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7 Must-See Broadway Debuts This Season

Category Broadway

|by Marshall W. Mabry IV |

A constellation of the brightest Broadway stars on the rise this season

The current Broadway season is full of stars that many theatergoers have yet to meet. This is because these performers are making their Broadway debuts, and an impressive amount of their performances are Tony-nominated. This is Broadway’s next generation of household names. These newcomers are fresh out of college, regional theater and even include a mega-star transitioning from the opera world.

Jelani Alladin makes his Broadway debut as Kristoff in 'Frozen The Broadway Musical' (Photo: Deen van Meer)

Jelani Alladin makes his Broadway debut as Kristoff in 'Frozen The Broadway Musical' (Photo: Deen van Meer)

Jelani Alladin, Frozen The Broadway Musical
After appearing in several Off-Broadway shows, Jelani is finally making his Broadway debut, and is now a Drama Desk Award nominee. Jelani plays Kristoff, an ice salesman who meets Princess Anna on her way to save her sister. Kristoff helps Anna find her sister – as well as herself. Jelani shines as Kristoff.  His natural spirit is so kind that you feel it through his portrayal, turning Kristoff into the most caring and loving character onstage today. 

Alex Newell, Once On This Island
While not new to acting, this star is new to the Broadway stage. You may recognize Alex from his role as a transgender teen on TV’s Glee and The Glee Project. Alex’s Broadway breakout role, however, is Asaka, Mother of the Earth, in the revival of Once On This Island. As one of the featured gods in Once On This Island, Asaka helps guide Ti Moune through her journey of love and self-discovery. When it was first announced that Alex would be playing the role, the casting was met with backlash because the role is traditionally cast as a woman. However, Alex has put everyone at ease with this performance of sheer energy and joy! Alex’s energy spreads like a fire throughout the audience, and when it hits you, that smile stays on your face for the rest of the night. 

Ethan Slater, SpongeBob SquarePants, The Broadway Musical
For his Broadway debut as the title character in SpongeBob SquarePants, The Broadway Musical, newcomer Slater is now a Tony and Drama Desk nominee. There is no way to explain how right for this show he is. Audiences always bring expectations to musicals based on preexisting material, but Slater manages to morph into a character that exceeds all expectations.  After the second number, he completely pulls you into SpongeBob’s journey, and you have no choice but to sit back and enjoy the ride. 

Hailey Kilgore, Once On This Island
Kilgore is one of the youngest nominees this award season.  She currently has a nomination for almost every major theater award this year, including a Tony for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. Hailey plays Ti Moune, an orphan girl finding herself on a search for love and purpose. As Ti Moune, Kilgore gives one of the best performances of the season. The character is the embodiment of innocence, and Kilgore’s ability to convey this is what sets her performance apart. 

Jai'Len Christine Li Josey, SpongeBob SquarePants, The Broadway Musical
Josey left college to star in the blockbuster hit SpongeBob SquarePants, The Broadway Musical. In the show, she plays the role of Pearl, the daughter of Mr. Krabs and a super fan of the Electric Skates. Josey is one of the most buzzed-about names in the production because of her big show-stopping number, “Daddy Knows Best.” The best thing about this song is that it’s not meant to be a showstopper; it wasn’t a showstopper until this powerhouse vocalist was cast. 

Ari’el Stachel, The Band’s Visit
This season, Stachel is nominated alongside his former NYU classmate, Jelani Alladin of Frozen The Broadway Musical, for a Drama Desk Award, and is also a Tony nominee. He stars as the young officer Haled in The Band’s Visit, a musical adaptation of the 2007 film of the same name. The show takes place after a mix-up at the border leaves a band of Egyptian police stranded in the middle of an Israeli desert. Since the musical’s off-Broadway debut, Stachel has been a focal point of the production, a rising star to watch. 

Renée Fleming, Carousel
A monumental opera star and now a Tony nominee, Fleming is making her Broadway debut in Rodger and Hammerstein’s Carousel. Carousel is a story of redemption and love between a carousel barker and a millworker.  The show follows them through the loss of their jobs, spousal abuse and the birth of their child. In the show, Fleming plays Nettie Fowler, a spa owner who sings one of the most iconic songs from the show, “June is Bustin’ All Over.” Renee is known as a legend because of her work ethic, and it’s clear that her operatic experience has informed this technically impressive, Tony-nominated performance. 

For more great performances, check out our Top Shows in May.

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