Broadway Stars to Hollywood Stars: Hollywood’s Leading Ladies

Cosmopolitan UK, iDominick, Cristiano Del Riccio

What’s good, Hollywood? We’ve got something great! This month, we’re celebrating Broadway’s re-opening. (“The show must go on!”) While several shows on Broadway have already started performances, over a dozen musicals are re-opening on Broadway in the second half of September and honestly, we couldn’t be happier about it.

With more and more musicals resuming as of this month, and a few highly-anticipated movie musicals premiering in the coming weeks, there’s more Broadway chatter in Hollywoodland than usual! And for good reason—there are more Broadway veterans starring in hit films and television series than you may realize.

We recently explored the OGs of Broadway-to-Hollywood fame and the next generation, but there are still plenty of female A-listers who have graced Broadway stages before the silver screen and we want to make sure you know about them all (even the curveballs we’ll be including in this list!).

Broadway Stars turned Hollywood’s leading ladies: Sutton Foster

Two-time Tony Award winner Sutton Foster is one of the greatest living Broadway triple-threats of our time. She is a legend and she must be protected at all costs! (By the way, triple threat means that not only can Sutton act, but she can also sing and dance with equal impeccable skill and talent. In fact, she can do all 3 at the same time. With a smile!)

Sutton Foster made her Broadway debut as an understudy for Sandy in the 1996 production of Grease at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. However, she had her big breakout role in 2002 when she originated the titular character of the 1920s song-and-dance musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie. Sutton’s performance as Millie Dillmount earned the performer her first Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in A Musical. Along with her win, Thoroughly Modern Millie swept the Tonys that year, earning 6 awards.

Sutton’s performance as Millie received positive reviews from critics across the board. In their review of Thoroughly Modern Millie, Newsday wrote the following: “She has a smile that may remind you of Mary Tyler Moore, the gawky comic precision of the young Carol Burnett, the lyricism of a romantic heroine, and a smallish but vibrant voice as accurate as it is expressive.” Fun fact for you: Kristin Chenoweth originally had the role of Millie in the pre-Broadway productions of Thoroughly Modern Millie but Sutton replaced her when the show went to Broadway and Kristin “went to Hollywood for a sitcom deal.”

Following her success as Millie Dillmount, Sutton Foster soldiered on with a #booked&busy Broadway schedule. In the following years, she originated the role of Jo March in Little Women: The Musical (2005), starred in the Broadway premieres of The Drowsy Chaperone (2006), Young Frankenstein (2007), and Violet (2014), and originated the role of Princess Fiona in Shrek: The Musical (2008). In 2012, Sutton won her second Tony for her performance as Reno Sweeney in the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes. In the 12 years between 2002 to 2014, Sutton Foster was nominated for a total of 6 Tony Awards for Best Actress in A Musical. ( That’s an average of 1 nomination every 2 years. I mean…whoa!)

In 2012, Sutton Foster began her first regular on-screen role as Michelle Simms in Bunheads, an ABC Family drama created by Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel). In 2014, Sutton made her feature film debut in Angriest Man in Brooklyn, starring Robin Williams. The following year  she starred in the leading role of 2015’s horror-comedy, Gravy, directed by Psych star, James Roday Rodriguez. 

That same year, Sutton Foster landed her second regular small-screen role starring as Liza Miller in the TV Land comedy/drama, Younger. The series, created by Darren Star (Sex and the City, Emily in Paris), ran for 7 seasons and also starred Debi Mazar and Hilary Duff.

Sutton Foster is currently starring in a West End production of Anything Goes, where she has reprised her Tony Award-winning role as Reno Sweeney. The show runs until November 6th. Up next, Sutton will appear as Marian Paroo in The Music Man opposite Hugh Jackman on Broadway. (If you put 2 legendary triple-threats together, do you get a sextuple-threat?) The Music Man begins previews on December 20th and officially opens at the Winter Garden Theater on February 10, 2022. We have a feeling this is going to be *the* show to see over the holidays; It’s going to be huge!

Broadway Stars turned Hollywood’s leading ladies: Lea Michele

Since we’re celebrating Broadway babes turned Hollywood starlets, we would be remiss not to include Ms. Lea Michele on this list. Before her breakout role in the 2006 Original Broadway Cast (OBC) of Spring Awakening, Lea had already had herself a formidable Broadway career as a child and teen star. She made her Broadway debut in 1995, at the ripe old age of 8, playing Young Cosette in Les Misérables (1995-1996). Lea also starred in the Broadway revivals of Ragtime from 1997 to 1999, and Fiddler on the Roof from 2004-2005.

In 2005, Lea Michele was cast in a workshop production of the coming-of-age folk-rock musical, Spring Awakening, co-written by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater. The show documents the lives of a group of teenagers in the conservative and rigidly oppressive society of 19th-century Germany as they experience sexual and ideological awakenings and aspire for greater freedom. Lea Michele originated the role of the female lead, Wendla Bergmann, alongside fellow future Broadway-to-Hollywooders Jonathan Groff and John Gallagher Jr. The 3 starred together in the Original Broadway Cast of Spring Awakening when it opened at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in December 2006 and the show was a smash hit (Spring Awakening swept The Tony Awards in 2007 with 8 wins). Lea ended up playing Wendla on Broadway until 2008.

Lea Michele began her first long-term small screen role the following year, starring as Rachel Berry in the iconic musical teen dramedy Glee. The role of Rachel was written specifically for Lea by the show’s co-creator Ryan Murphy. She played the character throughout the show’s 6 seasons.

During that time, Lea Michele also starred in Glee: The 3D Concert Movie released in 2011 and in Ryan Murphy’s satirical slasher comedy series, Scream Queens, from 2015 to 2016, alongside Emma Roberts, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Abigail Breslin. From 2017 to 2018, Lea starred in the ABC sitcom, The Mayor (with another Broadway to Hollywood guy, Daveed Diggs). 

The triple-threat’s last musical theater performance was in 2019 when Lea Michele starred as Ariel in the “live-to-film concert experience” of Disney’s The Little Mermaid at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, co-starring Harvey Firestein, Cheech Marin, and Peter Gallagher.

As for Lea Michele’s upcoming projects? She’s currently in her first year of motherhood. (A different type of production entirely!) Lea and her husband, businessman Zandy Reich, welcomed a baby boy in August of 2020. She is currently promoting an album of lullabies for her son, Ever. The album, aptly titled Forever, covers popular hits by a variety of artists ranging from Guns N’ Roses to Kacey Musgraves. Forever will be released sometime this fall (an exact release date is yet to be announced).

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Broadway Stars turned Hollywood’s leading ladies: Renée Elise Goldsberry

Okay, Broadway fans who know their stuff definitely know the name Renée Elise Goldsberry as the 2015 Original Broadway Cast of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. Since originating the role of Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton, Renée has jumped from the stage to the film and television world. But before her Hamilton fame, she already had quite the Broadway tenure.

Renée Elise Goldsberry had her television big break starring in 43 episodes of Ally McBeal as a back-up singer from 1997 to 2001. Following her small-screen role, Renée made her Broadway debut as Nala in The Lion King in 2002 and originated the role of Nettie Harris in the 2005 Original Broadway Cast of The Color Purple (which we recently discussed at length here). She also starred as Mimi Marquez in Rent on Broadway in 2008. Three years later, in 2011, Renée received rave reviews in the Broadway production of the David Lindsay-Abaire play Good People starring Frances McDormand (#GOAT).

In 2016, following the smashing success of Hamilton’s 2015 debut on Broadway, Renée Elise Goldsberry won a Tony Award for Best Actress in A Musical in the now-infamous 2016 Hamilton Tony’s takeover (in which the hip-hop musical earned a historic 16 nominations and took home 11 Tony Awards in 1 evening!). She also won a Grammy, along with her castmates, for Best Musical Theater Album.

Renée Elise Goldsberry continued in the role of Angelica Schuyler on Broadway until September 2016 when she bounced back to Hollywood with a multitude of film and television projects. In 2017, Renée starred in the title role of HBO film The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and later that year, she was featured in 2 seasons of the science-fiction series Altered Carbon on Netflix.

A year later in 2018, Renée starred in Eli Roth’s fantasy comedy, The House with a Clock in Its Walls, alongside Jack Black and Cate Blanchett. In 2019, she was featured in A24’s feature drama, Waves, opposite Sterling K. Brown. Last year, Renée also made multiple appearances on NBC’s musical comedy/drama, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.

In December of 2020, Renée Elise Goldsberry reprised her role as Angelica Schuyler in the Disney+ film version of Hamilton, for which she was nominated for a 2021 Emmy for her role. The Emmys are Sunday, September 19th on CBS. If Renée Elise Goldsberry wins the Emmy, she will be one step closer to achieving an EGOT. All she will need is an Oscar!

Currently, Renée is starring in the Peacock musical comedy series Girls5Eva, with Busy Philipps and Sara Bareilles. The show premiered in May and a second season is already in the works. Upcoming projects for Renée include the Marvel series She-Hulk coming to Disney+ in 2022. She’ll star in the superhero series alongside Tatiana Maslany, Mark Ruffalo, Tim Roth, and Jameela Jamil. Also next year, Renée is set to star in the highly-anticipated feature film What If? directed by Billy Porter in his directorial debut.

Broadway Stars turned Hollywood’s leading ladies: Sarah Hyland

Here’s a Broadway curveball for you, Hollywooders: Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland! While Sarah might not have as many Broadway creds to her name as some other members of this list, her 2006 performance as Jacqueline Bouvier in Grey Gardens earns her the right to be included in this list! (So don’t try to @ me on technicalities, Broadway trivia fanatics.)

Fast forward 3 years from Sarah Hyland’s Broadway debut to the premiere of her smash hit television breakthrough in 2009. ABC’s Modern Family, which ran for 11 seasons, became a beloved multi-generational family sitcom. On Modern Family, Sarah starred as Haley Dunphy, the oldest daughter of Claire and Phil Dunphy, played by Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell, and granddaughter of Ed O’Neill’s Jay Pritchett. Sarah, along with her castmates, received Screen Actors Guild Awards annually from 2011 through 2014 for Best Ensemble Television Comedy Cast.

During her Modern Family chapter, Sarah continued performing in musical theater events and productions throughout New York and Hollywood including a 3-night limited run of Hair in 2014 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, as well as a cabaret performance of Kerrigan and Lowdermilk’s The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown at the Kerrigan-Lowdermilk West Coast Debut in Hollywood in January 2013.

In the past few years, Sarah Hyland has moved further into the music world. In 2016, a cover of The Chainsmokers’s “Closer” that she performed with Boyce Avenue went viral and ears perked up all over the internet.

In 2019, Sarah gave a blazing performance when she debuted her single, “We Met At A Party” at the Teen Choice Awards with Jordan McGraw, proving herself as an actress-turned-songstress right before our eyes!

Currently, Sarah Hyland is in production on the rom-com feature My Fake Boyfriend with Dylan Sprouse and Keiynan Lonsdale, which is scheduled to be released in 2022. But honestly, we’re waiting with bated breath to see if Sarah Hyland returns to her musical theater roots in the near future.

Broadway Stars turned Hollywood’s leading ladies: Ariana Grande

Okay, everybody reading this has heard of Ariana Grande, but did you know that before the pop stardom and the Disney fame, Ariana made her debut on Broadway in 2008 when she originated the role of Charlotte in Jason Robert Brown’s ensemble teen musical, 13.

Two years later, Ariana quickly ascended to Disney fame for her role as the red-headed, doe-eyed Cat Valentine in Victorious (2010-2013) and Sam & Cat (2013-2014), thus cementing her teen stardom. In August of 2013, she released her debut studio album, Yours Truly, and debuted at number 1 on the US Billboard 200. Immediately, Ariana Grande went from Disney star to pop star (hooray! every post-millennial teen star’s dream come true!).

Since then, Ariana Grande has released an impressive 6 studio albums in 7 years, along with a live album from 2019. For her musical gifts to this world, Ariana has earned 3 Billboard Music Awards, 2 Grammy Awards, and 9 MTV VMAs, along with practically an entire trophy room full of other awards and accolades.

But! Ariana Grande’s musical theater roots have never gone completely dormant! Once the final season of Victorious wrapped in 2013, she starred alongside Neil Patrick Harris in a production of the holiday musical A Snow White Christmas. In 2016, Ariana starred in the NBC televised production of Hairspray Live! as Penny Pingleton, alongside Broadway legends like Harvey Fierstein, Kristin Chenoweth, Jennifer Hudson, and Martin Short.

Now that Ariana has achieved legendary pop stardom, done live televised musicals, and even headlined Coachella, the starlet still has a long career ahead of her. We “couldn’t help but wonder”™ if Ariana might make a limited-engagement foray back to Broadway in the future, now that the Great White Way has recently opened up for business once again.

Broadway Stars turned Hollywood’s leading ladies: Anika Noni Rose

Broadway-to-Hollywood’s Anika Noni Rose is most widely-known for providing the voice of Tiana in Disney’s 2009 animated blockbuster, The Princess and the Frog. But did you know that before her Disney princess fame, Anika Noni Rose achieved the ultimate Broadway success story? (Honestly, it in itself is worth writing a musical about!)

In 2000, at the age of 28, Anika moved to NYC without a job and “with big hopes of making it on Broadway.” A mere 3 months later, she got cast as Rusty in the Broadway production of Footloose! Anika climbed to Broadway royalty 4 years after that when she starred in the Tony Kushner musical Caroline, or Change. Her performance as Emmi Thibodeaux earned Anika the 2004 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in A Musical.

Anika Noni Rose transitioned from Broadway to Hollywood stardom in 2006 when she starred as Lorrell Robinson (who was inspired by Motown legend Mary Wilson!) in the blockbuster musical film Dreamgirls, co-starring with Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson, among others.

Anika Noni Rose returned to Broadway in 2008 starring as Maggie in the Broadway revival production of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on A Hot Tin Roof opposite Terrence Howard and James Earl Jones.

Her most widely-known role as Princess Tiana came the following year with Disney’s release of The Princess and the Frog in December of 2009. Needless to say, The Princess and the Frog was a box office blockbuster, earning $271 million in box offices worldwide. The film also has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 85%. Anika Noni Rose was lauded by critics and viewers alike for playing the first Black Disney princess and in 2011, she won the first ever Disney Legend Award.

After Princess and the Frog, Anika Noni Rose continued to excel in Hollywood, appearing in over a dozen movies in the following 10 years. However, she stayed loyal to Broadway. In 2011, Anika featured in a filmed concert version of Stephen Sondheim’s Company with the New York Philharmonic, starring Neil Patrick Harris and Christina Hendricks. 

In 2013, Anika Noni Rose originated the role of Angelica Schuyler in the first workshop production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton at Vassar College in 2013. However, she was unable to continue with the show upon its move to The Public Theater in 2015 because she had accepted the role of Beneatha Younger in the Broadway revival production of  A Raisin In The Sun starring Denzel Washington. Anika Noni Rose was nominated for her second Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play.

Keep your eyes peeled for Anika Noni Rose in the upcoming Netflix dramedy series Maid starring Margaret Qualley and Margaret’s real-life mother, Andie MacDowell. The 10-episode series is executive produced by Margot Robbie and will be released on Netflix on October 1st. Check out the trailer below, it’s definitely on our list of new shows to binge this fall.

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