From "American Idol" to Broadway and Beyond TV Show's Alum Take to the Stage

By Karu F. Daniels
27 Jan 2014

Syesha Mercado in The Book of Mormon.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Syesha Mercado, known as "the last lady standing" from season seven, made her official Broadway debut Jan. 7 in The Book of Mormon as Nabulungi. It's a role she's played since opening the hit musical's second national tour in Chicago in December 2012. "Broadway was always my goal," she said. "I dreamed of seeing my name on the Great White Way and now that it's here I am living my dream.

"My wonderful high school music teacher, Johnnie Mnich, who helped me discover my belting voice, got me into watching 'South Park' in high school and I've been a fan since, so being able to work creatively with Trey Parker and Matt Stone is an honor," she added. "They are comedic [geniuses] and I admire what they do. I am overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement on the daily just thinking about the level of excellence surrounding me in The Book of Mormon from the cast, to the creatives, the producers, and everyone under the Mormon umbrella. I am grateful."

Five years ago, the Bridgeport, CT, native made a major splash on the musical theatre scene when she won the role of Deena Jones in the last major national tour of Dreamgirls. The show opened at the world's famous Apollo Theater and toured for a year after, also incorporating some elements of the Beyonce-fronted 2006 movie adaptation.

Before The Book of Mormon, Mercado starred in a revival of Once On This Island at the Paper Mill Playhouse.

"'Idol' was a stepping stone for me and I am very grateful for my experience on the show... It's still surreal sometimes when I think about it. My heart bursts with gratitude every time I think about how far I've come. "

While season three finalist Jennifer Hudson has not made her Broadway debut, she took on the role of Effie White in the film adaptation of the musical Dreamgirls, winning critical acclaim and a handful of awards, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA Award, an NAACP Image Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award.

"American Idol" has continued to be a breeding ground for some of Broadway's newest and brightest talents.

"I feel like some people have criticized seeing Idols on Broadway," Maroulis added. "But, this is the way I see it: Broadway is the top and who doesn't want to be a part of it?"