The 25 best Broadway divas of all time

We name the top leading ladies of musical theater

0

Comments

Add +
15
Elaine Stritch, At Liberty

Elaine Stritch, At Liberty

Elaine Stritch

Elaine Stritch’s career stretches back to the 1940s, and notably includes roles in Noël Coward’s Sail Away and Stephen Sondheim’s Company, but reached its apotheosis in 2001 with her self-recovery session, At Liberty. Equal parts blond bombshell and battle-ax, she sings in a skeleton key that somehow unlocks every song. Her curmudgeonly, whiskey-drenched style explodes with a rare force of character: a tough yet tender blend of honesty, rue and mordant wit.—Adam Feldman

14
Kristin Chenoweth, Wicked

Kristin Chenoweth, Wicked

Kristin Chenoweth

A diminutive blond with a piercing, helium-tinged belting voice and a comic manner that harks back to great funnywomen of old, Kristin Chenoweth is the most distinctive musical-theater star to emerge in decades. The stylized perfection of her delivery is well matched to cartoonish roles—she won a national following as Wicked’s chirpy Glinda, and a Tony for You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown—but she is also an accomplished coloratura soprano, who has dazzled concert audiences with Leonard Bernstein’s high-flying aria from Candide.—Adam Feldman

13
Barbra Streisand, Funny Girl

Barbra Streisand, Funny Girl

Barbra Streisand

True, she had the starring role in only one musical—as Fanny Brice, the swanning ugly duckling of Funny Girl—before abandoning the stage for good. But Barbra Streisand never left Broadway, exactly; she brought it with her to movies, albums and concert halls. And her signature vocal style, a suspension bridge between old-school belting and microphone pop, remains influential throughout the theater world. Sometimes just a single stamp can leave a deep impression.—Adam Feldman

12
Carol Channing, Hello, Dolly!

Carol Channing, Hello, Dolly!

Carol Channing

Channing is nothing if not distinctive: an Al Hirschfeld caricature in the flesh, all platinum hair and two-tiered grin, with a trombone voice that slides out by surprise. Her legendary status is primarily built upon two roles—Lorelei Lee (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) and Dolly Gallagher Levi (Hello, Dolly!)—that she played, off and on, for 50 years. Now that versatility is in vogue, they don’t make them like Channing anymore; but then, there never was anyone like her to begin with.—Adam Feldman

11
Audra McDonald, Marie Christine

Audra McDonald, Marie Christine

Audra McDonald

The name Audra means “storm,” and that’s only right for a performer who blows us away every time she sets foot on the boards. Broadway voices don’t get much respect in classical circles: too much vibrato or too much emoting to hide technical weakness. But Audra McDonald has an instrument of operatic force and she has the acting chops to back it up. She's bold, beautiful, noble—yet, as you can see in the current revisal of Porgy and Bess, she can do abject and unglamorous too. McDonald currently boasts four Tony wins since 1994 (Carousel, Master Class, Ragtime and A Raisin in the Sun). And you can bet that Bess will earn her the fifth.—David Cote



Users say

12 comments
Diana A
Diana A

I dont think that Bernadette Peters andPatti LuPone are before Mary Martin andBarbara Cook

Michelle V
Michelle V

Agree totally with Julianna-where is Marin Mazzie?!

Cat
Cat

How the heck did sutton foster, Donna Murphy, and Gertrude Lawrence beat DOROTHY LOUDON in higher spots!?!

Dianne Buckley
Dianne Buckley

How in the world could you leave out the fabulous, Betty Buckley? She is the voice!

Bwaymike@aol.com
Bwaymike@aol.com

Another list slanted toward today's stars who do one hit and run off to Television. Where's Marilyn Miller, Ziegfeld's greatest star? Or Vivienne Segal who went from Operetta to Rodgers and Hart? These ladies performed for decades on Broadway. If you add it all up someone like Liza Minnelli has only been on Broadway for a year and a month in total. And Streisand disappeared after two shows.

Kendall
Kendall

Carol Burnett is on this list but not Bebe Neuwirth? You've GOT to be joking. Also, Patti LuPone is way too high up there...

Thomas J
Thomas J

YES! Carol Channing and Sutton Foster made the list!

Albert
Albert

No LEA SALONGA??????? Blasphemy!!!!

Rachel
Rachel

How come Barbra's only number 13????? THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS! Though I must agree that Patti LuPone is one of the top divas on Broadway. AND I had the blessing to meet her on NYC: two dreams coming true at once!! :)

Juliana
Juliana

You forgot: Heather Headly Bebe Neuwirth Linda Eder AND CMON..... NO ONE bothered to mention Marin Mazzie???

Paul
Paul

I agree entirely that she is the diva of divas. So why is there no Broadway theatre named after ETHEL MERMAN ? Jacobs, Schoenfeld, Friedman? Really? But no, Merman? I guess her family didn't know the right people or donate enough money to buy the naming rights.

Paul
Paul

I agree entirely that she is the diva of divas. So why is there no Broadway theatre named after ETHEL MERMAN ? Jacobs, Schoenfeld, Friedman? Really? But no, Merman? I guess her family didn't know the right people or donate enough money to buy the naming rights.

Listen to Time Out's Broadway divas playlist on Spotify

Read more theater features

Interview: Tom Stoppard

The knighted British dramatist talks about smoking, writing and his days as a hack journalist.

Interview: Bridget Everett

Downtown shock singer and loose cannon Bridget Everett is movin' on up. Here's why you should bow before her.

Interview: Michael Cera

The spotlight-shy It boy is all grown up, with a new home, no-more-mister-nice-guy roles and a hotly anticipated Broadway debut

Interview: Julia Jarcho

The fascinating playwright draws inspiration from fellow writer Jane Bowles for her latest work, Nomads

Interview: Alex Kingston

Mrs. Doctor Who talks about morality, living in Los Angeles and playing opposite Kenneth Branagh in Macbeth

See more in Theater