American Idols on Broadway - Who's Hit the Great White Way?

by AOL TV Staff, posted Feb 4th 2010 6:34PM
After nine inspiring, crazy, unpredictable seasons on the air, the only thing certain is that even an appearance on 'American Idol' can launch you toward off-the-charts success.

For a performer of any kind to make it to Broadway, though, you need more in your quiver than arrows pointing to image or personality. You need the solid, confident, cultivated talent that not only catapults a song across the footlights, but the chops to do it eight times a week. Acting ability, imagination, perseverance -- these are all key. The 'Idol' contestants and winners who have starred on the Great White Way know this. After all, if you've survived week after week, facing and conquering new musical challenges over and over, you're probably in good enough shape to make Broadway your home.

Quite a few 'Idol' favorites have come to the New York stage. Some stay for months, eating up the adoration of fans. Some are jazzed by the rigor of playing a role night after night. Some job in for a spell, then spearhead national tours, able to sing for the public wherever they live. However they do it, performing on Broadway is a mark of pride and distinction for nine 'Idol' favorites -- with the 10th set to arrive, we hope, later this year.<After nine inspiring, crazy, unpredictable seasons on the air, the only thing certain is that even an appearance on 'American Idol' can launch you toward off-the-charts success.

For a performer of any kind to make it to Broadway, though, you need more in your quiver than arrows pointing to image or personality. You need the solid, confident, cultivated talent that not only catapults a song across the footlights, but the chops to do it eight times a week. Acting ability, imagination, perseverance -- these are all key. The 'Idol' contestants and winners who have starred on the Great White Way know this. After all, if you've survived week after week, facing and conquering new musical challenges over and over, you're probably in good enough shape to make Broadway your home.

Quite a few 'Idol' favorites have come to the New York stage. Some stay for months, eating up the adoration of fans. Some are jazzed by the rigor of playing a role night after night. Some job in for a spell, then spearhead national tours, able to sing for the public wherever they live. However they do it, performing on Broadway is a mark of pride and distinction for nine 'Idol' favorites -- with the 10th set to arrive, we hope, later this year.

1. Tamyra Gray
Season 1 of 'Idol' set the bar for surprises, and Gray's fourth-place elimination was one of them -- the clarity of her voice, applied to knockout deliveries of such songs as 'A House Is Not a Home' and 'Touch Me in the Morning,' made her a critics' darling. Post-'Idol,' Gray signed with Simon Fuller's 19 Records and released a moderately successful CD. In a twist, however, Gray's calling quickly became acting, taping seven episodes of 'Boston Public' and doing guest shots on 'Ghost Whisperer,' 'All of Us' and 'What I Like About You.' Next, Broadway seemed like the right career move, so in November 2004 she opened in the musical 'Bombay Dreams,' playing Priya until the tuner's early 2005 close. Gray also took over as Mimi in the long-running 'Rent' in 2007, staying on the boards for more than a year. Today, Gray is working hard -- on a new CD.

2. Clay Aiken
Given his enormous fame, maybe it's surprising that Aiken didn't play on Broadway until 2008, five years after placing second to Ruben Studdard on season 2. Then again, he was busy all that time conquering media: His first CD, for example, 'Measure of a Man,' shot straight to the ionosphere, selling more than half a million copies during in its first week. Aiken is a veritable machine, having made three more CDs, done solo and multi-artist tours, gone on talk shows, served as a national ambassador for UNICEF, and offering grist for the tabloids, leading up to his famous coming out in the fall of 2008. It was in January 2008 that Aiken came to Broadway as Sir Robin in the Tony-winning musical 'Spamalot'; he liked his four-months so much that he returned for another go that September. All the Claymates are still hoping he'll choose his next Great White Way gig soon.

3. Frenchie Davis
One full season before Jennifer Hudson was on anybody's radar, Davis' power-packed season 2 rendering of 'And I'm Telling You ...' from 'Dreamgirls' arguably made her one of the 'Idol' aspirants to beat (Randy and Paula gave her a standing O). Unfortunately, after advancing to the Top 12, the revelation of topless photos earlier in Davis' career quickly derailed her chances, a controversy that would be repeated -- with different results -- when season 6's Antonella Barba offered the same personal confession. Unlike Barba, however, Davis bounced back fast, landing a role in the long-running Broadway musical 'Rent' in 2003, to which she returned in 2005 and once more in 2007. Today, Davis balances her time between recording gigs, live performances and the occasional stage foray, such as a West Coast tour of 'Dreamgirls' and a tuner based on the life and music of gospel great Mahalia Jackson, presented by the Hartford Stage in Connecticut.

4. Josh Strickland
Some say he's a doppelganger for Ryan Seacrest, but that didn't do Strickland much good -- he was eliminated from 'Idol' before making season 2's Top 32. But Strickland's chiseled jaw and impressive voice wouldn't remain unnoticed for long. When Disney started hunting for a lithe, young, acrobatic actor to play the title role in their Broadway-bound musical version of 'Tarzan,' thousands of hopefuls auditioned nationwide, and Strickland got the part. Featuring a rock score by Phil Collins, 'Tarzan' opened in May 2006 and ran 14 months -- that's more than a year, in other words, of Strickland hanging from the rafters, walking on his knuckles and executing some of the most startlingly bruising choreography ever. Currently, Strickland is starring in 'Peep Show' at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, opposite reality-TV star Holly Madison.

5. Fantasia Barrino
Looking back, it seems inevitable that Barrino won season 3 of 'Idol' -- no one else at the time exhibited her visceral vocal force, or could have given the Gershwins' 'Summertime' such shimmer. She's translated it all into huge success, such as four Grammy nominations for her first CD, 'Free Yourself,' and three for her second, 'Fantasia.' Barrino's destiny with 'The Color Purple,' the Broadway musical based on Steven Spielberg's 1985 film, was even more extraordinary. The show opened in December 2005; stage vet LaChanze won a Tony for playing the lead, Celie. After LaChanze's exit, however, box office fell off. Then Barrino, guesting on 'Idol,' announced she'd be playing the role. Her April 2007 Broadway opening brought love letters from critics, soaring grosses and a six-million-ticket advance after co-producer Oprah Winfrey lauded her on TV. Barrino missed performances after a vocal-cord cyst; now she's gearing up to star in the film version of the musical, and release her third CD.

6. Diana DeGarmo
Barely a month shy of 17 when season 3 came to a triumphant close, DeGarmo still holds the title for the youngest 'Idol' contestant to arrive at the Top 2 -- though she lost to another Broadway-bound 'Idol,' Fantasia Barrino. Gifted with killer, supple cords and a gasp-inducing, free-spirited range, DeGarmo shrugged off second-place like so many other 'Idol' runners-up before and since, reaching No. 1 -- on the charts -- with her first single, 'Believe.' The pride of Snellville, Ga., also had a love of musical theater lurking up her sleeve. In 2006, DeGarmo made her Broadway debut in the smash hit 'Hairspray,' adding a big bouffant to box-office receipts. Since then, she's appeared in musicals often, including a national tour of 'Brooklyn: The Musical,' the Off-Broadway sleeper-hit 'The Toxic Avenger' (riffing on the 1984 cult-classic film) and a developmental workshop of the legendary flop 'Carrie: The Musical.'

7. Constantine Maroulis
One of the oldest 'Idol' contestants ever, the soul-voiced and sad-eyed Maroulis came in sixth during season 4. But the New Jersey native had already been enjoying a flourishing career -- as front-man for the rock band Pray for the Soul of Betty, and on tour with such musicals as 'Rent,' 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' and 'Jesus Christ Superstar.' Later, Maroulis capitalized on his fame with a gig commenting about 'Idol' on morning television and a role on a daytime soap. The 2008 Off-Broadway opening of 'Rock of Ages' -- a musical recycling power ballads by such '80s music legends as Journey and Bon Jovi -- translated into a box-office hit with Maroulis as one of the leads. Moving to Broadway in 2009, 'Rock of Ages' earned him a Tony nomination. Maroulis' shag-adelic appeal has helped the show run for more than 300 performances.

8. Taylor Hicks
The luck of the grey-haired Hicks was clear when he missed a New Orleans-bound flight on the eve of Hurricane Katrina and went to Las Vegas, where he auditioned for 'Idol.' His fortunes took another quantum leap when he was crowned the winner of season 5. Today, by some standards, he's among the least commercially successful of the 'Idol' title-holders, but his first single, 'Do I Make You Proud,' touched the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart during its first week out. Plus, Hicks' his fan base -- the "soul patrol" -- is fanatically devoted to this son of Birmingham, Ala. The glossy, edgy rasp to Hicks' voice made him a natural to play Teen Angel in the revival of 'Grease' on Broadway, where he debuted in 2008 for a summertime run. In addition to releasing a new album, 'The Distance,' in 2009, Hicks is currently on a national tour with 'Grease' (with former 'Idol' contestant Ace Young as Danny) through June 2010.

9. Ace Young
Dark featured and with a breathy, expressive voice, Young was popular with the fairer sex but not dynamic enough to make it all the way, coming in seventh during season 5. Those good looks weren't all for naught, though, as Young has gone on to become highly popular alongside former 'Idol' contestant Chris Daughtry, and captured a Grammy nomination for co-writing the hit single, 'It's Not Over.' During his early post-'Idol' years, Young juggled gigs -- some on TV, some as a celebrity ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Broadway's revival of 'Grease,' however, seemed like a bull's-eye showcase for his talents, and he debuted on the Great White Way in September 2008, playing Kenickie for more than three months. Together with 'Idol' winner Taylor Hicks, Young is now on a national tour with 'Grease' through June 2008.

10. Syesha Mercado
From dusky low notes to gospel-infused high notes, Mercado was the last woman standing when season 7 ended, coming in third behind David Archuleta and the winner, David Cook. What she had brought to the process, from auditioning with Aretha Franklin's 'Think' to a soaring version of Ike and Tina Turner's 'Proud Mary,' however, was distinctly remembered by the industry. After keeping her name and voice in the limelight by appearing in the 2008 American Idols Live Tour, singing the national anthem at sporting events and working on a CD, the producers of a long-awaited 2009-10 national tour of 'Dreamgirls' cast her as one of the leads, Deena Jones. The tour is currently running through July. While a Broadway berth has not yet been confirmed, it's expected that this version of the tuner, which hasn't been produced on Broadway in more than 20 years, will come to the Great White Way -- and with Mercado reprising her role. Fingers crossed.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

Follow Us

From Our Partners