The Best Broadway Debuts of 2017

Broadway Debuts
Joan Marcus / Matthew Murphy

From Amy Schumer to Danny DeVito, there was no shortage of great, breakthrough performances on stage.

From Amy Schumer to Danny DeVito, there was no shortage of great, breakthrough performances on the Broadway stage. If these performances are any indication of what’s to come, then audiences are seeing the beginnings of successful theater careers -- and we can’t wait to see more!

Alex Newell, Once on This Island

Alex Newell and Hailey Kilgore. - Joan Marcus

As Mother of the Earth in the revival of Once on This Island, Newell filled the Circle in the Square Theatre with his bombastic and vibrant performance of “Mama Will Provide.” It’s a show-stopping moment that literally brought audiences to their feet in rapturous applause. And his co-star, Hailey Kilgore, should not be overlooked. As Ti Moune, she carried the story about a peasant girl in love with a wealthy boy from one side of the island to the other and enjoyed her own standout moment, leading a rapturous dance during a ball scene. [MORE]

Amy Schumer, Meteor Shower

Amy Schumer (center) with Keegan-Michael Key, Jeremy Shamos and Laura Benanti.  - Matthew Murphy

While Steve Martin’s surreal new comedy was uneven at best, it shouldn’t overshadow Schumer’s Broadway debut. As Corky, Schumer goes from a straight-laced housewife to unhinged during a double date between two married couples. Sure, there were moments when Schumer was certainly winking at the audience in her takedown of gender expectations, but she committed to the part, bringing out some of the biggest laughs opposite Keegan-Michael Key, who also made his Broadway debut, and the always reliable stars of stage, Laura Benanti and Jeremy Shamos.

Ari’el Stachel, The Band’s Visit

Ari'el Stachel (far right) with Rachel Prather and Etai Benson.  - Matthew Murphy

As Haled, a Chet Baker-loving member of a Egyptian police band who gets stranded in a remote Israeli town in The Band’s Visit, there was no shortage of charm in Stachel’s Broadway debut. The budding star stole the limelight, if only briefly from the show’s leads, Tony Shalhoub and Katrina Lenk, to deliver the smooth-talking number, “Haled’s Song About Love,” when his character ends up helping one of the Israeli townspeople pick up a woman he admires. Not many actors can make an arrogant, flirtatious character likable -- but Stachel managed to bring some nuance to the stage. [MORE]

Beanie Feldstein, Hello, Dolly!

Beanie Feldstein (left) with Taylor Trensch, Kate Baldwin and Gavin Creel. - Julieta Cervantes

It’s hard to ignore the adorable charm of Feldstein, who had a breakout year in 2017 with Hello, Dolly! and scene-stealing moments onscreen in Lady Bird. Sharing the stage with Bette Midler, the rising star more than held her own as Minnie Fay, belting out a rousing rendition of “Motherhood” each performance. [MORE]

Danny DeVito, The Price

Mark Ruffalo and Danny DeVito. - Joan Marcus

There was a moment, in the first act of the Arthur Miller revival, when DeVito’s character, furniture dealer Gregory Solomon, sits down to eat a hard-boiled egg. Somehow, DeVito managed to deliver every bit of dialogue through spittle of egg that was launched at Mark Ruffalo’s Victor Franz and not break character. It was so ridiculous, yet so impressive -- and it undoubtedly helped the 73-year-old earn a Tony nomination for the performance. [MORE]

Jai’Len Christine Li Josey, SpongeBob SquarePants

Jai’Len Christine Li Josey (third from right) with the cast of 'Spongebob SquarePants.' - Joan Marcus

There were plenty of impressive debuts in the musical adaptation of Nickelodeon’s subversive cartoon sponge -- practically the entire cast, including a delightful Ethan Slater, was new to the Broadway stage -- but none were more impressive than Josey, who at 18, quite literally stormed the stage as the teenage sperm whale Pearl Krabs. Her looming presence was only matched by her stunning vocal performance.

Jin Ha, M. Butterfly

Jin Ha. - Matthew Murphy

Although the Julie Taymor-directed revival of M. Butterfly failed to wow critics, ultimately closing early, it would be a shame to completely ignore Jin Ha’s stunning debut as Song Liling, a Chinese opera singer pretending to be a woman, who becomes the object of a French diplomat’s affections. Ha brought many layers to a carefully articulated performance that saw him both loving and cheating on Clive Owen’s doting admirer, while physically embodying a woman and appearing fully nude as a man.

The Cast of The Play That Goes Wrong

The cast of 'The Play That Goes Wrong.' - Alastair Muir

It’s hard to parse the performances that brought this ensemble comedy together onstage -- so we won’t. Rob Falconer, Dave Hearn, Henry Lewis, Charlie Russell, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields, Greg Tannahill and Nancy Zamit all deserve credit for fully committing to this absurd play about a local theater company putting on what could be the worst opening night ever. Much like Noises Off, the J.J. Abrams-produced show was all about precision in its humor and each of the ensemble players delivered. Nothing was funnier or as well-executed onstage in 2017.