Holy Broadway, Batman! The Musical Theatre to Superhero Pipeline | Playbill

Film & TV Features Holy Broadway, Batman! The Musical Theatre to Superhero Pipeline

From Marvel Studios to Warner Bros., these actors made their big break in a stage musical before starring in a superhero project (yes, there’s more to the list than Tom Holland).


Superhero universes inspired by Marvel and DC comics have given way to epic crossovers between the stage and screen communities. While singing and dancing in eight shows a week is a superpower in itself, many triple threat performers have found themselves standing in the face of justice in a variety of projects from Marvel Studios, Warner Bros., The CW, and more.  

With She-Hulk: Attorney at Law premiering on Disney+ August 18, Marvel is, once again, commanding all the attention. The series stars Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk, and Mark Ruffalo, reprising his role as Bruce Banner/Hulk (which he's been playing since 2012's The Avengers), along with musical theatre performers Renée Elise Goldsberry and Josh Segarra, who are breaking into the comic universe.

Goldsberry has wowed Broadway fans for nearly two decades through productions of The Lion King, The Color Purple, RENT, and Hamilton, which followed her long run as a background singer in the hit television drama Ally McBeal. She’s set to make her superhero genre debut in the series as, not a super-powered being, but a perfectionist lawyer who works at the same firm as Walters. Segarra, best known for Broadway’s On Your Feet! and the Off-Broadway musical adaptation of Dogfight, stars as the duo's unproblematic colleague Augustus "Pug" Pugliese. Who knows, maybe they'll be donning tights by the series' end.

Needless to say, the musical theatre to superhero pipeline is quite extensive, which was seemingly spoofed in Marvel Studio's 2021 Disney+ series Hawkeye through a Captain America-themed musical sequence (dubbed Rogers: The Musical) starring Broadway's Adam Pascal. Here is a list of “high flying, adored” performers who made their big break in a stage musical prior to starring in a superhero project. (Movie musicals aren’t included, sorry to OG-Newsie-turned-Batman Christian Bale.)

Tom Holland as Spiderman Playbill / Chuck Zlotnick - Sony Pictures

While yet to dance his way across Broadway, 12-year-old Tom Holland portrayed the title role of the West End’s Billy Elliot for two years in 2008-2010—which should come as no surprise to anyone who's seen his performance of Rihanna’s "Umbrella" on Lip Sync Battle. Following his run, he held minor parts in the movies The Impossible, How I Live Now, and In the Heart of the Sea before originating the role of the spider-web-slinging teen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Holland made his first appearance as Peter Parker/Spider-Man (a role previous popularized by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield) in the 2016 action flick Captain America: Civil War ahead of his own title movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming, which debuted the following year. He has reprised the character in six Marvel movies total, however, following the release of Spider-Man: No Way Home, his future in the cinematic universe is unknown.  

Ariana DeBose as Calypso Mati Ficara / Marvel Comics

The 2022 breakout star is heading to Sony's Spider-Man Universe. The West Side Story Oscar winner made her Broadway debut in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2012 musical adaptation of Bring It On, and was last seen on Broadway as Disco Donna in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, after having played Jane in A Bronx Tale the Musical, and the bullet in Hamilton. She has gone on to star in Ryan Murphy's movie adaptation of The Prom as Alyssa Green and Apple TV+'s musical comedy series Schmigadoon!

DeBose is set to star in the upcoming Kraven the Hunter movie, joining the cast as the super-powered villain Calypso, a voodoo priestess who manipulates Kraven into teaming up against Spider-Man. 

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine Heather Gershonowitz / JAMES FISHER - 20TH CENTURY STUDIOS

Hugh Jackman played an unforgettable role in the 20th Century Fox’s X-Men movies, delivering a snippy and action-packed portrayal of Wolverine—a role that’s often credited as his breakthrough in the movie industry. He played the character nine times, over 17 years, before bidding adieu with the 2017 movie Logan, which was immediately followed by The Greatest Showman (us theatre kids stay winning). 

But before all of this, he was a stage actor who accumulated credits through Walt Disney productions and the West End prior to making his Broadway debut as Peter Allen in 2003’s The Boy from Oz. The two-time Tony winner has gone on to star in the plays A Steady Rain and The River, and his own concert residency, Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway, and is currently leading The Music Man with Sutton Foster.

Jordan Fisher as Impulse Photo courtesy of The CW

While Jordan Fisher had been teen-bopping his way through his ensemble role in the Disney musical Teen Beach Movie and his recurring roles in The Secret Life of the American Teen and and Liv and Maddie, he caught Broadway’s attention while playing Doody in Grease: Live (filmed by Fox). Shortly after, he made his Broadway debut in Hamilton as John Laurens/Philip Hamilton in 2016 and went on to lead Fox’s disaster-prone Rent: Live as Mark Cohen before branching off into the Netflix movies To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You and Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between

Now, he’s starring as Bart Allen/Impulse (A.K.A. Kid Flash) in The CW’s The Flash, joining the show in 2021. His fast-talking, crime-fighing character is the son of Barry Allen/The Flash, played by Glee crooner Grant Gustin.

Anthony Ramos in Iron Heart Playbill / Marvel Comics

Fans went feral last week when Anthony Ramos was spotted in his Ironheart get-up—a red hooded cap, black slacks, and a gray vest—after being announced for the series in February 2022. Prior to charming movie watchers off their feet as Usnavi de la Vega in the movie adaptation of In the Heights, Ramos made his Broadway debut in the smash hit musical Hamilton, which went on to win 11 Tony Awards. Since, the performer has been making his way from stage to screen, with notable credits (in addition to In the Heights) in the A Star Is Born remake, the family animated movie The Bad Guys, and the television series Blindspotting

Along with his upcoming Marvel debut, he has been cast to lead the next installment of the Transformers franchise— but in the upcoming superhero series, he isn’t in the business of getting the good guys on his side. While unconfirmed, he is rumored to be stepping into the villainous role of The Hood (theorized from recent set photos), a petty criminal who gains the powers of a powerful demon.

Ciara Renee as Hawkgirl Photo courtesy of The CW

Best known for her Broadway roles in Big Fish, Pippin, Frozen, and Waitress, what superhero project has Ciara Renée appeared in? Here’s a hint: it’s three different shows on The CW. The stage and screen performer has appeared in The Flash, Arrow, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow as Kendra Saunders/Hawkgirl. 

Her character has lived through centuries of being reincarnated, brought on by the Egyptian High Priestess Chay-Ara. She possesses super-sharp claws, wings, and enhanced strength. 

Patrick Wilson as Orm Marius/Ocean Master Playbill / Courtesy DC Entertainment

Before battling demons in The Conjuring franchise, winning over hearts in the The Phantom of the Opera movie adaptation, and kicking superhero butt in Aquaman, Patrick Wilson was studying drama at Carnegie Mellon University and belting show tunes on Broadway. The actor made his Broadway debut in The Gershwins’ Fascinating Rhythm in 1999 before joining productions of The Full Monty (earning his first Tony nomination), Oklahoma! (another Tony nom), and the play Barefoot in the Park

Inspired by the DC character and part of the DC Extended Universe, Wilson portrays Orm Marius/Ocean Master in the 2018 movie Aquaman and its upcoming successor. He’s introduced as a villain seeking to destroy human life because of ocean pollution but is expected to show his soft side in the 2023 sequel, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.

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