Musical leads carry a story on their back, in most cases. While we love our secondary characters with all our hearts, it is hard to deny that the lead characters are the ones who are the center of the show.
We would like to look at some of our favorite lead characters in musicals.
1. Jean Valjean – Les Misérables
This man, who was sent to jail for nineteen years simply for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving sister, has a great deal to overcome when he is finally released from prison more than a decade later. He first tried to steal, not knowing anything else, yet the benevolence of a Bishop pushes Valjean to break parole and move away from this French town and start anew.
Yet he has an enemy, Inspector Javert, who swears he is evil and vows to put him away if he ever finds him. In the meantime, Valjean makes a great life as a mayor and business owner. Fantine is employed in his factory but when the supervisor learns she is an unwed mother the young and needy Fantine if fired.
Consumed with his own problems, namely Javert, Valjean is unaware of all Fantine’s hardships until he learns that she is ill and she has a child. When she dies, he swears to take care of young Cosette and he does. This isn’t even half of the tale, but we must stop here before this story takes up the entire post.
2. Mamita – Gigi
Mamita is Gigi’s grandmother, who has been given the responsibility of making sure she grows up respectably and is taken care of. She is strong and sensible and part of the reason Gaston, a wealthy playboy, loves to come around and visit with her and her granddaughter. Of course, Gaston’s affections toward Gigi become romantic, and Mamita is left to make some serious decisions on the child’s behalf.
When offered to be put up in an apartment of her own as well as money from him every month just for the being his “woman du jour” seems like a wonderful offer to Gaston. Yet, Mamita and Gigi both believe it is a temporary solution. What is to happen to Gigi if he were to choose to cast her aside for another? No, they decided that this was not for her.
Yet, even when Gigi changes her mind and goes out with Gaston, Mamita’s influence is there when he realizes that if he were to be true to his feelings for her, then it is necessary that she become his wife.
3. Harold Hill – The Music Man
This is a guy you love to hate. Harold Hill is a traveling salesman who has a bad reputation throughout the Midwest for scamming folks out of their money by pretending he can teach their boys how to play in a band. Little do these people know that Hill can’t read music and doesn’t intend to deliver on the instruments or the promise.
Certain townsfolk are skeptical of Hill at first, but they are quickly won over by his charm and charisma. All but Marion, the librarian, who, through an old family friendship with an elderly town statesman, became the owner of all the books. He left the library to the town but left her all the books.
He did this to ensure she always had a job and her family would be taken care of. Yet, the local ladies gossip about her to Hill, which only piques his interest more. Hill sets out to woo the librarian without realizing he may be falling for her too.
4. Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson – Guys and Dolls
Both these gents have made their way onto our lists but never as a duo. It seems fitting to put them together since they share the same movie. Each of these men is a hoodlum and make their living hustling. Detroit is in love with Adelaide but will not commit to marrying her.
Detroit is known in New York for his infamous traveling craps game, and his peers are beginning to hound him for a location. Besides that, the fuzz is on his tail and his girl is hounding him to marry her.
Masterson is a visitor to the city looking for a game. Notorious for never refusing a bet, he becomes the target of a scheme thought up by Detroit. Nathan bets Sky that he can’t take the girl of his choosing to dinner in Havana that evening. The bet is the $1000 Detroit needs to get his craps game going.
Sky takes the bet, and he does everything to try and woo the Missionary Sarah Brown, which is the girl that Detroit picked to Masterson’s dismay. He does get her to Havana but only because he promises something in return.
5. Frank N. Furter – The Rocky Horror Picture Show
This character could be our all-time favorite lead character over any other lead character ever. He is suave, he is sexy, and he is bold. As evil as he is Frank N. Furter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a great character all around. His egocentric attitude is evident when Brad and Janet first meet him after their car breaks down in the rain.
Of course, evil can only be contained for so long, and Frank’s wicked ways get him into some serious trouble in the end. Still, the way he dances and giggles, along with the way he can charm everyone – even though we know what a complete shit he is -, gives Frank N. Furter a solid spot on out leading character list today.
6. Maria – The Sound of Music
No leading character list would be complete without this would-be nun and her new-found family of singers. We meet Maria when she is nothing but trouble for the sisters in the abbey. So, they decide to send her away, not to get rid of her, but to give her some much-needed life experience, since she came to the abbey to begin her quest to be a nun in her early teens.
When Maria finds that she is going to be a governess she is scared and excited, especially due to the number of children, which is seven. Getting them to trust her isn’t easy at first, but Maria soon wins them all over with her singing and unorthodox nature. Even the Captain, although she doesn’t realize it until much later in the story.
Her ability to maintain her sensibilities when the Nazi’s are threatening to break up her newly formed family exemplifies Maria’s true strength of character. What we love the most is that Maria was a real person who did escape with her family from the Nazi regime. Yet the real-to-life facts are much different than the story.
For example, they escaped to Italy, not Switzerland and Maria and Georg got married eleven years before the Nazi’s took over Austria, not immediately before as implicated in the musical.
Here’s a list of great secondary characters from musicals. Enjoy!