Thanks to long-running hits like The Lion King, Matilda, and Les Misérables, Broadway has been home to many a child performer. Not many continue on with Broadway careers as adults, but that hasn’t stopped this group from turning childhood success into a lifetime career.
1. Lea Michele
This one may not be much of a surprise, but before becoming a household name on television’s Glee, Michele started out on Broadway, playing Young Eponine and Young Cosette during the run of the original production of Les Misérables and originating the role of The Little Girl in Ragtime.
2. Christian Slater
Slater has had the bulk of his success as a movie and television star, appearing in Heathers, Interview with a Vampire, and most recently Mr. Robot. At the age of 11, he made his Broadway debut playing Winthrop Paroo in a 1980 revival of The Music Man that starred Dick Van Dyke. After achieving success on screen, Slater returned to Broadway in 1998’s Side Man and the 2005 revival of The Glass Menagerie.
4. J. Austin Eyer
As an adult, Eyer has been a swing and ensemble member in such Broadway shows as The Little Mermaid, Curtains, Billy Elliot: The Musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Evita, but he made his Broadway debut as a replacement Colin in The Secret Garden in 1992.
5. Nathan Keen
Earlier this month, Keen joined the company of Hello, Dolly! as a swing, but he made his Broadway debut as Gavroche during the original run of Les Misérables.
7. Anna Kendrick
Kendrick was Tony-nominated for her Broadway debut performance—made when she was 13 years old—in High Society. She made her film debut a few years later in Camp, but really broke through with later performances in The Twilight Saga, Up in the Air (for which she earned an Academy Award nomination) and Pitch Perfect. She’s kept her musical theatre roots though, appearing in movie adaptations of Into the Woods and The Last Five Years.
8. Nick Jonas
Jonas is best known as a member of the band The Jonas Brothers, and to Broadway fans as both J. Pierrepont Finch in the 2011 revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Marius in the 25th anniversary concert of Les Misérables. Marius was actually his second Les Miz experience, after playing Gavroche during the original Broadway production. He also performed as Chip in Beauty and the Beast and Little Jake in the 1999 revival of Annie Get Your Gun.
9. Ariana Grande
Grande played Charlotte and understudied Patrice in 13 on Broadway before becoming Cat Valentine on Nickelodeon’s Victorious and Sam & Cat. After singing a track on the Victorious soundtrack album, Grande started a music career that has transformed her into a major pop star, with such chart-topping hits as “Into You” and “Side to Side.” Grande returned to musical theatre in 2016, playing Penny in NBC’s Hairpsray, Live!
10. Jarrod Spector
Tony-nominated for his performance as Barry Mann in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and slated to appear in the Broadway-bound Roman Holiday, Spector made his Broadway debut as Gavroche during the original run of Les Misérables.
11. Bonnie Langford
When she was 10 years old, Langford played Baby June in the Angela Lansbury revival of Gypsy. The British actor made a name for herself playing Mel on Doctor Who in the late ’80s, later playing Roxie Hart in Chicago on Broadway.
12. Richard Thomas
Thomas was Tony-nominated for his recent performance as Horace Giddens in The Little Foxes and has also appeared on Broadway in such shows as You Can’t Take It With You, An Enemy of the People, Race, and Democracy. But he made his Broadway debut at the age of seven years old as a replacement John Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello.
14. Lacey Chabert
Before she was Gretchen Weiners in the 2004 movie Mean Girls, Chabert played Broadway as Young Cosette during the original run of Les Misérables. She also played Baby June in the 1993 TV movie adaptation of Gypsy.
15. Andrew Keenan-Bolger
Given that his most recent Broadway credit was as the ever-youthful Jesse Tuck in Tuck Everlasting, it’s only appropriate that Keenan-Bolger started out his career as an actual Broadway kid. He was a replacement Chip in Beauty and the Beast and the JoJo alternate in Seussical. Keenan-Bolger returned to Broadway in 2010, playing Robertson Ay in Mary Poppins and creating the role of Crutchie in Newsies in 2012.
16. Donna Vivino
As an adult, she’s appeared on Broadway in Hairspray, Saturday Night Fever, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, and as a standby Elphaba in Wicked, but Vivino started out as the original Broadway Young Cosette in Les Misérables.
17. Sarah Jessica Parker
Before her long stint on TV and film as Carrie Bradshaw in the Sex and the City series, Parker made her Broadway debut in the 1976 revival of The Innocents when she was 10 years old. She went on to appear as July and ultimately the title role during the original Broadway run of Annie before finding success on the big screen is such titles as Footloose, L.A. Story, Honeymoon in Vegas, Hocus Pocus, and The First Wives Club. She returned to Broadway in the ’90s in revivals of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Once Upon a Mattress.
18. Travis Wall
Dancer and choreographer Travis Wall, who rose to prominence first as a contestant and later as a choreographer on the TV dance competition reality show So You Think You Can Dance, was in the ensemble and understudied Winthrop when he was 13 years old in the 2000 Broadway revival of The Music Man.
19. Brandon Espinoza
Recently seen in the ensemble of Tuck Everlasting, Espinoza started his Broadway career playing Gavroche during the original run of Les Misérables and James Rogers in The Will Rogers Follies.
20. Davy Jones
Best known as a singer and member of The Monkees, Jones—then going by David Jones—was also Tony-nominated for his performance as The Artful Dodger in the 1963 original Broadway company of Oliver!.
21. Donna Marie Asbury
Asbury has been in the current Broadway revival of Chicago since 1999, but in 1974 she was the balloon girl and the understudy for Baby Louise and Baby June in the Angela Lansbury revival of Gypsy.
22. Alice Playten
After playing Baby Louise during the original Broadway run of Gypsy, Playten went on to appear on Broadway as the original Ermengarde in Hello, Dolly!, while also appearing in Henry, Sweet Henry, Spoils of War, Rumors, Seussical, and Caroline, or Change.
23. Tony Yazbeck
Yazbeck is a Broadway regular and about to be back on the boards in Prince of Broadway. He was Tony-nominated for his performance as Gabey in the 2014 revival of On the Town, but he made his Broadway debut as one of Baby June’s newsboys in the 1989 revival of Gypsy starring Tyne Daly. (Fun fact: He fought hard to be cast as Tulsa in the Patti LuPone-led revival of Gypsy.)