10 Country Stars Who Caught the Broadway Bug
Seeing your name up in lights never gets old, and even though the ethos of New York’s Broadway and Nashville’s Broadway are quite different, they are both meccas for musicians looking to make their grand debut. Quite a few country artists have left their mark in the Big Apple. Here are 10 stars who’ve shined in musicals.
By Bayley Renovich
Annie Get Your Gun | Reba McEntire as Annie Oakley
With a popular eponymous TV show, Opry member Reba McEntire is no stranger to acting, so it was only a matter of time before she got a chance to showcase her talents in the Broadway production of Annie Get Your Gun. Although she had originally declined the part when first offered the role, a strange turn of events left her stranded in New York after her flight to London had been canceled. With time to spare, she took in the Broadway show. After seeing the production firsthand, she declared that she had to be a part of it. For the first half of 2001, Reba dazzled crowds as the one and only sharpshootin’ Annie Oakley at the Marquis Theater in New York City. McEntire captured Oakley’s backwoods-style humor flawlessly.
9 to 5 | Original Music and Lyrics by Dolly Parton
While you might not have been able to find her on stage, Opry member and country legend Dolly Parton made her mark on Broadway by composing the music and writing the lyrics for the stage production of 9 to 5, which earned Parton a Tony Award nomination for Best Original Score. It was a fitting venture since she had starred in the original film adaption of the book by author Patricia Resnick. The Broadway show ran from April to September 2009, and regional productions of the show have since cropped up in places as far away as Brazil and Germany.
Chicago | Jennifer Nettles as Roxie Hart
Half of country music duo Sugarland, Jennifer Nettles made the switch to Broadway on February 2, 2015, nabbing the lead part of Roxie Hart in Chicago. It was only appropriate that Nettles, who grew up performing on stage, would someday join the cast of one of Broadway’s longest running shows.
Chicago | Billy Ray Cyrus as Billy Flynn
Nettles isn’t the only country star to be a part of the ever-popular show Chicago. In 2012, Billy Ray Cyrus took to the Broadway stage to play slick lawyer Billy Flynn. It was a short run for Cyrus, who performed from November 5 to December 23, but it was a casting that left many fans eager for more.
The Sound of Music | Carrie Underwood as Maria von Trapp
Opry member Carrie Underwood is no stranger to TV, considering her singing career was built on winning the fourth season of American Idol in 2005. That’s why it only made sense to cast her as Maria von Trapp in the live television special of The Sound of Music. While not an actual Broadway production, it won an Emmy.
Hairspray | Laura Bell Bundy as Amber Von Tussle
Before she had a hit country song in “Giddy on Up,” Laura Bell Bundy was a bona fide Broadway star. In 2002, she was cast as Amber von Tussle in the first production of Hairspray, but that was just the beginning. She later went on to play Elle Woods in the comedic hit Legally Blonde: The Musical and served as a standby for Kristin Chenoweth and Jennifer Laura Thompson for the role of Glinda in Wicked.
Moonshine: That Hee Haw Musical | Original Music by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally
Who better to create the music for Moonshine: That Hee Haw Musical than two of Nashville’s most respected songwriters: Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally. “We just naturally lean toward saying things that are so image-based that it lends itself to theater,” McAnally told The New York Times. The pair spent six months writing songs for the show, which was picked up for a pre-Broadway review in Dallas, Texas in 2015.
The Will Rogers Follies: A Life in Revue | Larry Gatlin as Will Rogers Larry Gatlin of Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers made his Broadway debut by playing Will Rogers in the production of The Will Rogers Follies: A Life in Revue in 2003. The show had won a Tony Award for Best Musical two years prior. It was not the last time Gatlin would chase the bright lights of Broadway. In 2010, he made a surprise appearance during the finale of Million Dollar Quartet, a stage show inspired by Sun Records greats Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. Gatlin performed a tribute song titled “Johnny Cash is Dead and His House Burned Down” in honor of his late friend, “The Man In Black” himself.
Big River | Original Music and Lyrics by Roger Miller
Known for his honky-tonk-influenced music, Roger Miller was a veteran songwriter by the time he got his stint on Broadway. In April 1985, Big River debuted with original music and lyrics by Miller. He even played Pap Finn for a short time in 1986.
Green Grow the Lilacs | Tex Ritter as Woodward Ritter
Long before he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry, Tex Ritter could be found on Broadway performing as Woodward Ritter in Green Grow the Lilacs, which would later serve as inspiration for the beloved Oklahoma! True to form, Ritter played the role of a cowboy in The Round Up and Mother Lode in the 1930s.