Celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker and Meryl Streep might be synonymous with high-profile, big-budget television shows and movies, but back in the day, they were struggling actors who landed their big break on Broadway. The medium proved so fruitful that even pop stars such as Nick Jonas and Ariana Grande started on the stage.
Though we don’t normally affiliate the women behind Carrie Bradshaw and Miranda Priestly with Broadway-starring singing voices, you would be surprised to learn how many celebrities boast musical beginnings and have the pipes to prove it. To keep you shook, we rounded up 10 surprising celebrities—from on-screen actors to chart-topping singers—who got their start in show business on Broadway. Hear their shockingly good singing voices, ahead.
Anna Kendrick shocked audiences with her singing voice when she starred in 2012’s “Pitch Perfect” and became an overnight pop sensation with her song “Cups.” But long before she took the stage with the Barden Bellas, Kendrick was an up-and-coming Broadway star who landed her big break when she was cast in the Broadway revival of “High Society” in 1998 when she was 12 years old. The part, a precocious, grumpy little sister, earned Kendrick a Tony nomination (she’s the third-youngest nominee of all time, mind you), and the rest is history.
Sarah Jessica Parker
Long before she was walking through the streets of Manhattan in Manolo Blahniks as Carrie Bradshaw on “Sex and the City,” she was a grungy, curly-haired orphan in the Broadway musical “Annie” in 1977 when she was 12. In fact, Parker was the first-ever Broadway Annie, and we’re assuming that the actresses who followed her had big shoes to fill.
You might recognize Ariana Grande as a chart-topping pop singer, but before she was singing in front stadiums across the world, she was performing in modest New York theaters. When she was 15, Grande found her big break in the Broadway musical “13,” alongside her “Victorious” castmate Elizabeth Gillies, in 2008. It didn’t take long before the part, a supporting cast cheerleader, helped Grande land Nickelodeon shows such as “Victorious” and “Sam & Cat,” which eventually gave her enough fame to launch her music career.
Even before Nick Jonas joined his older brothers, Joe and Kevin, in their world-touring boy band the Jonas Brothers, he had on-stage experience as a child Broadway actor. The “Jealous” singer’s Broadway career began at 7 years old when he landed parts as Tiny Tim in “A Christmas Carol,” Chip Potts in “Beauty and the Beast,” Little Jake in “Annie Get Your Gun,” and Gavroche in “Les Misérables.” Given Jonas’s extensive Broadway experience, it makes sense that he would return to the stage in 2012 as the lead in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”
Meryl Streep might be known today as one of the most respected and awarded film actresses, but she also got her start on the stage. In 1977, two years after she graduated from Yale University, Streep, 28 at the time, starred in the Broadway musical “Happy End,” for which she won an Obie award—one of the first in a long list of accolades to come.
Though fans might’ve been surprised to hear Kristen Bell’s princess-like singing voice in 2013’s “Frozen,” she actually has old ties to Broadway. In 2001, after she left New York University and before she became a household face on “Veronica Mars,” Bell starred in the short-lived musical “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” A year later, she starred opposite Liam Neeson and Laura Linney in the Broadway revival of “The Crucible.” After that, she moved to Los Angeles where her on-screen career began.
Viola Davis is known as a television badass on “How to Get Away with Murder,” but before she was escaping the law, she was an up-and-coming actress on Broadway. In 1996, three years after graduating from Juilliard, Davis found her big break in the Broadway play “Seven Guitars,” which earned her a Tony nomination. Theater appealed to Davis so much that she returned to the stage for Broadway and Off-Broadway productions such as “King Hedley II” and “Fences,” which she earned Tonys for in 2001 and 2010, respectively.
You might know him as the comedic relief on “Stranger Things,” but Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin on the popular Netflix series, has a long history with Broadway. He made his Broadway debut in 2011, when he was nine, in “Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert.” Later, in 2014 when he was 11, Matarazzo starred as Gavroche in “Les Misérables.”
Sarah Hyland has been acting since she was seven, but some of her most major roles were on Broadway, long before she was making us laugh on “Modern Family.” After making her stage debut as Annie in a regional production of “Annie,” Hyland appeared on Broadway as the young Jacqueline Bouvier in 2006, when she was 15. Though not on Broadway, Hyland also starred in Disney’s 1999 television remake of “Annie” as Molly, another orphan.
If it wasn’t for recent movies such as “The Greatest Showman” or “Les Misérables,” fans might’ve never known about Hugh Jackman’s singing voice. The actor, who has performed in local productions of “Oklahoma!” and “Beauty and the Beast,” earned his Broadway stripes (and a Tony win) in 2004 when he starred in “The Boy from Oz.” Though the musical was a couple years after Jackman’s breakout role as Wolverine in “The X-Men” franchise, it still put him on critics’ maps and eventually led to his award-nominated roles in “The Greatest Showman” and “Les Misérables.”