Mothers play an important role in the lives of their children. As we celebrate Mother’s Day tomorrow, we thought we’d take a look at some of the most famous (and infamous) motherly roles in musical theatre.
Sharing the love for those who inspire us, the Theatre Haus team wishes everyone a Happy Mother’s Day. PS – if you haven’t bought a present yet, consider giving the gift of a theatre ticket or membership, and support your local arts community.
Donna Sheridan – ‘Mamma Mia!’
A free-spirited dancing queen, Donna Sheridan of ‘Mamma Mia!’ is a hard-working, honest, single mother. Raising her daughter, Sophie, to be kind, happy and fun-loving like herself, Donna sacrificed a lot. Although the main plot point of ‘Mamma Mia!’ is the unknown identity of Sophie’s father, Donna ends up having her own special fairytale-like ending. Even more spectacular is her ability to pull off those ABBA dance routines and lycra jumpsuits.
Rose – ‘Gypsy’
A mother who lives vicariously through her children, Rose from ‘Gypsy’ is the epitome of the term “stage mum”. Her aggressive and domineering nature sees her force her children, Baby June and Louise, into the spotlight, and Mama Rose even dreams of her own stardom one day. While her efforts are often at the expense of her relationships, it’s not until the end of the musical where she realises just how far she’s gone.
Fun fact – the ending of ‘Gypsy’ has changed a number of times for different revivals. The 2008 Broadway rendition saw no hope of reconciliation between Mama Rose and Louise.
Matron ‘Mama’ Morton – ‘Chicago’
So she’s not your traditional mother in the sense of biology or upbringing, but when you’re good to Mama Morton, Mama’s good to you. Okay, it may be a stretch, but the inmates of Cook County Jail look up to their Matron. Helping them in times of need, ‘Chicago’s’ Mama Morton looks after the women of her prison – or so it seems. At first, her nurturing and kind nature comes through. But later, she can be quite manipulative if you need a favour. What side do you want to be on?
Diana Goodman – ‘Next to Normal’
Teaching us how deep a mother’s love can run, Diana Goodman rollercoasters her way through the highs and lows of mental illness. Dealing with the loss of her son and bipolar disorder, her heartache and breakdowns threaten to tear her family apart. ‘Next to Normal’ is a heavy, emotional show, which presents an incredible opportunity for any performer as Diana Goodman. With an unconventional ending, Diana gives a voice to the underdog, mum’s with their own challenges, and women who historically have been undervalued and even subjugated.
Maria – ‘The Sound of Music’
Another free-spirited mother making our list is Maria from ‘The Sound of Music’. With much confidence and self-determination, she takes on the task of looking after the Von Trapp family, even dealing with the strict Captain Von Trapp and his enforceable routines. This musical is a great case of opposites attract and Maria makes a great role model/step-mother to the children. Solving her own problems and then some, this is a role that comes alive (especially with music).
Mrs Johnstone – ‘Blood Brothers’
Despite being naive in giving up one of her twins, Mrs Johnstone from ‘Blood Brothers’ is a kind, warm, maternal and extremely generous mother. Rearing eight children on her own, she’s faced many difficulties after her husband left her for another woman. As a result of her poverty, she is uneducated and often has poor judgment and a lack of opportunities in her life. While she may not make the best choices, it doesn’t mean she loves her family any less.
Fantine – ‘Les Miserables’
Quite arguably one of musical theatre’s most tragic heroines, Fantine is a mother who supports her daughter, Cosette, right up until her final breath. As she comes to her demise in her spine-tingling ballad ‘Come to Me’, she quite literally whispers to “tell Cosette I love her, and I’ll see her when I wake…”. Cue hearts breaking. In the end, Cosette is given a good life by Jean Valjean in ‘Les Miserables’. #RIPFantine
Mrs Potts – ‘Beauty and the Beast’
An underrated motherly role, Mrs Potts from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is as warm and soothing as tea itself. She’s the castle’s head housekeeper and a casualty of the Enchantress’ curse when she is transformed into an enchanted teapot. Witty and intelligent, Mrs Potts is one of the most reliable members of the Beast’s staff and acts as a voice of reason. As a mother to her teacup son, Chip, she is gentle and supportive, but can also have a stern and no-nonsense approach.
Shirley Hastings – ‘Strictly Ballroom’
When it comes to mothers who nag, we feel this one cha-cha-cha’s her way to the top. Shirley Hastings from ‘Strictly Ballroom’ has spent her life teaching dance to young people, and her son Scott. A champion of the dance world, she’s invested everything to ensure they remain at the top. She has complete control… until Scott starts dancing to a new rhythm. Shirley is an ultimate dance mum that will do whatever it takes to help her children succeed. Also, her biggest fear is that she doesn’t fail… especially when in front of Barry Fife. You can’t pasodoble past Shirley.
Edna Turnblad – ‘Hairspray’
Far from the glamour and glitz, Edna Turnblad is a slippers and housecoat donning mum. Gracing the stage in ‘Hairspray’, Edna is fun, larger than life and mother to Tracy. While her own insecurities seem to prevent her daughter from following her own dreams, she never stops supporting her when she can. Edna just needs to break free from her mediocre daily routine. Originally played by Hervey Fierstein on Broadway, this role is typically played by a male and is absolutely timeless.
Jenna – ‘Waitress’
A slightly different type of mum making our list is Jenna, from the bittersweet musical, ‘Waitress’. A pie connoisseur, Jenna dreams of a better life away from her abusive marriage. When she discovers she has her own bun in the oven, she finds solace in her OB/GYN, Dr Poematter. It’s Jenna’s self-discovery and the love she has for her newborn daughter that makes her a great mum. Sometimes life’s unexpected gifts are the best gifts of all and can awaken a mother to her own worth.
Margaret White – ‘Carrie: The Musical’
Now not all mum’s on this list are considered supportive. Margaret White from ‘Carrie: The Musical’ is a great example of this and is best described as emotionally toxic. Her presence in Stephen King’s novel, ‘Carrie’, was chilling, to say the least. In the film adaptation, the character soared to an even eviler height. And now she comes to life on stage, in a musical by Michael Gore, Dean Pitchford and Lawrence D. Cohen. Margaret is fleshed out to a whole new operatic level. Her duet, “And Eve Was Weak”, alongside Carrie is a thrilling, yet abusive musical moment. During the song, it shows the lengths of Margaret’s religious fanaticism… and we’re just backing away slowly here.
Ethel McCormack – ‘Footloose’
Considered only a supporting role, Ethel McCormack still plays a significant part in the plotline of the iconic, ‘Footloose’. As a single mother, she and her son, Ren, are brought closer due to the mutual loss of Ren’s father (when he walked out). Ethel’s had a tough go but has to be strong for her family; developing a close bond to those she loves. With inner resilience and intelligence, Ethel never succumbs to the tragedy of her situation.
Jenny Elliot – ‘Billy Elliot the Musical’
Another role that’s small on stage but huge in impact is Jenny Elliot from the musical, ‘Billy Elliot’. Sharing one of the most emotional scenes of the show, Jenny constantly reminds her son of his dreams. When she appears on stage, it’s only Billy and the audience who can see her. She’s warm, compassionate and sympathetic. Her love is endless and a poignant moment in the production.
Aunt Eller – ‘Oklahoma!’
‘Oklahoma’s’ Aunt Eller may not be an actual mum, but we’ll be danged if she ain’t just as good! Possessing many motherly skills, Aunt Eller has raised Laurie by herself and even watches over the people in her town; seeing the good in everyone. She is one #bosslady and successfully runs her farm in a “man’s world”.
Happy Mother’s Day to all our mothers, stage mums, step mums, aunts, grandmas and dads taking on both roles. We appreciate you all. Which musical do you think has the most memorable mother role of all time?