Nameberry Picks: Best Broadway Musical Names

Adelaide to Tulsa

by Linda Rosenkrantz

The first real Broadway musical was a five-and-a-half-hour 1866 curiosity called The Black Crook, featuring characters named Rodolphe, Stalacta, Barbara and Amina.

Since that time, of course, there have been countless more shows with zillions of  names of characters belting it out on the Great White Way, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.  There are so many of the former that it’s been hard to narrow it down to a dozen or so Nameberry Faves, but here are our final picks:

Adelaide—In Guys & Dolls, Adelaide is an endearing Hot Boxclub dancer with a perpetual psychosomatic cold due to the frustrations of a 14-year engagement.  Not surprisingly, Aussie Rachel Griffiths chose this rapidly climbing Australian place name for her daughter; Katherine Heigl spelled it Adalaide.

AlonzoAlonzo is just one of the human-baby-worthy feline names in Cats, based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical CatsOthers include Cassandra, Demeter, Electra, Jemima, Plato and Gus (aka Asparagus).  That zippy ‘z’ hasn’t done much for Alonzo, but we think it’s one of the best Al-names.

AmaliaThe musical She Loves Me, which shares a plot with the films In the Good Old Summertime and You’ve Got Mail, is set in Hungary, and thus the characters have native names.  Amalia is a pretty European variation on Amelia, though it might lead to some confusion.

AmaryllisIn The Music Man, Amaryllis is a relatively minor young girl character.  The 1957 musical hit also featured a Eulalie and a MarcellusAmaryllis is a showy and colorful flower name that’s never been in the Top1000, but definitely has some exotic appeal.

AmbroseHello, Dolly highlights three great boys’ names: Ambrose, Barnaby, and Cornelius were all featured as eager young men. All three are outstanding candidates for revival—Barnaby has never been on the list and Ambrose hasn’t rated since 1954.

Charity Charity Hope Valentine is a taxi dancer at the Fandango Ballroom in the 1966 Broadway musical Sweet Charity, adapted from a Fellini screenplay and later made into a film starring Shirley Maclaine.  Though the Virtue name Charity peaked at Number 183 back in 1975, it now sounds a lot fresher than Hope, Faith and Grace.

ConradConrad Birdie is the Elvisish rock star center of the bouncy 1960 musical Bye, Bye, Birdie (“We love you Conrad, oh yes we do!”).  The cast also featured characters called Hugo and, yes, CharityConrad is often heard as a fictional character name, but for babies—not so much.

DotDot is the artist’s model/mistress in Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George, played by Bernadette Peters.  Heard occasionally in the UK as a middle name, Dot has a lot of spunk and sass for just a dot on the babyname map.

ElizaMy Fair Lady’s spirited Eliza Doolittle is the classic musical character based on the Shaw play Pygmalion, who is transformed from cockney flower girl to elegant lady, played on stage by Julie Andrews and on screen by Audrey Hepburn.  Eliza is the streamlined version of Elizabeth, deservedly beloved by Berries.

IvyIn the Leonard Bernstein/Comden & Green musical On the Town, Ivy Smith is “Miss Turnstiles” (aka “Miss Subways”), who is at the center of the World War II-era plot. The short but strong botanical Ivy is exhibiting a rapid rise, influenced, undoubtedly, by the name of Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s daughter Blue Ivy.

Magnolia—In the 1927 landmark Jerome Kern musical Show Boat, Magnolia is a leading character, beautiful but naïve.  Magnolia is part of the expansion of the field of flower names parents are now considering, along with other exotic blooms like Azalea and Zinnia.  No Doubt drummer Adrian Young chose it for his daughter.

SweeneyIn the case of Sweeney Todd, it’s perhaps better not to think of the Sondheim musical and Tim Burton movie character—“the Demon Barber of Fleet Street” –and concentrate instead on the friendly, energetic feel of the Irish surname.

Tulsa is the tap dancer in Gypsy who runs off and marries Gypsy Rose Lee’s sister June and gets to sing a big featured number.  Elvis Presley was a singing soldier named Tulsa in the movie G. I Blues. Dallas and Austin, Cheyenne and Montana have all made it as baby names—why not Tulsa?  Could be unisex too.

What’s your favorite of these? What’s your favorite Broadway musical name not on this list?

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17 Responses to “Nameberry Picks: Best Broadway Musical Names”

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Southernmomma Says:

January 24th, 2013 at 12:36 am

I’ve always loved Winnifred and Larken from Once Upon A Mattress and Liesel and Louisa from The Sound of Music.

Dove14 Says:

January 24th, 2013 at 12:55 am

Hooray for a musical article! This is my cup of tea!
Oh there are so many great character names out there! Can’t miss Les Mis with the current movie playing! Cosette, Eponine, Marius, and even Jean are useable, in my opinion. And Roxie Hart from Chicago has a very current feel. I’ve always had a soft spot for Dulcinea from Man of LaMancha.
I’m going to have to brainstorm some others and come back with a list!
(Also, agreed with the previous poster on Lady Larken from Once Upon a Mattress and the various useable Sound of Music names!)

Arlina Says:

January 24th, 2013 at 2:27 am

I second Leisel! I have adored it from the second I first watched that movie!

Im mad for a musical! i also love:
Amos from Chicago
Zorah from Ruddigore
Nessarose from Wicked
Cosmo & Lina from Singing in the Rain
Orin from Little Shop of Horrors

And finally I always thought Cyd Charisse was the most amazing creature – even her name suggested exotic, wild, exciting things to me!!

Poppy528 Says:

January 24th, 2013 at 2:40 am

Woo hoo! I love that you added Tulsa!! I’ve considered using this as an interesting middle name (probably on a girl) to honor our hometown {wouldn’t it make a daring first name? Nickname Tully?}

I’m fond of so many musicals, but at this hour I think my favorite name might be Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson … Bloom from The Producers, of course. Wouldn’t we all love to bestow that many names!

Titus245Mama Says:

January 24th, 2013 at 4:56 am

I love Amaryllis. It’s been a name crush of mine ever since I ran into the Italian version (Amarilli, I think) in a piece of classical music in high school. I like Cornelius, Ambrose, and Ivy as well.

I can’t believe you mentioned Sweeney, though. Just hearing the name makes me sick to my stomach (because of what the musical is about). Even if I had a good Irish reason for using it, I’d skip it because of the ill association.

Titus245Mama Says:

January 24th, 2013 at 5:04 am

There’s also a whole list of usable names in 7 Brides for 7 Brothers: Milly, Liza, Alice, Caleb, Ephraim, and Gideon, to name a few.

stairwaytoastar Says:

January 24th, 2013 at 6:34 am

Alonzo is also the name of the father and older brother in the Judy Garland film musical Meet Me in St. Louis.
There is Sky from Guys and Dolls, Samantha which is a Cole Porter song and character played by Grace Kelly in High Society, Liesl from the Sound of Music, Maria which is a song and character in West Side Story, Cosette from Les Miserables, Cosmo and Lina from Singin’ in the Rain, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, and a whole string of biblical names in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I’ll admit, movie musicals are more my thing than stage!

klcalder2 Says:

January 24th, 2013 at 9:24 am

My Fair Lady is my absolute favorite musical and yet I’ve never really considered Eliza. Weird. So many great names can be found in musicals, though!

linda Says:

January 24th, 2013 at 10:56 am

@arlina: Did you know that Cyd Charisse’s real name was Tula Ellice Finklea? Not quite as exotic!

missyby Says:

January 24th, 2013 at 12:51 pm

I named my daughter Adelaide after Guys and Dolls so that was my #1 favorite. I also like Fiona (Finnian’s Rainbow).

ScarlettSensibility Says:

January 24th, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Matilda might make the list this spring, when the London musical based on the Roald Dahl book makes its debut in New York. Its an incredible piece of theatre, and Dahl came up with the best names: Bruce Bogtrotter, Agatha Trunchbull, Lavender, Fiona, Hortense, Violet, Augustus, etc.

EmilyVA Says:

January 24th, 2013 at 5:48 pm

I love Amaryllis. My other favorite Music Man name is Winthrop, who is a little boy in the play.
From the Sound of Music I love Kurt, Liesl and Marta. I also love Maria and Anton nn Tony from West Side Story.
I used to have Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and Margie from State Fair on my list but not in awhile.

NellieDellie Says:

January 24th, 2013 at 6:00 pm

I love the name Charity, I know it’s not well liked on nameberry or in real life but I just love it.

susan.n Says:

January 24th, 2013 at 8:00 pm

I’m obsessed with musicals, so I absolutely love today’s blog!

Adelaide and Eliza are my favorites on the list. I also adore Millie from Thoroughly Modern Millie!

MorganaLeFaye Says:

January 25th, 2013 at 11:56 am

Wow, this is an amazing post! From the list, I adore Cassandra, Adelaide, Charity and Eliza.

I also love Christine and Raoul from The Phantom of the Opera & Love Never Dies, Cosette, Marius and Eponine from Les Mis (oh, how I wish Enjolras was useable!), Fiyero from Wicked, Jemima from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Matilda. Truly is also a huge GP of mine.

Samantha-Bianca Says:

January 29th, 2013 at 8:22 am

Gretel from TheSound of Music. And Liesel. And Marta. There is a special plce in my heart for German girls names.

ozdust Says:

May 26th, 2013 at 4:00 pm

I LOVE musicals and have been involved in them since I was little, but I never thought of going through and making a list of musical names… there are SO many good ones!

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