Theater acting takes a certain level of skill to execute each night on cue and to perfection. The stage, the big bright lights, and an audience that can be quick to judge at the slightest falter can all prove to be too big for some actors more accustomed to film and television, with multiple takes and a cutting room floor, but not for Lea Michele.
Michele was a child actor on Broadway and starred in Spring Awakening. Now she has officially made her return to the Great White Way to star in Funny Girl after a successful run in Hollywood with shows like Glee, Scream Queens, and The Mayor.
She's not the first star to ply their craft both on screen and on the stage. Let's take a look back at some of Hollywood's biggest stars who also tried out their on-stage acting chops. Some did phenomenal jobs and others, not so much.
Would you believe it if we told you Wolverine's first major acting credits came from the stage? It's true. The Sydney, Australia native studied drama and had a role in 1994 in Patrick White's The Season at Sarsaparilla. Nine years later he would get his first shot on Broadway in The Boy From Oz. It wouldn't be his only trip though. He's been in four more shows and is currently starring in The Music Man.
Viola Davis' Hollywood success story has been fascinating to watch. She has starred in major films like Suicide Squad, The Help, and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and perhaps her most critical acclaim came for ABC's How to Get Away With Murder. But all of her big and small screen appearances came after her successful acting run on Broadway. She got her start in 1996 in Seven Guitars and won two Tony awards, one in 2001 for her role in King Hedley II and the other in 2010 for her work in Fences.
She's easily one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood. Having starred in films like Mamma Mia!, The Devil Wears Prada, and Little Women, among many others, there is a pretty good chance you've watched her on the screen. But like many of her contemporaries, she also got her Broadway start in a 1975 Broadway play called Trelawny of the Wells.
Anika Noni Rose:
Anika Noni Rose starred in the film Dreamgirls alongside artists like Beyoncé, Jamie Foxx, and Jennifer Hudson, but before making it big in Hollywood, she was making a name for herself on the stage. She landed her first role in Footloose as Rusty in 1998 and then six years later, she won a Tony award for her work in Caroline, or Change.
And then there were some not-so-great stage performances…
Pretty Woman is one of the most iconic films to come out of the 1990s. Julia Roberts had the world in the palm of her hand after that performance and went on to land roles in The Pelican Brief, Runaway Bride, and Ocean's Eleven. With so much success on the big screen, obviously, that would translate to the stage, right? Not really. On her performance in the 2006 production of Three Days of Rain, a New York Times critic said, in part "Her voice is strangled, abrupt and often hard to hear. She has the tenseness of a woman who might break into pieces at any second." Ouch!
Brendan Fraser is having a revival moment in Hollywood. He starred in films like The Mummy and Bedazzled but stepped away from the industry over allegations that a former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association sexually assaulted him. Now, he's back and his new film, The Whale, is being praised ahead of its official theatrical release. At the height of his career, he decided to try his hand at stage acting and took up the role of Kjell Bjarne in Elling (2010) and it did not go over well with audiences. The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "Fraser's paunchy, loose-limbed goofiness is endearing, but it's clearly part of his over-excitable characterization, the choice to bellow every line wears thin."
Al Pacino is another one of Hollywood's most notable actors, with a resume and critical acclaim to back it up, but his time on the Great White Way was not received in the same way. In fact, The New York Times described his performance in the 2015 production of China Doll as "stammering" and not easy to follow. "The word was that Mr. Pacino couldn't remember his lines, and that audience members were walking out in baffled annoyance at intermission," a reviewer for the paper said.