Look Back at the Very First Playbill Bios of 11 Broadway Stars

Special Features   Look Back at the Very First Playbill Bios of 11 Broadway Stars Straight from the Vault, a look at some of Broadway’s legends, including Ethel Merman, Barbra Streisand and Robert Goulet and more, before they made it big.
Idina Menzel in <i>Rent</i>
Idina Menzel in Rent

Before they were luminaries of the theatre, they were young guns making their Broadway debuts. Take a look at some of the biggest Broadway stars first appearance in a Playbill, which include little tidbits about their lives before achieving Broadway stardom—the kind of information that they’d never include later in their accomplished careers. Who spent time in the Texas pageant scene? Who was a radio DJ in Canada? Take a look at these Broadway stars’ first Playbill bios to find out.

Idina Menzel made her debut in 1996’s Rent, but before that she was playing the New York City club circuit with her band.

Idina Menzel
Before making her Broadway debut in 1996's Rent, Idina Menzel was playing the New York City club circuit with her band.

Mary Martin sang on the radio and in nightclubs before making her Broadway debut in 1938’s Leave It To Me.

Mary Martin sang on the radio and in nightclubs before making her Broadway debut in 1938&#39;s <i>Leave It To Me</i>.
Mary Martin sang on the radio and in nightclubs before making her Broadway debut in 1938's Leave It To Me.


Barbra Streisand’s first Playbill bio, for her Broadway debut in 1962’s I Can Get It For You Wholesale, featured an interesting origin story.

Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand first appeared in a Playbill for 1962's I Can Get It For You Wholesale with an interesting origin story.


Robert Goulet made his Broadway debut as Lancelot in 1960’s Camelot, but before that he was a DJ in Canada.

Robert Goulet
Robert Goulet made his Broadway debut as Lancelot in 1960's Camelot, but before that he was a DJ in Canada.


Ethel Merman made her Broadway debut in 1930’s Girl Crazy and attributed her rhythmic talents to her secretarial background. After she made a name for herself debuting the Gershwins’ iconic “I Got Rhythm,” Merman stuck to performing.

Ethel Merman
Ethel Merman made her Broadway debut in 1930's Girl Crazy and attributed her rhythmic talents to her secretarial background. After she made a name for herself debuting the Gershwins' iconic "I Got Rhythm," Merman stuck to performing.


Christian Borle is a Tony-winner for Something Rotten! and Peter and the Starcatcher, but in his younger days he apparently appeared on late night cable TV!

Christian Borle
Before winning Tony Awards for Something Rotten! and Peter and the Starcatcher, Christian Borle apparently appeared in some late night cable TV!


Gene Kelly made his Broadway debut in Leave It To Me (along with Mary Martin), but he didn’t get a Playbill bio until a year later in 1939’s One For the Money.

Gene Kelly
Movie star Gene Kelly made his Broadway debut in Leave It To Me (along with Mary Martin), but he didn't get a bio in the Playbill until a year later in 1939's One For the Money.


Terrence Mann showcased some very special skills in his 1980 Broadway debut in Barnum.

Terrence Mann
Who knew that Terrence Mann was "also a juggler, unicyclist and musician?" These skills came in handy for his Broadway debut in 1980's Barnum.


Stephen Sondheim’s work was actually first heard on Broadway in 1956’s Girls of Summer, but he didn’t get a Playbill bio until 1957’s West Side Story.

Stephen Sondheim
Stephen Sondheim's work was actually first heard on Broadway in 1956's Girls of Summer, but he didn't get a Playbill bio until 1957's West Side Story.


Andrew Lloyd Webber made his Broadway debut when Jesus Christ Superstar, already a hit across the pond, played the Mark Hellinger Theatre in 1971.

Andrew Lloyd Webber made his Broadway debut when <i>Jesus Christ Superstar</i>, already a hit across the pond, played the Mark Hellinger Theatre in 1971.
Andrew Lloyd Webber made his Broadway debut when Jesus Christ Superstar, already a hit across the pond, played the Mark Hellinger Theatre in 1971.


Betty Buckley made her Broadway debut singing “He Plays the Violin” in 1969’s 1776, but before that she was on the pageant scene.

Betty Buckley
Betty Buckley made her Broadway debut singing "He Plays the Violin" in 1969's 1776, but before that she was on the pageant scene.


Logan Culwell is a musical theatre historian, Playbill's manager of research and curator of Playbill Vault. Please visit LoganCulwell.com.

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