Darren Criss theatre roles on Broadway and beyond
From Glee to American Buffalo, Criss has made himself into a stage and screen star with plenty of theatrical projects.
You many know Darren Criss from playing heartthrob Blaine Anderson in Glee from 2010 – 2015. His character made male a cappella singing popular again, and he rightfully became a musical star. But Criss isn’t just a Warbler. He’s also a Broadway performer. Over the years, Criss’s theatre credit list has grown substantially, thanks to appearances in Broadway shows, regional productions, and even going viral as a musically-inclined Harry Potter.
Darren Criss is currently starring in American Buffalo on Broadway. David Mamet’s three-man play sees a junk shop owner believe he’s been swindled out of hundreds of dollars by selling a buffalo nickel on the cheap. Criss plays Bobby, a young employee who learns that in order to get by, you may have to behave in ways that are out of control.
Before seeing American Buffalo on Broadway, take a look back at Darren Criss’s theatre highlights and discover why he’s a theatre icon.
Some Broadway actors find their vocation later in life, but not Darren Criss. From an early age, Criss was destined for a lifelong career treading the boards. Criss made his professional debut at 10 years old in a regional production of Fanny in 1997. The rarely-performed musical follows the eponymous woman caught in a pregnancy scandal while her lover Marius is away at sea for five years. Even though Criss played the small part of Fanny’s son Cesario, he definitely got the acting bug.
As a teenager, Criss further honed his theatre craft at American Conservatory Theater (ACT), joining an illustrious alumni list including Anika Noni Rose, Denzel Washington, and Nicolas Cage. During his years there, he starred in productions of A Christmas Carol, The Voysey Inheritance, and a James Taylor-inspired concert, Shed a Little Light. Now fully immersed in a theatrical environment, Criss was ready to take his career to the next level. Check out Darren Criss singing at an ACT alumni event in 2013.
A Very Potter Musical
Nowadays, you can see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway for your wizarding fix. But there was one Hogwarts-themed musical which took over the world via the internet before the official Harry Potter theatre play. The University of Michigan theatre group StarKid Productions produced A Very Potter Musical, a Harry Potter-based parody with Darren Criss playing Harry Potter in 2009.
A Very Potter Musical sees You-Know-Who seek his revenge on The Boy Who Lived. Meanwhile at Hogwarts, Harry Potter attempts to destroy the Horcruxes and win the House Cup for Gryffindor. Criss’s A Very Potter Musical contributions weren’t just on stage, though, as he also created part of the musical. Criss co-wrote original music alongside A.J. Holmes.
A Very Potter Musical was a huge success, gaining unprecedented YouTube virality. To date, A Very Potter Musical has clocked up over 18 million views on YouTube. Like the Harry Potter books, though, there was room for more than one story. A Very Potter Sequel premiered in 2010, followed by A Very Potter Senior Year in 2012. From this, Criss set himself up to become the next Daniel Radcliffe, and history repeated itself more than once (as you’ll see later on in his career).
Me and My Dick
The University of Michigan-based theatre company continued its online musical trend with Me and My Dick, a musical all about a boy who finds friendship… with his genitalia. Criss didn’t star in the original production, instead contributing original music and lyrics for the show.
Even though the show ran from October 29-31, 2009 at the University of Michigan, the musical’s short lifespan didn’t stop its success. Me and My Dick was the first student musical to make the Billboard charts. Since then, student musicals on Broadway and across the United States include Six.
Who could forget Darren Criss as Blaine Anderson in Glee? Criss’s character was introduced to the Glee universe from season two as the lead singer of Dalton Academy a cappella group The Warblers. During his five seasons onscreen, Blaine dated Kurt (played by Chris Colfer), transferred to William McKinley High School, and eventually went to the fictional theatre school NYADA. His Glee covers included “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry, “Bills, Bills, Bills” by Destiny’s Child, and “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story.
Criss joined the Glee cast in time to take part in the Glee Live tour, performing around the world. The Glee Live tour took place between seasons two and three. Criss starred in Glee from 2010 to 2015 and even wrote an original song, “This Time” for the sixth and final season of Glee, receiving an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics. Who knows, maybe one day Darren Criss will join the EGOT company?
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
By now, it’s apparent that Darren Criss has succeeded in the theatre world. But he’s also able to suit up to look the “business” part too. In 2012, Criss made his Broadway debut when replacing Daniel Radcliffe — the Harry Potter star — as J. Pierrepont Finch in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. During the musical, Criss’s character climbs the corporate ladder to hit the jackpot. And with his rise to fame, the same could be said for Criss’s future Broadway career too. Even though he only starred in How to Succeed for three weeks, he’d made his mark in the New York theatre world.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Harry Potter’s owl is called Hedwig. Darren Criss played Harry Potter in A Very Potter Musical. So it’s only fitting that Darren Criss would then go on to play a character Hedwig in a musical. But don’t worry, Criss doesn’t actually fly or hoot-hoot at night. Instead, he played the titular glam rocker in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway.
In 2015, Criss took over the role from Neil Patrick Harris. Criss fitted right into the character’s persona, strutting around the stage and further transforming the musical from a cult find into a standout show. He then reprised the role on tour a year later for performances in Los Angeles.
The Little Mermaid in Concert
Criss’s chiseled jaw, flowing hair, and strapping physique lend themselves to playing a Disney prince role. And thankfully, our prayers were answered when in 2016, Criss played Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid in Concert at the Hollywood Bowl. He was joined by Waitress creator Sara Bareilles as Ariel, Rebel Wilson as Ursula, and Tituss Burgess as Sebastian. A few years later, Lea Michele played Ariel in an encore concert performance of The Little Mermaid — and we can’t stop imagining Rachel Berry and Blaine Anderson sing onstage together.
Get your fix of Darren Criss on Broadway once more at American Buffalo at the Circle in the Square Theatre in spring 2022. Criss plays the young “gofer” Bobby in American Buffalo alongside Tony-winning actor Laurence Fishburne as Donny and Oscar-winning actor Sam Rockwell as Teach. The trio plot a heist to steal a nickel after realizing it’s worth more than it initially seemed, and American Buffalo explores the concept of the American Dream and what lengths people will go for greed. American Buffalo is on Broadway through July 10.