First-Timers! 19 Broadway Debuts to Look Out For This Spring

News   First-Timers! 19 Broadway Debuts to Look Out For This Spring With the spring Broadway season in full swing, Playbill.com looks at over a dozen artists who will make their Main Stem debuts this season.

From the creative team behind this season's highly anticipated Something Rotten! to celebrated television writer Larry David, a bartender, Grammy winners and Oscar nominees, Playbill.com guides readers through a handful of Broadway newbies before the spring season heats up.

Click through to check out who takes on Broadway for the first time.

Larry David and Jake Cannavale in Fish in the Dark.

Larry David is the man behind the hit series "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Seinfeld," but has yet to conquer Broadway… until now. He makes his Main Stem debut as both writer and star of Fish in the Dark, a comedy (in the style of his popular television shows) about a death in the family. What ignited the Broadway fire? "I saw Nora Ephron's play, Lucky Guy. I just thought, 'That must be a really interesting thing to do.' I had never thought that would be something I'd like to do or could do," he told Playbill magazine. A year later he began writing and had a first draft in six months. The writer/star enlisted Bobby Cannavale's son, Jake Cannavale, in the role of Diego Melendez, the teenage son of the family's housekeeper. "I think it's great because me and him are the only ones who are making our Broadway debut right now. The dude hasn't done theatre since he was like in eighth grade or something, so it's cool that I'm sort of on the same page as Larry David," Cannavale said with a laugh. "It's very reassuring to know that I'm not the only rookie."

Larry David
Larry David Photo by Joan Marcus

Ali Ahn in The Heidi Chronicles.

Ali Ahn has a handful of film and television credits on her resume, including "Liberal Arts," "Blue Bloods," "White Collar," "Ugly Betty" and "Law & Order," and has played Off-Broadway in Sugar House and Twelfth Night. She makes her Broadway debut as Susan Johnston, the sassy and chic best friend of Heidi Holland in the revival of Wendy Wasserstein's The Heidi Chronicles. Ahn makes a strong Broadway debut in a company that includes "Mad Men" star Elisabeth Moss, Tony Award nominee Bryce Pinkham and stage and screen actor Jason Biggs of "American Pie" fame.

Tracee Chimo and Ali Ahn
Tracee Chimo and Ali Ahn Photo by Joan Marcus

Robert Askins and Moritz von Stuelpnagel in Hand to God.

Robert Askins makes his playwriting debut with his acclaimed comedy Hand to God, about a foul-mouth puppet named Tyrone who wreaks havoc on the life of Christian Puppet Ministry student Jason. Although Askins' big break has arrived (following Hand to God's previous productions at the Ensemble Studio Theatre in 2011 and Off-Broadway's MCC Theater in 2014), he still tends bar in Brooklyn (where he's known to make a mean margarita) by day. The show's director Moritz von Stuelpnagel, who creates the comic world of Hand to God, also makes his Broadway debut with the production.

Steven Boyer in <i>Hand to God</i>
Steven Boyer in Hand to God

Vanessa Hudgens in Gigi.

Vanessa Hudgens is best known as Gabriella Montez in the hit Disney series "High School Musical," but now she's taking her musical chops to the Great White Way as the title role in the revival of Gigi. Hudgens, who played Mimi in the Hollywood Bowl's production of Rent, co-stars with Newsies actor Corey Cott in Gigi, in which she plays the carefree courtesan-in-training at the musical's core. Why does Hudgens have the "It" Factor? Director Eric Schaeffer said, "I can say, as a director, it rarely happens [that] someone comes in, and they audition, and they leave the room, and you're like, 'That's the one.' And, that's exactly what happened with Vanessa. She came in, she memorized all this stuff for the audition, and she just had this thing. You can't bottle it, you can't make it, you can't manufacture it. I was like, 'Hire her. She's Gigi.'"

Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope in An American in Paris.

Robert Fairchild is the latest New York City Ballet dancer (and Fairchild) to make his Broadway debut — his sister Megan Fairchild made her Broadway debut in the fall with On the Town. Click here to read more about the Fairchild siblings. Leanne Cope trained at The Royal Ballet School and graduated into the company in 2003, promoted to First Artist in 2009. After being cast, she met with the original movie star Leslie Caron to discuss the role. The two play World War II veteran Jerry Mulligan and Parisian shop girl Lise Dassin, respectively, in George and Ira Gershwin's American in Paris (with a book by Craig Lucas), which will open April 12 at the Palace.

Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope
Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope Photo by Angela Sterling
Josh Grisetti
Josh Grisetti

Josh Grisetti has been seen numerous times Off-Broadway (in productions such as Enter Laughing, Peter and the Starcatcher, Rent, Candida and Red Eye of Love, among others), but the first time he made it to Broadway, nobody was able to see his performance. Grisetti was to make his Broadway debut as Eugene Morris Jerome in Neil Simon's Broadway Bound, which was scheduled to run in repertory with Brighton Beach Memoirs in 2009; however, Broadway Bound never previewed or opened. This time around, Grisetti plays Marty Kaufman in It Shoulda Been You, which has its first performance today at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.

Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy of Finding Neverland.

Gary Barlow is an English singer-songwriter, pianist, composer and record producer who makes his Broadway debut with this season's Finding Neverland, directed by Diane Paulus and starring "Glee" actor Matthew Morrison. Barlow is frontman and lead vocalist of Take That, British pop-group, and has written 14 No. 1 singles. He has also served as head judge on seasons 8, 9 and 10 of "The X Factor UK." He penned the score to Finding Neverland alongside Eliot Kennedy, an English songwriter and record producer who has worked with artists including the Spice Girls, Bryan Adams, Lulu and S Club 7, among others.

Matthew Morrison offers a sneak peek
Matthew Morrison offers a sneak peek Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Ken Watanabe in The King and I.

Japanese actor Ken Watanabe, who plays the King of Siam in the Broadway revival of The King and I (opposite five-time Tony nominee Kelli O'Hara), is an Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee for "The Last Samurai." His other film credits include "Inception," "Batman Begins," "Letters from Iwo Jima" and "Godzilla," among others.

Ken Watanabe and Kelli O'Hara
Ken Watanabe and Kelli O'Hara Photo by Paul Kolnik

Sydney Lucas in Fun Home.

Sydney Lucas made her Off-Broadway debut as Small Alison in last season's acclaimed Fun Home, which bows on Broadway this season April 19 at Circle in the Square Theatre. Lucas garnered critical acclaim for her performance in the production, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Her brother Jake Lucas, seen in Newsies and Peter Pan Live!, is also on Broadway this season in The King and I. Click here to read more about the sibling duo.

Sydney Lucas with Beth Malone and Michael Cerveris
Sydney Lucas with Beth Malone and Michael Cerveris Photo by Joan Marcus

Renée Fleming in Living on Love.

Opera singer and soprano Renée Fleming was awarded with the National Medal of Arts in 2013, and in 2014 she became the first classical singer ever to perform "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Super Bowl. Winner of four Grammy Awards, she has performed with Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, Elton John, Lou Reed, Josh Groban, Joan Baez and the Muppets. She makes her Broadway debut as opera singer Raquel De Angelis in Joe DiPietro's Living on Love.

Renée Fleming in <i>Living on Love</i>
Renée Fleming in Living on Love

Tam Mutu and Josh Canfield in Doctor Zhivago.

Tam Mutu has been seen in the West End productions of Les Misérables, South Pacific, Anything Goes and Love Never Dies. The actor was to make his Broadway debut in the epic stage musical Rebecca, but the production never came to fruition. He will now lead the cast of Zhivago in the title role. Also making his Broadway debut with the production is "Survivor" contestant Josh Canfield, who was seen Off-Broadway in Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. Click here to read more about Canfield's journey with "Survivor" and his preparations for Broadway.

Tam Mutu
Tam Mutu Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The Kirkpatrick Brothers and John O'Farrell of Something Rotten!.

Grammy Award winner Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick ("Charlotte’s Web," "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy") make their Broadway debuts as the songwriters of Something Rotten!, the anticipated new musical opening April 22 at the St. James Theatre. They told Playbill.com that they would have conversations about being a struggling writer competing with The Bard. "We kept saying, 'We should write this,'" Wayne said. "Then we would go to our other careers we were doing [but kept saying], 'Oh, I thought of something else. We should write that one day.' Eventually we just said, 'If we're going to do this, we need to get serious about it.' That took about 15 years." Karey (who is also accredited with the show's book) then brought in John O'Farrell, a collaborator on the animated film "Chicken Run," to write the musical's book. The trio all make their Broadway debut with the production, which skipped its planned Seattle premiere and fast-tracked its way to Broadway.

Wayne Kirkpatrick, Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell
Wayne Kirkpatrick, Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell Photo by Monica Simoes
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