10 Famous Actors & Actresses Who Have Starred in Shows on Broadway or West End

Calling all theater fans, March 27 is World Theatre Day, a day to celebrate all you love. For many people, the theater is more than just an entertaining thing to do; rather, it’s something they feel passionately about, making sure to catch all the newest shows whenever possible.

As people worldwide acknowledge what theater has given to the entertainment industry, this is a great time to think about the stars it’s made. Some of the most famous actors and actresses started on Broadway or West End and went on to have an illustrious career in the theater and other avenues.

Here’s a look at ten famous stars who you may not have realized got their start or who starred in productions on Broadway or West End. Many have gone on to have meteoric careers in the entertainment industry.

Nick Jonas

Nick Jonas arrives for Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors in Los Angeles.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / DFree

He’s one-third of the Jonas Brothers band, and he is often the most visible, testing his wings outside the music category. Nick Jonas and his brothers have become one of the biggest bands of their time, but that’s not how his music career began. Jonas was only seven when he starred in Annie Get Your Gun and Les Misérables on Broadway. His calling was evident from a young age.

Idina Menzel

Idina Menzel on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Kathy Hutchins

If you’ve ever seen or heard music from the Hollywood blockbuster animated hit Frozen, then you probably know who Idina Menzel is. Menzel was working her way up on Broadway, making a big name for herself in massive productions, and then came the crossover. She was the iconic voice of Elsa in the animated film Frozen, and history was made. Her Broadway debut, which was in 1996, was in a production of Rent.

Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep walks the red carpet
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Denis Makarenko

Meryl Streep is among the most decorated and well-known actresses ever. She has a way of becoming the characters she plays, delivering authentic and incredible performances every time. Unsurprisingly, she’s won Golden Globes, Oscars, Critics Choice Awards, BAFTA Awards, and so many more. Like so many others, Streep didn’t get her start on the big screen; instead, it was on Broadway. In 1975, she starred in the production Trelawny of the Wells, followed by 27 Wagons Full of Cotton the next year.

Sarah Jessica Parker

Sarah Jessica Parker attends premiere of And Just Like That by HBO MAX at MoMA
Image Credit: Shutterstock / lev radin

There’s no question that Sarah Jessica Parker’s most notable role to date is playing Carrie Bradshaw on the television series Sex and the City, then the movies that followed, and now the series continuation And Just Like That. She is a style-maven, a fashion icon, and an excellent actress.

Besides playing Carrie Bradshaw, Parker has also been in many other movies, including classics like Footloose, Hocus Pocus 1 and 2, and The First Wives Club. Tracing back to her beginnings, Parker began her career at the young age of 11 when she was in The Innocents on Broadway in 1976.

Diane Keaton

Diane Keaton at the TCL Chinese Theatre
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Tinseltown

Diane Keaton is known for iconic roles in movies such as The Godfather, Manhattan, Father of the Bride, Annie Hall, The First Wives Club, The Book Club, and Reds. Her career spans many decades, and she has taken on just about every role.

It’s the big screen that made her a household name, but Broadway gave her career the start. In 1968, Keaton played the understudy in the production Hair and then starred in the 1969 Play It Again, Sam, which also starred Woody Allen.

Viola Davis

Viola Davis at the 89th Annual Academy Awards.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Tinseltown

If you’re a diehard fan of Viola Davis, you likely loved her role in How to Get Away with Murder, but that’s certainly not the only highlight of her career. She began in the industry in 1992 in As You Like It, an off-Broadway production. A few years later, she made it to Broadway in Seven Guitars.

Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande at the 58th GRAMMY Awards held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Tinseltown

Arguably, one of the biggest names in the music industry right now is Ariana Grande. Known for her powerful voice and huge hits such as “Thank U, Next,” “Dangerous Woman,” and “Love Me Harder,” what may surprise you is that she started on Broadway.

When she was only 15 years old, she made her Broadway debut in a show called 13, which was, of course, a musical. That helped her land her next gig, which was even bigger—a starring role on the Nickelodeon shows Victorious and Sam & Cat. Nothing held her down because once she signed a record deal, she started pumping out the hits.

Taye Diggs

Taye Diggs - ‘24th Annual Critics' Choice Awards, Santa Monica, CA
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While some may be familiar with Taye Diggs for his breakout television role in Guiding Light, that wasn’t his first time in the entertainment industry. Before appearing on the soap opera, he played Benny in a 1996 performance of Rent. His star power rose from Guiding Light, and he went on to appear in the movies How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Brown Sugar, and Set It Up, as well as in the television series Private Practice.

Jason Alexander

Jason Alexander, Daena E. Title at the "Good Boys" Play Opening Arrivals at the Pasadena Playhouse
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Kathy Hutchins

You may know him as Jerry Seinfeld’s low-on-luck best friend, George Costanza. However, before that iconic role, Jason Alexander was still building his career and name in the industry. In 1981, he starred in Merrily We Roll Along on Broadway. He even won a Tony in 1989 for his role in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway.

Throughout his career, he hasn’t forgotten his Broadway roots, returning for other productions over the years and even directing The Cottage, a Broadway comedy show, in 2023.

Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman at the AFI Honors Denzel Washington at the Dolby Theater
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Kathy Hutchins

Morgan Freeman is known for his smooth, deep voice and for owning any role he plays, but there was a time when his name didn’t ring an instant bell. In 1968, Freeman started his career in Hello, Dolly!, an all-black cast on Broadway. It didn’t take long for him to cross over into television and then into the movies.

It’s impossible to list all of Freeman’s most notable roles in movies, but some of the most well-known ones include Million Dollar Baby, Kiss the Girls, Seven, Along Came a Spider, Outbreak, The Sum of All Fears, and Now You See Me.

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