32 Musical Actors Who Won Tony Awards and Never Returned to Broadway
For many Broadway actors, winning a Tony Award is a game-changing moment in their lives. It’s the thing that leads them to the next step in their stage careers. For others, they use the Tony win to catapult themselves into the landscapes of TV, movie, and music. Scroll on as BroadwayBox looks back on 32 musical actors who won Tony Awards over the last 50 years and then never returned to Broadway in another show. (Also, we’re not including anyone who won in the last five years—let’s give the Hamilton & Band’s Visit crew, Cynthia Erivo, and Ben Platt a minute here.)
One & Done: 10ish Actors Who Won for Their Broadway Debut
After creating the role of Eponine in the UK, Frances Ruffelle made her debut as one of only two principals reprising their roles for the Broadway production of Les Miserables. For her performance, she won the 1987 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She’s appeared plenty on the West End and in concert but not since Eponine on Broadway.
John Lloyd Young
John Lloyd Young had a breakout moment starring as Frankie Valli in Broadway’s Jersey Boys. He won the 2006 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical; he reprised his role in the movie adaptation; and returned to the show three times during its run; but Jersey Boys remains his sole Broadway credit.
Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones starred as Desiree Armfeldt in the very first Broadway revival of Sondheim and Wheeler’s A Little Night Music, and, like the original Desiree (Glynis Johns), she won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 2010.
After winning an Olivier Award for his performance as Bill Snibso on the West End, English actor Robert Lindsay transferred to Broadway with the production and won a 1987 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. He returned to the West End plenty (and won two more Olivier Awards) but never to Broadway.
Before finding TV and film fame on The Walking Dead and the Fantastic Beasts series, Dan made his debut as William Barfee in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, winning the 2005 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.
The opera star made his debut leading the Lincoln Center Theater production of South Pacific, winning a 2008 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance of Emile de Becque.
Carlin Glynn won the 1979 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for originating the role of madam Mona Stangley in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which was co-written and co-directed by her husband, Peter Masterson. She reprised her role for the show’s brief return engagement in 1982.
One of the original stars of off-Broadway’s Little Shop of Horrors, Leilani made her debut as burlesque dancer Satin in the musical Grind, winning the 1985 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.
The Russian-born French actress made her debut as Madame Hortense in the Kander & Ebb musical Zorba and won the 1984 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She had previously won the 1964 Oscar for her portrayl of the same role in the film for which the musical was based.
Trent Kowalik & Kiril Kulish
These two (along with David Alvarez) shared a 2009 Tony Award win for Best Actor in a Musical after originating the title role in Broadway's Billy Elliot. David return to Broadway in On The Town; Trent teaches and performs dance; and Kiril Kulish went on to become a Dancing with the Stars pro.
Can’t Get Enough: Three Actors Who Went Back Into Their Shows
Marissa Jaret Winokur
MJW had a breakout, Tony-winning moment as the original Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray. She won the 2003 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, and returned to the Broadway production twice, closing out the final run of the show in 2009. After TV stints on The Talk, Dancing with the Stars and Dance Your Ass Off, the Celebrity Big Brother winner reprised her performance at the Hollywood Bowl in 2011.
Sammy won the 1976 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his now legendary performance as the original Paul in A Chours Line. He returned to the record-breaking Broadway production for a brief stint in the mid-80s reprising the role of Paul.
Jbara won the 2009 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance as the dad in Billy Elliot. He returned to the show for a bit in 2010 and 2011 but has since gone on to TV roles, most notably on Blue Bloods.
The Other Winners
Though Gregory Hines went on to an Emmy-winning TV and film career (which included Tap, Waiting to Exhale, The Preacher’s Wife, & Will & Grace), his final Broadway credit was as Jelly Roll Morton in Jelly’s Last Jam in 1992. He won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.
As Broadway’s original Enjolras in Les Miserables, Michael Maguire won the 1987 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. He reprised the performance for the starry 10th Anniversary Dream Cast Concert at Royal Albert Hall. He has since left performing and become a lawyer.
Patina Miller won her Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 2013 for her performance as The Leading Player in the first Broadway revival of Pippin. She went on to co-star on screen in The Hunger Games, Mercy Street, and Madam Secretary.
Before finding TV fame as Dr. Callie Torres in Grey's Anatomy, Sara won the 2005 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for originating the role of Lady of the Lake in the Tony-winning musical Spamalot.
Ben Harney won the 1982 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for creating the role of Curtis Taylor Jr. in Broadway’s Dreamgirls. He went on to create the Christian video series Ben & Eddie in the ‘90s.
Known as “The Queen of R&B”, this soul singer won the 1989 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for the revue Black and Blue. She passed away in 2006.
Ted Ross won the 1975 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance as The Lion in The Wiz. He reprised his role for the beloved film adaptation, and went on to appear in the films Arthur, Ragtime, and Police Academy. He passed away in 2002.
Steve Kazee won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical in 2012 for playing Guy in Once. He went on to appear in TV’s Shameless and Nashville and the out-of-town try-out of the musical Pretty Woman.
Neil Patrick Harris
Emmy nominee Neil Patrick Harris won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical as Broadway’s first-ever Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. He’s kept pretty busy since…
NPH’s Hedwig co-star also won in 2014. Lena won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance as Yitzhak. She’s gone on to tour, release albums, and can currently be seen in off-Broadway’s Bat Out of Hell.
For his starring role as Pseudolus in the first revival of Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, the screen and stage comedian won the 1972 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. He became the first leading actor to ever win a Tony Award for a revival. He passed away in 1985.
Virginia won the 1974 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for originating the role of Lena Younger in Raisin, the Tony-winning musical adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun. She appeared on screen in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Golden Girls, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and What’s Love Got to Do With It. She passed away in 2004.
Scott won the 1992 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance as Herman in The Most Happy Fella revival. He is now a Worship Leader at Journey of Faith.
Billed as the finest ballerina of her generation, Natalia won her 1983 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for appearing as Princess Zenobia in On Your Toes. She returned to the world of dance and received a 2012 Kennedy Center Honor for her life’s work.
Charles “Honi” Coles
The tap legend won the 1983 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance as Mr. Magix in My One and Only. He received the National Medal of Arts by President George Bush in 1991, and he passed away from cancer in 1992.
Lenny Baker won the 1977 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his role as Alvin in I Love My Wife. He passed away from cancer in 1982.
The Emmy-winning character actor won the 1988 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for co-starring as Moonface Martin in LCT’s first-ever Broadway revival of Anything Goes, starring Patti LuPone. His notable screen credits include Sesame Street and Steel Magnolias. He passed away in 2002.
Michael Jeter won the 1990 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance as Otto Kringelein in Grand Hotel. His Tony-night performance is iconic. After winning, he co-starred on screen in Sesame Street, Sister Act 2, Evening Shade, The Fisher King, Waterworld, The Green Mile and many more. He passed away in 2003 at age 50.