This Women's History Month, female theatre artists celebrate a record season

This spring's shows collectively feature more female directors, writers, choreographers, and more in a single season than ever, and their work is unmissable.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

Between award-winning Broadway classics and exciting new premieres, the spring 2024 theatre season features 12 female directors staging a total of 16 shows. Sixteen shows feature a book, music, lyrics, and/or source material written by a woman. Ten have a female choreographer. Individually and together, those stats are record-breaking.

How fitting for Women's History Month, which takes place annually in March. New York Theatre Guide got to speak with the women involved in six new Broadway musicals included in this lineup, which is as musically and narratively diverse as the women themselves.

No matter what kind of Broadway show you want to see — a touching story about family, a high-flying adaptation of a beloved novel, a little-known story of female trailblazers from 100 years ago — there's likely at least one woman behind it.

Of course, everyone we spoke to hopes that becomes the norm. Get tickets to see their shows for yourself and keep the women's history celebrations going all year long.

Get tickets to Broadway shows on New York Theatre Guide.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG

water for elephants 1-1200x600-NYTG

Water for Elephants: One woman takes another's lead

Directed by Jessica Stone; co-choreographed by Shana Carroll; source material by Sara Gruen

The new musical adaptation, staged by Stone, expands on Gruen's bestselling, circus-themed novel — like actually staging various circus acts. But it retains the book’s structure: the show opens with an elderly man reminiscing about his life-changing time with a traveling circus, and the main story unfolds as his memories come alive.

Stone hadn't reflected much on the importance of her leading this story — but perhaps it should be just as commonplace to have a non-male director.

"Anytime you have different points of view and different experiences, it deepens and enriches our repertoire," she said.

Get Water for Elephants tickets now.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG

1 notebook-1200x600-NYTG

The Notebook: Changing perspectives

Co-directed by Schele Williams; book by Bekah Brunstetter; music and lyrics by Ingrid Michaelson; choreographed by Katie Spelman

You know it, you love it, you've cried at it — and so have co-director Schele Williams, book writer Bekah Brunstetter, and songwriter Ingrid Michaelson. When they teamed up on the musical adaptation of Nicholas Sparks's novel The Notebook (alongside co-director Michael Greif), about lifelong lovers Noah and Allie, they wanted audiences to do all that and then some.

Particularly, they wanted to expand the story of Allie, often reduced to a love triangle as she decides between Noah and another man. “This is a life she’s choosing, not a relationship she’s choosing,” Michaelson said.

She wrote the second-act solo “My Days” for Allie to explore that dilemma. "Sometimes I feel like somebody chose my choice," Allie sings. "I want a life where I'm allowed to say that I'm proud of the way I spent my days."

"Bekah and Ingrid are the heart of this show," said Williams, who is also directing The Wiz this season. The show they crafted is "complicated, deep, had so many obstacles and challenges, and [has] a level of complexity and depth I don’t often see in women on stage.”

Get The Notebook tickets now.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG

cherry outsiders-1200x600-NYTG

The Outsiders: Finding the women in the men's world

Directed by Danya Taymor; source material by S. E. Hinton

S. E. Hinton's 1967 novel The Outsiders only has three female characters in it. The new musical adaptation only has six non-male performers. That only makes their presence more powerful.

“When one of us says something, it makes it more intentional, and it holds more weight,” said Emma Pittman, who plays Cherry Valance in the show.

Off stage, it's Danya Taymor's word that holds the weight. She directs the show about two teenage gangs, the well-off Socs and neglected Greasers, seeking survival and hope in a harsh world.

Hinton was a not just a woman, but a 15-year-old girl when she started writing The Outsiders, inspired by her fellow teenagers and their experiences. "She really sees these boys […] in a way they might not be able to see themselves," Taymor said.

Taymor aims to do the same for her male cast. "For them to be in a room that's led by a woman — and many members of the creative design team are women — is good. They're permitted to be soft in ways they might not be able to [be] in other spaces.”

Performer Tilly Evans-Krueger described Taymor's approach as "reaching the masculine through the feminine energy [...] Societal pressures have raised a lot of men to be more hard, not cry. It's an old tale we're done with."

Taymor similarly hopes The Outsiders contributes to a culture shift. Hopefully, she said, the number and diversity of female directors will "expand what people see as the female gaze.”

Get The Outsiders tickets now.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG

hells kitchen 4-1200x600-NYTG

Hell's Kitchen: Celebrating mothers and daughters

Music and lyrics by Alicia Keys; choreographed by Camille A. Brown

Sixteen-time Grammy Award winner Alicia Keys's soulful, complex love songs include "If I Ain't Got You," "Fallin'," and "No One." Naturally, Hell's Kitchen, the new musical featuring those hits and more, is a love story. But not a traditional one.

The central relationship is between Ali, a headstrong teenager with a passionate interest in her community of local artists, and Jersey, Ali's overprotective single mother. Jersey learns to let her daughter pursue music and make her own mistakes, and Ali learns to understand her mother's concern for her best interests.

"It's a very woman-centered and empowering story about how we show up for each other [and] the villages we create in order to have the support systems we need," said actress Shoshana Bean, who plays Jersey.

Ali and Jersey are loosely inspired by Keys and her own mother. “[My mother] escaped a small town to come to New York to pursue her dream of acting and dancing,” Keys said. "This was her passion and therefore a passion of mine."

Just as important to Keys as honoring her mom is writing the coming-of-age story of a biracial girl — inspired by her, yes, but representative of so many people in her home neighborhood, whom she hopes attend the show.

"To have a young woman of color at the center of this piece is exactly how it's supposed to be because that's what Hell's Kitchen looks like," Keys said.

Get Hell's Kitchen tickets now.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG


Lempicka: Art imitates life

Directed by Rachel Chavkin; book and lyrics by Carson Kreitzer

Tamara de Lempicka, the namesake of the new musical Lempicka, was a 20th-century painter who centered women in colorful, rich artworks in a time when women were discouraged from pursuing art – or any other career.

That’s less of a problem for director Rachel Chavkin and writer Carson Kreitzer nowadays. Yet their journey with Lempicka parallels the artist's story in many ways.

Kreitzer, who often writes about "women who were written out of history," explained: "I have been working my whole life to normalize experiencing stories of women the way we experience stories of men."

That's essentially what Lempicka did with a paintbrush. Kreitzer describes her as "an inventor of her own image," who downplayed her ambition so people wouldn't dismiss her. To make up for that, Kreitzer made sure Lempicka would be an epic; the show's own description compares it to Les Misérables and Evita.

Amber Iman, who plays Lempicka’s muse Rafaela, remembers her first impression of the show: "This is big. There's a lot going on." That quality is exactly what drew her to the project and what she wants audiences to take from it.

"I hope we empower women to know that you can show up as your full self," said Iman. "You don't have to play small. You don't have to hide parts of yourself to [...] make history or to be seen.”

Get Lempicka tickets now.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG

suffs cast new-1200x600-NYTG

Suffs: Making and musicalizing history

Directed by Leigh Silverman; book, music, and lyrics by Shaina Taub; choreographed by Mayte Natalio; source material by Doris Stevens

Suffs is about women's history, and it is women's history. Shaina Taub, who created the musical and plays suffragist Alice Paul, is only the second woman to be the star and sole writer of her own Broadway show. (The first was Micki Grant with Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope in 1971.)

But Taub couldn't do it alone. Luckily, this mega-musical has a 30-plus-person company, including an all-female and non-binary cast as the lesser-known pioneers of the women's suffrage movement. The creative team includes Broadway veterans like Tony nominee Leigh Silverman; rising talent like Taub, choreographer Mayte Natalio, and music director Andrea Grody; and modern political figures Malala Yousafzai and Hillary Rodham Clinton as producers.

The intersectionality involved in Suffs – not just female representation, but women of color – is vital, points out Tony winner Nikki M. James, who plays Ida B. Wells. "I have to include that when I talk about what is impressive about this season […] Even if there were women, there weren't women like Mayte Natalio choreographing on Broadway."

Alongside Suffs's modern creators, one other woman is crucial to making the musical happen: suffragist Doris Stevens. She wrote a book about the movement called Jailed for Freedom, which introduced Taub to the suffragists featured in the show, including Paul and Stevens.

"There is a tendency for these people to be forgotten, to be erased," said James – referring to the suffragists, but making a statement applicable to so many women in history. "And now we're not."

Get Suffs tickets now.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG

Discover more spring preview content on New York Theatre Guide and learn about all the Broadway shows this season.

Originally published on

Subscribe to our newsletter to unlock exclusive New York theatre updates!

Special offers, reviews and release dates for the best shows in town.

You can unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy