Musical theatre in the 21st century has become more popular than ever before. With the Broadway mega hit Hamilton’s popularity, TV networks’ live on TV musicals such as Grease, The Wiz, Sound of Music and Peter Pan and music compositions by celebrities for their own shows, Sara Bareilles’s Waitress and Sting’s The Last Ship, our society is exposed to theatre at all ends. It may come as a surprise to hear that many well-known musicians got their start in theatre, as well. While some continue to expose themselves to theatre, others you would never guess have stepped foot on a theatrical stage.
1. Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande is known for being a Nickelodeon actress-turned pop star. However, before her Nickelodeon days, Ariana was in a Broadway show when she was just 14 years old. The musical is called “13” and even though this was her first professional theatre gig, she grew up doing community theatre. Grande still is a self-proclaimed “theatre nerd” and will be seen in NBC’s Hairspray Live on December 7th as Penny Pingleton.
2. Nick Jonas
Before the group “The Jonas Brothers” gave Nick Jonas international fame, he appeared in several Broadway shows when he was just 7 years old, including Les Miserables, Beauty and the Beast and Annie Get Your Gun. Jonas returned to Broadway in 2012 when he starred in the revival of the show, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
3. Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga, who is going to release a new album this October, has been into spectacles and theatrics long before she became famous for it. In her MTV special, Lady Gaga: Inside the Outside, she says, “I was so inspired by musical theatre like ‘Guys and Dolls’… then I got cast as Adelaide (the lead girl role). It was the greatest moment of high school.” Gaga paid homage to her Broadway side when she performed a song from the musical the Sound of Music at the 2015 Oscars.
4. Jason Derulo
Before releasing raunchy singles such as “Wiggle” and “Talk Dirty”, Derulo started off singing opera and doing theatre. In his episode of Carpool Karaoke with James Corden, Derulo admits he turned down an opportunity to be on Broadway and studied classical music his whole life at various performing arts schools. During Carpool Karaoke, he gives a taste of his operatic voice by singing, “On the Wheels of a Dream” from the musical, Ragtime, a show he starred in in high school (4:18-5:25)
5. Jessie J
This British pop star began her career on stage at just 11 years old in a professional musical in London, Whistle Down the Wind. She then went to a British performing arts school before landing songwriting deals. She even told UK news network, The Sun, that she “…would love to do musicals. That is what (she) trained in. (She) starting writing one but it’s kind of been put to the side.”