Musicals Blog

Stars Early Starts in Musicals

This week I'll be writing about successful actors and actresses who had small parts in movie musicals early in their careers. Although their performances in these parts sometimes attracted attention and were, in many cases, exceptional, they were not award-winning performances. The actors/actresses I'll be writing about are Rita Moreno, Rod Steiger, Tommy Tune, Michael Crawford, and Paul Michael Glaser.

Rita Moreno

Although Rita Moreno won an Academy Award for her performance in a musical ("West Side Story"), her career began primarily with dramatic performances. Her first appearance on Broadway in 1945 was in the play "Skydrift." In 1952, Moreno appeared in the musical film, "Singin' in the Rain," playing a small, non-musical part. It was not until 1956 that she sang in movie musicals. In that year, she made two film musicals - "The King and I" and "The Vagabond King" - and she sang in both of them. Moreno did not, however, appear in another movie musical until her award-winning performance in "West Side Story" in 1961.

Rod Steiger

Rod Steiger was one of America's great actors, yet most people probably don't remember that he sang in a movie musical early in his career. In 1955, Steiger played Judd Fry in the movie version of "Oklahoma" and, along with Gordon MacRae, he sang "Poor Judd Is Daid." Although his performance as Judd Fry was excellent, his acclaim as a leading actor did not come until several years later. In 1967, Steiger finally won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in "In the Heat of the Night." "Oklahoma" remained his only musical film.

Tommy Tune

Although Tommy Tune has become an extremely successful Broadway musical performer, director and choreographer, his first big break was in the movie musical, "Hello Dolly." Tune's role in that film showcased his exceptional dancing talent, but it took four more years for him to achieve success. In 1973, he starred in and was the associate choreographer for the Broadway musical, "Seesaw." Tune won his first of nine Tony awards for his performance in "Seesaw." Since that show, Tune has directed and/or choreographed at least 10 Broadway musicals, including his one man show, "Tommy Tune Tonight." [read more ...]

Michael Crawford

As a child, Michael Crawford sang in a church choir and in school plays, but his professional acting career began in a non-musical role in a movie at the age of 16. His first major role on Broadway in "Black Comedy / White Lies" was also a non-musical role. However, that part led to his first major movie role as Cornelius Hackl in "Hello Dolly," a film that showcased Crawford's singing and dancing talents. [read more ...]

Paul Michael Glaser

Paul Michael Glaser, best known as the Starsky half of the popular "Starsky and Hutch" TV show of the mid to late-1970s, began his professional career on Broadway in a comedy, "Butterflies Are Free" in 1969. Two years later, he had his first major film role in the musical, "Fiddler on the Roof." Although he did not sing in the edited, released version of the movie, he did dance in it and he sang in a scene that was cut from the final version of the film. He had one song, "Any Day Now," that is included as an extra feature on the special 2-disk DVD of "Fiddler on the Roof."