Broadway Stars

There has been a lot of silly talk in groups on Facebook describing nearly every singer / dancer / actor as West End or Broadway stars, and trashing people they never met.  It of course drives me crazy, since the title of “star” should be reserved for the select few that really are, and the jealousy of stage door groupies damaging reputations of some real stars for their personal gain I find offensive.

What Makes a Star?

A Broadway or West End “star”, in my opinion, is reserved for a select few that can sell tickets by their name alone, almost irrespective of the show itself.  The living likes of Broadway stars Julie Andrews, Liza Minelli, Angela Lansbury, Carol Burnett, Hugh Jackman and Barbra Streisand come to mind.

The deceased star legends of Ethel Merman, Carol Channing, Judy Garland, Mary Martin, Christopher Plummer, Lauren Bacall, Zero Mostel, and others I list below, remain vibrant in the minds of theatrical audiences.

In my opinion, these days, the term “star” is grossly overused.  Just because a name is billed above title, it does not necessarily mean the person is a star.

Many are indeed celebrities, but few are Broadway stars.

I have been fortunate in my career to work with many celebrities (and a few stars), and generally almost all share consistent personality traits of kindness and like-ability that I have observed onstage, offstage, and also by their agents / managers.

What goes up, often goes down.

Some Broadway stars (such as those I mention here) have been able to remain at the pinnacle of stardom for a variety of reasons, but usually, it’s because producers want too keep re-hiring them, since often, the bigger the star power, the nicer they (and their agents) are.

This however, cannot be said for all.  On their way up from celebrity to star status, particularly if achieved quickly (usually by film or TV), when there status starts waning, the more arrogant & mean they become, likely as a result of unforgiving desperation.

I created this diagram to help understand my thinking…

Broadway Stars Metre

In my opinion, most actors / singers / dancers billed ‘above title’ today on Broadway and the West End would be classified in the “B” level. While most billed in caps below titles would be “C” level.

London & Broadway stars should be nice

Nearly all A/B/C and even D levels have some form of unique talent, that generally separates them from the pack, but the personality of the individual is often equally important, particularly on touring productions.  I’ve been in enough meetings in my career to see a hugely talented, well known name struck off a short list because of their temperament in favor of a lesser known name that is truly considerate, kind and nice.

Often above title casting of a certain name is a prerequisite of investors money, marketing as well as creative direction.

I decided to ignore peers in my little global theatre community who are quick to slander others for the sake of themselves feeling superior.

I’m just a “Broadway Baby

An incomplete list of major Broadway/West End Stars

For more than a century, Broadway productions have not only made young, unknown actors household names but also produced real stars associated with performances, songs, and dances that have entered mainstream American culture. The following legendary household names, have consistently starred in many shows over many years, and in combination with the creative music, writing and design elements that enhanced their work, have placed them all at the pinnacle of Broadway / West End stardom for eternity:

  • Dame Julie Andrews
  • Bea Arthur
  • Fred Astaire
  • Dame Eileen Atkins
  • Lauren Bacall
  • Pearl Bailey
  • Lucille Ball
  • Michael Ball
  • Christine Baranski
  • Harry Belafonte
  • Ray Bolger
  • Sarah Brightman
  • Yul Brynner
  • Betty Buckley
  • Carol Burnett
  • Richard Burton
  • Eddie Cantor
  • Sid Caesar
  • James Cagney
  • Len Cariou
  • Carol Channing
  • Maurice Chevalier
  • Glenn Close
  • George M. Cohan
  • Barbara Cook
  • Noël Coward
  • Michael Crawford
  • Tim Curry
  • Jim Dale
  • Tyne Daly
  • Bette Davis
  • Sammy Davis, Jr.
  • Dame Judi Dench
  • Brian Dennehy
  • Alfred Drake
  • Jimmy Durante
  • James Earl Jones
  • Buddy Ebsen
  • W. C. Fields
  • Harvey Fierstein
  • Joan Fontaine
  • Lynn Fontanne
  • Morgan Freeman
  • Judy Garland
  • Richard Gere
  • Sir John Gielgud
  • Jackie Gleason
  • Whoopi Goldberg
  • Robert Goulet
  • Cary Grant
  • Joel Grey
  • Uta Hagen
  • Julie Harris
  • Richard Harris
  • Neil Patrick Harris
  • Rex Harrison
  • Helen Hayes
  • George Hearn
  • Florence Henderson
  • Gregory Hines
  • Dustin Hoffman
  • Hal Holbrook
  • Judy Holliday
  • Jennifer Holliday
  • Betty Hutton
  • Hugh Jackman
  • Glenda Jackson
  • Derek Jacobi
  • Al Jolson
  • Madeline Kahn
  • Ramin Karimloo
  • Gene Kelly
  • Eartha Kitt
  • Kevin Kline
  • Nathan Lane
  • Frank Langella
  • Angela Lansbury
  • Gertrude Lawrence
  • Carol Lawrence
  • Vivien Leigh
  • Jerry Lewis
  • Dorothy Loudon
  • Alfred Lunt
  • Patti LuPone
  • George M. Cohan
  • Shirley MacLaine
  • Mary Martin
  • Marin Mazzie
  • Audra McDonald
  • Donna McKechnie
  • Ian McKellen
  • John McMartin
  • Ethel Merman
  • Keith Michell
  • Bette Midler
  • Marilyn Miller
  • Liza Minnelli
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • Ron Moody
  • Rita Moreno
  • Robert Morse
  • Zero Mostel
  • Bebe Neuwirth
  • Anthony Newley
  • Paul Newman
  • Lord Laurence Olivier
  • Jerry Orbach
  • Al Pacino
  • Elaine Paige
  • Mandy Patinkin
  • Bernadette Peters
  • Tonya Pinkins
  • Dame Joan Plowright
  • Christopher Plummer
  • Robert Preston
  • Sir Jonathan Pryce
  • Anthony Quinn
  • Daniel Radcliffe
  • John Raitt
  • Lee Roy Reams
  • Vanessa Redgrave
  • Ann Reinking
  • Chita Rivera
  • Will Rogers
  • Mickey Rooney
  • Lea Salonga
  • Vivienne Segal
  • Martin Short
  • Phil Silvers
  • Dame Maggie Smith
  • Kevin Spacey
  • Tommy Steele
  • Sir Patrick Stewart
  • Barbra Streisand
  • Elaine Stritch
  • Jessica Tandy
  • Rip Torn
  • Tommy Tune
  • Dick Van Dyke
  • Gwen Verdon
  • Ben Vereen
  • Denzel Washington

Any name on this incomplete star of stars list, would, in the peak of their time, sell tickets.  Plus, the vast majority (but not all) were known to be (or are) very nice people, and could easily lead a company in the long term.

Some others, such as Donna Murphy, Sutton Foster, Billy Porter, Aaron Tveit, Ruthie Henshall, Kristin Chenoweth, Patrick Wilson, Ben Platt, Megan Mullally, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Idina Menzel are rising and near global stars and likely will appear on this list soon.