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16 Best Broadway Debuts of 2016

December 21, 2016 by Juliana Panzera
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From seasoned film actors to Award-winning singer/songwriters, to your favorite television stars, here’s our list (in order of their debuts) of some of the best Broadway newcomers from 2016. Take a look and see if your favorite debut made the list!

1. Lupita Nyong’o – Eclipsed

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit: Sara Krulwich/ The New York Times

Academy Award- winner Lupita Nyong’o gave one of the year’s most heralded and intense performances of the year as The Girl in Eclipsed, for which she received a well-deserved Tony Award nomination. The New York Times claimed Nyong’o to be “one of the most radiant young actors to be seen on Broadway in recent seasons” and we must say we agree.

2. Kimiko Glenn – Waitress

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Kimiko Glenn (Orange is the New Black) made her Broadway debut this year as the awkward but lovable Dawn in Waitress. Her quirky rendition of the blind-date anxiety number “When He Sees Me” was a touching and memorable high-point of the first act.

3. Carmen Cusack – Bright Star

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Carmen Cusack was radiant as Alice Murphy in her Broadway debut this spring. Watching her seamlessly transition between teenager and adult was entrancing; not to mention her breathtaking 11 o’clock number.

4. Ben Whishaw – The Crucible

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit: Jan Versweyveld

While he may not have been an obvious choice to play John Proctor, Whishaw tackled the pivotal role with a ferocious yet vulnerable intensity in Ivo Van Hove’s adaption of the classic Arthur Miller play.

5. Saoirse Ronan – The Crucible

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit: Jan Versweyveld

Two-time Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan made her “absolutely smashing” (The New York Times) Broadway debut as Abigail Williams, the manipulative accuser and driving force of The Crucible.

6. Sarah Charles Lewis – Tuck Everlasting

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Although Tuck Everlasting only ran for 39 performances, Sarah Charles Lewis proved herself in the leading role of Winnie Foster. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times praised her “winning spunk that (miraculously) never cloys.” We look forward to seeing what this young star takes on next.

7. Leona Lewis – Cats

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

British singer/songwriter Leona Lewis took on the role of Grizabella, the Glamour Cat in Cats this year, lending her rich and powerful vocals to the iconic ballad, “Memory.”

8. Denis Arndt – Heisenberg

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

One of the most pleasantly surprising debuts this year was that of Denis Arndt in Heisenberg. At 77, the film actor delivered a heartfelt and magnetic performance alongside co-star Mary Louise Parker.

9. Harold Perrineau – The Cherry Orchard

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Harold Perrineau (Lost, Oz, Zero Dark Thirty) turned heads this fall in his Broadway acting debut playing Lopakhin, the former serf who returns to purchase the estate in The Cherry Orchard. Joined by an impressive ensemble cast, the screen star of Lost fame navigated the complex role with precision.

10. John Mulaney – Oh, Hello

ohhello1

In the comedic event of the season, John Mulaney brought to life his character of George St. Geegland, legendary bachelor of the Upper West Side.

11. Nick Kroll – Oh, Hello

ohhello2

Mulaney’s counterpart, Nick Kroll, portrays the equally crotchety Gil Faizon. It doesn’t surprise us that this dynamic duo received rave reviews in their Br’dway debut!

12. Anthony Rosenthal – Falsettos

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Anthony Rosenthal made his Broadway debut this year as Jason in Falsettos. As Marvin’s troubled young son, he impressively holds his own amongst an all-star cast.

13. Josh Groban – Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812

Photo Credit: Chad Batka
Photo Credit: Chad Batka

The Award-winning Josh Groban made his Broadway debut in The Great Comet as Pierre Bezukhov, the less-than-charming Russian aristocrat in the midst of an existential crisis. His performance, both sincere and captivating, is a wonder to behold.

14. Denée Benton – Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812

Photo Credit: Chad Batka
Photo Credit: Chad Batka

Denée Benton made her Broadway debut as Natasha, the conflicted ingénue of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. In The Great Comet, she makes the most of her luminous presence and angelic voice, soaring through her solo numbers with radiance and vivacity.

15. Cate Blanchett – The Present

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit: Sydney Theatre Company

With The Present starting previews December 17, we’re going to count the incomparable Cate Blanchett’s long-awaited Broadway debut. No stranger to the stage, she received raves for her explosive performance as Anna in the initial run of this Sydney Theatre Company production and we’re sure her Broadway performance will be just as thrilling.

The end of the year has us making lists and checking them twice! Check out this one about 10 characters we’d like to grab a hot chocolate with.