From David Bowie to Sara Bareilles: Pop Stars on the Broadway Stage

By Chris McKittrick | Apr 10, 2017 04:34 PM EDT

From Paul Simon's disastrous The Capeman to the variety of artists who contributed songs to Broadway's upcoming The SpongeBob Musical, pop musicians have become increasingly more involved with Broadway over the last several decades. Yet some pop stars have taken that connection a step further by acting on Broadway stages. Singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles is the latest to join those ranks when she made her Broadway debut in Waitress on March 31 for a ten-week engagement. Though Bareilles has had limited acting experience, she should fare well on the stage - after all, she wrote the music and lyrics to the songs in Waitress and released an album with her versions of the songs (What's Inside: Songs from Waitress) prior to the show opening on Broadway. Especially because of the singer's limited run, performances featuring Bareilles are sure to be one of the hottest Broadway tickets of the summer.

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Below are other instances when pop stars appeared on Broadway stages:

Josh Groban
Though Josh Groban is not exactly a traditional pop singer, his powerful voice has catapulted him into fame on stages across the world and success with several multi-platinum albums. Though he pursued a career in acting until his singing career took off, Groban finally made his Broadway debut in Fall 2016 in the sung-through musical Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. Groban's last performance in the musical will be on July 2, which means tickets for performances leading up to and including that date will likely skyrocket. The Great Comet tickets can be purchased right through the box office from $59.00 - $189. Hamilton star Okieriete Onaodowan will be replacing Groban after his departure and is expected to be another big draw.

(Photo : Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 10: Jessie Mueller and Sara Bareilles attend the Build Presents Discussing The Broadway Show 'Waitress' at AOL HQ on January 10, 2017 in New York City.

David Bowie
Curiously, the one time the late, great David Bowie starred on Broadway it was not in a musical. In late 1980, Bowie appeared as John Merrick in The Elephant Man, which had already won a Tony Award for Best Play. Bowie's limited run (15 weeks) became one of the hottest tickets in town and critics praised his performance. Over three decades later, Bowie wrote the music for the off-Broadway musical Lazarus and contributed a song to the upcoming The SpongeBob Musical.

Sting first appeared on Broadway in a very brief stint in the 3 Penny Opera at the end of 1989 playing Macheath. More famously, in 2014 Sting appeared in The Last Ship, a musical that he wrote the music and lyrics for about the shipbuilding industry in his hometown. Sting appeared in the musical in the supporting role of Jackie White - however, that was not the initial casting. Sting replaced actor Jimmy Nail in the role six weeks after it opened after the show received lukewarm reviews and had slow ticket sales (Nail moved to the ensemble). Though Sting joining the cast definitely boosted ticket sales, The Last Ship only remained open for a few more weeks until it was sunk by poor sales.

Billie Joe Armstrong and Melissa Etheridge
Green Day adapted their six-time platinum 2005 album American Idiot into a Broadway musical in 2010. Five months after opening, Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong ended up stepping in to play the supporting role of St. Jimmy for just a week. After that week saw a massive uptick in ticket sales, Armstrong returned to play the role twice more, including for the final three weeks of the Broadway run in April 2011. Prior to the closing, rocker Melissa Etheridge also had a one-week stint in the musical as St. Jimmy.

Jennifer Hudson
American Idol finalist Jennifer Hudson already had won an Oscar for appearing in a big screen musical, 2006's Dreamgirls, so it came as little surprise when she eventually made her Broadway debut ten years later. Hudson appeared as Shug Avery in the revival of The Color Purple for its first six months. The show managed to last several more months after Hudson left the show, but she was initially a major draw for audiences.

(Video Courtesy of YouTube)

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