Theatre families: Mothers and children in West End shows
From the well-known duos such as Donna and Sophie Sheridan in Mamma Mia, to characters becoming a mother in a production, performers regularly have to play the role of a mother on stage. In the build-up to Mother’s Day, we take a look at the fictional relationships between mothers and their children in plays and musicals.
Fictional stage mothers and their children
Fantine and Cosette – Les Miserables
Sadly, Fantine passes away when Cosette is a child, with the pair never meeting during the show. However, as Fantine lays on her deathbed, the show’s protagonist Jean Valjean swears to look after Cosette and do all he can to protect her. From being left under the care of the Thenardiers as a child to marrying a leading French revolutionary, Cosette is able to enjoy a newly-found life of luxury which would have never happened if Fantine had not met Valjean. The mother/daughter relationship between Fantine and Cosette is heart breaking, yet a tender love story that you’ll be swept away with at Les Miserables.
Donna and Sophie Sheridan – Mamma Mia
Although Sophie keeps it a secret from her mother that her three potential fathers are in the local area so close to her wedding day, the relationship between Sophie and Donna remains closer than ever. Singlehandedly guiding her daughter through life, Donna makes sure that her daughter is ready for her wedding day, as well as ensuring that every guest is catered for on the island. Donna is a character that you’d be able to depend upon, bursting with pride at the end of the production when Sophie and Sky finally tie the knot.
Margaret and Jamie New – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Supporting her son in his early steps to performing as a drag queen, Margaret New raises Jamie as a single mother. When Jamie tells his mother that he wants to wear a dress to his Year 11 prom, she is stunned. But, Margaret remains by her son’s side every step of the way, even going to meet his teacher Miss Hedge to stand up for her child. Along with her close friend Ray, Margaret is able to walk out of any situation she faces with her head held high. Read our interview with Rebecca McKinnis, who has previously played Margaret New in the West End production.
Edna and Tracy Turnblad – Hairspray
Wallflower turned stage mum with jazz hands at the ready, Edna Turnblad is always there to support her daughter Tracy in everything she does, especially when she wins a coveted place dancing on the Corny Collins show. During the musical, audiences learn that Edna hasn’t been out of the house in years, shying away from what it’s like to live in the 1960s. But as this song shows, Edna and Tracy together are a force to be reckoned with growing in confidence and bursting with pride for one another. See Michael Ball reprise his Olivier Award-winning performance as Edna Turnblad and West End newcomer Lizzie Bea as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray at the London Coliseum from September 2020.
Evan and Heidi Hansen – Dear Evan Hansen
Sam Tutty and Rebecca McKinnis star as Evan and Heidi Hansen respectively in DEAR EVAN HANSEN at the Noel Coward Theatre. Follow Evan Hansen in a story where he grows with those around him, forming deep connections with his friends and a deeper understanding of the wider world, in this deeply personal and contemporary musical.
Mama Rose in Gypsy
Seen as the ultimate mother in musical theatre, the character of Mama Rose is based on Rose Lee, the mother of twentieth-century striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee. As she tries to raise her daughters to perform on stage and become big personalities in show business, her dominating personality turns soft, especially as she dreams of her own cheering audience. In Gypsy, Mama Rose sings powerful solos including “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”, “Some People” and “Rose’s Turn”, last performed in the West End by Imelda Staunton at the Savoy Theatre.
Amanda and Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie
The relationship between Amanda and Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie is complex, with glass figures explaining how the mother and daughter come together and drift apart. Obsessed with finding a man of Laura, Amanda feels pressure upon herself to fix “issues” that she believes exists in her daughter’s life. The Glass Menagerie was last staged in the West End in 2017 at the Duke of York’s Theatre, starring Cherry Jones and Amanda and Kate O’Flynn as Laura.
Margaret and Clara Johnson – The Light in the Piazza
Audiences follow mother and daughter pair Margaret and Clara Johnson during their holiday in Italy, travelling from the United States in order to bask in the summer sun. At the start of the musical, the duo have a close relationship, with Margaret introducing Clara to life in Florence. But, the pair drift further apart as Clara meets Fabrizio, a local young man. As the story unfolds, secrets about their family unravel, leaving Margaret and Clara to confront things usually left unspoken.