ShenT(w)ens: My Favourite Broadway leading men in musicals (part two)

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Yesterday I posted a column, including my video links to each of my choices in performance, for my #ShenTens podcast, counting down my Top Ten favourite Broadway leading men in musicals.

And today, as promised, I count down a further ten of my favourite Broadway musical theatre actors, to make a #ShenTwens.

11. Steven Pasquale
I first spotted — and more importantly, heard — Steven Pasquale in the 2002 Off-Broadway production of Ahrens and Flaherty’s A Man Of No Importance, where he first introduced the rousing Streets of London, one of their very best songs.

In the 2014 Broadway premiere of Jason Robert Brown’s The Bridges of Madison County, he reprised the role of Robert that he’d originated in the show’s premiere at Williamstown Theatre Festival the year before; and got to deliver the stand-out number It All Fades Away:

He’s actually done more plays on Broadway than musicals, but on these two reckonings, I’d want him to do a lot more singing!

12. Matthew Morrison
Although TV’s Glee, in which Matthew Morrison played a musicals-championing high school teacher, made him a star, he’d actually begun his career on Broadway as the juve male leads in Hairspray (2002, playing Link Larkin) and The Light in the Piazza (2005, as Fabrizio Naccarelli), before playing Lt Joseph Cable in the Lincoln Center revival of South Pacific (2008). The success of Glee (which occupied him for 2009-2015) took him away from Broadway before he became a leading man, though it also enabled him to return as a fully-fledged star in 2015 to star in the Harvey Weinstein-produced Finding Neverland.

VIDEO: Performing a song from Finding Neverland:

13. Tony Yazbeck
Though Tony Yazbeck should be flying over Broadway right now in Flying over Sunset — a new musical that was due to open last year at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre but has been postponed by COVID19 — he’s frequently soared, as both an effortless dancer and easy vocalist, in revivals of A Chorus Line (2006), Gypsy (2008, playing Tulsa), and especially On the Town (2014, as Gabey). He also starred in Prince of Broadway (2017, the tribute to Hal Prince).

VIDEO: Performing Lucky To Be Me, around New York street and park locations, from On the Town:

14. Rob McClure
Right now Rob McClure should be starring in the title role of the new musical Mrs Doubtfire, but it was suspended after just three previews when Broadway was shut down due to COVID19. It might finally give him the starring role in a new musical his talent deserves, after previously playing the title role in the short-lived Chaplin (2012) and the lead in the equally misfiring Honeymoon in Vegas (2015).

VIDEO: from a press call for Honeymoon in Vegas:

15. Santino Fontana
After playing the Prince in the Broadway stage premiere of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s TV version of Cinderella (2013), for which he was Tony nominated for leading actor, he won that category in 2019 for the stage version of Tootsie (the original Dustin Hoffman role), but the show under-performed and closed after a nine-month run.

VIDEO: a scene from Tootsie:

16. Brian d’Arcy James
An actor who has twice originated roles in musicals that became hits when they transferred to Broadway without him, Brian d’Arcy James missed his chance for Tony glory in Hamilton after Jonathan Groff replaced him as George III for that show’s transfer from the Public Theatre to Broadway; but he would take over the role again later at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, as he also did with Next to Normal at the Booth Theatre which he did in its original outing at Off-Broadway’s Second Stage in 2008. But he’s also had a fair share of original Broadway credits, too, including in the musicals Titanic (1997, as Frederick Barrett), Sweet Smell of Success (2002, as Sidney), the title role in Shrek (2008) and Something Rotten (2015, as Nick Bottom), earning Tony nominations for the latter three.

VIDEO: The Proposal and Night Was Alive from Titanic:

Off-Broadway he has also originated the role of Burr in Andrew Lippa’s version of The Wild Party (2000 at Manhattan Theatre Club) and Pick in Michael John LaChiusa’s Giant (2012 at the Public), and can be heard on the cast albums of both.

17. Zachary Levi
Though he may only have two Broadway credits to his name so far, Zachary Levi could, I reckon, turn out to be a major musical force to be reckoned with. In the 2016 revival of She Loves Me, he was an absolutely hilarious Georg Nowack who also exuded a tender vulnerability.

In this clip, he also demonstrates a supreme athleticism, too:

Three years earlier he made his Broadway debut in a little chamber musical called First Date that might have played more comfortably off-Broadway, but his affable performance elevated the material:

18. Jonathan Groff
The original Melchoir in Spring Awakening, which transferred from the Atlantic to Broadway in 2006, Jonathan Groff’s only other lead Broadway credit was taking over from the aforementioned Brian d’Arcy James in Hamilton; but he’s a well-known Broadway ‘voice’ thanks to his credit for voicing the roles of Kristoff and Sven in the original Disney films Frozen and Frozen II. He was last seen on the New York stage as Seymour in an off-Broadway revival of Little Shop of Horrors at Westside Arts in 2019.

VIDEO: Performing You’ll be back from Hamilton

19. David Hyde Pierce
Best known for playing Niles Craine, brother of radio psychiatrist Frasier Crane in the long-running TV comedy Frasier (1993-2004), David Hyde Pierce has had a long career as a stage actor both before and after that. His Broadway musical credits have included starring roles in the original productions of Monty Python’s Spamalot (2005), Kander and Ebb’s Curtains (2007, winning the Tony for best actor in a musical), It Shoulda Been You (2015) and the revival of Hello, Dolly! (2017, starring as Horace Vandergelder, opposite Bette Midler’s Dolly Levi).

VIDEO: Performing Penny in a Pocket

20. Lin-Manuel Miranda
Actor/composer Lin-Manuel Miranda has starred in the original productions of two original musicals he also wrote, In the Heights (2008) and Hamilton (2015), but his celebrity has now stretched far beyond Broadway, and he’s now a bankable star as both composer (Disney’s Moana) and actor (the film Mary Poppins Returns).

VIDEO: Trailer for new film version of In the Heights

Even twenty is not enough to list all the possible candidates I have for favourite Broadway leading men. I’m also sorry to have left out Gavin Creel (who has had notable runs on Broadway in Hair, The Book of Mormon, She Loves Me and Hello, Dolly!, invariably playing younger than he actually is), and Steve Kazee (Tony winner in 2012 for his quite wonderful performance in Once, but who left Pretty Woman after doing the Chicago try-out and was replaced by Andy Karl for Broadway).

It’s the turn of the West End’s leading men. To tune in, don’t forget to subscribe on your favourite listening platform. And come back here next Friday for this weekly feature!

Special thanks to my producer Paul Branch; Howard Goodall, for theme music; and Thomas Mann for the logo design