They can sing, they can dance, and they can act – and they’ve done it all on Broadway, too! For many TV and movie stars, the road to Hollywood is never easy or predictable. For these 19 celebrities, it all started on Broadway! Before stars like Sarah Jessica Parker and Meryl Streep made household names for themselves as award-winning actors, they were living every theater kid’s dream by landing starring roles on stage.
Many of these famous stars still put their singing talent to use today, too (like Anna Kendrick in Pitch Perfect and Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman). So, whether or not you’re a theater buff, you’ll love to see where these celebrities got their start. Keep reading to see 19 celebrities who successfully transitioned from Broadway stars to TV and movie stars.
19. Ariana Grande
Before she was selling out worldwide tours and releasing hit singles, Ariana Grande began her career as a theater kid. She held roles in local theater productions like Annie, The Wizard of Oz, and Beauty and the Beast, and she made her official Broadway debut in 2008 in the show 13. One year later, she and her 13 co-star, Elizabeth Gillies, landed roles on Nickelodeon’s Victorious, with Ariana playing Cat Valentine and Elizabeth as Jade West. Ariana then starred on Sam & Cat, a spin-off series featuring Ariana as Cat and iCarly’s Jennette McCurdy as Sam Puckett. In 2013, Ariana released her first studio album, Yours Truly, which kicked off the successful musical career she has today!
18. Nick Jonas
Long before Nick Jonas stole the hearts of teenage girls everywhere along with his brothers, Joe Jonas and Kevin Jonas, he got his start as a child star on Broadway. His first roles were as Gavroche in Les Misérables, Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol, Chip Potts in Beauty and the Beast and Little Jake in Annie Get Your Gun. He then found fame with his brothers as The Jonas Brothers band before starring in the Disney Channel Original Movies Camp Rock, Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam and the original shows Jonas Brothers: Living the Dream and Jonas. But, let’s be real, we all know and love Nick for his successful and diverse musical career. He even returned to his Broadway roots when he took over for Daniel Radcliffe in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. After seeing all he’s accomplished, it’s not hard to feel a little jealous, right?
17. Kristen Bell
Kristen Bell left the Tisch School of the Arts so she could make her Broadway debut as Becky Thatcher in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 2001. A year after the short-lived musical, she joined Liam Neeson, Angela Bettis, and Laura Linney in the Broadway revival of The Crucible. It was after this show that Kristen left NYC to pursue a career in movies and television. Her breakout role was as the titular character on the mystery drama Veronica Mars. Since then, she’s held roles in popular works like Heroes, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Bad Moms, Frozen, and The Good Place.
16. Lea Michele
Before Lea Michele stole hearts as the Broadway-obsessed performer Rachel Berry on Glee, she actually got her start in showbiz on Broadway. Her debut role was as Young Cosette in Les Misérables in 1995. She then joined the cast of Ragtime in 1998 as Little Girl with the original Toronto cast before the production moved to Broadway. In 2004, she joined the cast of Fiddler on the Roof, and in 2006, she joined the production of Spring Awakening, which she would leave in 2008. Just one year later in 2009, she landed the role of Rachel Berry on Fox’s Glee, and the rest is history!
15. Sarah Jessica Parker
Can you wear Manolo Blahniks on Broadway? This is something Carrie Bradshaw would ask – but before Sarah Jessica Parker starred as everyone’s favorite columnist on Sex and the City, she began as a child actor on Broadway. Her first role was in the revival of The Innocents, and she was later cast as a small supporting role in Annie before landing the lead role in 1979. She starred as Annie for a year before getting cast in the CBS sitcom Square Pegs in 1982. This role kicked off her career in television and film, and she landed her iconic Carrie Bradshaw role in 1998.
14. Anna Kendrick
If you were impressed by Anna Kendrick’s performance of “Cups” in the 2012 movie Pitch Perfect, you won’t be surprised to hear that she was a Broadway baby long before her movie career. At 12 years old, she starred in the Broadway musical High Society, which earned her a Tony nomination, making her the third-youngest nominee. Five years later, she made her movie debut in the musical comedy Camp. She’s since held roles in The Twilight Saga, Up in the Air, and Into the Woods, though she gained recognition for her role as Beca Mitchell in the Pitch Perfect series.
13. Julie Andrews
She’s the Queen of Genovia in Princess Diaries, but she’s also the Queen of Broadway! Before Julie Andrews landed starring roles in iconic movies like Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, she made her Broadway debut as a teenager. Her first role was as Polly Browne in The Boy Friend in 1954, followed by her performance as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady and Queen Guinevere in Camelot. Her TV debut was in the live musical broadcast of Cinderella, followed by her film debut in Mary Poppins. In 2000, Queen Elizabeth II named Julie a Dame for her services to the performing arts.
12. Hugh Jackman
With one of the most diverse careers in Hollywood, many recognize Hugh Jackman as the X-Men superhero Wolverine, but he stole hearts as P.T. Barnum in the 2017 musical movie The Greatest Showman. But Hugh’s performance history goes all the way back to 1998 when he snagged the leading role in the Royal National Theater production of Oklahoma! in London’s West End. The performance landed him an Olivier Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical. His Hollywood breakthrough happened just a few years later in 2000 when he landed the role of Wolverine in X-Men and its subsequent film series. His musical theater performances didn’t end there, though: he went on to win a Tony Award for his role in the 2003 Broadway revival of The Boy from Oz, and he also starred in the film version of Les Misérables in 2012.
11. Jesse Tyler Ferguson
Jesse Tyler Ferguson is known to clash with his on-screen music teacher husband on Modern Family, but Jesse is the musical theater star in real life! He made his Broadway debut as Chip in On the Town in 1998. He also held roles in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in 2005, A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2007, The Comedy of Errors in 2013, and The Tempest and Spamalot, both in 2015. He landed his role on Modern Family in 2009, and his performance landed him five Emmy award nominations.
10. Josh Gad
Josh Gad melted hearts as Olaf, everyone’s favorite snowman in the 2013 hit Disney movie Frozen, but long before that, he was starring on Broadway. His first role was alongside Jesse Tyler Ferguson in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in 2005. However, he found his breakout Broadway role as Elder Cunningham in The Book of Mormon in 2011 – and his performance earned him a Tony award nomination. He’s since starred on a number of TV shows including 1600 Penn and The Comedians and movies like The Wedding Ringer, A Dog’s Purpose, and the live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.
9. Jonathan Groff
Jonathan Groff’s extensive career began with his role as the understudy (and a swing performer) in the musical In My Life. But his true Broadway debut was as part of the original cast of Spring Awakening in 2006, alongside real-life best friend Lea Michele. Despite leaving Broadway for some time for a career in film and TV, he returned in 2015 to play the role of King George III in the smash hit Hamilton. Some of his notable television roles have been on Glee, Looking, and Mindhunter. He’s also starred in movies including Looking: The Movie and Frozen.
8. Skylar Astin
Skylar Astin starred alongside Anna Kendrick in the Pitch Perfect movie series but, like his co-star, Skylar also got his start on Broadway. Like Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff, Skylar also made his Broadway debut in Spring Awakening in 2006. He went on to star in movies including Hamlet 2 and Taking Woodstock before his breakthrough role as Jesse Swanson in the Pitch Perfect movie series.
7. John Travolta
There’s a reason John Travolta made the perfect Danny Zuko in the 1978 hit musical movie Grease: he was part of the Grease touring company before he starred in the movie! After his time in the Grease touring company, he made his Broadway debut in 1974 in Over Here! After that, he moved to LA to pursue his television and movie career. Some of his most notable performances were in Saturday Night Fever (1977), Grease (1978), Pulp Fiction (1994), and Wild Hogs (2007). John returned to his performing roots as Edna Turnblad in the 2007 movie remake of Hairspray, his first musical since Grease.
6. Taye Diggs
Taye Diggs is known for roles on Private Practice and in the rom-com How Stella Got Her Groove Back. But his career goes back to when he starred in the original cast of Rent in 1996 (he starred alongside his future wife, Idina Menzel, who’s also a well-known theater icon). That wasn’t the only time they starred on stage together: Taye and Idina both held roles in The Wild Party and Wicked together (though they ultimately divorced in 2014). Some of his other notable film and TV appearances include the movies The Best Man, The Best Man Holiday, and the drama series Murder in the First.
5. Diane Keaton
Before Diane Keaton kicked off her iconic and successful film career, she originated on Broadway as a member of The Tribe (and an understudy for Sheila) in the original Broadway production of Hair in 1968. After nine months in Hair, she landed a role in Woody Allen’s Broadway production of Play It Again, Sam – and it got her a Tony nomination. She kicked off her film career with The Godfather in 1972, followed by roles in the film adaptation of Play It Again, Sam, Annie Hall, Looking For Mr. Goodbar, Something’s Gotta Give, Father of the Bride (parts I and II) and Something’s Gotta Give, to name a few.
4. Jeremy Jordan
Jeremy Jordan currently stars as the beloved character Winn on the CBS series Supergirl, though he broke into showbiz on Broadway. His first role was in the cast of Rock of Ages in 2009. In the 2009 Broadway revival of West Side Story, he was cast as an alternate for Tony. He went on to star as Clyde in the Broadway debut of Bonnie & Clyde in 2011, and then as lead Jack Kelly in Newsies in 2012. Also in June, he landed the role of Jimmy on NBC’s Smash in its second season. A few years later in 2015, he landed the role on the Arrowverse show.
3. Jason Alexander
On TV, Jason Alexander is known for his hilarious character George Costanza on Seinfeld. But on Broadway, he’s known for iconic roles in Merrily We Roll Along, which was his Broadway debut, The Rink, Broadway Bound, Accomplice, and Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, for which he won the Tony award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical in 1989. While on Broadway, he landed his iconic sitcom role, which he starred in from 1989-1998. He returned to Broadway in 2003 for The Producers and has since starred in musicals including A Christmas Carol and Fish in the Dark.
2. Meryl Streep
Today, Meryl Streep is one of the most accomplished actresses in Hollywood. She has the most Golden Globe nominations than any other performer, and she’s held roles in iconic works including Sophie’s Choice, The Devil Wears Prada, Julie & Julia, Into the Woods, and The Post, to name a few. But before solidifying herself as one of the most accomplished Hollywood actresses of all time, she was a Broadway performer. Her first stage role was in the comedy Trelawny of the ‘Wells’ in 1975, followed by her official Broadway debut in Happy End, followed by a role in the off-Broadway show Alice at the Palace, for which she won an Obie (Off-Broadway Theater Award) in 1977. Her first film role was in 1977 in Julia, and the rest is history.
1. Matthew Morrison
Another Gleek who began on Broadway, Matthew Morrison, known for playing teacher and glee-club director Mr. Will Schuester on Fox’s Glee, began his Broadway career in the musical Footloose, followed by a role in the 2002 revival of The Rocky Horror Show. But his big Broadway break came when he played Link Larkin in Hairspray from 2002-2004. He then moved over to television where he appeared in shows including Ghost Whisperer, Numb3rs, CSI: Miami and Hack. He landed his role on Glee in 2009, and when the show ended in 2015, he returned to Broadway as J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, in Finding Neverland.