In theatre circles, you often hear people talk about "stunt casting," meaning putting celebrities in shows purely for the sake of attracting ticket buyers. The implication is that these stars are unqualified for their roles, or at least, less qualified than numerous less famous possibilities passed over. This may be the case sometimes, but there are also those exciting instances of just plain good commercial casting, when a performer well known for their work in other mediums brings singular pizazz to a part in a Broadway show, delighting not just investors (by putting money in their pockets), but audiences and critics alike. An obvious example would be Hugh Jackman's triumph several years ago in The Boy from Oz. He had earned his stripes as a leading man in musicals in Australia and even took London by storm starring in Oklahoma!, but he was only known to American audiences as a movie star. The Boy from Oz changed that, making Jackman Broadway royalty overnight. Of course, Jackman can really sing. Musical ability can be what separates the "men from the mice." To do musicals well, acting talent alone is not enough. Performers able to successfully (and simultaneously!) act and sing are rare breed. Still, there are those out there who've got the goods and really ought to tread the boards in a musical. Broadway needs them!
10. Dale Soules
Veteran actress Dale Soules has been around for decades, but is perhaps only becoming famous now. She has earned raves this season for her compelling work on both stage and screen. Soules is an audience favorite as Frieda on the hit Netflix series "Orange Is The New Black" and currently slays them in the aisle opposite Patti LuPone and Michael Urie in Douglas Carter Beane's new play, Shows for Days, at Lincoln Center Theater. But back in the day, Soules starred in many shows, on and Off-Broadway, including Hair and megahit The Magic Show, in which she introduced the Stephen Schwartz showstoppers "West End Avenue" and "Lion Tamer." More recently, she was part of the ensemble cast of the short-lived Hands On A Hardbody, but audiences deserve the chance to see Soules in a musical that lasts longer.
9. Stephen Colbert
Okay, this is kind of a tall order. I know Stephen Colbert is a super-busy guy. But come on! A Broadway musical seems like a no-brainer for Colbert. He's a big musical theatre fan and proved his chops in the New York Philharmonic production of Company (as part of an all-star cast led by Neil Patrick Harris and Patti LuPone) as well as numerous song performances on "The Colbert Report," including memorable duets with Audra McDonald on "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and "Summertime." Maybe, in the meantime, Colbert could at least feature Broadway performers as guests on "The Late Show."
Another star of the New York Philharmonic Company, Martha Plimpton has been a Generation X icon since delivering striking performances such seminal 1980s classics as "The Goonies," "Running on Empty" and "Parenthood." Years of esteemed stage work followed (including roles as a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company) and more recently, Plimpton has become a familiar face on television, starring in the four-season run of "Raising Hope." But Plimpton comes from musical stock. Her parents, Keith Carradine and Shelley Plimpton, starred together in the original Broadway production of Hair, and Carradine went on to star in The Will Rogers Follies, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and the aforementioned Hands on a Hardbody. And the apple didn't fall far from the tree — Plimpton proved her mettle as Gladys Bumps in the 2008 revival of Pal Joey, in which Bumps was combined with Melba Snyder (the role played legendarily by Elaine Stritch) affording Plimpton the chance to sing not just "You Mustn't Kick It Around" and "That Terrific Rainbow," but also the hilarious "Zip." She was well up to the challenge and sparkled in all aspects (including singing and dancing) and received a Tony nomination. I long to see Plimpton's signature edge and presence galvanizing a musical once again. Maybe this time, she'll win.
After killing it (literally) in Little Shop of Horrors at City Center Encores!, Jake Gyllenhaal is proving that there's nothing he can't do. The screen idol has demonstrated terrific range from his performance in the cult hit "Donnie Darko" to his Oscar-nominated role in "Brokeback Mountain," as well as stage performances including Constellations on Broadway and This Is Our Youth in the West End. Gyllenhaal is the rare movie star who can comfortably carry a musical. Little Shop is no fluke. Now is probably the best time for me to confess (brag) that I saw Gyllenhaal as Prince Chulalongkorn in the Harvard-Westlake High School production of The King and I (with sister Maggie in the chorus) in 1994 and he was sensational.
6. Ana Gasteyer
Another Encores! star who really belongs in a great, big Broadway show is "Saturday Night Live" alum Ana Gasteyer. Gasteyer stopped the show literally three times in the recent Encores! production of A New Brain. She's done musicals on Broadway, including The Threepenny Opera and The Rocky Horror Show, and most significantly a replacement stint as Elphaba in Wicked, in addition to the title role in Funny Girl regionally. Gasteyer is ready for the big time. Her strong, pliable voice conveys both a down-to-earth warmth and a sophisticated intellect. I'm gonna come out and say Ana Gasteyer is my top choice to star in a revival of Mame. Maybe Martha Plimpton can be Vera — ooh, or Molly Shannon. Well, Veras are easy to cast, but I don't think anyone else today would be as effective as Gasteyer in the title role.
5. Christina Aguilera And now for something completely different, how about Christina Aguilera for a Broadway musical? We know she can sing. She can sing her face off. She has proven she can act all her life, be it back in the 1990s with "The All New Mickey Mouse Club" or in the movie "Burlesque" or her recent recurring role on "Nashville." Aguilera is unquestionably a major box-office draw, a fact proven by the success of her many worldwide concert tours, which, by the way, also proves she can command the stage. There was even talk of her playing Evita in the aborted film "Broadway 4D." It goes without saying, that's potentially a good role for her, but I can think of more. Let's get this show on the road!
4. Justin Timberlake
Christina Augilera is, of course, not the only "All New Mickey Mouse Club" member to go on to success in show business. Fellow Mousketeers included pop stars Britney Spears and J.C. Chasez, movie stars Ryan Gosling and Keri Russell and Broadway's Lindsey Alley and Deedee Magno. Perhaps the biggest star of them all, though, is the versatile Justin Timberlake, who has proven himself time and again to be one of the most gifted singers and dancers of his generation, and excelled acting in such movies as "Inside Llewyn Davis" and "Friends With Benefits," as well as multiple inspired performances on "Saturday Night Live." My first choice for Timberlake would be a run in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, but I honestly believe the guy could do anything.
Toni Colette is a TV and movie star and has demonstrated her ample singing and dancing chops in Michael John LaChiusa's The Wild Party in 2000. Rumor has it Colette was considered for the film versions of both Chicago and Sweeney Todd. I would love to see her as either Roxie or Mrs. Lovett still. As a matter of fact, I harbored a wish that the producers of the last revival of Gypsy would remount the production in the West End with Patti LuPone and replace her in New York with Collette. Alas, it was not to be, but Collette's still got some Madame Rose years left in her. It's too bad she didn't play Sally Bowles in Cabaret while she was still age appropriate. Her performance in the film "Velvet Goldmine" is a dead ringer for Liza Minnelli's "Cabaret" — in the most fabulous way imaginable.
2. Kevin Kline
Patti LuPone's Juilliard classmate (and former longtime boyfriend) Kevin Kline shared her experience of early success in musicals, winning the Tonys for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for playing Bruce Granit in the original 1978 production of On The Twentieth Century and Best Actor in a Musical for playing the Pirate King in the 1981 production of The Pirates of Penzance. But then that was it. Kline has gone on to major motion picture stardom, as one of the top leading men of his era, and the winner of the Academy Award for 1988's "A Fish Called Wanda." And there have been Broadway returns, but only in straight plays. I would have liked to see Kline in Kiss Me, Kate or Follies. I wish he had graduated to the role of Oscar Jaffe in the current revival of On The Twentieth Century. Perhaps the show will extend past Peter Gallagher's contact and Kline could do it!
1. Meryl Streep
Finally, there is Meryl Streep. Her name has become an adjective for first rate; Rolls Royce is the Meryl Streep of cars! Streep trod the boards in some musicals early in her career, including Happy End on Broadway and an Obie-winning turn in Alice at the Palace. Then Hollywood called and it was only decades later that Streep returned to musicals (albeit on film), delivering staggering performances in both "Into The Woods" and "Mamma Mia!" The closest she's come to another stage musical was the New York Shakespeare Festival's 2006 production of Brecht's Mother Courage featuring new music by Jeanine Tesori. It's time for Streep to star on Broadway in a musical. She can literally do anything. Take your pick, Meryl! But do it quick. We are waiting.