Looking for shows and songs with WLW visibility? We’ve got you covered
BY KATIE KIRKPATRICK
Musicals have long been thought of as the gayest art form possible. The emphasis always seems to fall, however, on gay men. So where are the WLW in musical theatre? They may not always be in the spotlight, but there are plenty of fantastic roles and show stopping songs written about queer women. Here are some of the shows with the best sapphic representation, and their best musical numbers.
Thought of by many as the essential queer musical, RENT uses a rock score to tell the story of a group of friends in 90s New York during the Aids/HIV crisis, delving into their messy relationships and chaotic lives. A central couple in the show is bisexual performance artist Maureen and her girlfriend Joanne, a lesbian lawyer.
Best Sapphic Song: Take Me Or Leave Me – a power duet to break out at karaoke
Cheesy as it may be, when The Prom was adapted for Netflix in 2020 it was a hugely important moment for WLW representation. Based on a true story, The Prom follows high school student Emma whose prom is cancelled because she wants to bring her girlfriend.
Best Sapphic Song: Alyssa Greene – a fast-paced solo about living in the closet with perfectionist expectations
Arguably the quintessential lesbian musical, Fun Home is based on the graphic novel of the same name by lesbian icon Alison Bechdel. The lead role is played by three actresses of different ages, charting Alison’s full journey from child to adult narrator.
Best Sapphic Song: Ring of Keys – spotlighting that first moment of seeing someone like you
Jagged Little Pill
Rumoured to be coming to the West End soon, this jukebox musical based on the songs of Alanis Morissette sensitively depicts issues like addiction and sexual assault, and two of its leading characters are Black bisexual Frankie and her girlfriend Jo, a lesbian whose family wish she were more feminine.
Best Sapphic Song: You Oughta Know – the angsty anthem is adapted to fit a sapphic breakup, to spectacular effect
We Are The Tigers
Playing Off-Broadway in 2019, We Are The Tigers has become something of an internet cult hit in the years since. A campy musical horror, the show follows a high school cheerleading team whose annual sleepover is thrown into chaos by a mysterious serial killer. Its leads include Kate, who is only really there because she’s in love with her best friend, and Eva, a transfer student who Kate ends up dating.
Best Sapphic Song: Skype Tomorrow – a bittersweet song about someone you love moving away
While this show centres around gay men, its lesbian characters have become huge fan favourites, and the depiction of queer friendships is tender and heartwarming. The “lesbians from next door”, caterer Cordelia and doctor Charlotte, are shown in everyday domestic situations, as well as dealing with tragedy during the early days of the Aids/HIV crisis.
Best Sapphic Song: Unlikely Lovers – a touching quartet about unexpected romance in tough times
Currently pretty unknown, Lempicka is currently in previews in San Diego and headed to Broadway for the 2022-23 season. It tells the story of iconic painter Tamara de Lempicka and her life in Paris after fleeing the Russian Revolution, as she becomes torn between her husband and her female muse, Rafaela.
Best Sapphic Song: Woman Is – a beautiful anthem celebrating female sexuality
The Colour Purple
Based on the Pulitzer-winning novel of the same name, this musical tells the heartbreaking story of Celie, a young Black woman trying to make a life for herself in the American South. An important part of the plot is her sapphic relationship with singer Shug. A film adaptation of the musical is expected to be released next year!
Best Sapphic Song: What About Love? – a gentle duet about opening yourself up to romance
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