Women’s History Month: Spotlight On Women Composers

Standing Room Only, Spotlight On Female Composers
Graphics by Ainsley Basic

By Cory Mack, Standing Room Only Host

In celebration of Women’s History Month, WERS is honoring the marvelous women who have created some of the most recognizable songs from the Great White Way. On Saturday, March 26th at 10 am, Standing Room Only will be featuring lyrics and music by women from Kiss Me Kate to Seussical and many more.



Adapted from Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home, this beautiful coming-of-age story recounts Bechdel’s discovery of her sexuality, the relationship she has with her gay father, and her attempts to figure out the many mysteries surrounding his life. If you can believe it, it is the first Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist which opened on Broadway in 2015. The show won five Tony Awards including one for Best Musical. That night, awards also went to Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron for Best Original Score as well as another one for Kron for Best Book of a Musical. Their teamwork made them the first pair of women to win A Tony Award for Best Original Score. 

When Kron went up for her acceptance speech, she talked about a recurring dream where she realizes that her apartment has many rooms she didn’t know were there. She went on to compare Broadway to a big house where everyone has been staying in one main room and then urged the audience to check out the other rooms where “some lights got turned on.” Kron recognized the important work that has been done to tell the many diverse stories Broadway has always had to offer. Tesori’s speech was also a tribute to women because she said she didn’t realize that a career in music was available to women until 1981 when she saw Linda Twine conduct Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music. She added that “Ring of Keys” is not a song of love but rather for identification. She went on to say, “For girls, you have to see it to be it,” a line now as important as ever. 



  • “Ring of Keys” - Sydney Lucas and Beth Malone
  • “Changing My Major” - Emily Skeggs (Emerson College Alumna!)
  • “Days and Days” - Judy Khun



Adapted from a book you might have read back in high school, The Color Purple was originally written by Alice Walker and brought to stage with a Book by Marsha Norman. The show itself follows Celie, an African-American woman in the South from the early to mid-20th century, and the problems African-American women experienced during that time. It is a gut-wrenching show that wakes you up to the struggles that women faced including domestic violence, incest, pedophilia, poverty, racism, and sexism.

I particularly fell in love with this show back in 2015 when the revival (starring Jennifer Hudson, Danielle Brooks, and Cynthia Erivo) opened up on Broadway. These women are such strong advocates for racial justice and female rights that now, I couldn’t see anybody else filling these roles on stage. In particular, Erivo stands out to me, since not only did the women who were behind this show create such a beautiful story for her to help tell, she creates such a seamless transformation for her character, Celie, throughout the show. The character goes from a beaten down, invisible wife to a determined, self-governing businesswoman. Her crescendo of power and intensity is written so beautifully through the music and dialogue that I cannot stress enough how impactful of a character Celie is for young African-American women everywhere. 



  • “I’m Here” - Cynthia Erivo
  • “The Color Purple” - Jennifer Hudson feat. Cynthia Erivo
  • “What About Love?” - Cynthia Erivo and Jennifer Hudson



Born in my home state of Vermont, Anaïs Mitchell’s tale of love, loss, power, and sacrifice based on the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice became the star of the 2019 Tony Awards, winning eight of fourteen awards including Best Musical and Best Original Score. Mitchell is the first woman in years to have sole credit on a Broadway show. As a child, she believed that “if you could just write a song good enough, you could change the world.” That certainly has not changed after all these years.

As an activist, for Hadestown Mitchell was initially influenced by the post-grad reality of the world as well as the re-election of George W. Bush and her ignorance of political corruption. These themes are touched on in the show through Patrick Page’s powerful character, Hades. After writing a few songs, she began putting on small-scale productions of the show and even brought it to parts of Massachusetts on a 10-city tour between VT and MA. She even worked and signed on to a label partly run by Ani DeFranco, a singer-songwriter and activist, who contributed some updated themes to the story such as setting it in the Depression era and touching upon events like the Dust Bowl storms of the Thirties. Since she didn’t know where the show would go from there, she recruited some folks to develop the concept album which included Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, Greg Brown, and DiFranco. That album would become the basis of the story, music, and flow of the show we now know today. 

Click here to read an even deeper dive WERS did into Mitchell and the local story that is Hadestown. 



  • “All I’ve Ever Known” - Eva Noblezada and Reeve Carney
  • “Our Lady of the Underground” - Amber Gray
  • “Flowers” - Eva Noblezada


Be sure to tune in to 88.9 with me on Saturday, March 26th at 10 am for Standing Room Only's celebration of Women’s History Month to hear the music of Tesori, Kron, Russell, Willis, Mitchell, and many more only on SRO, your Broadway connection!

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