Many of Hollywood's most successful actors and actresses got their start on the stage. In honor of Broadway sensation Audra McDonald's 50th birthday on July 3, 2020, Wonderwall.com is taking a look at some of the stars who made the jump from Broadway to the big screen, starting with Audra herself… While she's now a Primetime Emmy-winning star known for her work on shows like "Private Practice" and "The Good Wife," Audra got her start on the Great White Way. A six-time Tony Award winner, Audra holds the record for most Tonys won by any actor and is the only individual to win in all four acting categories. The classical soprano has appeared in a slew of stage productions including "Carousel," "A Raisin in the Sun," "A Moon for the Misbegotten," "Ragtime," "Master Class" and "Porgy and Bess." Next up, the two-time Grammy winner will appear in the Aretha Franklin biopic "Respect," which comes out on Dec. 25, 2020. Keep reading to see who else honed their acting chops on the Broadway stage before making it in Hollywood…
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Jonathan Groff is a celebrated actor and singer who rose to fame in 2006 thanks to his performance as Melchior Gabor in the Broadway production of "Spring Awakening," which earned him a Tony Award nomination. Nine years later, he played King George III in "Hamilton" and earned another Tony nod. Jonathan has gone on to appear on several television shows including "Glee," "The Good Wife," "Boss" and "Looking." Since 2017, he's starred as Holden Ford on the crime thriller series "Mindhunter." He also voices Kristoff in Disney's "Frozen" franchise.
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Before making the jump to the big screen, Renée Elise Goldsberry was both a Daytime Emmy- and Tony-winning actress. She landed starring roles in many Broadway musical productions including "The Lion King," "The Color Purple," "Rent" and "Good People." In 2015, she originated the role of Angelica Schuyler in the critically acclaimed Broadway musical "Hamilton," which earned her a Tony for best actress in a musical. In 2019, she appeared alongside Sterling K. Brown in the family drama "Waves" and in 2020, she played Ava Price on the NBC musical comedy series "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist."
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Before finding international fame as a member of the Jonas Brothers and, later, with his solo music career, Nick Jonas was a Broadway kid. He appeared in "Les Miserables," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Annie Get Your Gun." Nick returned to Broadway in 2012 as J. Pierrepont Finch in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."
"Sex and the City" icon Sarah Jessica Parker is beloved for her leading role as Carrie Bradshaw on the HBO classic, but did you know she got her start on Broadway? In fact, the multi-hyphenate actress, producer and fashion designer made her stage debut at 11 in the 1976 revival of "The Innocents" before going on to star in the seminal musical "Annie" in 1979.
With her four-octave vocal range, it's not so shocking that Ariana Grande's career began on Broadway. Prior to releasing hit albums "Yours Truly," "My Everything," "Dangerous Woman," "Sweetener" and "Thank U, Next" — and before she appeared on "Victorious" and "Scream Queens" — the soprano was cast as cheerleader Charlotte in the 2008 musical "13."
Before making it in Hollywood, Anthony Ramos found success on Broadway. In 2015, he originated the dual roles of Philip Hamilton and John Laurens in the Tony Award-winning musical "Hamilton." He's since gone on to appear in several films and television shows including "A Star Is Born," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "Will & Grace," "She's Gotta Have It" and "Trolls World Tour." Next up for the rising star? He'll star as Usnavi de la Vega in the 2021 film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda's "In the Heights."
Well before he played Lena Dunham's bestie on "Girls," Andrew Rannells had made a name for himself on the Broadway stage. The actor starred as Link Larkin in "Hairspray" back in 2006, which was his first big break, and later starred in the original cast of "The Book of Mormon." In the hilarious musical penned by the writers of "South Park," Andrew played Elder Price, a role that netted him a Tony nomination for best lead actor in 2011 just one year before he joined the cast of "Girls."
How to get away with a super-successful Hollywood career? Start on Broadway, according to Viola Davis's trajectory! Fresh out of Juilliard, a young Viola starred on Broadway in "Seven Guitars" back in 1996. Her career on the stage proved fruitful, as the Oscar-winning movie star now has a Tony Award for her work in 2001's "King Hedley II."
Although Josh Gad appeared on TV's "Back to You" in 2007 and 2008 and landed a supporting role in the 2010 romantic drama "Love & Other Drugs," real acclaim came thanks to Broadway: In 2011, he originated the role of Elder Cunningham in the Broadway production of "The Book of Mormon," a performance that earned him a Tony Award nomination. Two years later in 2013, Josh — who's since appeared in or voiced characters for many movies and TV shows — played Olaf in the first film in the "Frozen" franchise and soon worked for Disney again, playing LeFou in the 2017 live-action adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast."
It's true! Before landing the role of Haley Dunphy on the hit ABC sitcom "Modern Family" in 2009, Sarah Hyland performed on Broadway. In 2006 when she was 15, the Manhattan-born actress played young Jacqueline Bouvier in the musical "Grey Gardens."
While he's now known for his starring role as Payton Hobart on Netflix's "The Politician," Golden Globe-nominated actor Ben Platt was (and still is!) a theater kid. Before landing the role of Benji Applebaum in "Pitch Perfect" in 2012, the Los Angeles native began his career on the stage, appearing in musical productions of "The Music Man" and "The Book of Mormon." In 2015, he originated the titular role in the hit Broadway musical "Dear Evan Hansen," which earned him a Tony Award for best actor in a musical in 2017. The same year, Ben signed a deal with Atlantic Records and in 2019 released his debut studio album, "Sing to Me Instead." In May 2020, his concert film "Ben Platt: Live from Radio City Music Hall" debuted on Netflix. He'll next star in the movie "Broken Diamonds" and the film adaptation of "Dear Evan Hansen."
Nathan Lane is a real stage-to-screen success story with a lengthy theatrical career. The Tony Award-winning actor's vocation began in New York City with Off-Broadway plays that landed him a role in his first Broadway production, the 1982 revival of Noel Coward's "Present Laughter." Nathan then went on to star in Broadway shows such as "Guys and Dolls," "The Frogs" and "Laughter on the 23rd Floor." His notable screen roles include appearances in "The Lion King," "The Producers" and "The Bird Cage."
Juilliard grad Christine Baranski — who's well-known for her work in film and TV projects such as "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "Mama Mia!" and "The Good Wife" and spin-off "The Good Fight" — has humble beginnings on Broadway. Christine made her Broadway debut in "Hide and Seek" in 1980.
Hugh Jackman got his start in the Australian theater before graduating to big roles like Wolverine in the "X-Men" films. Like a true thespian, Hugh has consistently gone back and forth from stage to screen throughout his highly successful career. In 2004, he won the best actor in a musical Tony Award for his performance in "The Boy From Oz." His crossover capability hit its peak in 2013's film version of "Les Miserables." Hugh won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Jean Valjean in the movie musical.
Matthew Morrison didn't have to do much studying up to play a glee club director! The role of Mr. Schue on FOX's "Glee" came easy to Matthew, considering his career began on Broadway. He got his start in the cast of "Footloose" then followed that up with a role in the 2002 revival of "Rocky Horror Picture Show." But his true big break on the legendary Broadway stage came in 2003 when he nabbed the coveted role of Link Larkin as part of the original cast of "Hairspray."
Broadway child star Lea Michele has practically grown up on stage. After landing her first role in the musical "Les Miserables" at 8, Lea proceeded to act in "Ragtime." By 20, Lea had starred in the Tony-winning musical version of "Spring Awakening" composed by Duncan Sheik (yes, the guy who shot to fame with the '90s single "Barely Breathing"). She also has Broadway credits in "Fiddler on the Roof." By 2009, Lea had made it big in Hollywood with her role as Rachel Berry on "Glee."
Idina Menzel's first big notable Broadway role was as the original Maureen in the first production of "Rent" from 1995 to 1997. She went on to win the 2004 best actress Tony Award for her performance as the unforgettable Elphaba in "Wicked." Idina spoke of the success of "Wicked" to Playbill, explaining, "I always knew it was something special in the beginning, but I had no idea that it would become this phenomenon." She moved on to movies and TV with roles in "Enchanted," "Kissing Jessica Stein" and the hit show "Glee." The spotlight turned on Idina again when she voiced Elsa in Disney's 2013 animated juggernaut "Frozen."
Taye Diggs got his big break opposite his talented future ex-wife, Idina Menzel, playing Benny in the first production of the Tony Award-winning musical "Rent." He then moved from the stage to the screen after landing a role on the soap opera "Guiding Light" before making his film debut in 1998's "How Stella Got Her Groove Back."
Bebe Neuwirth made her Broadway debut back in 1980 starring as Sheila in "A Chorus Line." It was the first in a string of Broadway roles in projects including "Damn Yankees" and "Sweet Charity," which earned her a Tony Award for best actress in 1986 — the same year she started appearing on TV's "Cheers." 1996 saw the actress playing Velma in the Broadway revival of "Chicago," a role that really put her on the map. It netted her another Tony, and she returned to the cast in a different capacity a decade later, that time playing Roxie Hart! Though Bebe found success off the stage in both television and film, she has continued to appear on Broadway in numerous productions, ranging from originating the role of Morticia Addams in "The Addams Family" in 2010 to returning once again to the "Chicago" cast in 2014 to play Mama Morton.
Kristin Chenoweth is one of the most beloved stars with Broadway roots in recent years. Her career has been blossoming since she played Precious McGuire in "Steel Pier" in 1997. The triple-threat's dancing, singing and acting skills have landed her memorable Broadway roles including as Sally Mann in "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," for which she won a best featured actress in a musical Tony Award; Glinda in "Wicked"; and Lily Garland in "On the Twentieth Century." Her biggest TV appearances include roles in "Hairspray Live!," "The West Wing," "Glee," "American Gods" and "Trial & Error." She's one talented lady!
"Modern Family" star Jesse Tyler Ferguson's career started with both Broadway and off-Broadway roles. The actor originated the role of Leaf Coneybear in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" in 2005 and returned to the Big Apple to star in the Broadway show "Fully Committed" in 2016.
Screen goddess Diane Keaton began her career on stage as an understudy in "Hair" and then as the star in Woody Allen's production of "Play it Again, Sam." Diane's career skyrocketed in legendary films such as "Annie Hall," "The Godfather" and "Manhattan." Since winning an Academy Award for best actress in 1977 for her work in "Annie Hall," Diane's career has had incredibly longevity and growth. In 2011, Diane published her tell-all memoir, "Then Again," which is full of musings on her colorful career and life.
Anika Noni Rose has a Cinderella acting story! She packed her bags and moved to New York City after college with no job prospects and landed a role on Broadway within three months! Anika's first Broadway role was portraying Rusty in "Footloose," but that wouldn't be her last! She won a Tony Award in 2004 for her work in "Caroline, or Change" just two years before starring in 2006's "Dreamgirls" alongside Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce, which she soon followed with Disney's animated musical "The Princess and the Frog."
A Yale MFA drama student, Meryl Streep began her career as a theater actress in the Broadway musical "Happy End" and in an off-Broadway production of "Alice at the Palace." But Meryl soon left the stage for screen: Her first movie role was opposite Jane Fonda in the 1977 film "Julia." Since then, Meryl's star has only climbed higher and higher, placing her at the very tip-top of the A-list.
Phillipa Soo landed originated the role of Eliza Schuyler in the acclaimed Broadway musical "Hamilton" in 2015 and earned a Tony Award nomination for best actress in a musical for her performance. In 2020, she'll appear in the romantic comedy "The Broken Hearts Gallery" and will lend her voice to two films: "The One and Only Ivan" and "Over the Moon."
John Travolta's trajectory toward landing the role of Danny Zuko in the cult-classic film "Grease" had a lot to do with his early Broadway career. John actually won a role in the touring company of the musical "Grease" and on Broadway in "Over Here!" before he played the slick protagonist heartthrob in the film version of "Grease."
One of Morgan Freeman's first big breaks? A 1968 all-black version of "Hello, Dolly!" on Broadway opposite Pearl Bailey. He honed his acting chops on the stage before landing his first film role in 1971.
The world loved breakout star Anna Kendrick in 2008's "Pitch Perfect," but before that, Anna was an aspiring theater star. At just 12 years old, she played a supporting role in the 1998 Broadway musical "High Society," which garnered her a Tony Award nomination for best featured actress in a musical.
James Earl Jones honed his craft on the Broadway stage. He made his debut back in 1957 and went on to win two best actor Tony Awards — the first in 1969 for his work in "The Great White Hope," the second in 1987 for his performance in "Fences."
Long before she solved mysteries on "Veronica Mars" or served as the voice of the titular narrator on "Gossip Girl," Kristen Bell was just a student at New York University. But she opted to leave school for a pretty big role — Becky Thatcher in the 2001 Broadway musical version of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer." A year later, she was starring in the Broadway revival of "The Crucible" alongside the likes of Liam Neeson and Laura Linney, which was her last stint on the stage before she packed her bags for Los Angeles.
Fans of the "Pitch Perfect" franchise know he has some serious vocal chops, and Skylar Astin has Broadway to thank for honing his skills. He was part of the original cast of "Spring Awakening" back in 2006. He played the role of Georg for two years.
Most people know him as George Costanza, but way before his "Seinfeld" days, Jason Alexander was a rising Broadway star! He started on the stage in the late '80s and even nabbed a Tony Award for best leading actor for his performance in "Jerome Robbins' Broadway" by 1989.
Long before he played Winn on The CW's "Supergirl," Jeremy Jordan was actually a big name on Broadway! He earned a Tony nomination for his work as Jack Kelly in "Newsies" back in 2012, a year before he got his big break on the small screen starring on NBC's "Smash."
Victor Garber is perhaps best known for his performances on the big and small screens, but before the "Alias" and "Argo" actor made that leap, he started on the stage. In the '80s, Victor appeared in various Broadway productions including "Sweeney Todd" and "Noises Off." Over the last decade, he made a triumphant return to Broadway, taking over David Hyde Pierce's role in "Hello, Dolly!" opposite Bernadette Peters in 2018.
Legendary actress Julie Andrews got her start on the stage, first in her native England before nabbing a Broadway role in 1954 when she played Polly Browne in "The Boy Friend." From there she starred as Eliza Doolittle in "My Fair Lady" on the stage before transitioning to a very successful film career in 1956.
Did you know Carol Brady was a Broadway star?! It's true! The late Florence Henderson, who took on the iconic role of Carol Brady on "The Brady Bunch" back in 1969, made her Broadway debut nearly two decades prior when she starred in the 1952 musical "Wish You Were Here." She went on to originate the titular role in "Fanny" two years later before transitioning to a career on the small screen.
While he'll always be Barry Allen to us, "The Flash" star Grant Gustin was a stage actor first. In 2010, he portrayed Baby John in the Broadway Revival Tour of "West Side Story." Then, one year later, he landed the role of Sebastian Smythe on TV's "Glee."