This Mother’s Day we wanted to take a deep dive into some of our favourite productions and highlight some of the most important onstage mother-figures across the years. Most are kind, others not so much, and some are truly terrible – but they each play a pivotal role in all of their productions.
There are many different reasons that make them all so memorable. Here they are, our favourite theatre mums.
Mary Poppins – Mary Poppins
Mrs Banks is probably not going to win any Mother Of The Year Awards for her parenting skills, though she does have some important lessons to teach her children about the role of women in society and equal rights. However, it’s Mary Poppins who absolutely steals the show with her carpetbag and umbrella. Allowing anyone’s imagination to come to life, Miss Poppins loves those Banks kids like they are her own…with the added luxury of giving them back at the end. Plus, she has this homeschooling thing down pat…for some tips, check out her English lesson.
Miss Honey – Matilda
Maybe it’s cheating, but Miss Honey is one of the best mother-figures in all of theatre history (move over Poppins, we think you’ve got some competition here). Where Matilda’s own mother, Zinnia Wormwood is a bingo-obsessed, fake-tanned, platinum-dyed blonde, egotist who discards Matilda’s genius because of her belief that looks are way more important, Miss Honey’s belief in Matilda is so great that she puts aside her own fears to stand up for her. She encourages Matilda far more than anyone else in her life, assuring her that her intelligence is nothing to be ashamed of.
Jenny Elliot – Billy Elliot
Billy Elliot’s ‘mam’ is undoubtedly his best friend. Although he was young when she died, they share a connection only known between a mother and son. Jenny plays a small but pivotal role, and she produces an emotional overload with her letter to Billy. The Dear Billy song will tug at the heartstrings of any mother. Oh, that letter.
Ginny Potter (Nee Weasley) – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Fiercely protective mother of three (James, Albus and Lily), wife of Harry, and little sister to six brothers, Ginny is that Mum who can do it all. She did learn from the best, of course. A fearless fighter, a career-driven sports editor for the Daily Prophet, and an incredible Quidditch player to boot. Is there anything this pure blood Mum cannot do?
Matron ‘Mama’ Morton – Chicago
The keeper of the keys, the mistress of murderers row, ‘Mama’ is as badass as they get. She’s the matron of the women’s ward in Cook County Jail, Chicago Illinois. ‘Mama’ lures in the ladies by feigning a nurturing side, only to manipulate them later to her advantage. Want to get to know her better? Mama’s agenda is superbly narrated in the guttural, shameless smash hit ‘When You’re Good to Mamma’.
Fantine – Les Miserables
Fantine, one of broadway’s most tragic heroines, shares how her dreams for life were crushed when she was abandoned by the father of her child, and was forced to raise Cosette alone. Ultimately she loses her life, but on her death bed, her final thoughts are about the wellbeing of her daughter. Although technically a supporting role, Fantine’s demise is pivotal to Les Miserables’ storyline. Simply put, Fantine is a mother who will do anything to save her child. Grab your tissues and press play.
Kim – Miss Saigon
In another calamitous circumstance, orphan Kim finds love in the chaos of the Vietnam War, with young US Sergeant, Chris. A short liaison ensues before the two are separated, with Chris forced to evacuate the country. Years pass with Kim raising their son Tam alone, and she begs Chris to take him to America with the prospect of a better life. She sings “I’d give my life for you” to her son, telling us the lengths she is prepared to travel for him. After Chris refuses, and in a powerful climax to the musical, Kim makes the ultimate sacrifice and takes her own life to ensure her son is cared for by his father.
Edna Turnblad – Hairspray
When thinking about the most memorable mothers of theatre, we can’t go past Edna. Fun-Mum Edna is a housecoat wearing, dancing queen, who may be insecure but is dedicated to her laundry duties and her family, even when she is nagging them ad nauseam. Her daughter Tracy inspires her mum to step out of the house and experience life. We see Edna undergo a transformation from a reclusive housewife to a glamorous and confident woman. Don’t mess with this Mum.
Margaret Johnson – Light in the Piazza
A parent’s hardest decision is figuring out what is best for their children, and for strong-willed, Southern Margaret, a holiday to Florence with her daughter Clara delivers exactly that. In Light in the Piazza, it is the strength Margaret shows in encouraging her to follow her heart and to have her shot at happiness, no matter the consequences, that shows her greatest traits. What a mum.
Rose – Gypsy
Stage mums step aside – musical theatre mums cannot be discussed without the mother of all stage mothers, Rose. This pushy, aggressive, and domineering Mum thrusts her daughters into the vaudevillian spotlight ultimately to live her life vicariously through them and to chase the spotlight and stardom she longingly wanted for herself. Her ‘encouragement’ comes out in spades in the fabulous number ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’. And, as some may have experienced for themselves, through maturity the three women attentively move toward a reconciliation.
Golde – Fiddler on the Roof
Strong. Grounded. Misguided. Sound familiar? Although perhaps somewhat unrepresented in the musical, everything Golde does is in the best interests of her family. I’m sure that Tevye would attest, Golde is the true core of their family.
Frauline Maria, Maria Rainer – Sound of Music
Young, free-spirited, postulant Maria Rainer revolutionises the Von Trapp family home from a place of rules and regulations to one filled with singing, happiness and laughter. In the process, Maria not only wins governess of the year, but also the heart of their father, Captain Von Trapp. Her lessons are those of fortitude, resilience and, of course, the importance of music. However, talk about a long and drawn out goodnight…. there is definitely some work to be done here, Frauline Maria. Shout-out to Elsa Schrader (Boo-Hiss), the rich baroness who has no feelings towards the children whatsoever.
Hannah O’Rourke – Come From Away
Hannah’s harrowing tale is one of loss, courage, and love. We all know where we were on 9/11, but thanks to Come From Away, we now know Kevin, a brave young man who lost his life as a firefighter on that day, and we now all know his Mum Hannah, who’s love for her son never stopped and who’s hope was inspirational. A truly remarkable story.
Here are just some of our favourite theatre mums, who is yours?
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