Playbill Poll: From Clay Aiken to Liza Minnelli, Readers Pick Their Favorite Broadway Replacements

By Playbill Staff
July 7, 2013

Last week talk-show host Wendy Williams stepped into the long-running Broadway revival of Chicago, while earlier this spring, "Glee" star Jane Lynch joined the cast of Annie. Playbill.com asked our readers who some of their favorite replacements were throughout Broadway history. 



Broadway has a rich history of replacements, from Pearl Bailey in Hello, Dolly!, to Harvey Fierstein and Rosie O'Donnell in Fiddler on the Roof, Bryan Batt in La Cage aux Folles, Bernadette Peters in A Little Night Music and Betty Buckley in Sunset Boulevard. 

Here are some of our reader's favorite Broadway replacements.

Click through to see our reader's picks:

Clay Aiken in Spamalot.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Nancy Housteau: Clay Aiken in Monty Python's Spamalot. He was the perfect Sir Robin. Blended with the rest of the cast perfectly.
dakota2424: Clay Aiken @clayaiken in Spamalot because he was terrific as Sir Robin!
Canuck1949: Absolutely @clayaiken was my favourite Bway replacement actor. Amazing

In 2008 "American Idol" finalist Clay Aiken made his Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning musical Monty Python's Spamalot in the role of Sir Robin. His appearance was so popular, he returned for an encore run later that year.

Liza Minnelli
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

matthew_iliffe: Liza in Victor/Victoria, because it's just Liza...
Marisa Maffia: Does anyone remember Liza Minnelli in Victor Victoria? Julie Andrews is great but to have another living legend replace a role Julie Andrews is known for is amazing! I will never forget that one.

Showbiz icon Liza Minnelli took over the role of Victoria Grant in the Broadway musical Victor/Victoria for four weeks in 1997 while the musical's original star, Julie Andrews, was on vacation. It was the last time Minnelli played a role on Broadway – she has returned to the Great White Way numerous times with her acclaimed solo concerts.

Jordon Michael Hensley: Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch in "A Little Night Music!" They are the only replacements I have ever wanted to see.
Haley Huxley: Bernadette Peters in A Little Night Music. I thought she did a wonderful job as she always does in the role and sang "Send In the Clowns" with a lot more emotion and feeling than Catherine Zeta-Jones did.
Nathan Hinds: Bernadette Peters in A Little Night Music... Her 'Send In the Clowns' was perfection.
gstrus2: Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch in A Little Night Music

In 2010 Tony-winning theatre favorites Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch succeeded Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury, respectively, in the roles of actress Desirée Armfeldt and her worldly-wise mother Madame Armfeldt, in the revival of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's A Little Night Music, which opened in 2009.

Elaine Stritch and Bernadette Peters
photo by Joan Marcus



Harvey Fierstein
Photo by Joan Marcus

Shrimani Jade Senay: Harvey Fierstein's work as Tevye had an historic significance that transcended his fine performance.

In 2005, Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein joined the Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof, replacing Alfred Molina as Tevye. Fierstein was joined by Rosie O'Donnell, who replaced Randy Graff in the role of Golde.

Patti LuPone
Photo by Ethan Hill

Mundo Lujan: Patti LuPone - Master Class.

In a rare move for the Tony-winning actress, Patti LuPone succeeded Zoe Caldwell in the Broadway premiere of Terrence McNally's Master Class in 1996. LuPone, who earned acclaim for playing opera diva Maria Callas, also played the role in London following her Broadway run.

Pearl Bailey in Hello, Dolly!
Photo by Leo Stern

Edward J Fleury: Pearl Bailey in HELLO, DOLLY! 1967.

Pearl Bailey made a triumphant final Broadway appearance in David Merrick's all-African American staging of Hello, Dolly! in 1975 at the Minskoff Theatre. Prior to that, Bailey was a replacement in the role of Dolly Gallagher Levi during the musical's original run at the St. James Theatre in 1967. Additional ladies to play the role included Ethel Merman, Ginger Rogers, Phyllis Diller, Betty Grable and Martha Raye.

Montego Glover and Adam Pascal
Photo by Joan Marcus

Arlene Schneider Goetschius: Adam Pascal as Huey in MEMPHIS. Why? Did you see his performance and hear him sing "Memphis Lives in Me"?

Adam Pascal, the Tony Award-nominated star of Rent, succeeded Tony Award nominee Chad Kimball as DJ Huey Calhoun in the Tony Award-winning musical Memphis in 2011.

Vanessa Williams
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Eric Michaud: Vanessa Williams in Kiss - she was electric.
Michael Plosky: Vanessa Williams in Kiss of the Spider Woman!!! Chita was amazing and Vanessa breathed a new, sexier life into Aurora!!!

In 1994 Vanessa Williams replaced Tony Award winner Chita Rivera in the Tony-winning Kander and Ebb musical Kiss of the Spider Woman. Williams made her Broadway debut in Spider Woman and her performance was preserved on a second cast album of the dark musical - a Broadway rarity.

Reba McEntire

Thom Pinto: Reba in Annie Get Your Gun!!!!!!!

Country legend Reba McEntire made her Broadway debut in 2001 as a replacement for Bernadette Peters in the Tony Award-winning revival of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun. The country diva was embraced by audiences, critics and the Broadway community and brought bonafide country charm to the role.

Christopher Sieber and Harvey Fierstein
Photo by Joan Marcus

Michelle Blaer: Chris Sieber and Harvey Fierstein in La Cage. Harvey's connection to the show brought so much more to the role than anyone else ever could!

Harvey Fierstein makes the list twice. Fierstein won his third Tony Award for authoring the book to La Cage aux Folles in 1984. He brought his story full-circle in 2011, when he joined the Tony Award-winning revival of La Cage in the role of Albin. Christopher Sieber played opposite him as Georges.

Karan Ilowite: Betty Buckley in Sunset Boulevard.

Tony Award winner Betty Buckley, who also starred in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats and as a replacement for Bernadette Peters in the original Broadway production of Song and Dance, took over the role of Norma Desmond in both the London and Broadway productions of Sunset Boulevard.

Jane Lynch
Photo by Matt Hoyle

urbs611: @janemarielynch in Annie!! Duhhh!! You couldn't find a better Ms. Hannigan anywhere!!

"Glee" star Jane Lynch made her Broadway debut this spring, taking over the role of Miss Hannigan from Tony winner Katie Finneran in the Broadway revival of Annie. Lynch ends her limited engagement July 14, at which point Tony winner Faith Prince will assume the role.

Stephanie J. Block
Photo by Joan Marcus

Emily Rasch: Stephanie J. Block as Reno! Her "Blow Gabriel Blow" gave me the chills. She just seemed unaffected after that diaphragmatically exhausting song!
Alec Carroll: Stephanie J Block in Anything Goes! She could sing the heck out of the show, and her comedic timing was impeccable!

Block, who was Tony-nominated this season for The Mystery of Edwin Drood, took over the role of Reno Sweeney for Tony Award winner Sutton Foster in the Tony-winning revival of Anything Goes in 2012.

Lea Salonga

Fletcher HC: Lea Salonga as Fantine in Les Miserables revival on Broadway. Amazing crystal clear and flawless voice!

Salonga, who was discovered by the Les Miserables songwriters when she starred in the London and Broadway productions of Miss Saigon, celebrated a full-circle moment when she joined the Broadway revival cast of Les Miz as Fantine in 2007.

Billie Joe Armstrong
Photo by Krissie Fullerton

Amanda Rose: Benjamin Billie Joe Armstrong in American Idiot.....incredible

Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong took over the role of St. Jimmy in his Tony-nominated musical American Idiot in 2011 - giving Broadway and Green Day fans a special treat.

Hugh Panaro and Sierra Boggess
Photo by Joan Marcus

Michael Jacobson: Sierra Boggess as Christine in Phantom. She's untouchable, and brought more to the character than any other before. Plus she's friggin Sierra Boggess.

Sierra Boggess, who originated the role of Christine in the Las Vegas production of The Phantom of the Opera, made a special appearance in the Broadway production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical this past winter when the show celebrated its 25th anniversary. Boggess also played Christine in the London world premiere of Love Never Dies, the sequel to Phantom.

Nick Jonas
Photo by Joan Marcus

Sondra: my favorite replacement on Broadway is @nickjonas in @H2SBway

Pop star Nick Jonas, who cut his teeth as a performer in the Broadway productions of Beauty and the Beast and Annie Get Your Gun, replaced "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe in the 50th anniversary Broadway revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in 2012.

Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley
Photo by Joan Marcus

Jared Kent Rounds: Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley in Next to Normal. They brought an incredible amount of heart and honesty to the show. It was pretty incredible watching them.

Off-stage couple Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley united on stage in the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical Next to Normal in 2010. Mazzie and Danieley succeeded cast members Alice Ripley and Brian D'Arcy James, respectively, in the roles of Diana and Dan Goodman.

Eddie Gentile: Michael Rupert in "Pippin."

After making his Broadway debut as a youngster in Kander and Ebb's The Happy Time, Michael Rupert returned to Broadway to take over the title role in the Tony-winning Stephen Schwartz musical Pippin in 1974. He replaced John Rubinstein in the role.

Rupert in Pippin.



Lindsay Mendez
Photo by Joan Marcus

alyson_leonard: Lindsay Mendez as Elphaba!
CassidyMae95: @LindsayMendez ALL THE WAY! With her unique tone & own spin on her character it was like I was seeing the show for the first time!
Katharine G. Ruegger: Lindsay Mendez in Wicked, because she's Lindsay Mendez and my absolute role model for anything and everything.

Lindsay Mendez, who appeared in the Broadway revival of Stephen Schwartz's Godspell and the world premiere of Pasek and Paul's Dogfight, went green this summer as Elphaba in Schwartz's mega-hit musical Wicked.