By Michael Jackson
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Broadway isn’t all movie stars moonlighting in star vehicles for the stage.
Every year, Broadway introduces exciting new talents making their debuts in significant roles, and when word gets out about their magnificent performances, they are hailed as new Broadway stars. Two of these exciting breakout performances are undeniable.
First there is Rob McClure who was absolutely astounding in “Chaplin,” which opened in September and has unfortunately closed. However, McClure’s studied, athletic and moving portrait of the great silent film star is unlikely to be forgotten when the Tony nominations are handed out on April 30th.
Right alongside McClure will be Bertie Carvel who plays the hilarious villain, Miss Trunchbull, in the British import of “Matilda.” The show received rave reviews and so did Carvel for his highly original performance — a comic masterpiece. Whether or not these two fresh talents win or lose on Tony Awards night, June 9th, we are sure to see a lot more of them in seasons to come.
Cory Michael Smith is making his Broadway debut in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s“ as Fred. He is only 26 years old and hails from Ohio. Smith has appeared in a few Off Broadway productions, but now after contemplating other careers, he has found his way as a bona fide Broadway leading man. Earlier this season, a revival of “Golden Boy“ presented Seth Numrich in the leading role of Joe. Numrich, perfect for the part, was precisely the character as the text of the play described him. Amazingly, Numrich appeared as a diminutive teenager at the top of the show, but transformed throughout the course of the play into an athlete to be reckoned with. These two young actors have a lot to offer future productions — let’s hope Hollywood doesn’t steal them away from Broadway too quickly.
The revival of “Pippin” has two stellar performances with Patina Miller, who made her Broadway debut in “Sister Act,” returning to fill the shoes of the great Ben Vereen as the Leading Player. The character is a song-and-dance tour de force and Miller lives up to all expectations as she thrillingly belts out the Stephen Schwartz tunes and masterfully dances the classic Fosse choreography. The title character is handled with great sensitivity and an appealing singing voice by newcomer Matthew James Thomas, who was previously seen as the alternate Peter Parker in “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” is a welcome treat. For these two actors sharing the stage together, this is their second outing on Broadway and here is where the public finds out what they’re really made of. “Pippin“ is the perfect musical to showcase their gifts and they are bound to be remembered at Tony time.
Talk about truly young talent — Broadway has two big musicals featuring little girls in starring roles. There is the very genuine Lilla Crawford in the title role in “Annie,” the quintessential child star vehicle of the past 40 years. With her Brooklyn accent and natural ease on stage, Crawford is rather endearing as the famous orphan. However, across Times Square, four little actresses making their Broadway debuts share the role of Matilda and carry a great deal of the show on their shoulders. They are Sophia Gennusa, Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon and Milly Shapiro. Let’s see if all four receive nominations for Best Actress in a Musical the way the three young actors playing Billy Elliot were nominated for Best Actor in a Musical (and won) in 2010.
Look to see how all of these emerging talents fair at the Tony Awards, which will be televised live from Radio City Music Hall on CBS at 8 p.m., June 9th.
Michael Jackson is a freelance writer covering all things New York Theater. His work can be found on Examiner.com.