Big Stars You Have Seen Treading The Boards, But Before They Became Famous?
Phantom of London Profile PhotoPhantom of London Profile Photo
Phantom of London
Broadway Legend
And did they stand out?

Updated On: 1/12/13 at 05:09 PM
darquegk Profile Photodarquegk Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Not QUITE a Broadway story, but my best friend and writing partner, when he was turning eleven, had his dad pull some strings and get us backstage VIP passes to the NSYNC tour passing through our town- the final concert performance to ever be held in the Three Rivers Stadium before it came down. We got to meet the five guys adn then got great seats for the show.

On the tour with them were new artists Sisquo (pre-Thong Song), Pink (pre-EVERYTHING, when she was still a Britney knockoff), and a few others. Additionally, Justin Timberlake was not the de facto leader of NSYNC yet, just another of the five guys.

Leaving the concert: "So, you think any of those guys we saw tonight are gonna make it big?" "Not that Pink girl, probably Sisquo." "Yeah, and I think Chris Kirkpatrick is going to be the big star out of NSYNC."

Twelve years later, Sisquo is nowhere, Pink and Justin Timberlake are fairly respected megastars (Pink may even be bigger in music now than Timberlake, since he has more or less gone on hiatus as a recording artist to focus on acting), and Chris Kirkpatrick is best remembered for playing Chip Skylark on The Fairly Oddparents.
Broadway Legend
In 1999, I was on a business trip to London and took the opportunity to see a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical for the first time in a live performance. I loved all the R&H movie musicals that I had seen before that. As I was not able to plan for it, I was only able to get a Dress Circle ( front mezz) seat but my poor vision did not allow me to see the performers's faces too well. But there was this actor whose commanding stage presence was very apparent even from the distance...and the voice sounded very much legit ( musical theatre) -- powerful and engaging!

I did not have a souvenir program ( no Playbills in London) and did not know his name!

Thirteen years later - I was telling him at the stagedoor of the Broadhurst where he held his one-man show that I had seen him onstage since OKLAHOMA!


Now he is also up for an Oscar in LES MISERABLES!

alterego Profile Photoalterego Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
I too saw Hugh Jackman, in Melbourne in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and SUNSET BOULEVARD. I also saw Russell Crowe in THE BLUES BROTHERS SHOW. A young Nicole Kidman in STEEL MAGNOLIAS. Though she was famous here but not overseas I also saw (now) two time Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver in multiple shows including BORN YESTERDAY and THEY'RE PLAYING OUR SONG. Yes, they all stood out.

Updated On: 1/12/13 at 10:20 PM
After Eight
Broadway Legend
Martin Sheen stood out in a funny farce entitled Never Live Over a Pretzel Factory. Also Alan Alda in the comedy Fair Game for Lovers.
DottieD'Luscia Profile PhotoDottieD'Luscia Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Sarah Jessica Parker in Annie (1/1980); So glad I have a picture of the two of us from that day.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson in On the Town (Central Park); and

Macauley Culkin in The Nutcracker with New York City Ballet (he was Fritz, Marie's brother - 12/1988; I still have the program). His name always stuck with me since I had worked with his brother Shane earlier that year with Light Opera of Manhattan. When the first Home Alone movie came out, my first reaction was, "that can't be the kid I saw in The Nutcracker." And after finding my program, sure enough it was!

Hey Dottie! Did your colleagues enjoy the cake even though your cat decided to sit on it? ~GuyfromGermany
Updated On: 1/13/13 at 10:31 PM
bwaylvsong Profile Photobwaylvsong Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
I saw Cheyenne Jackson go on as (understudy) Trevor in "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and thought he was great!

edit: also saw Andrew Rannells as Link in "Hairspray," but not sure of he qualifies as "famous" yet
and (rapper) Azealia Banks in her HS production of "City of Angels" (yes, she can sing)
oh, and Lea Michele in "Fiddler"
Updated On: 1/13/13 at 10:47 PM
GavestonPS Profile PhotoGavestonPS Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
It wasn't pre-Broadway but her Broadway debut; however, Meryl Streep was absolutely captivating from her first line in HAPPY END. As I've said elsewhere, I didn't understand the Brecht/Weill show, but I couldn't take my eyes (or ears) off Streep.

I've also said I did a production of MERRY WIVES in a Greenwich Village tavern with Nathan ("Joey") Lane and Dann Florek, before either was well known. They were both so hysterical it was difficult to call the show because I was laughing so hard. It was also a challenge to the other actors because the guys never did the same thing twice.

George Hearn didn't have much to do opposite Lauren Bacall in a tour of WONDERFUL TOWN in the mid-1970s, but God knows he sang his part beautifully, as did his co-star, Maureen Moore.

And though she's not a "big" star except to people who were a certain age in the 1990s, I've also mentioned that I went to high school with Paige O'Hara; so I've known her since she was 14. She was alway a strong actress, but she built her voice, on her own, over the years, from an Ethel Merman-like belt to an operetta soubrette. I don't pretend to understand how she did it, but it's been a pleasure to hear. (And she's back to a Garland-like belt now, which has all the early power, but is also a lovely sound.)

ETA: one more. Christine Lahti was in her first year of grad school when I was a freshman at Florida State. I thought she was so brilliant, I sort of stalked her for a year--not in a personal sense, but in the sense of sneaking into empty theaters to watch her rehearse. I saw her in everything from Shakespeare to HOUSE OF BLUE LEAVES and thought she was the finest actress I'd ever seen. (She transferred after that year and so did I, so apparently neither of us enjoyed our time in Tallahassee. But it didn't show in her work.)

Updated On: 1/12/13 at 10:52 PM
Broadway Legend
Kelsey Grammar in PLENTY at The Public in 1982;
Nathan Lane stealing scenes from George C. Scott in PRESENT LAUGHTER at the Circle in the Square in 1982;
Cynthia Nixon as Debbie in THE REAL THING in 1984;
Gillian Anderson in ABSENT FRIENDS at MTC in 1991;
Bebe Neuwirth as Sheila in A CHORUS LINE in 1980

rosscoe(au) Profile Photorosscoe(au) Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Jackman in Beauty and Sunset
Weaver in many things at Melbourne Theatre Company
Rush at STC as well as other Melbourne Sydney Theatres
Kidman in Steel
O'Connor is mutilpe shows
Mel Gibson in a MTC show
Well I didn't want to get into it, but he's a Satanist. Every full moon he sacrifices 4 puppies to the Dark Lord and smears their blood on his paino. This should help you understand the score for Wicked a little bit more. Tazber's: Reply to Is Stephen Schwartz a Practicing Christian
SondheimFan5 Profile PhotoSondheimFan5 Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Sutton as the Star to Be in Annie, Steve Kazee as Robin in Spamalot, Lea Michele in Ragtime.
Featured Actor
Woah...such memories on so many different levels!!

Audra MacDonald in "West Side Story" in FRESNO, CA in the late 1980's.
Debbie Shapiro Gravitte in an LA show I wrote in which she starred, 1973 Mahhhvelous
Diana Canova...same show. Beautiful then, beautiful now, and so funny
Marisa Tomei in "BEIRUT" (before "My Cousin Vinny"....) MAGICAL.
Mark Hammill onstage in LA a million years ago. Very charming
Did "Fantasticks" with the late great Barney Martin in 72... Amazing to work with and see onstage every night.
Did "Skin of Our Teeth" with Bruce Davison... very interesting actor back in the 70's
Kirsten Chenoweth in "Steel Pier" !!!
Stockard Channing in the first National Tour of the musical "2 GENTLEMEN OF VERONA" !!!! Hard to NOT forget her ... so funny, young and wonderful!!
Judy Kaye in the original LA company of "You're...Charlie Brown" HYSTERICAL.
Hal Linden in a reaaalllly stunted show at the Ahmanson in LA called "LOVE MATCH" (by Maltby and Shire, I think...about Q.Victoria & P.Albert) HE WAS GRANNNND!!!!

Of course, folks like Donna MacKechnie in the original COMPANY; Linda Hopkins in INNER CITY; Ben Vereen in HAIR; (I guess you could say William Daniels in 1776...he hit his "big time" on TV later, of course...)
Broadway Legend
As a teen, I was blown away by an unknown, intense actor in DOES A TIGER WEAR A NECKTIE. That was Al Pacino.

On a school theater trip, I noticed a very tall, lithe presence who moved remarkably well in BAKER STREET. That turned out to be Tommy Tune.

About seven years ago I was curious to see Julia Roberts on stage, so I went to THREE DAYS OF RAIN. She was not very impressive, but I thought Bradley Cooper was quite good. At the stage door, everyone rushed to get Julia's autograph. I bypassed her and got Cooper's and chatted a little. I thought him a very engaging fellow.

Updated On: 1/13/13 at 08:41 AM
quizking101 Profile Photoquizking101 Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
I remember back in 2009 when my Mom surprused me with tickets for ROCK OF AGES (Back in the days when it was fun and vibrant). I was looking forward to seeing Constantine as a was a fan of his on AMERICAN IDOL. He was out for that performance and I was upset, but once the understudy sang his first note, I was in love with his youthful vigor and stage presence and I was thrilled to meet him at the stage door after.

...the understudy was Jeremy Jordan.

quizking101 Profile Photoquizking101 Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
I remember back in 2009 when my Mom surprused me with tickets for ROCK OF AGES (Back in the days when it was fun and vibrant). I was looking forward to seeing Constantine as a was a fan of his on AMERICAN IDOL. He was out for that performance and I was upset, but once the understudy sang his first note, I was in love with his youthful vigor and stage presence and I was thrilled to meet him at the stage door after.

...the understudy was Jeremy Jordan.

kadu335 Profile Photokadu335 Profile Photo
Featured Actor
I saw Jeremy Jordan back in 2010 when he understudied as Tony in West Side Story, but I'm not sure if he is considered a "big star".

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.
quizking101 Profile Photoquizking101 Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Someone else mentioned Steve Kazee...he certainly isn't of "star caliber" either. But the term is purely subjective.
Broadway Legend
My wife saw Christopher Reeve in "Matter of Gravity" with Katherine Hepburn in the 70's before he became famous for his role in "Superman" movies. My wife said she immediately noticed the "cute" guy on stage - lol.
artscallion Profile Photoartscallion Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
As a child, my class went to see Katherine Helmond in Three Penny Opera when she was at Trinity Rep. Later, when I worked there, I saw several company members who later went on to fame, including Tim Daly in Bus Stop, Harriet Harris in a new play (God's Heart) that Craig Lucas was developing there...
and Viola Davis in a few things.
and Eric Bogosian in a few things.

I also remember seeing Denis O'Hare in the Public's production of Take Me Out and then a year later in the Roundabout's Assassins.
Art has a double face, of expression and illusion.
Broadway Legend
In the 1980s I saw an unknown actress named Annette Bening in COASTAL DISTURBANCES. What ever happened to her?
Broadway Legend
Some other memorable performances by actors who went on the do bigger things:

Laurie Metcalf in BALM IN GILEAD at the Circle Rep.
Holly Hunter in three consecutive Beth Henley plays -- CRIMES OF THE HEART, THE WAKE OF JAMEY FOSTER, and THE MISS FIRECRACKER CONTEST.
Kevin Spacey in GHOSTS.
Denzel Washington and Samuel L. Jackson in A SOLDIER'S PLAY.
Kathy Bates in 'NIGHT MOTHER.
S. Epatha Merkerson in THE PIANO LESSON.
Mary Louise Parker in PRELUDE TO A KISS.
Danny Glover in MASTER HAROLD AND THE BOYS (1982).
D2 Profile PhotoD2 Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
The original cast of OVER HERE featured a veritable treasure trove of future stars:
John Travolta
Treat Williams
Marilu Henner
Ann Reinking

And they all stood out in wonderful, energetic and mesmerizing performances (particularly Reinking's jitterbug number) that pointed to their future stardom.
Cheyenne Jackson tickled me. AFTER ordering SoMMS a drink but NOT tickling him, and hanging out with Girly in his dressing room (where he DIDN'T tickle her) but BEFORE we got married. To others. And then he tweeted Boobs. He also tweeted he's good friends with some chick on "The Voice" who just happens to be good friends with Tink's ex. And I'm still married. Oh, and this just in: "Pettiness, spite, malice ....Such ugly emotions... So sad." - After Eight, talking about MEEEEEEEE!!! I'm so honored! :-)
Jane2 Profile PhotoJane2 Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
In the mid nineties, I was appearing in a two character one act play which was part of a trilogy. My play was the second of the night, and in the third, was an actor named James Gandolfini. He was a tall thin dark and handsome young man.
<-----totes craves juicy pizza
Rainbowhigh23 Profile PhotoRainbowhigh23 Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
John Leguizamo in Spic o Rama. I know he was on HBO with Mambo Mouth before that but it was the first time I had ever seen or heard of him. Thank goodness his shows were recorded-they were hilarious.
jasonf Profile Photojasonf Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Second show I saw on Broadway was Starlight Express (around 198 which starred a very young Jane Krakowski. I remember seeing her a couple of years later in Grand Hotel (she still wasn't famous), seeing her name in the playbill and tracing her back to SE. I remember thinking then she'll make it big some day.
Hi, Shirley Temple Pudding.
DEClarke Profile PhotoDEClarke Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
In 1998 I saw Jim Parsons in BELOW THE BELT at Stages Repertory Theatre in Houston, TX!


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