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Hollywood Stars Who Got Their Start on Broadway: The Next Generation

Okay, Hollywooders. Last week’s round-up of Broadway stars turned Hollywood stars focused on some OG Broadway-to-Hollywood celebrities that are widely known and loved. But we had so much fun digging into the backgrounds of legends like Idina Menzel and Viola Davis that we decided it’s time for part 2! 

Let’s explore the backgrounds of some of “the next generation”–a selection of Hollywood’s biggest stars, still reaching their peak, who also got their start on the Great White Way. 

Broadway Stars: Josh Gad

Whether you realize it or not, all of the lead actors from the blockbuster sensation Frozen 1st graced Broadway stages before the silver screen. After learning all about Idina Menzel in part 1 of this series, let’s zoom in on 1 of her co-stars and his theatrical roots.

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While Josh Gad technically made his film debut before his Broadway debut with Mary and Joe (2002), we’re going to count him in the Broadway category because it’s clear he’s a theater nerd at heart (and we say that with love — it takes 1 to know 1!) 

Did you know that 2 years before Josh became famous in the role of Olaf the snowman in Frozen, he was nominated for a Tony Award? While the actor made his Broadway debut in 2005 in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Josh continued to cut his teeth on the stage until 2011 when he originated the role of Elder Cunningham in The Book of Mormon by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. For his performance, Josh was nominated for a Tony for Best Leading Actor in a Musical, nominated in the same category alongside his co-star, Andrew Rannells (another Broadway-to-Hollywood favorite of ours here at Hollywood.com.)

After his phenomenal run as Elder Cunningham came to a close in mid-2012, Josh Gad became #bookedandbusy in the Hollywood scene. Coincidentally, Frozen was not his first animated film about winter climates. That distinction goes to Ice Age: Continental Drift, in which the actor portrayed Louis the molehog. The following year, Josh Gad starred alongside Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in The Internship and pivoted with his performance as Steve Wozniak in the Steve Jobs biopic Jobs directed by Joshua Michael Stern. Pair the success of those 2 films with the knock-your-socks-off pop-cultural domination of Frozen and it’s pretty clear that Josh probably had a better 2013 than anyone else we can think of!

No stranger to cinema for young audiences, Josh is also known to young audiences as LeFou from the 2017 live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. In the film that stars Emma Watson, Josh had the chance to sing and dance, only this time in the flesh and not as a cartoon or CGI character. 

2018 brought Josh’s first collaboration with famed director Sir Kenneth Brannagh when he starred as Hector MacQueen in Kenneth’s film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, the beloved Agatha Christie murder-mystery.

A year later in 2019, it was the ‘year of the sequels’ for Josh. His films Frozen II and The Angry Birds Movie II (he appeared in the 1st The Angry Birds Movie in 2016) were released 3 months apart and were both met with wild commercial success and decent critical acclaim. During that year, Josh was busy filming his second feature directed by Kenneth Brannagh. This time it was a film adaptation of the young adult science fiction novel Artemis Fowl. The movie was released exclusively on Disney+ in June of 2020 after plans for a conventional theatrical release were scrapped due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

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During this time, in the doldrums of 2020, while everyone else was playing Animal Crossing and attempting to bake sourdough, Josh Gad finally had some time to dedicate to a very cool project: a YouTube series of all things! Capitalizing on the convenience of video conferencing, Josh created Reunited Apart, an online talk show series that launched in April 2020, with the purpose of reuniting the casts of beloved films and television series. He interviewed casts of Hollywood all-star films such as The Goonies, Lord of the Rings, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with the enthusiasm and curiosity of a super fan, and the legitimacy of an A-list celebrity. We highly recommend binging a few episodes of Reunited Apart. You’ll definitely learn a few pieces of trivia and fun backstories about your favorite movies that you never knew before!

Broadway Stars: Ben Platt

So, depending on your Broadway know-how, maybe you’ve heard of Ben Platt and maybe you haven’t yet. If you fall into the latter category, prepare thyself! Ben has already performed at Radio City Music Hall and his momentum is only gaining speed! So, where’d he get his big break? 

Coincidentally, as Elder Cunningham in Book of Mormon, just like Josh Gad! (The role must be a good luck charm for skyrocketing fame!) Ben Platt, an LA native who grew up doing musical theater and performing with his siblings as “the von Platt family singers.” Fun fact: When Ben was only 9 years old, he performed as Winthrop Paroo in The Music Man at the Hollywood Bowl in a production that starred famed musical theater legend Kristin Chenoweth. He booked a few national tours throughout his formative years, including stints in Caroline or Change and Les Misérables. After moving to New York City to attend Columbia University, Ben was dropped out of school after 7 weeks to perform in the Chicago production of The Book of Mormon

In January 2014, 3 months after the end of The Book of Mormon’s run at the Bank of America Theater in Chicago, Ben Platt reprised the role in the ongoing Broadway production, making his official Broadway debut.  

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During Ben’s The Book of Mormon chapter, a little-known musical comedy film came out called Pitch Perfect. You may remember his performance as Benji Applebaum, the nerdy and bashfully talented roommate of the film’s male lead, Skylar Astin (another Broadway-to-Hollywood darling and a real-life close pal of Ben’s.) The movie received massive critical and commercial success and audiences were delighted to see Ben reprise his role as Benji in the film’s sequel, Pitch Perfect II in 2015. That same year, Ben Platt also starred in Jonathan Demme’s Ricki and the Flash, starring Broadway OGs Meryl Streep and Audra McDonald.

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2016 brought Ben Platt’s biggest Broadway performance yet when he originated the titular role in the hit musical Dear Evan Hansen with music and lyrics by LaLaLand lyricists, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Ben’s performance not only caused the show to be sold out for months, it also earned a whopping 9 Tony Award nominations that year. At the 71st Tony Awards, 23 year old Ben became the youngest actor ever to win a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical. 

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Since 2019, Ben Platt has starred as Payton Hobart in the Netflix comedy-drama series The Politician. The 2nd season was released in mid-2020, just in time for it to be binge-watched around the world. Ben was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy. (He also released an album of songs that he sang in the series.) 

Additionally in 2020, Ben announced that he would be releasing a TV special of his Radio City Music Hall concert, which was the last stop on his tour of his album debut, Sing to Me Instead. The concert special was released on Netflix in May of 2020. 

If you’re unfamiliar with Ben Platt’s work thus far, we recommend getting acquainted with his existing body of work before the release of all of the upcoming projects he has on the horizon. Later this month, Ben will appear in Broken Diamonds, a drama feature in which the actor stars opposite Lola Kirke (sister of Girls star Jemima Kirke.) The film’s premiere and release, like many others originally planned for 2020, was pushed until this summer. Also, fans can look forward to a film adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen, in which Ben will reprise his role as Evan Hansen on the big screen. (You can find the film’s official trailer here.) The film, directed by The Perks of Being A Wallflower author and director, Stephen Chbosky, will be released in theaters later this year on September 24. Mark your calendars, musical fans! 

Currently in the Ben Platt pipeline: The People We Hate at the Wedding starring Allison Janney and Schitt Creek’s Annie Murphy as well as a film adaptation of Merrily We Roll Along, Stephen Sondheim’s famed musical, that will be directed by Richard Linklater. Ben is starring opposite his real-life best friend and fellow Broadway-to-Hollywood star, Beanie Feldstein

We’re calling it now: us here at Hollywood.com smell an EGOT in this star’s future.

Broadway Stars: Anna Kendrick

Rewinding back to Pitch Perfect, which starred several Broadway darlings, let’s take a deep dive into the career of the film’s star, Anna Kendrick

While Hollywood fans might have first learned of her from her breakout role in the 2009 comedy-drama Up In The Air, starring George Clooney, or perhaps her performance as Jessica Stanley in the Twilight Saga, Anna’s name has been on the tongues of Broadway critics as early as 1998. 


Anna Kendrick made her Broadway debut at the age of 12 when she landed a supporting role in High Society, a 1998 revival of Col