Fans of Broadway’s The Book of Mormon, rejoice! A rep for Andrew Rannells has confirmed the Tony-nominated actor has signed on to star in Ryan Murphy’s untitled NBC comedy pilot about a gay couple and their surrogate mother. (I “Believe” that this will turn out to be a good choice!) It’s exciting news for any theater lover, but, of course, Rannells isn’t the first stage vet to make the leap onto the small screen. In fact, 2012 is shaping up to be a very Broadway-friendly year for television: Not only will we soon see Broadway staple Megan Hilty — and fellow thesps Christian Borle, Brian d’Arcy James and Will Chase — star on NBC’s Smash, but news came earlier this week that Glee has cast stage vet Brian Stokes Mitchell as one of Rachel’s gay dads.
Unfortunately, though I can’t be the only one excitedly crossing my fingers for Smash, star power in the theatre doesn’t always translate onto TV. Rannells, Hilty, and Mitchell join a long list of stage veterans who have made the transition to television – or at least attempted it. Save for a few cases of extravagant luck, often the most celebrated stage performers wind up in thankless roles in the ensembles of failed sitcoms or in bodybags on Law & Order. But how did some of Broadway’s more notable stars manage a switch to the small screen? Here’s a rundown of some who forged a path from the Great White Way to TV land – and how they fared:
Name: Matthew Morrison
Broadway experience: Before his curly hair was a Sue Sylvester punchline, it was pomaded into oblivion when Morrison originated the role of heartthrob Link Larkin in Hairspray.
Segue into TV: Morrison shows the gamut of emotions – including “nervous about regionals” and “anxious about regionals” – on Fox’s Glee.
Success?: The award-winning Glee, for all its critics, is the definition of a digital phenomenon. Morrison should count himself incredibly lucky that Glee didn’t end up as Viva Laughlin: High School Edition.
Watch: “It Takes Two” – Hairspray
Name: Kristin Chenoweth
Broadway experience: Chenoweth is best known for originating the role of Glinda in the mega hit musical Wicked. She won a Tony in 1999 for her hilarious Sally Brown in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, and has since been back to the stage with a number of leading roles, including playing opposite Sean Hayes in Promises, Promises.
Segue into TV: She first appeared in The West Wing as deputy press secretary Annabeth Schott before gaining mainstream attention as quirky waitress Olive Snook in Pushing Daisies.
Success?: She won over audiences of the criminally short-lived Daisies, nabbing two Emmy nominations (and winning in 2009). She grabbed two more nods for her guest work on Glee as trainwreck diva April Rhodes, and she’ll try her luck again as a leading lady on ABC’s upcoming dramedy GCB.
Watch: “Popular” – Wicked
Name: Katie Finneran
Broadway experience: Truly a veteran, Finneran’s Broadway career spans 20 years. Her recent show-stopping turn in Promises, Promises (alongside Chenoweth) won her the Tony… for which she was only onstage for 15 minutes.
Segue into TV: Finneran co-stars with Jaime Pressly on ABC’s I Hate My Teenage Daughter, playing a woman who (SPOILER ALERT!) hates her teenage daughter.
Success?: The show’s not exactly a hit. Whether it gets a second season is still up in the air, but poor critical reception isn’t helping the matter.