September is Women’s Friendship Month. So, how does that play out on Broadway? Let’s take a look.
The Sisterhood is real.
So is Women’s Friendship Month, which happens to be September.
In honor of the totally rad relationships women create, maintain and sustain, we decided to take a look at the way women’s friendships are portrayed in three blockbuster Broadway hits.
I. The Color Purple
The unbreakable bond between sisters, women’s intimacy, loyalty against abusive men and the encouragement to rise up in the face of dangerous odds, the dynamics between the women in this story represent many facets of women’s friendships. The Color Purple, in its examination of the connection between sisters Celie and Nettie and the arrival of dynamos Shug and Sofia, circles around and through the nuances of the critical nature of women loving and standing up for each other. The musical tracks how each woman influences Celie, the star of the show, who struggles to come into her own identity as an African-American woman in the early 1900s. Based on Alice Walker’s award-winning novel, this story specifically reclaims the most righteous awesomeness of women looking each other square in the eye and saying, “I’m with you, sister.”
Thematically, it’s like The Color Purple but with pies. This story follows Jenna, a supremely talented pie-maker, as she relies on her waitress buddies to inspire the inner strength that propels her to an independent life doing what she loves. Based on Adrienne Shelley’s film—which she wrote in just two weeks while pregnant with her daughter—this story looks at the necessity of a network of female friends, no matter how small, to be both the safety net and the springboard for a woman with the ambition to see where her talent can take her. In an interesting real-life side note, the creative team behind Waitress the musical is all women, including hit maker Sara Bareilles who wrote all the songs and lyrics.
Of course, one of the most notorious female friendships in the Broadway canon belongs to Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, which brings us to
We dunno how much this show reflects women’s friendships as much as it illuminates humanity’s tendency to make advantageous alliances for self-preservation. However, one thing is certain: Velma and Roxie (and the rest of “Mama”’s incarcerated crew of insanely attractive murderers) make a great team for an epic battle of frenemies vying for the limelight. Chicago, which is based on reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins’s play (which was inspired by her work covering women on trial for murder in Chicago), disrupts the “sugar and spice and everything nice” notion about women and women’s relationships. In this story of literal femme fatales, women get a delightful romp in the predatory role where an uneasy truce is the closest anyone is going to get to a real relationship. Though Velma and Roxie bury the hatchet to become business partners by the end of the show, Chicago purposefully challenges gender stereotypes and assumptions about why women need each other.
However, like The Color Purple and Waitress, Chicago ultimately proves that life is so much better when you’ve got a pack of like-minded women with whom to take over the world.