For actors, there’s nothing quite like live theater. Starring in a Broadway show is both a dream for many actors and also where many get their start. In the past 15 years, Disney has made Broadway become very accessible for many people who want the experience of live theater, but also want to see something they know and can relate to, such as Beauty and The Beast, Cinderella, The Lion King and Aladdin. Casting current television and movie stars, as well as musician and even reality stars (okay, a lot of former American Idol cast members) on Broadway, has also been a huge trend, which attracts big audiences. Here are ten of your favorite stars who have done Broadway.
10. Bryan Cranston
Bryan Cranston, whose performance as Walter White on AMC’s Breaking Bad continues to be praised, despite the series end, played former president Lyndon B. Johnson in All The Way, this year. It seems that in any medium, Cranston shines – his Broadway performance received raving reviews. But, Cranston isn’t exactly new to the theater scene – earlier in his career, he starred in The God of Hell, Chapter Two, The Taming of the Shrew, A Doll’s House, Wrestlers, Barefoot in the Park, Eastern Standard and The Steven Weed Show, which he won a Drama-Logue award for. HBO is producing a film version of the show.
9. James Franco
In 2014, James Franco, Chris O’Dowd from Bridesmaids (who later won a Tony award for this performance) and Leighton Meester (of Gossip Girl fame), starred in the Broadway revival of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. While the world is seemingly impressed with everything James Franco does, the New York Times was not and said,
Though Mr. Franco musters a single, perfect tear for the play’s tragic climax, I only came close to shedding one. That was in the first act, when a dog (a real one) is led offstage to be shot because it stinks. That dog seemed to have true fear and bewilderment in its eyes. It felt, well, human, in a way none of the people did, and my heart sank when I knew it wouldn’t be coming back.
Despite overall mixed to negative reviews, producers recouped their $3.8 million investment.
8. Ashlee Simson
You would think that a singer who flubbed a Saturday Night Live appearance royally, would not be a shoo-in for Broadway success, but shockingly, of all people, Ashlee Simpson killed it as Roxie Hart in the musical Chicago. Some other famous Roxie Hearts include Ann Reinking (who originated the role in the current revival), Renee Zellweger (in the movie version), Brooke Shields, Melora Hardin, Samantha Harris (yes, the one from Dancing With The Stars) and Michelle Williams. Simpson was such a favorite, she even went on to play Roxie in the Los Angeles revival of the show, directed by the aforementioned Brooke Shields. Fun fact: Chicago is the longest running Broadway revival.
7. Abigail Breslin
Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin starred very briefly in a revival of The Miracle Worker. In the show, she played the deaf and blind Helen Keller. Brelin received mixed reviews, but no miracle was enough to save The Miracle Worker and the show closed after only 38 performances, due to low ticket sales. So, it turned out Little Miss Sunshine wasn’t Little Miss Broadway.
6. Jeremy Piven
Jeremy Piven starred in Speed-The-Plow, on Broadway in 2009. His co-star? None other than Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss. But, Piven reportedly quit the show because he fell ill with mercury poison from too many tuna rolls. The press dubbed this incident “Sushi Gate.” However, many people have speculated that Piven wasn’t telling the truth. He denied this, telling the New York Times
At times I was incapable of getting enough oxygen to get my lines out on stage, and sometimes I’d forget where I was in the play. This misconception that I was out partying was wrong. My problem was that as soon as I woke up, I wanted to figure out a way to get back into bed. I’ve never missed a day’s work or a rehearsal in my life. I think there’s a reason you’ve never heard of any problem like this before.
5. Lindsay Lohan
So, technically, Lindsay Lohan has never been on Broadway, but she is currently starring in a revival of Speed-The-Plow on the West End in London. Rumors have swirled around her performance and work ethic. Do theater-goers see the show because they want to watch Lohan do well? Or because she is a train wreck? Either way, the critics have spoken and Variety was completely unimpressed-
Pre-opening rumors focused on Lohan using a prop book for help with her lines and needing off-stage prompts, but on opening night she survived with just one of the latter. However, although she fits the bill as temporary secretary Karen (who may or may not be secretly on-the-make), she doesn’t yet know how to generate and share energy with other actors onstage. She dutifully expresses the intention of each line but there should be more to Karen than meets the eye. Because Lohan is unable to handle subtext, the character — and thus the drama — loses dimensions.
4. Will Ferrell
Many people have forgotten about Will Ferrell’s Tony nominated play, You’re Welcome America, where he plays George W. Bush. The show ran from February to March 2009. Ferrell wrote the play himself and it was based on his Saturday Night Live performance as the former president. The show was so popular that it was broadcast live on HBO in America, as well as in Canada. The performance was even released on DVD. You’re Welcome America broke records for the Cort theatre and took in $846,507.05 in sales for the week of March 15th.
3. Carly Rae Jepsen
Call her maybe? Call her maybe not so much? You probably had no idea that Call Me Maybe singer, Carly Rae Jepsen starred as Cinderella on Broadway with (another big surprise), Fran Drescher earlier this year. How did she do? Well, her performance did not garner as many good reviews, as downloads for Call Me Maybe. Her run was very brief, only lasting a few months. Prior to being on Broadway, Jepsen starred in high school productions of Annie, Grease and The Wiz. No matter what, you can officially call Carly Rae Jepsen a Broadway star.
There’s nothing that Diddy can’t do. Or is there? From April to July 2004, he starred in A Raisin in The Sun on Broadway as Walter Lee Younger. And if you were wondering what name Diddy used in the Playbill, the former Puff Daddy aka P. Diddy, used his real name, Sean Combs. The role was originated by Sidney Poitier on Broadway in 1959, and then later in the movie adaptation in 1961. The New York Times gave Mr. Combs a very fair review:
There are no mediocre performances here. That Mr. Combs makes his desires seem like more than empty materialism must come in some part from the fact that he has been hungry at the same table.
1. Jennifer Garner
In 2008, Jennifer Garner played Roxane in a revival of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play, Cyrano de Bergerac. She hasn’t been on Broadway since, and there is a very good reason why – she received terrible reviews overall. At least the New York Daily News had one nice thing to say, “[Garner] brings her natural beauty to Roxane, but she’s miscast.”