21 Stars Who Took On Broadway

ESSENCE.COM Jan, 04, 2015

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In 2007 Jordin Sparks starred in the Broadway hit play In The Heights. The American Idol champion, played Nina Rosario, a college bound young girl trying to overcome the obstacles of growing up in Dominican- American neighborhood of Washington Heights.

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Sexy Ciara surprised many of us when she announced she would play Amara Winter in the 2009 movie ‘Mama, I Want to Sing,’ based on the long-running off-Broadway play of the same name. While technically not a Broadway appearance, considering her preparation was just as rigorous and meticulous — Ciara makes the cut.

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Singer Ashanti tread new ground when she headlined the cast of the ‘The Wiz’ in the New York City Center Encores! Summer Stars staging in 2009. Her lead role as Dorthy received mixed reviews, but she was praised for her vocal ability.

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Truth is, Fantasia Barrino did an excellent job in her role as Celie in the Broadway adaptation of author Alice Walker’s novel of the same name from April 2007 to January 2008. Although her time involved in ‘The Color Purple’ was met with controversy due to the fact that she missed an estimated 50 shows, she was called back to complete a three month run in Washington in 2009.

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Multi-platinum Deborah Cox kicked off her Broadway stint in her role as Aida, in the Broadway play of the same name. She replaced singer Michelle Williams in 2004 for a four-month stint. In 2009, it was announced that she planned to return to Broadway to portray Josephine in the Josephine Baker play during the 2010-2011 Broadway season.

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DWTS finalist Mya Harris supersedes expectations in both singing and dancing. The Grammy-award winning R&B singer made her Broadway debut in ‘Chicago’ for a nine week engagement in 2008. Producer Barry Weisler commended her on a job well done, and called her a “triple threat” for her performance.

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Toni Braxton, another R&B Aida, graced the stage with her presence nightly in her role as the Disney heroine in 2003. Aida, however was her second starring role on Broadway. In 1998, she became the first African American to star as Belle in “Beauty and the Beast.”

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The talented Jill Scott can do no wrong. The singer/actress/songwriter was a part of the Canadian cast for the musical, “Rent,” back in 2008. Scott, who has since been cast for both movie and television roles has said of her Broadway experience: “Being in theater is very difficult.” She was praised for her illuminating stage presence.

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Crooner Heather Headly’s transition was bit more different than the rest. In 1997, Headly took on the role of Nala in the musical “The Lion King,” and followed up originating the role of Aida in 2000, winning a Tony for her performance. It was that performance that gave her the recognition she needed to later release her first album “This is Who I Am” in 2002.

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The independent Michelle Williams decided to do her own thing by joining the Disney musical “Aida” back in 2003. Replacing Toni Braxton, her first time on Broadway was described as “stellar” and “impressive.” Ending in early 2004, Williams took a Broadway break and returned back to play Roxie Hart in the musical “Chicago,” for a month long run that ended March this year.

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