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Six legends who need musicals about their lives

With Tina opening, Six returning and Sylvia coming in September, we look at other historical figures who are ripe for musical theatre treatment

Anna Ivanovna, Maya Angelou and Sappho
© Valery Jacobi, York College and WolfgangReiger

Let's face it – ever since Alexander Hamilton had the Lin-Manuel treatment, every historical figure under the sun is now a possibility for a stage adaptation. The likes of Tina, Sylvia and Six are already ahead of the trend, but we thought we'd round up some of the most iconic figures who would make for great musicals.

Amelia Earhart
© Harris & Ewing

1. Amelia Earhart

The record-breaking pilot, the first female aviator to fly across the Atlantic, had something of a dramatic life – her family trekking across the US and Canada, surviving the Spanish flu epidemic and her rise to celebrity status as "Queen of the Air". And she was also a talented musician, known for her banjo playing and poetry writing.

The show would also have a tragic ending – the pilot disappeared in 1937 near Papua New Guinea.

NB – it was brought to our attention that Take Flight does exist already – then it's definitely due for a revival!

Frida Kahlo
© Sotheby's

2. Frida Kahlo

Artist, revolutionary and all-round feminist wonder, Frida Kahlo also had a dramatic life, tackling polio at a young age, having a caustic relationship with muralist Diego Rivera and slowly but surely emerging out of her husband's shadow to be recognised as an artistic icon.

But more than that, the magical realism of Kahlo's work will make for a visual delight on the stage – an all out celebration of Mexican identity with a political twist. There may already be one on the horizon – a piece called Blue House has been in the works since 2016.

Other suggested show titles (based on famous Kahlo paintings): The Two Fridas or Diego and I

© WolfgangRieger

3. Sappho

The classics and musical theatre – both know how to draw big audiences, so why not combine them into a new musical? And Sappho is a bit of a legend – a writer of lyric poetry and one of the earliest known female poets. She was also a symbol of love and desire between women (academics have called her the patron saint of lesbians), so an LGBTQ icon in the making.

Suggested show title: Lovers on Lesbos or Ode to Aphrodite

Maya Angelou in 2013
© York College ISLGP

4. Maya Angelou

Writer, poet, musician, philanthropist and political activist, Missouri-born Angelou's campaigning changed thousands of lives, especially through her involvement with the Civil Rights Movement. Angelou passed away in 2014, so a musical reflecting on her life would be a timely one. As a musician she recorded her first album, Miss Calypso, which went on to inspire the 1957 film Calypso Heat Wave.

So why not put that same story on the stage? It almost seems too feasible not to happen.

Suggested show title: Caged Bird or Calypso

Anna Ivanovna (right) at the ice palace
© Painting by Valery Jacobi

5. Anna Ivanovna

Elsa wasn't the first one to have a frozen palace – 18th century Russian Empress Anna Ivanovna built one way before they were cool. The Russian leader, who had an eccentric sense of humour, built the ice palace as a wedding venue for a member of her court she'd taken a particular dislike to. The prince in question then had to stay alive overnight in the sub-zero conditions with his new bride, sleeping on an ice bed with logs of ice in a fireplace of ice. Definitely not a Disney tale.

The Empress was also a keen hunter – she kept a rifle by her window so she could shoot down birds whenever she felt like it.

Suggested show title: Love Is An Open Door (but not in an ice palace when your Empress doesn't like you)

Malala Yousafzai
© DFID / Malala Yousafzai

6. Malala Yousafzai

The youngest Novel Prize laureate is already an incredible figure on the world stage – surviving an attack by Taliban gunman in Pakistan in 2012 in retaliation for her activism, before going on to recover, speak in front of the UN and confronting Barack Obama about his use of drones in Pakistan. She's currently studying at Oxford University, but who knows where she'll go from there. Maybe a trilogy of musicals would be more suitable?

Suggested show title: same as the documentary about her life – He Named Me Malala