The best Broadway divas

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One important caveat before you dig in: We have limited the field to performers who have played major musical-theater roles in the past five or six years—so don’t complain at the absence of Chita Rivera, Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters, Betty Buckley, Carol Channing or other legends in fallow.

  1. Patti LuPone
    After 15 long years of bitter exile, the empress of Broadway has reclaimed her throne with back-to-back triumphs in Sweeney Todd and Gypsy. Just don’t get near her with a camera.

  2. Kristin Chenoweth
    Inch for inch, La Cheno’s diminutive frame packs the densest concentration of musical-theater talent in Broadway history: megawatt charisma and a voice that can move from neovaudevillian brass to coloratura gold.

  3. Audra McDonald
    The ultraclassy McDonald—whose singing gloriously spans the gap between musical-theater and classical styles—has already won four Tonys. And no one thinks she’s done crowding her mantel.

  4. Christine Ebersole
    Shockingly versatile, this two-time Tony winner can move from comedy to tragedy in the blink of an eyelash, as she proved in her indelible signature role as Little Edie Beale in Grey Gardens. Now: a zany nonmusical part in Nol Coward’s Blithe Spirit.

  5. Leslie Kritzer
    She rose to renown by re-creating a Patti LuPone nightclub act, but Kritzer is the real diva deal on her own, with high-voltage comic energy and a pyrotechnic voice. Now all she needs is a part equal to her prodigious talents.

  6. Tonya Pinkins
    No one who saw Pinkins as the self-destroying title character in Caroline, or Change will ever forget her fiercely uncompromising performance—proof that musical theater can still carve out space for bold, smart dramatic acting.

  7. Sherie Rene Scott
    This blond bombshell has a voice that pours out like a cool waterfall, hugely powerful but somehow serene. This spring, she soaks up the spotlight at Second Stage in the pseudoautobiographical Everyday Rapture.

  8. Donna Murphy
    She’s the Meryl Streep of musical theater: a fierce perfectionist whose every gesture is carefully worked out for maximum theatrical effect, whether she’s in a solemn musical tragedy like Passion or a larky revival like Wonderful Town.

  9. Sutton Foster
    Spunk has always been an important ingredient in the Broadway shortcake, and the yeasty Foster—who has burned with game comic energy in musicals from Thoroughly Modern Millie through Shrek—gives her every show a rise.

  10. Harvey Fierstein
    Granted, he’s not really a lady, and has never passed for one, even in a dress. (That death-rattle honk of a voice is a giveaway.) But Fierstein’s portrayal of tough, shy, loving Edna Turnblad in Hairspray was one of the great star turns in recent memory.

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