As the spring season begins to heat up on Broadway, we at Broadway Direct thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the rising stars who are taking The Great White Way by storm (or who are poised to do so). Here are some of the talented faces we are currently seeing, as well as those on the horizon, who we are expecting big things from.
In 2015, Ali Stroker made Broadway history when she became the first actress who uses a wheelchair to be cast in a Broadway musical, for Michael Arden’s inventive reimagining of Spring Awakening. Well, Stroker is coming back to Broadway in a big way this spring, in Danielle Fish’s acclaimed revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! that was a critical and audience favorite at St. Ann’s Warehouse earlier this season. Stroker, who has been paralyzed from the waist down since age 2, will play Ado Annie Carnes, who sings the iconic show tune “I Cain’t Say No”.
Michael Luwoye, Hamilton
Michael Luwoye has already achieved a Broadway milestone, for taking on both of the leads in the Broadway musical sensation Hamilton. Playing both sides of the coin (so to speak), Luwoye has embodied the characters of American forefather Alexander Hamilton and his political foe Aaron Burr, whose tumultuous rivalry culminated in a duel that squelched Burr’s political aspirations and ended Hamilton’s life. Luwoye made his splash in the New York theater scene for his performance in the 2016 Off-Broadway production of the musical Invisible Thread, for which he received a Lucille Lortel nomination for Outstanding Leading Actor in a Musical. Luwoye held his final performance in Hamilton on February 17, 2019.
Ephraim Sykes, Ain’t Too Proud
Ephraim Sykes seems to be tethered to the 1960s, having appeared in the Broadway production of Motown (as Otis Williams) and in television’s Hairspray: Live (as Seaweed), and we all love the way he wraps his voice around an R&B–style song. Fans of Sykes will be excited to see him in his next Broadway outing, playing David Ruffin in Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations. There he will play one of the members of the titular ’60s singing group. Ruffin was the lead vocalist on such hit songs of the period as “My Girl,” “I Wish It Would Rain,” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.”
The Cast of Be More Chill
One of the most eagerly anticipated musicals coming to Broadway this spring is the Joe Iconis/Joe Tracz Off-Broadway hit Be More Chill. The musical will feature the entire Off-Broadway cast reprising their roles. Will Roland, George Salazar, Stephanie Hsu, Jason Tam, Gerard Canonico, Katlyn Carlson, Tiffany Mann, Lauren Marcus, Britton Smith, and Jason SweetTooth Williams are all on board for the show’s Broadway berth. A vibrant mix of youthful enthusiasm and winning talent, it is impossible to single out any one name in this ensemble effort that will take us on a journey into the consequences of seeking popularity at any cost.
The Cher Showis here, and with it came the opportunity for Micaela Diamond to shine as one of the three talented ladies playing the diva supreme Cher. (The other two are Stephanie J. Block and Teal Wicks.) Diamond, who is 19 years old, embodies the title character at the beginning of her career, singing such songs as the duet favorite “I Got You Babe.” Taking on a larger-than-life personality, one who is known the world over, might seem like a challenge, but Diamond’s electric interpretation and vocal chops are up to the task. She also melds perfectly with her costars when all three versions of Cher (Babe, Lady, and Star) come together to deliver a playlist of iconic songs.
Rejoicify! Brittney Johnson just made Broadway musical history for being the first person of color to play Glinda in the long-running hit musical Wicked. Stepping in for actress Katie Rose Clarke, she immediately won audiences over with her bright and winning characterization and her lovely voice. No stranger to Broadway, Johnson has also appeared in Motown, Beautiful, Les Misérables (Eponine and Fantine replacements), and Sunset Boulevard. Brittney joined the cast of Wicked in June 2018, playing a variety of roles in the ensemble and serving as the understudy for Glinda.
Andrew Barth Feldman, Dear Evan Hansen
With Ben Platt having won a Tony Award for playing the title character in Dear Evan Hansen, then having been followed by Noah Galvin and Taylor Trensch in top-notch turns in the role, it is exciting to learn who will don the arm cast next. Producers didn’t have to look any further than Jimmy Award–winning high school performer Andrew Barth Feldman, who will join the Broadway production on January 30. Feldman was discovered when his performance as Frank Abagnale Jr. in Lawrence Woodmere Academy’s production of Catch Me If You Can led to his winning a National High School Musical Theatre Award. It will be the first time that the role of a misfit high schooler will be played by someone who is actually in high school.
Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia, and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com.
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