It's Broadway, Baby!

History of Broadway
ESSENCE.COM Jun, 01, 2009

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R&B songstress Ashanti makes her Broadway debut next week in the revival of “The Wiz.” Her much-buzzed-about role got us thinking about other pop stars who’ve made it happen on the Great White Way.

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Heather Headley and Adam Pascal star as torn lovers in Elton John’s “Aida,” a musical about an interracial romance that transcends all cultural adversities.

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Stephanie Mills brought the house down every night as the leading lady of “The Wiz.” Years later she recorded “Home,” which is still a favorite among R&B lovers.

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4 of 17 Getty Image

Former Miss America and “Ugly Betty” beauty Vanessa Williams has enjoyed an illustrious acting and singing career. Williams and John McMartin, right, take a bow during the curtain call for the opening of the Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine play “Into the Woods” at the Broadhurst Theater April 30, 2002, in New York City. Williams also starred as the lead in “The Kiss of the Spiderwoman.”

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Jennifer Holiday made the “Dreamgirls” role of Effie White legendary with her earthquaking performance of “And I’m Telling You.” Some 20-plus years later, Jennifer Hudson made it just as famous in the film and nabbed an Oscar for it.

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Actress and singer Loretta Devine brought the house down in the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “Dreamgirls” as Lorell Robinson (a character loosely based on Mary Wilson). She also made a cameo appearance in the film.

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Actress Sheryl Lee Ralph as Deena Jones in “Dreamgirls.” The role was later reprised by Beyoncé Knowles on the big screen.

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The Prince of R&B Usher plays slick-talking lawyer Bill Flynn in the 1920’s-era musical Chicago.

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Television host, comedian and soul singer Wayne Brady also resurrected the role of Flynn in Chicago.

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Sean “Diddy” Combs proved once again that he “won’t stop” when he surprised audiences with his star turn as Walter Lee in the acclaimed “A Raisin in the Sun.” He caused quite a stir among the Black acting community who felt his foray into theater was a mockery of their profession. Still, the music mogul pursues his passions fervently.

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“American Idol” winner and J Records recording artist Fantasia Barrino belts the song “I’m Here” as Ciely in Oprah’s Broadway production of “The Color Purple.”

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Bebe Winans and Chaka Khan play Harpo and Sophia (originally played by Oprah in the film) in “The Color Purple.”

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Six-time Grammy winner Toni Braxton made chart-topping history with her single “Un-break My Heart,” so it’s no surprise that she transitioned to the stage. The diva sold out shows in her run on Broadway as the lead role in Elton John’s “Aida.” She was also earned raves in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”

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Former Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams replaces Toni Braxton as Aida.

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Deborah Cox, who was always pegged as the next Whitney Houston by mentor Clive Davis, wows the crowd with her powerful vocals as Aida.

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