by Mo Brady
On this list, you won't see roles that allow actors to languish in their dressing rooms with offstage breaks long enough to watch TV shows. While each of these roles give actors ample chance to shine in the spotlight, they also ask performers to be part of a team vocally and physically.
Cassie (A Chorus Line)
Right from the very start, Cassie tells us she's a dancer (and that a dancer dances). She may get dinged by Zach for popping the head and other moments of star quality, but Cassie’s goal is to be a part of the chorus line. Just as the other fifteen characters auditioning for the unnamed show in A Chorus Line, actors playing Cassie spend most of the performance onstage. Together, they provide commentary on the characters’ stories, backups for the vocals and dance behind them in their solos. From singing with Morales about “What She Did For Love” to supporting Richie’s breakout moment in “Hello 12, Hello 13, Hello Love,” Cassie and the rest of the onstage characters work both a ensemblists and as principals.
Ti Moune (Once on this Island)
All of the actors on this show are storytellers, working together to take the audience on a journey. While the actor playing Ti Moune is highlighted as the audience’s surrogate, her energy is essential to the unified journey of the cast. From creating the physical space of the show to providing the aural environment for the audience, all of the actors, including Ti Moune, have a hand in telling the story.
Johnny (American Idiot)
A thrilling, exhausting role in a thrilling exhausting show. Johnny spend the majority of the show on stage, whether it be starting off the high-energy show who's opening number, toppling down a tower as it becomes a bus to take him away from Jingletown or or excitedly becoming a disciple of St. Jimmy. This high-octane show warily has a moment of respite for any of its performers, especially for the actor playing Johnny.
Tracy Turnblad (Hairspray)
Tracy can do it all: she sings, she dances, she integrates TV shows. In auditioning for the musical’s Corny Collins show, she has to prove she can keep up with the tight harmonies and energetic moves of Hairspray’s ensemble. In doing so, she shows the audience she can move and shake as hard as an ensemblist - but also do it downstage center on a passerelle. If there is an ensemble number at the television studio, the record shop, or in a jail cell, Tracy is there and she's leading at all.
Leading Player (Pippin)
In this show, every actor other than the title role is a player. The Leading Player is just that, leading: dancing of the spoils of war in the Manson Trio and vocally praising the rise of things to come in “Morning Glow.” While, her (or his) presence allows the audience to focus on a specific antagonist, the entire company of players work together to steer Pippin on the right track.
Listen to our episode on ensemble musicals here.