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5 Showstopping Musicals with Black Leading Roles

The Color Purple musical

There is something so captivating about sinking into your seat at a theater and watching stories come to life on the stage before you. These five musicals with Black leading roles have enamored audiences around the world, transporting them back through history or to magical lands far beyond their wildest dreams.

The Color Purple

Based on Alice Walker’s novel of the same name, The Color Purple takes place at the turn of the 20th century and follows the story of Celie, a Black woman living in the American South. This moving story was met with critical acclaim during its original run on Broadway from 2005 to 2008 as well as during its 2015 revival, which won two Tony Awards.

The Wiz

Musical theater fans have long adored the story of Dorothy and her ragtag group of friends trekking through the Land of Oz. The Wiz gives this timeless tale a modern twist, infusing the story with elements of modern Black culture and employing the talents of an all-Black cast. During its original Broadway run in 1975, the musical won seven Tony awards and was eventually adapted into a film starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross.

Dreamgirls

Inspired by the story of the 1960s Motown group The Supremes, the award-winning musical Dreamgirls follows a fictional group, The Dreams, as it rises to fame. This musical was so successful during its 1981 Broadway run that it was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film starring Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson.

Hamilton

Perhaps one of the most famous musicals with Black leading roles in recent history, Hamilton tells the story of our founding fathers through the eyes of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Black and Latino actors assume the roles of prominent historical figures such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in this hip-hop musical, which has earned a record-breaking 16 Tony nominations  - and won 11.

Once on This Island

Audiences have enjoyed the sweeping stories of grand romance and forbidden love that have graced Broadway stages for years. Once on This Island, a love story set on an island in the Caribbean, follows the story of Ti Moune, a peasant girl who falls in love with an upper-class man. Narrated by the gods of the island, this musical is a touching story of faith, love, grief, and hope.