American Idol to Broadway: Ranking Our Top 10 Favorite Stage Performances by Idol Alums
Primetime TV isn’t the only place American Idol is making a resurgence in 2018. Idol alums are popping up around Times Square like guys selling you their mixed CDs or rides on double decker tour buses. In the last two days, it was announced season five runner-up Katherine McPhee would make her debut as Jenna in Waitress and season seven winner David Cook would make his debut as Charlie Price in Kinky Boots. Meanwhile Ms. Tamyra Gray (who placed fourth in season one) is SLAYING the children as Papa Ge in Once on This Island.
All these B’way Idols got the team here thinking about the best performances we’ve seen on Broadway from American Idol alums. Here’s our top 10.
10. Fantasia Barrino in After Midnight
Yes, this Tony-winning show was essentially a musical revue, but Tasia brought it none the less. She was a lightning rod. Someone revive Ain't Misbehavin' for her next.
9. Jordin Sparks as Nina in In the Heights
The youngest winner in Idol history, the season six favorite made her debut as Nina in the Tony-winning musical. She was just angsty enough, totally lovable (that smile made you smile), and those vocals were lit! Come back to B'way—give us more.
8. Todrick Hall as Lola in Kinky Boots
Todrick is no stranger to the stage—he's a creature of it. Hello, he's done two shows on Broadway in the last year alone! That being said, the Drag Race judge really served it as Lola in the Tony-winning Kinky Boots. In or out of drag, this Lola was a star.
7. Diana DeGarmo as Penny Pingleton in Hairspray
The season three runner-up has done a lot of theatre since appearing on Idol, and she slays it each time (Hair, Joseph, 9 to 5, Brooklyn). Her debut as Penny in the Tony-winning musical Hairspray is a performance that was so damn perfect, she was asked to reprise it for the all-star Hollywood Bowl presentation. When she comes out as a "checkerboard chick" in "You Can't Stop the Beat", it's nothing short of epic.
6. Justin Guarini as Will in American Idiot
Since first breaking out as the runner-up in season one of Idol, Justin has made a home on the stage. He takes risks; he's been in hits and flops that run the gamut from Shakespeare to Wicked. He's a legit Broadway guy now and his most dramatic turn to date has been as Will in the Green Day musical. Vocally, he had it in the bag, but the depth he brought as his friends moved on without him and his depression took hold was really moving. He also owned that "Too Much Too Soon" moment.
5. Clay Aiken as Sir Robin in Spamalot
It's wild that the season two runner-up has only been on Broadway once, replacing Tony winner David Hyde Pierce in the Tony-winning comedy Spamalot. Clay was so funny, vocally flawless (especially on "You Won't Succeed on Broadway"), and he was having the best time onstage—it was a joyful energy that felt contagious.
4. Jennifer Hudson as Shug Avery in The Color Purple Revival
When this season three Grammy winner made her debut, it was an event. She sang the house down in "Push Da Button" and "The Color Purple". She brought a warmth and undeniable star quality to the role of juke joint singer Shug Avery.
3. Constantine Maroulis as Drew in Rock of Ages
Season four alum Constantine has the distinction of being the only Tony Award nominee from Idol. He's been nominated twice: once for his breakout star turn in Rock Ages and once as a producer on the Spring Awakening revival. What is there to say about his Drew except that it was the rock (as in the music style and the steady anchor) in Rock of Ages.
2. Syesha Mercado as Nabulungi in The Book of Mormon
Syesha placed third on the seventh season, and since then she's wowed audiences with her Deena Jones in Dreamgirls, Ti Moune in Once on This Island, and Nabulungi in the Mormon dreamcast that also included Ben Platt & Nic Rouleau. If you had the chance to see that magical trio, you know damn well why she's number two on this list. I only hope she comes back to B'way ASAP.
1. Fantasia Barrino as Celie in The Color Purple
When the season three winner replaced Tony winner LaChanze as Celie in the original Color Purple, it became a theatrical event, and her raw, heartbreaking replacement performance has become mythical as one of the best in recent memory.