Move Over, TMZ: The Best Place to Catch Celebs Is Now the Broadway Stage

Not long ago, the closest you could get to seeing Hollywood stars up close and personal was staring at the faded headshot wall at your local dry cleaners.

But these days, a growing number of major film and TV stars — from Jake Gyllenhaal and Larry David to Sienna Miller and Elisabeth Moss — are taking time off from cashing their massive Hollywood paychecks to take on high-profile roles in some of Broadway’s buzziest new shows. And while celebrities bring much-needed publicity and newer, often younger audiences to theater houses, the actual cost of seeing your favorite celeb in a Broadway production may surprise you.

Some food for thought:

  • One out of three current Broadway shows stars at least one celebrity.
  • Currently, plays with celebrities are doing much better than non-celebrity plays. In fact, the average ticket price for a celebrity-headlining play is nearly double that of a non-celebrity play (about $113 versus $56). However, musicals without celebrities do just about as well as those starring celebs.
  • Based on the latest weekly data, the average Broadway play starring a celebrity grossed $851,202, while the average for a show without a celebrity draw grossed $471,055 — a difference of 57 percent!
  • Pretty much the reverse is true for musicals, though: The average Broadway musical starring a celebrity grossed just $479,343, while the average for a musical without a celebrity draw grossed $840,886.

The bottom line? Celebrity-driven or not, musicals are generally outperforming plays — no shocker there. But while musicals currently fare just as well with or without a major star on the marquee, plays starring well-known actors are far outperforming their non-celebrity counterparts. This seems to suggest that for big, successful musicals, the show itself is the star, but when it comes to plays, a big name really can make a big difference.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest Hollywood stars coming soon to a Broadway theater near you:

  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Actor, writer and director John Cameron Mitchell famously originated the role of Hedwig in both the 1998 off-Broadway production and the 2001 film, and now he’s breaking out his gold boots once more to play “internationally ignored song stylist” Hedwig Robinson in this brilliantly innovative, heartbreaking and wickedly funny musical. Directed by Tony Award winner Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening) and also starring Tony winner Lena Hall (Kinky Boots), Hedwig was the winner of four 2014 Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical.
  • The Heidi Chronicles. The stars of two of TV’s most acclaimed shows — Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss and Orange Is the New Black’s Jason Biggs — star in one of the most highly anticipated revivals of 2015. Wendy Wasserstein’s time-skipping 1988 drama about a feminist art historian and her friends won the Pulitzer and the Tony in its original run. With Moss’ Peggy Olson eternally single and Biggs’ Larry Bloom’s wife in lock-up for the foreseeable future, here’s hoping the duo’s Heidi Chronicles counterparts have better luck in the romance department.
  • The Audience. Where does Helen Mirren end and the Queen of England begin? Mirren’s portrayed no fewer than three British queens over the past two decades, winning an Emmy for her portrayal of Elizabeth I in a 2005 television series, Best Actress at Cannes for her role as Queen Charlotte in The Madness of King George, and an Oscar for playing Elizabeth II in The Queen. Now she’s bringing back her silver curls and royal charms in The Audience, a new play penned by The Queen writer Peter Morgan about the interplay between “QE2” and her 12 prime ministers.
  • Chicago. To carry an iconic musical like Chicago (the second longest-running show in Broadway history), you’ve got to have the acting chops, ooze sexuality and possess a voice that can tear the roof off a Broadway theater. Anyone who’s experienced country superstar Jennifer Nettles’ electrifying live shows knows she more than fits the bill. One half of Grammy-winning country duo Sugarland, Nettles is the latest triple-threat to portray merry murderess Roxie Hart, filling the six-inch stilettos previously worn by Liza Minnelli, Melanie Griffith, Michelle Williams and Renée Zellweger.
  • Honeymoon in Vegas. He played a Tony on Taxi, a different Tony on Who’s the Boss? and an even different-er Tony on The Tony Danza Show. Now affable Italian-American star Tony Danza stretches his acting muscles to bring the role of Tommy — not Tony! — Korman to life on stage in the musical version of the 1992 rom-com Honeymoon in Vegas. Who knows? It may even be the role that wins Tony a Tony.
  • Fish in the Dark. Lovably cantankerous actor-writer-director Larry David makes his theatrical debut as Normal Drexel in Fish in the Dark, a new comedy that the Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm creator wrote and stars in alongside Rosie Perez (co-host on The View) and Rita Wilson (It’s Complicated). The Curb-esque plot centers around a motley crew of characters who must deal with the death of a family patriarch. With Larry David as the play’s writer and star, this hot Broadway ticket’s got the potential to be pretaaay, pretaaay good.
  • It’s Only a Play. We’ll just let the cast list speak for itself on this one: Matthew Broderick. Martin Short. F. Murray Abraham. Stockard Channing. It may be Only a Play, but it’s also the easiest way to cross off four major stars off your Broadway bucket list.
  • Constellations. What if the world is made up of an infinite number of parallel universes? And what if each of those universes contains a slightly different iteration of Jake Gyllenhaal? That’s a slightly cheeky take on the metaphysical romance explored in Nick Payne’s thought-provoking new drama Constellations, which marks the Broadway debuts of both Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler) and Ruth Wilson (The Affair).
  • Cabaret. Hollywood in, Hollywood out: Sienna Miller – fresh off powerful performances in 2014’s Foxcatcher and American Sniper — takes over the iconic role of Sally Bowles from Emma Stone (Birdman). Each has had the formidable task of keeping up with Alan Cumming as the Kit Kat Club’s darkly comic Emcee. This well-received production is co-directed by Sam Mendes (Skyfall, American Beauty) and Rob Marshall (Nine, Chicago), who also choreographed the show.
  • On the Twentieth Century. A screwball comedy that unfolds on a luxury train: Peter Gallagher (American Beauty, The O.C.) is Oscar Jaffe, a down-on-his-luck Broadway producer who must lure blonde bombshell — and former flame — Lily Garland (Tony winner Kristin Chenoweth, arguably one of Broadway’s biggest names) to star in his Broadway show and revive his sinking career.

Got a comment or question? Join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook.

Sign Up for Emails