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Hollywood Stars Who got their Start on Broadway: The OGs

From ‘The Great White Way’ to the silver screen…

While the Broadway roots of some of Hollywood’s most famous stars may be well known, even among non-theater nerds, we think it’s about time to take a deep dive into the Broadway/Hollywood overlap. 

You may not realize it, but there are quite a few screen actors who cut their teeth on Broadway before transitioning to movies and television. Since this article is just the first in this series, let’s begin with a batch of 4 celebs whose renowned Broadway roots are no secret to Hollywood fans.

Broadway stars to Hollywood stars: Sarah Jessica Parker

Yes, ladies and gentlemen! Decades before Sarah Jessica Parker became a household name as everyone’s favorite columnist/socialite/Manolo Blahnik enthusiast, Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City, she portrayed a much different New Yorker: Annie Warbucks! Starting a day before her 14th birthday, Sarah Jessica Parker portrayed the titular character in Broadway’s Annie in 1979. And that wasn’t even her Broadway debut, folks! Prior to Annie, Sarah played Flora in a Broadway revival of The Innocents, directed by the famed director/playwright Harold Pinter, in 1976. She was only 11 years old! 

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After scoring a leading role in the CBS series Square Pegs in 1982, SJP quickly shot to fame, starring in four films in the next three years: the most notable of which was her portrayal of Rusty in the 1984 film adaptation of the musical Footloose, starring Kevin Bacon (in which she made high-waisted purple Levi’s an iconic ‘80s look!) The following year she starred in Girls Just Want to Have Fun opposite Helen Hunt. In 1992, she played the girlfriend of Nicolas Cage in Honeymoon in Vegas. While Honeymoon in Vegas was considered a box office success, it was her next role, as one of the zany yet villainous Sanderson sisters (alongside Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy) in the now cult-classic hit Hocus Pocus (1993) that cemented her role as a cultural icon to ‘90s kids across the world.

Sarah transitioned back to the great white way in 1995, starring as Rosemary Piklington in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at the Broadhurst Theater, and later that year in an Off-Broadway production of Sylvia, in which she starred opposite her future husband, Matthew Broderick, another Broadway performer turned Hollywood star. During the following year, 1996,  she played the lead role of Princess Winnifred in a Broadway production of Once Upon A Mattress at the Broadhurst Theater. 

Sarah Jessica Parker’s career continued to soar throughout the ‘90s and in 1998, after receiving the script for HBO’s dramedy series Sex and the City based on Candice Bushnell’s novel of the same title. Sarah signed on to play what has become her most well-known role, that of protagonist and narrator Carrie Bradshaw. The show ran for six seasons and wrapped in 2004, by which point Sarah had established herself not just as an A-list celebrity, but a style icon and household name. She earned four Golden Globes, three Screen Actors Guild awards, and two Emmy Awards for her portrayal of Carrie Bradshaw.

Her film career hardly abated following the end of SATC. In the years that followed, Sarah continued to star on the silver screen in films such as The Family Stone (2005), alongside Diane Keaton, for which Parker was nominated for a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a comedy. And of course, there were the Sex and the City films in 2008 and 2010, which were met with a lukewarm reception by mostly everyone except for die-hard SATC stans. (But honestly? We’re glad they exist.) Currently, Parker is set to again star alongside her husband Matthew Broderick in a Broadway production of the classic Neil Simon comedy Plaza Suite, which is slated to premiere at the Hudson Theater in March of 2022.

Broadway stars to Hollywood stars: Jason Alexander

Jason Alexander rose to fame as George Costanza in the hit sitcom Seinfeld (1989-1998), but his career started long before Seinfeld. Alexander, born Jay Scott Greenspan, was an established ‘song and dance man’ before he made the leap to television and film acting. He made his Broadway debut back in 1981, originating the role of Joe in the original production of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. His other Broadway credits from this time include Kander and Ebb’s musical The Rink (1984), Neil Simon’s comedy Broadway Bound (1986) (the third and final installment of Simon’s Brighton Beach trilogy), and Jerome Robbins’ Broadway (1989). Jason Alexander scored a Drama Desk Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, and a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance in 1989, just as Seinfeld’s first season was premiering. 

And while George Costanza is definitely his most famous role (one for which he received a whopping seven Emmy nominations,) Jason Alexander’s expansive film and television resume is full of surprises including (but certainly not limited to): The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Star Trek: Voyager (1999), Pretty Woman (1999), The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000), and Shallow Hal (2001), along with guest roles in Curb Your Enthusiasm (2001, 2009), Malcolm in the Middle (2003), Community (2013), Young Sheldon (2018-2021), and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2019). 

Jason Alexander has also been at the forefront of made-for-TV-musicals, starring opposite Vanessa Williams in a feature film version of Bye Bye Birdie (1995) and in Cinderella alongside Brandy, Whitney Houston, and Bernadette Peters. Most recently, Jason returned to Broadway to replace Seinfeld creator Larry David in Fish in the Dark (2015), which David wrote and starred in prior to Jason Alexander succeeding him in his role as Norman Drexel in June of that year.

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It’s worth noting that Jason Alexander is a mere Oscar away from becoming a certified EGOT winner. And while this may not qualify him for that Oscar, his face DID make it into a downright hilarious Super Bowl commercial for Tide earlier this year, cementing his cultural relevance among younger audiences who may not have been alive during his Seinfeld tenure. We have a sneaking suspicion that Jason Alexander will continue to grace both Broadway stages and the big screen for many years to come.

Broadway stars to Hollywood stars: Idina Menzel

Okay, so for real Broadway nerds, this seems like a no-brainer but… not all of us are Broadway nerds! Madame Idina Menzel has lived many lives before her Frozen fame caused “Let it Go” to become a song that felt like it was played around the world for a solid two years straight (at least.) 

Let’s take it back to the year 1996, when Idina made her Broadway debut in a little-known musical called RENT. (Maybe you’ve heard of it?) Idina Menzel originated the role of Maureen Johnson in the original Broadway cast of Jonathan Larson’s rock musical based on the Puccini opera, La Boheme. 

RENT’s success launched a slew of careers, and Idina Menzel’s is at the top of that list. She even earned a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance. Following the blinding success of RENT, which has since transcended from “cult classic” to “rock musical masterpiece” and “every teenage girl’s favorite musical at some point,” Menzel went on to perform in a number of other Broadway roles including Amneris in Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida (2000),  Sheila in Hair (the New York City Center Encores! Production), and Kate in Andrew Lippa’s version of the musical The Wild Party (2000), in which she starred alongside her then-husband and fellow RENT OBC (original Broadway cast) alum Taye Diggs

Idina Menzel truly transcended to Broadway legend status in 2003 with the premiere of the hit Broadway musical Wicked. Idina originated the role of Elphaba, the mercurial but kind-hearted Wicked Witch of the West alongside Kristin Chenoweth’s Glinda the Good Witch. The show grossed over $56 million in its first year on Broadway and raked in a whopping ten Tony nominations. While both Idina and Kristin Chenoweth were nominated for Best Actress in a Musical, it was Idina Menzel who took home the Oscar for her performance as Elphaba. 


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The 2005 film adaptation of RENT, which reunited the majority of the original cast, was Idina’s largest on-screen role at the time, although she did have smaller roles in Kissing Jessica Stein (2001), The Tollbooth (2004), and Water (2004). 2007 brought Idina Menzel’s first foray into Disney musicals with her performance as Nancy Tremaine in Enchanted, alongside Patrick Dempsey and Amy Adams. (It’s worth noting that while Enchanted was a movie musical, Idina’s character did not sing. A duet written for her by Broadway legends Alan Menken and Steven Schwartz was notoriously cut from the film.) Glee fans will remember Idina’s epic performance as the recurring character of Shelby Corcoran (2010-2013), who plays Lea Michele’s character’s biological mother (and also the coach of a rival show choir.)  

2013 cemented Idina’s transition from Broadway superstar to overall superstar with the release of the instant-classic animated Disney musical, Frozen, which stars Idina as Princess Elsa, alongside Kristen Bell as Princess Anna, and other Broadway alums Josh Gad and Jonathan Groff. (More on those three actors in part two of this series!) 

Needless to say, Frozen, along with its sequel, Frozen II (2019), became one of the highest-grossing animated films of all time, becoming the first animated film since Toy Story 3 (2010) to surpass the  $1 billion mark. Just as notable as