Top 5 West End shows led by female powerhouses

Updated on 30 October 2023 have come a long way since 1660 when the ban on female actors in England was finally lifted. As many probably already know, at least from Shakespeare in Love, female roles back then were played exclusively by men dressed in drag. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, only about 15% of characters from William Shakespeare's plays at the time were women, and what's more, it was only when King Charles II granted a charter to Drury Lane that female roles were legally required to be portrayed by actresses. 

Flash forward to the present day and it's clear that there is still room for improvement. Despite the fact that about 65% of theatre audiences are women and more women buy London theatre tickets than men, the number of female roles and female playwright representation is in stark contrast with these statistics. As of just five years ago, it was reported by Tonic Theatre that only about 37% of stage roles were meant for women whilst only 8% of staged productions were penned by female playwrights. And let's not forget how underrepresented women of colour are in the industry, as it was only just a year ago when Natasha Gordon became the first Black-British female playwright to have a show staged in the West End with her acclaimed family drama Nine Night.

Perhaps the biggest driving force for change is to 'vote with our wallets' and support some West End shows that champion female empowerment. Here are our picks for the Top 5 shows headlined by strong female casts that are on in the West End right now.

Top 5 London theatre shows led by women

1. Waitress
🎭 Now showing at the Adelphi Theatre
In a similar fashion as Sex and the City in which the power of female friendship remained the core theme throughout the show, Waitress The Musical also casts the spotlight on sisterhood as small-town girl Jenna Hunterson (played by Lucie Jones) relies on her co-workers Dawn (Laura Baldwin) and Becky (Sandra Marvin) for advice and guidance. The plot of Waitress centres on Jenna's abusive relationship with her husband Earl (Tamlyn Henderson) and her desire to find an escape and become a financially independent woman who can take care of herself.

Of course, there are some bumps along her road to self-discovery; she enters into an affair with her gynaecologist Dr. Pomatter (David Hunter) who also happens to be married. With a 'bun in the oven' and the woes of single motherhood on the horizon, Jenna signs up for a pie-baking contest in the hopes of winning the grand prize and achieving financial freedom. But what's in store for her, in the end, proves to be much more sugary sweet...

It's important to note that the hit Broadway musical Waitress featured the first-ever production to feature females in the top four creative spots. The female-led team features Grammy Award-nominated pop sensation Sara Bareilles behind the show's music and lyrics, Jessie Nelson behind the musical's original book, Lorin Latarro behind the choreography, and director Diane Paulus.

Sadly, it was recently announced that the West End production of Waitress will be closing up shop next summer on July 4th 2020. But before fans say 'Bye, bye, Miss American Pie', they have plenty to look forward to, particularly with singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles joining the West End cast on 27 January! Be sure to get your slice of this musical pie whilst you can!

Save up to £24 with discounted Waitress London musical tickets!

West End Waitress tickets are among the most sought-after tickets in London and now they're on special offer as part of Black Friday! Book your tickets for Waitress by 3 December to take advantage of the following upgrade offer valid for select performances from 2 December 2019 to 23 January 2020:

🌪️ £81 tickets now £57 and £78 tickets now £55
🌪️ £69 tickets now £47 and £66 tickets now £45
🌪️ £57 tickets now £37 and £54 tickets now £35

London Theatre Review: 9 to 5 at the Savoy Theatre

2. Dolly Parton's 9 to 5
In this femme fatale production based on the hit 1980 film of the same name that starred Queen of Country Dolly Parton, three co-workers Violet, Judy, and Doralee band together against their misogynistic boss at Consolidated Industries to teach him a lesson and create a new, non-toxic work environment. 
9 to 5 The Musical is action-packed and chock-full of female camaraderie and is currently taking Savoy Theatre audiences by storm.

Why & Juliet is worth the hype
3. & Juliet
Max Martin's poptastic hits are 'f*ckin perfect' for this hypothetical 'sequel' to Romeo & Juliet. This Shakespearean what-if centres on Juliet Capulet (played by Miriam Teak-Lee), who, instead of opting to cut her life short for a man, drops the 'un-happy' dagger and literally breaks free! Find out what becomes of Juliet in '
Her Musical', now showing at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London to rave reviews.

TIP: Don't forget to read our review on the newly released Original Cast Recording for & Juliet, now available for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music. 

SIX extends its West End booking period to January 2020
4. SIX
Nothing says 'female empowerment' more than a total of six leading ladies! Watch as Henry VIII's sextet of Tudor Queens transform into pop princesses in this sassy and her-storically significant concert-style musical that will rock your socks off from start to finish! One thing's for certain, thanks to SIX, the Arts Theatre
 has never looked so regal.

West End Wicked musical extends its booking period at The Apollo Victoria
5. Wicked
The ninth longest-running West End musical of all time has kept London audiences bewitched for a wicked 13 years and counting! The bonds of sisterhood — or 'witchlyhood' rather — shine bright like the Emerald City gates as Elphaba and Glinda enter a new friendship that soon becomes plagued by a mutual misunderstanding.
 Wicked The Musical reminds us how even the slightest difference of opinion — Elphaba turns against The Wizard of Oz and his regime after finding out how cruelly he treats animals and animal rights —  can polarise even the closest of friends. The musical reminds us that bickering is normal and we should do our best to truly understand how the other person feels. 

Wicked is now booking at the Apollo Victoria Theatre until 28 November 2020 in an open-ended run and is currently on special offer for Black Friday!

🌪️ Book by 2 November and save on no booking fees! Valid for all performances until 31 January 2020.

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Nicholas Ephram Ryan Daniels

By Nicholas Ephram Ryan Daniels

Ephram is a jack of all trades and enjoys attending theatre, classical music concerts and the opera.