As I've mentioned before, my passion for Broadway revolves around the great ladies of our musical stage. I don't think I'm alone in this and, as society's idea of what makes a man a man changes over time, it becomes harder for us to articulate or even imagine the ideal leading man. An actor may score in a role, but what are the chances of him sustaining that kind of achievement over a body of work?
I've put together a list of an eclectic group of singing actors who have managed to successfully navigate the complex waters of today's musical theatre, but have not been nominated for a Tony Award — yet. Consequently, many of them have sought work in film and television and concerts. We need to entice them to stay on Broadway!
As with my list of Top Ten Up-and-Coming Musical Actresses, the list is presented in alphabetical order.
Michael Arden (@michaelarden)
Michael Arden is a great talent Broadway has lost, at least temporarily, to Hollywood, as he currently co-stars on Charlie Sheen's FX series, "Anger Management." After giving strong Broadway performances in Big River and The Times They Are A-Changin', Arden has been away from Broadway for nearly a decade, but I hold out hope that he will return to New York theatre. His performance in the title role in the 2004 World AIDS Day concert of Pippin was a stunning demonstration of the depth of his talent. The commitment in his acting and the purity of his voice remind me of no less than Audra McDonald, who has five Tony Awards. When will it be Michael Arden's turn?
|Photo by Jennifer Leigh Mann|
Tituss Burgess (@titussburgess)
In addition to stopping the show in The Little Mermaid as Sebastian and Guys and Dolls as Nicely-Nicely, Tituss Burgess has been inciting fan hysteria for years with his impressively high tenor (he famously sings "Meadowlark" a mere step down from Patti LuPone's original key). More than a musical savant, Burgess is a distinctive comedian who made a lasting impression as Sherri Shepherd's sidekick, D'Fwan, on "30 Rock" and who will appear in Tina Fey's new sitcom, "Tooken." People love Tituss Burgess. Where is his nomination? Or have we lost him to television permanently?
Andy Karl (@Andy_Karl)
Andy Karl has been making strong contributions to musicals for years, including his recent turn as Neville Landless in The Mystery Of Edwin Drood, a dreamboat role as Kyle the UPS man in Legally Blonde and hilarious work as Luke in Altar Boyz. Karl's big moment comes this season as he takes on the title role in Rocky. His impressive range of character types and abilities makes him an ideal leading man for Broadway musicals today. He's certainly an excellent candidate for the Tonys this year.
With nine Broadway credits, it's almost inconceivable that Aaron Lazar has also not yet been nominated for a Tony. A modern man with traditional appeal, Lazar made a major impression replacing Matthew Morrison as Fabrizio in The Light in the Piazza (his performance memorably preserved on the Live From Lincoln Center broadcast), and was ideal as both Enjolras in the last revival of Les Misérables and Carl-Magnus opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones (and, later, Bernadette Peters) in the revival of A Little Night Music. For all his achievements, one gets the sense that Lazar's greatest performances are still ahead of him. He will be an easy fit for both new works and revivals.
Jose Llana is another great leading man who's been capturing the hearts of Broadway audiences for years without being nominated (yet) for a Tony Award. Since his angelically sung debut as Lun Tha in the 1996 revival of The King and I, Llana has brought a simple humanity as well as a romantic flair to a gamut of characters and scenarios ranging from Flower Drum Song to The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee to his recent turn as Ferdinand Marcos in Here Lies Love.
|Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
Steven Pasquale (@StevePasquale)
More eye candy with more to offer than what meets the eye, Steven Pasquale is another leading man whose Broadway resume would surely be more impressive if he hadn't been so in demand for film and television roles, including the critically acclaimed series, "Rescue Me." The theatrical appearances Pasquale has made over the years, including last season's Scott Frankel-Michael Korie-Richard Greenberg musical Far From Heaven, the Neil LaBute play Reasons To Be Pretty and the Stephen Flaherty-Lynn Ahrens-Terrence McNally musical, A Man of No Importance, and, especially, his current role in Jason Robert Brown and Marsha Norman's The Bridges Of Madison County, have proven him to be an actor and singer of nuance and conviction.
Bryce Pinkham (@PinhamBryce)
Currently eliciting raves for his starring role in A Gentleman's Guide To Love and Murder, Bryce Pinkham has previously appeared on Broadway in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Ghost, but there's nothing macabre about Pinkham's talent. Handsome and smart, his charms just happen to be the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down.
Something of a dark horse on this list, Daniel Reichard has only appeared on Broadway as Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys in 2005, a fantastic performance for which he was unjustly overlooked in the Tony nominations that year. But Reichard's work Off-Broadway has also made a case for him as a major musical theatre man, including his fascinatingly edgy Keith Haring in Radiant Baby at The Public Theater and his moving (and legitimately sung) #Candide in Candide at City Opera. Reichard should not be overlooked for much longer.
|Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
Matthew James Thomas (@matthewjethomas)
Matthew James Thomas was not nominated for a Tony for his performance in Pippin, but it's not hard to imagine him being recognized for something in the near future. The good-looking young actor offered a sweet believability that anchored the entire circus of Pippin and would be an asset to any production. On top of that, Thomas is a terrific singer and played a multitude of roles in both plays and musicals, on stage and screen, in his native U.K. before moving to the United States to fill in for star Reeve Carney at two performances per week in Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark. He didn't stay an alternate for long.
Aaron Tveit (aarontveit.net)
Aaron Tveit (pronounced "tuh-VAYT" rhyming with fate) has recently been absent from the theatre, focusing his efforts on high-profile film and television projects such as the 2012 film "Les Miserables" and the USA network hit, "Graceland." Regardless, his time on Broadway was well spent and his "egregiously overlooked" performances in Next To Normal and Catch Me If You Can (along with replacement turns in Hairspray and Wicked) have ignited a level of fan excitement not seen on Broadway since Michael Crawford mesmerized audiences with "The Music of the Night." More than a matinee idol, Tveit has shown compelling acting chops and the ability to carry a show. His dynamic solo album, "The Radio In My Head" (recorded live during his sold-out triumph at 54 Below), is a teasing reminder of the Broadway star we're missing on the boards.
(Ben Rimalower is the author and original star of the critically acclaimed Patti Issues. Read Playbill.com's coverage of the solo show here. Visit him at benrimalower.com and follow @benrimalower on Twitter.)