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Celebrating Women's History Month: Women in Theatre Through the Decades: 1980s-1990s

Today we're learning all about the accomplishments of women like Patti LuPone, Bernadette Peters, Audra McDonald, Chita Rivera, Lea Salonga, and more!

It is officially Women's History Month, and BroadwayWorld is celebrating and honoring the impact and accomplishments of women in theatre.

With Women in Theatre Through the Decades, we will be highlighting the vital role that women have played in theatre history, showcasing those who paved the way and who continue to make history today.

This week, we are highlighting the accomplishments of women in theatre throughout the 1980s and the 1990s!


Patti LuPone

In 1980, Broadway legend Patti LuPone took home her very first Tony Award for the role of Eva Peron in Evita. Throughout the rest of the 1980s and 1990s, LuPone performed in several iconic roles on both sides of the pond. In 1985, she created the role of Fantine in the West End premiere of Les Miserables, for which she won the 1985 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical. She also returned to Broadway in 1987 to star as Reno Sweeney in the Lincoln Center Theater revival of Cole Porter's Anything Goes, for which she received a Tony nomination.


Jennifer Holliday

In 1982, Dreamgirls was the hot ticket on Broadway, and everyone was talking about Jennifer Holliday. That year, Holliday swept the awards for her performance as Effie White, taking home the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, and a Grammy Award for her recorded version of the song "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going", in addition to Drama Desk and Theater World awards.


Betty Buckley

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Betty Buckley performed in many highlights of her career. In 1983, she won her first and only Tony Award for her performance as Grizabella in Cats. In the 90s, Buckley starred as Norma Desmond in the musical Sunset Boulevard, in both London (1994) and New York (1995). For that performance, she received an Olivier Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. In 1997, she starred as Hesione in the Broadway musical Triumph of Love and received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical.


Chita Rivera

In 1984, Chita Rivera took home her first Tony Award for her role in The Rink. Nearly a decade later, in 1993 she won her second Tony Award for Kiss of the Spiderwoman. Rivera also had several career highlights throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including her role as Fastrada in a filmed-for-television version of the musical Pippin in 1981. That same year, she also was nominated for Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Bring Back Birdie.


Bernadette Peters

Another legendary Broadway performer, Bernadette Peters saw much success in her career throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In 1986, she took home her first Tony Award for her role in Song and Dance, and in 1999 she received her second Tony for Annie Get Your Gun. These decades were also when she created some of her most iconic roles, including Dot in Sunday in the Park With George, for which she earned her third Tony nomination in 1984, and The Witch in Into the Woods in 1987.


Lea Salonga

Lea Salonga created the role of Kim in Miss Saigon in London in 1989, at just 18 years old, and won the Olivier Award for her role. She then made her Broadway debut in 1991 in the same role and became the first woman of Asian descent to win a Tony Award. Two years later, in 1993, Salonga was the first actress of Asian descent to play Eponine in Les Miserables. Also in the 1990s, Salonga voiced two Disney princesses, Jasmine in Aladdin in 1992, and Mulan in 1998.


Audra McDonald

Audra McDonald made her Broadway debut in 1992 in the role of Ayah in The Secret Garden. Later on in the 1990s, she won her first three Tony Awards- the first Tony for Carousel in 1994, her second in 1996 for Master Class, and her third in 1998 for Ragtime. In the following decades, McDonald continued to deliver stand-out performances, earning three more Tonys- more performance wins than any other actor in the history of Broadway.


Idina Menzel

Another Broadway star who has now become a household name, Idina Menzel kickstarted her career in 1995 starring as Maureen in Rent. She created the role in the musical's original off-Broadway run in 1995, and went on to make her Broadway debut in the musical when it opened in the Nederlander Theatre in 1996. In 1998, the performer now best known as Elsa and Elphaba, also released her first solo album "Still I Can't Be Still."


Kristin Chenoweth

Yet another member of Broadway royalty making her Broadway debut in the 90s was Kristin Chenoweth, who launched her career in Steel Pier in 1997. Two years later, in 1999, she appeared in the Broadway revival of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown as the title character's little sister, Sally. For this role, she won the Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.


Julie Taymor

In 1998, Julie Taymor won Tony Awards for Best Director and Costume Designer for The Lion King. The musical debuted in 1997 and received 11 Tony Award nominations. Prior to The Lion King, Taylor worked on several other projects, including The Haggadah at The Public Theater, and several shows with Theatre For a New Audience, including A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Tempest, The Taming of the Shrew, Titus Andronicus and The Green Bird by Gozzi.


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