Star Making Role: Theatre

Stage plays and musicals tend to run in multiple cities with the same cast of actors and actresses, but that doesn't mean bright new stars can't break out every now and then.
  • Ethel Merman in Anything Goes, the first musical to feature her as much as a comic actress as a singer.
  • Ray Bolger in On Your Toes.
  • Sutton Foster in Thoroughly Modern Millie.
  • Laura Bell Bundy in Legally Blonde: The Musical.
  • Marissa Jaret Winokur in Hairspray. It was also a major push for Matthew Morrison and Kerry Butler.
  • Jonathan Groff, Lea Michele, John Gallagher Jr. and Skylar Astin in Spring Awakening. Michele would become a household name with her other SMR on Glee, as would Groff to a lesser extent.
  • Aaron Tveit, Jennifer Damiano and Alice Ripley in Next To Normal.
  • Andrew Rannells, Josh Gad and Niki M. James in The Book of Mormon.
  • Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel were already well-known Theater actresses but Wicked truly made them stars, although Frozen benefited Menzel to another level.
    • Wicked is that rare hit where replacements also get a lot of fame and attention too and it ended up being star-making roles for others in the lead roles, such as Stephanie J. Block, Megan Hilty, etc.
  • Robert Preston in The Music Man.
  • While already known for her film career, Mame made Angela Lansbury a star of musical theatre as well.
  • Evita did this first for Elaine Paige in London and later Patti LuPone on Broadway.
  • Hunter Foster in Urinetown, which came around the same time as his sister Sutton's big break (see above).
  • Kelli O'Hara in The Light in the Piazza. Her immediate follow-up, the Broadway revival of South Pacific, boosted her stature even more.
    • Victoria Clark as well, although she was already in her forties; it was her first leading role on Broadway.
  • Dan Fogler, Celia Keenan-Bolger and Jesse Tyler Ferguson in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
  • Sierra Boggess in The Little Mermaid and Love Never Dies. The latter was also a Star-Making Role for Ramin Karimloo.
  • Yul Brynner in The King and I, despite not originally being the star (note the show's title).
  • The long-forgotten 1924 musical I'll Say She Is! was the show that brought the Marx Brothers out of vaudeville and made them star comedians.
  • Miss Saigon catapulted the then 17-year old Lea Salonga into Broadway stardom.
  • Patina Miller in Sister Act and the 2012 revival of Pippin.
  • Jessie Mueller in the 2011 revival of On A Clear Day You Can See Forever.
    • Beautiful (in which she played Carole King), about three years later, could be argued as this too.
  • Billy Magnussen in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.
  • Betsy Wolfe in the revival of Drood and the revival of The Last Five Years.
  • Stars of hit Broadway musicals who subsequently abandoned the stage for film and television careers include:
  • Mary Martin in One Touch of Venus.
  • Gwen Verdon in Damn Yankees. (Her previous role in Can-Can was a bit part aside from a few show-stealing ballets.)
  • Shirley Booth in Come Back, Little Sheba. She went on from this success to take a secondary character from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and make a star turn out of it in The Musical version.
  • Alfred Drake in Oklahoma!.
  • Dennis King in The Vagabond King.
  • Julie Andrews in The Boy Friend (which also became her American debut, though My Fair Lady was many times more successful).
  • Douglas Hodge in the 2008 U.K. revival of La Cage aux folles. Up to this point, he was best known as a go-to performer in Shakespeare and/or Pinter plays in the U.K., and his talent for musical comedy was not widely known. He not only won the Olivier Award for Leading Actor in a Musical for this revival, but subsequently took it to Broadway and won the equivalent award at the Tonys for his New York debut. Now he has a reputation for versatility.
  • Estelle Getty's performance in Torch Song Trilogy was noted by the producers of The Golden Girls, who went to see the production upon Rue Mclanahan's suggestion.
  • The 1992 Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls made a star of Nathan Lane, who played Nathan Detroit.