2014 was a great year for Hollywood in terms of cultivating new talent and more and more frequently, Hollywood can be seen dipping into the Great White Way for their next breakout stars.
Disney has long utilized some of musical theatre’s most famous actors and actresses to provide the voices for their Disney characters. Lea Salonga, for example, voiced both Aladdin’s Princess Jasmine, and Mulan. However, until recently, it was rare for a musical star’s Hollywood career to go much further than that.
But thanks to shows like Glee, American Idol, and America’s Got Talent, it seems that the world is paying more attention to Broadway stars. Indeed, many mainstream Hollywood celebrities are now crossing over to the stage; among them, James Franco, Emma Stone (whose starring as Sally Bowles in “Cabaret”), and Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto.
Here, the curtain is raised on seventeen Broadway actors and actresses who are finally getting their big break, and becoming appreciated on a worldwide scale.
17. Laura Benanti
Laura Benanti is considered to be one of Broadway’s most treasured actresses. She appeared as Louise in the revival of “Gypsy” starring alongside Patti LuPone and has countless credits to her stage resume.
In 2005, Laura was a series regular on the show “Starved”, which aired on FX. Then in 2006, she appeared in two films, “Take the Lead” and “Falling for Grace.” Laura also had a recurring role in ABC’s “Eli Stone” as well as NBC’s “The Playboy Club.” She still performs on stage regularly and appears in concert performances of well-known Broadway musicals.
16. Cristin Milioti
To the mainstream, Cristin Milioti is known as “The Mother” AKA Tracy McConnell in the hit series, “How I Met Your Mother”. She also played Teresa in the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street.” But before she was appearing on the big or small screen, Cristin was an accomplished stage actress, working in Ireland and on Broadway.
In 2011 she pioneered the role of the Girl in the Tony Award winning musical, “Once.” Right now, Miloti is focusing on her television and film career, and is frequently named as one to watch in Hollywood.
15. Megan Hilty
Megan Hilty is best known in the theatre world as playing Glinda in the hit musical, “Wicked” as well as Doralee Rhodes in the stage adaptation of the movie, “9 to 5.” But if you’ve been watching NBC in the last few years, you’ll remember Megan as the tenacious Ivy Lynn in “Smash”, a show about the development of a musical.
She co-starred in the TV series with former American Idol contestant, Katharine McPhee, and together they sang the Grammy nominated song, “Let Me Be Your Star.”
As of 2013, Megan has been appearing in the television show, “Sean Saves the World.” Not only is she beautiful, but she’s proving that her acting chops can cut it in Hollywood.
14. Cheyenne Jackson
Cheyenne Jackson started out in the entertainment business as one of the biggest stars on Broadway. He originated the role of Sonny Malone in “Xanadu” in 2007 and the role of Chad in the 2004 musical, “All Shook Up.”
His first major breakout role in Hollywood was playing Mark Bingham in the critically-acclaimed movie, “United 93.” Cheyenne has also been a guest star on “Glee” and “30 Rock.” Lately, he has been focusing on his music career and is playing to sold out houses all over the U.S. on his latest tour.
13. John Gallagher, Jr.
John Gallagher, Jr. originated the role of Moritz Stiefel in the musical, “Spring Awakening” as well as played Johnny in Green Day’s musical, “American Idiot.” But if you’re a fan of Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series, “The Newsroom”, then you know John as Jim Harper.
Since making his Broadway debut in 2006, John has been working on his transition to television and film with small guest spots in shows such as “The West Wing” and “NYPD Blue.” His role in Sorkin’s show has definitely put him on the right track for a complete Hollywood breakthrough in the near future.
12. Jonathan Groff
Kids may know Jonathan Groff as the voice of Kristoff in Disney’s “Frozen”, Princess Anna’s awkward love interest. But ask any Broadway fan and they’ll tell you that he originated the role of Melchior Gabor in “Spring Awakening” as well as playing Claude in the revival of “Hair.”
Lately, Groff has become a regular in the off-Broadway scene, earning himself an Obie Award for his work in a few plays. Groff has appeared in a few West End plays as well. He was first introduced to screens as the love interest of Rachel Berry in “Glee” and now stars as Patrick Murray in the HBO series, “Looking.”
11. Andrew Rannells
Andrew Rannells is probably best known as Elijah Krantz in HBO’s “Girls”, or as Darren in “How I Met Your Mother”, or even as Bryan Collins in “The New Normal.” Andrew has definitely made his mark on the small screen and is fast becoming a well-loved TV actor.
But before he was doing screen tests for these shows, Rannells was on Broadway. He is best known for playing the lovable Elder Price in “The Book of Mormon”, created by South Park’s Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Along with “Book of Mormon”, he was also a hit in “Jersey Boys” and “Hairspray.”
10. Sutton Foster
Sutton Foster is a two-time Tony award winning actress who originated the role of Millie in “Thoroughly Modern Millie”, Princess Fiona in “Shrek the Musical”, and Jo in “Little Women.” Her Broadway credits are numerous.
In 2007, though, she made the break into television with a role in the show “Johnny and the Sprites” (a musical children’s puppet show). Sutton also got a guest spot starring opposite of Kathy Griffin on “Law & Order: SVU.” Then, she got her big break being cast as a series regular in the show, “Bunheads”, a role in which she plays a former Las Vegas dancer teaching ballet in a small town.
9. Aaron Tveit
There is a running joke in the theatre world that Aaron Tveit was Broadway’s best kept secret – not any more.
Not only is he a great actor, but he’s an incredibly attractive gent with an angelic voice. Starring in shows such as “Next to Normal” and “Catch Me If You Can”, Tveit has been nominated for numerous awards for his theatrical endeavors.
Tveit caught the attention of the rest of the world when he was cast as Enjolras in the 2012 film, “Les Miserables.” Since then, he has starred in the USA Network show, “Graceland” and landed a guest spot in “Gossip Girl.”
8. Matthew Morrison
We best know Matthew Morrison as the lovable Will Schuester in the hit series, “Glee” as well as being a singer-songwriter signed with Adam Levine’s record company. But before “Glee” was even a glimmer in Fox’s eye, Matthew Morrison was on Broadway and singing his heart out in eight shows a week.
He originated the role of Link Larkin in “Hairspray” and when he wasn’t on stage, he was auditioning for television shows. Before “Glee”, he was playing small roles that you would likely missed if you blinked, but that didn’t stop Morrison from trying – and all that hard work has definitely paid off.
7. Christian Borle
Christian Borle has some of the richest Broadway roots with a career that started in 1995. The mainstream television audiences were introduced to Borle around 2008 when MTV aired a live staging of the musical, “Legally Blonde”, in which he played Emmett Forrest.
Flash forward to 2011, and Borle found himself starring in NBC musical drama series “Smash”, playing Tom Levitt. His recent television credits include appearing in “The Sound of Music Live” as well as playing Smee alongside Christopher Walken in “Peter Pan Live.” With each showing on the screen, Borle attracts a lot of attention, and many expect him to become a household name in a few years.
6. Jeremy Jordan
If you don’t know who Jeremy Jordan is, by February you almost certainly will. Why February? That’s when the movie adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s musical, “The Last 5 Years” will be hitting the screen.
You might already recognize Jeremy from starring alongside Dolly Parton in the 2012 film, “Joyful Noise” or playing Jimmy Collins in the television series, “Smash.” But before he was gracing the camera, Jordan got his start on Broadway in 2009. He’s best known for originating the role of Jack Kelly in the stage version of Disney’s movie, “Newsies” and originating the role of Clyde Barrow in “Bonnie & Clyde.”
5. Jesse Tyler Ferguson
The world may know Jesse Tyler Ferguson for his work as Mitchell Pritchett in ABC’s “Modern Family”, a role that he has played since 2009. But before he was making people laugh on the small screen, he was in New York City appearing in Broadway and Off-Broadway shows.
He originated the role of Leaf Coneybear in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and acted in the Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” In 2012, he returned to the stage to star in the play, “8”, based on the court case against California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state.
4. Lea Michele
Before she was Rachel Berry on the hit show, “Glee”, which is entering its final season, Lea Michele was Broadway’s sweetheart. One of her earliest Broadway credits was playing the daughter of Tateh in “Ragtime”.
Michel went on to perform on stage in “Les Miserables” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” But her most well known role is originating the role of Wendla in Duncan Sheik’s “Spring Awakening.” Since the ending of “Glee” is on the horizon, fans are wondering what’s in store for Lea while Broadway audiences are thrilled to know that she’s considering returning to New York and returning to her Broadway roots.
3. Josh Gad
Josh Gad has made quite a name for himself in the last five years of his career. He landed numerous roles in films such as “Jobs” and “Love & Other Drugs” as well as appearing in the short-lived sitcom “1600 Penn”. All this combined with numerous guest starring roles has made Gad a recognizable face.
But before he was in front of the camera, Gad was on Broadway performing for thousands of people eight times a week. He is best known for originating the role of Elder Cunningham in Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Broadway show, “The Book of Mormon.” But Josh Gad’s biggest claim to fame to date is as the voice of the lovable snowman, Olaf, in Disney’s “Frozen”. Interesting tidbit; The Book Of Mormon writer, Robert Lopez, also co-wrote the music for Frozen.
2. Anna Kendrick
Before she was gracing the screen in “Pitch Perfect” or the “Twilight” franchise, Anna Kendrick earned Tony nominations and graced the New York City stage with her talent. Her theatrical background has been beneficial to her career, evident now in her role as Cinderella in the movie musical “Into the Woods” and as Cathy in the upcoming movie adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s “The Last 5 Years” starring alongside Jeremy Jordan.
Indeed, Kendrick’s film career is becoming so successful that it’s beginning to upstage her stage credits.
1. Idina Menzel
Before “Frozen” made Idina Menzel a household name, she was taking over Broadway, originating roles such as Maureen in “RENT”, Kate in Andrew Lippa’s “The Wild Party”, and Elphaba in “Wicked”, for which she won her first Tony Award in 2004.
Almost ten years later, Menzel is selling out world tours and giving a voice to one of the most popular Disney princesses of the decade. Idina hasn’t forgotten her Broadway roots and is still working in the theatre, currently starring in the musical “If/Then.” She has also made guest appearances on various television shows and was formerly married to Broadway and film actor, Taye Diggs.
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