The Best Theatre Friendships

Liz Chirico

  • OnStage Massachusetts Columnist

It’s easy to make friends. As a kid you have your classmates, kids on the playground, those on your sports team or at your dance studio. It’s easy in college. You’re living in close proximity to so many people your age, sharing common interests, having meals together. And then adulthood comes crashing down. There really should be a halfway house for those just out of college and not quite ready for the stress of living on your own sans friends. But I digress.

To make friends as an adult takes persistence and luck. It takes trial and error. More importantly it takes understanding and compassion. But friends are wonderful, necessary and important to help us navigate this crazy thing called life. There is no better place to find inspiring friendships than in musical theater. 

Here’s my run down on the best theater friendships. PS- this list is in no particular order, lest someone feel the need to key my car. 

1.    Millie Dillmount and Dorothy Brown from “Thoroughly Modern Millie”- one was wizened and street-smart, one was wide-eyed and innocent. Sure their union started under a lie or two but in the end everything worked out. Plus they have a fun song-and-dance number. Who doesn’t want to tap in the elevator with their friend? Or a person they just met?

2.    Shrek and Donkey from “Shrek”- on the surface a completely unlikely pair. In fact a good chunk of the show is devoted to Shrek wishing Donkey would just leave. But like all good friends they come to trust and depend on each other realizing that it’s those very differences that make them work so well together. (Now if only Congress could get that memo…)

3.    Reno Sweeny and Billy Crocker from “Anything Goes”- I always suspect Reno had a bit of a thing for Billy. And that’s she’s a little indignant over the fact that he doesn’t seem to have a thing for her but rather, he’s after this Hope girl. Anyway. These two care about each other in words and actions, constantly building the other up. We all need to be built up from time to time and these two aren’t afraid to compete to see who can be nicer towards the other.

4.    Jenna, Becky and Dawn from “Waitress”- these 3 could not be more different and yet the same. Each is terribly unsure of herself, her place and just wants to be loved for who she is. They understand and support each other’s decisions, despite not always agreeing with them. That understanding, to me at least, is a fundamental rule of friendship.

5.    Tony and Riff from “West Side Story”- They are another (albeit imperfect) example of friends understanding one another without necessarily agreeing with each other. Tony understands Riff’s need to fight though he desperately tries to talk him out of it. And despite his objections, Tony supports Riff to the end.

6.    Elphaba and Glinda from “Wicked”- I couldn’t have a list of the best theatrical friendships without Elphie and Galinda! After another rough start (I’m sensing a theme…), these two see something beautiful in the other by looking past the superficial. They have their share of disagreements, of not seeing eye-to-eye but despite it all they remain bonded. Because ultimately they only want what’s good for the other and each makes sacrifices to ensure their friends happiness. Plus For Good is the ultimate friendship anthem, which never fails to make me cry. 

Brian d'Arcy James, left, as Shrek and Daniel Breaker as Donkey in "Shrek the Musical." Credit Joan Marcus