Actor: Caitlin Kinnunen (u/s Gabi Campo and Brittany Zeinstra), Jo Ellen Pellman (movie)
A seventeen year old lesbian who becomes an outcast and an outline when the PTA cancels the school prom rather than let her attend with her girlfriend.
- Audience Surrogate: Emma is arguably the character with whom the audience are most aligned, and it's her that the plot revolves around
- Butch Lesbian: To an extent. She wears a lot of flannel, drives a stereotypically lesbian car, and wears a tux to the second prom.Emma: Are you saying because I'm a lesbian, I drive a pick-up?
Barry: Well, do you?
Emma: [pause] Shut up.
- Hates Wearing Dresses: Is forced to wear a dress to the first prom, and is clearly very uncomfortable in it.
- The Heart
- Heroic BSoD: At the beginning of Act 2, after being tricked into attending a separate prom alone and then having a panicking Alyssa refuse to come out, she all but completely shuts down. It takes a pep talk from Angie to get her head back into the goal.
- Little Miss Snarker: Is known to snark back at adults and students alike.
- Parental Abandonment: Her parents threw her out of the house when they found out she was a lesbian.
- The Scapegoat: Expressly states that she doesn't want to become this after the prom gets cancelled. She does.
- Wise Beyond Their Years: Despite the emotional turmoil she's put through, Emma is (mostly) remarkably mature for her age.
- The Woobie: The kids at school blame Emma for the prom getting cancelled, and then when prom is back on she goes to the gym only to find it completely empty. The other kids, and Mrs Greene, conspired against her and tricked her into attending a fake prom by herself. It's heartbreaking.
Actor: Brooks Ashmanskas (u/s Josh Lamon and David Josefsberg), James Corden (movie)
A narcissistic Broadway actor who takes Emma under his wing.
- Camp Gay: Almost unbelievably so.
- The Fashionista: Has a few party dresses in his closet "for emergencies".
- Holier Than Thou: Has a very over-inflated ego, but becomes less egocentric over the course of the show.
- In Touch with His Feminine Side: Big time.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Starts off as kind of a self-centred jerk but Emma brings out his heart of gold pretty quickly.
- Large Ham
- Missing Mom: Hasn't spoken to his mother in thirty years.
- Parental Substitute: Becomes one for Emma, although perhaps "Uncle Substitute" is more fitting.Barry: [sung] I can tell you're feeling wary, but you can count on Uncle Barry. He can turn this butchy duck into a swan!
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Believes in buying over everything when all else fails. He immediately offers up $5000 to pay for a prom.
Dee Dee Allen
Actor: Beth Leavel (u/s Courtney Balan and Kate Marilley), Meryl Streep (movie)
A diva in desperate need of good press.
- Berserk Button: Gets set off quite easily for a multitude of reasons.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Mellows considerably over the course of the show, helped by Principal Hawkins.
- The Diva
- Holier Than Thou: Thinks extremely highly of herself, and doesn't understand what's so bad about being a narcissist.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Like Barry, once she starts listening to others, she becomes a whole lot nicer and less selfish.
- Lady in Red: While performing "The Lady's Improving" in Principal Hawkins' office.
- Large Ham
- Screw the Rules, I'm Famous!: Often has this attitude. Best summed up in the movie where she enters the town's hotel, puts down her two Tony Awards and thus demands "your best suite." That A)the hotel doesn't have "suites" and B) the clerk has zero clue who she is doesn't enter her mind.
- Unstoppable Rage: Has to be stopped from physically harming Emma and bustled out of the room when Emma announces she's not going to appear on Dee Dee's ex-husband's talk show to tell her story, a favor that cost her a $2.3 million Hamptons house.
Actor: Angie Schworer (u/s Cara Cooper, Kate Marilley and Vasthy Mompoint), Nicole Kidman (movie)
A Chicago showgirl who has never been allowed to play Roxie Hart despite being in the chorus for twenty years.
- Dumb Blonde: Averted - she is shown to be pretty smart, and knows a lot about the Electoral College.
- Hidden Depths: Her political knowledge, and her ability to teach Emma how to be more confident.
- No Last Name Given: Her last name is heard, but it's a blink and you'll miss it moment, compared to the other actors.
- Parental Substitute: To Emma, and is also seen hugging Alyssa after she comes out.
- She's Got Legs: And how...Emma: Before you give me a lecture, or kick me to death with those crazy antelope legs of yours...
- Statuesque Stunner: A long-time chorus showgirl, and is very much the physical type one would expect.
- Team Mom: Definitely more motherly than Dee Dee...
Actor: Christopher Sieber (u/s Josh Franklin and David Josefsberg), Andrew Rannells (movie)
A Julliard graduate who has fallen on hard times.
- Bumbling Dad: Not actually a father, but definitely becomes a bumbling father figure to the students.
- Friend to All Children: Is the one who does the most for changing the townspeople's opinions on homosexuality, and is instrumental in their HeelFace Turn.
- Holier Than Thou: He went to Julliard and he refuses to let anyone forget it.
- Large Ham: Even more than Barry and Dee Dee!
- The Load: Viewed as such by Barry and Dee Dee.Barry: Why are you here?
- Small Name, Big Ego: To his frustration, he's only recognized as "that guy from Talk To The Hand."
Actor: Isabelle McCalla (u/s Kalyn West and Gabi Campo), Ariana DeBose (movie)
Emma's closeted girlfriend and the daughter of the head of the PTA.
- Broken Ace: Popular girl, cheerleader, ace student, on the student council, on the debate club... Everything seems great for her, except that she seems to have little interest in most (possibly any) of her extracurricular activities, most of which seem to be forced on her by her overbearing mother. She's also gay, and incredibly anxious about it, terrified of what would happen if her mom found out. Watching her girlfriend's life fall apart after she's outed to the entire school absolutely doesn't help matters.
- Brainy Brunette: Appears to be the spokesperson for the student council and is also in the debate club (although these extra-curriculars may be down to her mother's insistence).
- Disappeared Dad: Her father abandoned her and her mother at some point prior to the events of the show.Alyssa: [sung] Cause mom's convinced if you're perfect, your father might come back...
- The Heart
- Heroic BSoD: "Alyssa Greene" is an entire song dedicated to her breaking down during the show after the fake prom brings her to a panic and she realizes that Kaylee and Shelby know about her relationship with Emma. After the song, when an overstressed Emma breaks up with her, Alyssa can only stare off into the distance before walking alway.
- Lipstick Lesbian: Only to an extent, but definitely dresses more feminine than Emma.
- Wise Beyond Their Years: Like Emma, although she is under an extreme amount of pressure, she's more mature than her classmates.
- The Woobie: Is closeted due to her homophobic mother and classmates despite wanting to come out, and is reduced to tears in more than one scene.
Actor: Michael Potts (u/s David Josefsberg and Sheldon Henry), Keegan-Michael Key (movie)
The school's principal.
- Cool Teacher: Is very sympathetic to Emma's plight.
- Hero-Worshipper: Is a huge fan of both Broadway and Dee Dee in particular.Dee Dee: What are you? Big fan? Small fan? Scary, stabby fan?
- Hot Teacher: Dee Dee certainly seems to think so.
- Only Sane Man: Is often completely bemused by how the New York characters act.
Actor: Courtenay Collins (u/s Courtney Balan and Kate Marilley), Kerry Washington (movie)
Alyssa's mother and the head of the PTA.
- The Antagonist: Is the one who opposes Emma the most, although she's not portrayed without understanding. In the end, she believes she's doing what's best for her daughter, even if the reality is very different.Mrs Greene: I just don't want you to have a hard life.
Alyssa: It's already hard.
- Berserk Button: Whenever Alyssa attempts to come out to her, or whenever one of the Broadway gang insults her.
- Heteronormative Crusader: Is most likely the one who decides to cancel the prom rather than let Emma attend with her girlfriend. Mrs Greene is unaware (or maybe she isn't) that her own daughter is the girlfriend in question.
- Last-Name Basis: Her actress, Courtenay Collins, has joked that her first name is "Mrs".
- Meddling Parents
- My Beloved Smother: Is extremely pushy towards Alyssa, which is clearly taking a toll on their relationship.
Actor: Josh Lamon (u/s Josh Franklin, Sheldon Henry and David Josefsberg), Kevin Chamberlin (movie)
Dee Dee's PR manager (and possibly Barry's).
- Camp Gay: Especially when played by Josh Lamon.
- Professional Butt-Kisser: As a PR manager, this is essentially his job.Sheldon: Believe me, I've tried. I've kissed so much ass, I can't feel my face!
- Yes-Man: Manages to organize a lot of opportunities for the other characters, although they don't always work out.
Actors: Becca Lee, Kalyn West, Teddy Toye, Drew Redington, Mary Antonini, Jerusha Cavazos, Shelby Finnie, Fernell Hogan, Joomin Hwang, Wayne "Juice" Mackins, Anthony Norman and Brittany Zeinstra (swings: Gabi Campo, Susie Carroll, Jack Sippel, Nick Masson).
The kids of James Madison High School.
- Alpha Bitch: Kaylee and Shelby.
- Big Man on Campus: Nick describes himself as this verbatim during "You Happened".
- The Cheerleader: Kaylee is one, although it's unclear if any of the other girls are, too.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: All the kids, but especially Kaylee and Shelby, towards the end.
- Fille Fatale: Trent correctly guesses that Shelby has lost her virginity, using this information to tell her that if they wanted to follow the Bible as much as they claim, then Shelby and her family will have to be stoned to death for this.
- HeelFace Turn: Thanks to Trent.
- Jerk Jock: Nick and Kevin.
- Kids Are Cruel: They trick both Emma and Alyssa, with Emma being sent to a fake prom by herself and Alyssa being completely left out of the loop. They leave Alyssa out of the planning because Kaylee and Shelby discover her relationship with Emma and decide to intervene.