minutes. Would it surprise you to learn Eliza is barely onstage for a little over three times that amount? I mean, she sometimes is also just standing there, often in the dark or something, but that only brings it up to maybe forty minutes. Unless I just counted horribly wrong. She does a lot more than Angelica, but Eliza hardly has anything resembling dance, she doesn’t really sing much, she’s not in that much of the show, but… The plot is kind of about her in a lot of ways. But I totally agree that it’s weird to assume that every show has a male and a female lead. Wicked has two female leads, Les Mis has two male leads (or three depending on who you ask), pretty much everything by William Finn has one male lead and no other lead, Matilda and Hairspray both have a female lead and another female role that is generally considered a lead and also generally played by a man, pretty much anything is possible as far as gender goes for leading parts. 
 

 

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Lot666
#21Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/26/23 at 8:43am

chrishuyen said: "Joe is a bigger lead than Norma in Sunset Boulevard, and dramaturgically, Norma would technically be a featured role, but her presence is just so big it feels like she has to be a lead."

I never thought about this, but you're right. Joe is to Sunset what Christine is to Phantom.

 


==> this board is a nest of vipers <==

"Michael Riedel...The Perez Hilton of the New York Theatre scene"
- Craig Hepworth, What's On Stage

mtcond
#22Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/26/23 at 9:35am


Mtcond said: “Mary in JCC is a leading role only because there are no other female principals in the show. Also agree about Judas. If "Gethsemane" wasn't in the score, the show would belong to Judas, imho.”

I disagree with this as well. Look at Falsettos, where Trina is often considered a supporting role by pretty much every source in the world, even the wrong sources are consistent with it. She is the only principal female character and is arguably the most important character other than Marvin to the story, she has four solos, in a show that has almost no solo songs, and her material is absurdly challenging (and probably was the most difficult mezzo role on Broadway before the renaissance of absurdly difficult roles that are basically just there to belt an E5 in every song). Anyways the main point is that Mary always being considered a lead is a bit odd. Also, I think that JCS is Judas’s show even with Gethsemane. Judas’s material is so striking and poignant and complex and interesting and he is one of my favorite roles ever in a musical. He’s a big part of why JCS r easily my favorite Lloyd Webber show. I really can’t think of another supporting role that’s quite like that.

“Marius is a tricky one. The primary plot belongs to Valjean and Javert, but once Javert (spoiler alert) jumps off a bridge and Valjean disappears, the last half hour rides on Marius' shoulders. If there is not a compelling singing actor in that role, it can be a long 30 minutes.”

I mean, Valjean is still kind of there for that thirty minute stretch. Not to mention Enjolras having way more material than Marius for the first half of act two and the latter half of act one. Valjean is basically the only character who is consistently present in the whole story. Javert is almost there, but, as you said, he kind of jumps off of a cliff. There are stretches in which Valjean is nigh irrelevant, but there really aren’t that many parts of the show where I would say it’s all about Marius. In fact, for the latter half of act one, I’m rather certain that Gavroche has more material than him. Also, I’ve seen some productions in which the Marius was just dreadful and the Javert and Valjean completely carried. I’m not sure what point I’m making with that, but basically Marius definitely isn’t a leading role even though he’s basically always considered one.


Valjean is the lead in Les Miserables. I mean he doesn’t leave the stage for pretty much all of act 1. In act 2, there’s a lot of important plot points that call be considered a catalyst of his actions. He wouldn’t have gone to the barricade if it wasn’t for Eponine giving him the letter from Marius. He was the one who asked to take care of Javert after it was discovered he was a spy and instead of killing him, released him and set him free. And, he got him away from the barricade after the fight was over so he could be work Cosette. My point in all this is that while it’s easy to focus on other characters in act two, even as far as singing material goes, I just feel that it’s important to realize that Valjean is the main lead through out the show regardless of singing material he has in act 2.

Also, if memory serves, initially the only two “leads” in this show were officially the actors playing both Valjean and Javert. Now that could have changed over the years. But, a lot of the side character appear in the ensemble before their character enters the story. For example, the actress who plays Eponine is one of the hookers in in Lovely Ladies."


Completely agree with you--Valjean is undoubtedly the lead of the show, closely followed by Javert. My only point re: Marius is that once "Empty Chairs" happens, Marius is the common thread in every scene till the end of the show, which I think is unusual. You can get away with an "okay" Marius for act one, but you need a strong presence in this role in act two. In that way it's deceptively important--definitely not a leading role, but pivotal as a supporting one.

The Trina point above is valid. She's normally not considered a leading role, but she has a lot of important and challenging material.

 

BeingAlive44Ever
#23Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/26/23 at 11:52am

mtcond said: "
The Trina point above is valid. She's normally not considered a leading role, but she has a lot of important and challenging material.

"

Trina also is the only character in every entry of the trilogy and March of the Falsettos was originally called "The Absurdity of Misogyny", likely because it revolves mostly around Trina getting exploited in various ways by literally every man around her (and also probably because of how misogyny and the objectification of women in our culture is a root cause of gay marriage being seen as unthinkable for so long, because it is William Finn we're talking about).

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jkcohen626
#24Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/26/23 at 12:01pm

IDK how they will be ruled when it comes to Tony season. But, when it comes to advertising, Ninoy and Ferdinand in Here Lies Love are definitely being pushed as leads despite being decidedly supporting characters. Each has a few songs compared to Imelda's 15+ and they both also disappear for large portions of the show (and I definitely noticed their absences). Their parts aren't THAT much bigger than Estrella! 

kaykordeath
#25Leading Roles that Don't Really Do Much/Featured Roles that Do A Ton
Posted: 7/26/23 at 12:14pm

It's been a long time since I've seen it, but would you count Applegate in Damn Yankees?


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