With Jennifer Hudson, American Idol season 3 seventh place finisher, about to make her Broadway debut in the revival of The Color Purple this fall – the same season that American Idol is coming to a close – it seems a good time to look at the American Idol-Broadway Pipeline, which I do in an article for Broadway Direct.
Below is the first section of the article.
When American Idol comes to an end after 15 seasons next year, it will have introduced a number of performers who have become household names — and even more who have become Broadway veterans. Some have become both. At least 17 (and counting!) alumni of the TV singing competition have gone on to tread the boards of Broadway.
“I’m not surprised at all,” says Justin Guarini. “If nothing else, American Idol teaches you how to get up in front of a crowd.” The runner-up to Kelly Clarkson in the first season, Guarini has performed in four Broadway shows, more than any other Idol finalist. He is one of several who could serve as poster children for the American Idol–Broadway pipeline.
Constantine Maroulis has an explanation for the phenomenon. “Let’s be honest: Broadway has always featured whoever the current celebrities are — people who have a fan base and media attention — and we’re all over television and red carpets and magazines,” says Maroulis, referring to his fellow former Idol contestants. “It’s just good math all around. Of course, it works best when the person is also the best for the part.” Maroulis, the sixth-place finisher in season 4, is a three-time Broadway veteran and the only Idol contestant so far to receive a Tony Award nomination, for the leading role of Drew that he originated in Rock of Ages.
“Broadway was where I was always headed; American Idol was just an unexpected stop along the way,” says season 2’s Frenchie Davis, who was the first Idol contestant to join the cast of a Broadway show (Rent in 2003).
“If you have the talent, the drive, and the perseverance, Broadway gives you a place to shine,” Guarini says. “Many AI contestants share those qualities.”