This list was inspired by my other list, Top 10 Women on Broadway, and I have come up with some of the biggest stars ever to grace the Broadway stage. With that in mind, it was especially difficult to rank these incredible talents, but here’s what I came up with.
10. Richard Kiley
Born in 1922, Richard trained for his career by studying acting at Chicago’s Barnum Dramatic School. After a tour playing Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire, he made his Broadway debut in a 1953 revival of Misalliance. He has since had roles in Kismet, No Strings, I Had a Ball and Tony award winning performances in Redhead and Man of La Mancha. Kiley made an easy transition to television, winning Emmy and Golden Globe awards for his work on The Thorn Birds, Do You Remember Love, Separate But Equal, A Year in the Life and guest spots on Picket Fences and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. His film credits include Pickup on South Street, Blackboard Jungle, The Little Prince, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Jurassic Park, The Gospel According to Matthew, Phenomenon and Patch Adams. He died in 1999 of an unspecified bone marrow disease and the lights on Broadway were turned off in his honor.
9. Len Cariou
Born in St. Boniface, Manitoba in 1939, Len began acting at the Manitoba Theater Center and the Stratford, Ontario, before making his Broadway debut in The House of Atreus in 1968. This was followed up by Applause, All About Eve, A Little Night Music, Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Dance a Little Closer, Up From Paradise, Teddy & Alice and Proof. On film he has been a part of Flags of Our Fathers, About Schmidt, Thirteen Days, The Four Seasons, the film adaptation of A Little Night Music and 1408. His television roles include The West Wing, Law & Order, Star Trek: Voyager, The Practice, Ed, The Outer Limits, Murder, She Wrote and Brotherhood. A Tony award winner(for Sweeny Todd), he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2004.
8. Joel Grey
Born in 1932, performing was a family business and Joel toured and performed with his father, comedian Mickey Katz as a child, with a love of acting that he later passed down to his daughter Jennifer Grey, who went on to star in Dirty Dancing. He made his Broadway debut in 1966 as The Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret which won him his only Tony award. He followed it up with roles in George M! , Goodtime Charlie, The Grand Tour, Chicago, and Wicked. He has also starred in the films, Come September, Cabaret (which won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor), Buffalo Bill and the Indians, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, Kafka, The Music of Chance, The Empty Mirror, A Christmas Carol, The Fantastiks, Dancer in the Dark, and Choke, as well as appearing on the television shows Maverick, Bronco, Lawman, Ironside, The Muppet Show, Alice, Star Trek: Voyager, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Oz, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Alias, House, M.D. and Private Practice.
7. Robert Preston
Born in 1918, Preston went on to be called “the best American actor, with a voice like golden thunder” by Richard Burton. He began acting at the Pasadena Playhouse before he served as an intelligence officer with the U.S. 9th Air Force in World War II.After several straight plays he made his Broadway debut in 1957 in The Music Man which earned him his first Tony. This was followed by Ben Franklin in Paris, I Do! I Do! (His second Tony winning role) and Mack & Mabel. He also had a prolific film career with his main focus on westerns. Some of his films include King of Alcatraz, Union Pacific, Parachute Battalion, New York Town, Blood on the Moon, My Outlaw Brother, Face to Face, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, The Music Man, How the West Was Won, Child’s Play, Mame, Semi-Tough, S.O.B., Victor/Victoria, The Last Starfighter and Finnegan Begin Again. Robert died in 1987 of lung cancer.
Born in 1946 in Miami, Ben grew up singing at his local church and knowing he had a future as an entertainer. He made his New York theater debut in the off-Broadway production of The Prodigal Son when he was only 18. He followed up with Sweet Charity, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pippin, Grind, Jelly’s Last Jam, A Christmas Carol, Chicago, Fosse, I’m Not Rappaport, The Exonerated and Wicked. No stranger to the small screen, Vereen has starred in Roots, Webster, Tenspeed and Brown Shoe, Zoobilee Zoo, You Write the Songs and Silk Stockings as well as guest spots on The Muppet Show, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Nanny, Grey’s Anatomy and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. This was supplemented with film roles in Sweet Charity, Funny Lady, All That Jazz, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, The Painting, Idlewild, And Then Came Love and Mama, I Want to Sing!. He has won a Tony for his role in Pippin and was nominated for Jesus Christ Superstar.
5. Nathan Lane
Born Joseph Lane in 1956, Nathan has had a career that spans the total spectrum of the performing arts, from theater to film to television to stand-up comedy and has succeeded at them all. His career began in several off-Broadway productions before he made his Broadway debut in a revival of Present Laughter which earned him a Drama Desk nomination. His other stage performances include Merlin, Guys and Dolls, Lips Together, Teeth Apart, The Lisbon Traviata, Bad Habits, Love! Velour! Compassion!, Dedication, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Wise Guys, The Birdcage, The Man Who Came to Dinner, The Producers, The Odd Couple, November and Waiting for Godot. Crossing over to film, Lane appeared in Ironweed, Joe Versus the Volcano, Frankie and Johnny, Addams Family Values, Life with Mike, The Birdcage, The Boys Next Door, Mousehunt, At First Sight, Isn’t She Great, Trixie, Nicholas Nicely, Austin Powers in Goldmember, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, The Producers, Swing Vote, The Lion King, Stuart Little, Titan A.E.; as well as televisions in One of the Boys, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Miami Vice, Mad About You, Sex and the City, Frasier, Saturday Night Live, The Last Mile, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Absolutely Fabulous and 30 Rock. Nathan Lane has been honored by The Human Rights Campaign, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and The Trevor Project for his humanitarian work.
4. Zero Mostel
Born Samuel Joel Mostel in 1915, Zero began his career as a comedian in New York nightclubs and on the radio. He made his debut in Keep ‘em Laughing, which he followed with Top-Notchers. Hollywood came calling and he starred in Du Barry was a Lady, Panic in the Streets, The Enforcer, Sirocco, Mr. Bellvadere Rings the Bell, and The Guy Who Came Back. His film career was halted as he was blacklisted for ties with the Communist Party, so he made a triumphant return to the stage in Good as Gold, Ulysses in Nighttown, Rhinocerous, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Fiddler on the Roof. He later made a return to film in Waiting for Godot, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Producers, Great Catherine, The Great Bank Robbery, The Angel Levine, Once Upon a Scoundrel, Marco, Rhinocerous, Fore Play, Journey into Fear, Mastermind, The Front, Hollywood on Trial, Watership Down and Best Boy. He died in 1977 of an aortic aneurysm.
3. Alfred Drake
Born in 1914, Drake is best known for his baritone voice, exceptional acting and dark brooding magnetism that made him the quintessential leading man of the 40s and 50s.he made his debut in The Gondoliers in 1935. This was followed by The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, White Horse Inn, Babes in Arms, One for the Money, Two for the Show, As You Like It, Oklahoma!, The Cradle Will Rock, Kiss Me, Kate, Joy to the World, The King and I, The Gambler, Kismet (which won him his only Tony award), Kean, Zenda, Lorenzo, Hamlet, Song of the Grasshopper, Gigi and The Skin of Our Teeth. His film and television credits include Naughty Marietta, Hamlet, Tars and Spars and Trading Places. After a long battle with cancer, Alfred Drake died in 1992 of heart failure.
2. John Cullum
Born in 1930, John began his career as Sir Dinadan and as an understudy for Richard Burton in Camelot. His other stage performances include Infidel Caesar, The Rehearsal, Hamlet, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Man of La Mancha, 1776, Shenandoah, On the Twentieth Century, Deathtrap, Private Lives, Doubles, You Never Can Tell, Aspects of Love, Show Boat, Urinetown, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, 110 in the Shade, Cymbeline and August: Osage County. He also made appearances in the films, All the Way home, Hamlet, Hawaii, They Call Me Trinity, 1776, The Prodigal, Marie, Sweet Country, The Secret Life of Algernon, Ricochet River, Held Up, Blackwater Elegy, The Notorious Betty Page and The Night Listener, as well as television roles in The Edge of the Night, The Equilizer, Quantum Leap, Northern Exposure, To Have and To Hold, ER, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Mad Men.
1. Brian Stokes Mitchell
Born in 1957 in Seattle Washington, Brian is best known for his soulful baritone voice. He began his theater career in San Diego’s Old Globe Theater in a production of Godspell. His Broadway debut came in the form of the critically acclaimed musical, Mail for which he earned the Theater World award for Outstanding Broadway Debut. Mitchell has since been a part of Oh, Kay!, Jelly’s Last Jam, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Ragtime, Kiss Me, Kate (which earned him his only Tony award) King Headley II, Man of La Mancha, Do Re Mi, Carnival, Kismet and Sweeny Todd. He made a move to TV in 1979 in Roots: The Next Generation, which was followed by a seven year stint on Trapper John, M.D. and guest spots on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Frasier and Crossing Jordan as well as a film role in The Prince of Egypt. He also released a self-titled album in 2006.