Celebrities who have produced Broadway and Off-Broadway shows

Many performers have ventured behind the scenes to produce hit plays and musicals.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

When a celebrity is cast in a Broadway show, their name and face get plastered over every billboard, poster, and news story. But sometimes, celebrities join the teams of shows behind the scenes. If they want a change of pace from performing or feel particularly inspired by a story (and/or are chasing EGOT status and want to put their weight behind a sure winner), some sign on as producers of Broadway theatre.

As producers, they may raise money, help with the marketing strategy, or even provide creative input for a show in order to make it a box office success. Here are just some of the celebrities that have produced shows in New York in recent years.

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Bob Gaudio: A Beautiful Noise

What a very special time for Bob Gaudio. The legendary musician isn't a stranger to Broadway, as the music of his band the Four Seasons, many of which he wrote lyrics for, are the basis of the hit bio-musical Jersey Boys. Now, he's making his Broadway producing debut for a different musical celebrating an equally beloved singer/songwriter: Neil Diamond. Gaudio also orchestrated all of Diamond's major hits for the Broadway show.

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Angelina Jolie: The Outsiders

Angelina Jolie is making her Broadway debut. No, not as an actress, even though she has an Oscar and three Golden Globes for her performance career on screen. She's venturing into producing with The Outsiders, the new folk musical adaptation of S. E. Hinton's seminal coming-of-age novel. With this gig, Jolie is no longer an outsider to the theatre scene.

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Hillary Rodham Clinton and Malala Yousafzai: Suffs

These women need no introduction, even though the musical Suffs marks both their introductions to Broadway producing. And there couldn't be a more perfect show for former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, alongside Nobel Peace Prize-winning education activist Malala Yousafzai, to back. These modern women's rights figures co-produce, alongside lead producers Jill Furman and Rachel Sussman, the story of the flawed yet trailblazing women who changed the course of the women's suffrage movement.

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Hank Azaria, John Larroquette, and Annaleigh Ashford: The White Chip

Sean Daniels's dark comedy The White Chip, about a man's road to recovery from alcoholism, has a lot of famous faces behind the scenes. The latest Off-Broadway production, a follow-up to the play's acclaimed 2019 premiere, has a producer lineup including The Simpsons Emmy Award winner Hank Azaria and Night Court Emmy winner John Larroquette. Alongside them is Tony Award-winning Broadway favorite Annaleigh Ashford — the wife of Joe Tapper, who stars in The White Chip.

Ludacris and Paula Abdul: How to Dance in Ohio

It's only fitting that two musicians beloved for their moves are backing a show with "dance" in the title. The rapper and the singer make their Broadway producing debuts with How to Dance in Ohio, a musical adapted from the same-named documentary about autistic, young adults. Throughout the show, we see the characters learning to dance in preparation for a spring formal — maybe Ludacris or Paula Abdul could show them some steps!

Mariah Carey: Some Like It Hot

Mariah Carey likes it hot! The five-time Grammy Award-winning artist had a big year in 2022, getting inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and then becoming a first-time Broadway producer. She's a veteran music producer already, though — in fact, she holds the records for the most Billboard Hot 100 number one singles by a solo artist, female songwriter, and female producer. She's a powerhouse woman in music, and now, she's becoming a powerhouse woman in musicals.

Carey joined Some Like It Hot, the stage adaptation of the classic Marilyn Monroe film, because she's a major fan of the late actress — she even owns the white baby grand piano that once belonged to Monroe.

Taraji P. Henson: Jaja's African Hair Braiding

The Golden Globe-winning and Emmy-nominated Empire actress is theatrical on both sides of the curtain. She's performed as Miss Hannigan in Annie Live! and is starring as Shug Avery in the upcoming The Color Purple movie musical. Now, she's going behind the scenes to add "Broadway producer" to her resume, producing Jocelyn Bioh's Broadway-debut play about a tight-knit community of women facing neighborhood change in the title Harlem salon.

H.E.R.: Here Lies Love

Broadway is H.E.R. domain now. With five Grammy wins, an Oscar win, and an Emmy win under her belt, H.E.R. is just a Tony away from reaching the coveted EGOT status. She's going for it by producing Here Lies Love, David Byrne and Fatboy Slim's disco musical about the Marcos regime in the Philippines. She's no stranger to musical theatre, though — H.E.R. starred as Belle in Beauty and the Beast Live in 2022 and is playing Squeak in The Color Purple's movie musical adaptation.

Lee Daniels, Dwyane Wade, RuPaul Charles, Gabrielle Union, Lena Waithe: Ain't No Mo'

Ain't no way you can overlook the stacked producing team of this raucous satire play. Daniels, who's known for being the first Black producer of an Oscar-winning movie, is making his first foray into Broadway producing alongside actress Lena Waithe. They join three other celebrities in their second Broadway producing gigs: husband-and-wife duo Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union, who previously produced American Son; and Drag Race host RuPaul Charles, a producer on the 2022 Best Musical Tony winner A Strange Loop.

RuPaul Charles, Don Cheadle, Jennifer Hudson, Mindy Kaling, Billy Porter, Ilana Glazer, Alan Cumming, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul: A Strange Loop

The producing team for A Strange Loop was stacked with celebrities, who all took home a Tony when the show won Best Musical. And if EGOT-ing is their goal, then putting their weight behind Michael R. Jackson's new musical was a promising move: The show racked up Off-Broadway accolades and a Pulitzer Prize before making it to Broadway. For Marvel star Don Cheadle, Drag Race host RuPaul Charles, TV multihyphenate Mindy Kaling, and comedienne Ilana Glazer, producing A Strange Loop was their first Broadway venture. (Glazer also presented Alison Leiby: Oh God, A Show About Abortion off Broadway at the same time.)

The rest are theatre veterans in various capacities, though they all made their Broadway producing debuts. Grammy and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, and Tony winners Billy Porter and Alan Cumming, all have Broadway performing credits to their name, and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are best known as the Tony-winning writing duo behind the 2017 Best Musical, Dear Evan Hansen.

Pasek and Paul produced alongside Zach Stafford, and now they've picked up another Best Musical prize in 2022 as producers. More notably, though, the win gave Hudson her EGOT.

John Legend: Ain't Too Proud and Jitney

All of John Legend loves all of Broadway. Legend and his producing partner Mike Jackson mounted two Broadway shows in two years: August Wilson's Jitney on Broadway in 2017 and Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations in 2019. Legend specifically is best known for his music career, but it's his producing career that won him a unique distinction.

Legend's musical endeavors won him an Academy Award and a Grammy Award (well, 11 Grammy Awards). When Jitney won Best Revival of a Play at the 2017 Tony Awards, Legend was honored with the prize. A year later, he starred in and produced the theatre-adjacent Jesus Christ Superstar Live!, a televised production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's rock musical. Legend's performance as Jesus got him an Emmy nomination, but his role as producer snagged him a win. He became the first Black man and second-youngest person ever to achieve EGOT status, having won all four major performance awards. What a legend.

Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra Jonas: Chicken & Biscuits

With combined experience in acting, music, philanthropy, modeling, and film producing, Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra Jonas are one heck of an entertainment power couple. And considering Nick's past Broadway acting experience and Priyanka's award-winning film production career, a foray into Broadway producing seemed a logical next step. The couple jointly joined the producing team for Douglas Lyons's Chicken & Biscuits, which made its Broadway premiere at the Circle in the Square Theatre in September 2021.

Coincidentally (or is it?), Nick appeared with Chicken & Biscuits cast members in two of his past stage ventures: alongside Norm Lewis in Les Misérables in Concert: The 25th Anniversary and alongside Michael Urie in How To Succeed In Business Without Really TryingChicken & Biscuits marked Priyanka's first Broadway venture.

Oprah Winfrey: The Color Purple

She's a producer so nice, she got hired twice. Oprah Winfrey produced both Broadway runs of the musical adaptation of The Color Purple, first in 2005 and again in 2015. The pairing makes sense, as Oprah starred as Sofia in the film adaptation of Alice Walker's novel in 1985.

Whoopi Goldberg: Sister ActMa Rainey's Black BottomThoroughly Modern Millie

Like Oprah, Whoopi Goldberg went from starring in a film to producing its musical. (Fun fact: Goldberg also starred in The Color Purple film.) One of Goldberg's best-known roles is as Deloris Wilson in the 1992 film Sister Act, so it's no wonder she got on board as producer for the 2011 Broadway premiere of the musical adaptation. And she already had some producing credits under her belt by then: she produced the Tony-winning Best Musical Thoroughly Modern Millie in 2002 and, a year later, produced Ma Rainey's Black Bottom while starring in the titular role. Goldberg does it all!

Cher: The Cher Show

The Cher Show may have needed three actresses to portray the iconic multi-hyphenate, but only one Cher was needed to produce the show. She backed the 2018 musical adaptation of her own life story, her first Broadway venture since starring in Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean in 1982.

Bryan Cranston: Finding Neverland

Bryan Cranston's Broadway career has been short but mighty. He made his Broadway acting debut starring as Lyndon B. Johnson in All the Way in 2014 and followed it up with a turn as Howard Beale in 2018's Network. Both performances as major figures won him a Tony Award for Best Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role In A Play. In between, Cranston managed to squeeze in a producing gig on Finding Neverland, the 2015 musical about Peter Pan creator J. M. Barrie.

Gwyneth Paltrow: Head Over Heels

Producing, all she ever wanted; producing, had to do Broadway! After building an award-winning career as an actress and foraying into entrepreneurship, modeling, writing, and more, Gwyneth Paltrow decided to go-go into producing. Paltrow produced the 2018 jukebox musical Head Over Heels, based on the 16th-century romance work The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia and the musical catalog of The Go-Go's.

Lorne Michaels: Mean GirlsColin Quinn: Irish Wake, and Gilda Radner: Live From New York

Lorne Michaels is an iconic television producer and the most Emmy-nominated individual ever for his work on shows like Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show. But those shows film only an avenue from Broadway, so Michaels didn't have to go far to venture into theatrical producing. He produced two SNL alumni's solo specials back-to-back in the late 90s: first, 1997's Irish Wake by comedian Colin Quinn (whose newest solo show, The Last Best Hope, ran in November 2021 off Broadway), followed by a self-titled special from Gilda Radner in 1998. After a 20-year hiatus from Broadway, Michaels returned to produce the musical adaptation of Mean Girls (with a book by yet another SNL alumna, Tina Fey) in 2018.

Neil Patrick Harris: In & Of Itself

Neil Patrick Harris is known on the theatre scene for performing in shows like Hedwig and the Angry Inch, but he also found success as a producer off Broadway. Harris executive produced In & Of Itself in 2017, a solo show in which performer Derek DelGaudio used magic tricks and sleight of hand to explore themes of identity. What was originally meant to be a 10-week run in New York quadrupled due to the show's success.

Originally published on

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