As any working performer can tell you, employment in musical theatre can be rather spotty. Actors can go several months without employment once a show is over, and most of them will take day jobs while auditioning for their next project. No matter how long they’ve been in the field, most actors have worked odd jobs before their big break.
Here are 15 famous Broadway actors and their pre-Broadway jobs!
1. Lin-Manuel Miranda
Before his massive hit musicals “In the Heights” and “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda was a seventh-grade English teacher at his former high school, according to Playbill. Later, he played a substitute teacher in a “Saturday Night Live” skit.
2. Jenn Colella
Before blowing away audiences in “If/Then” and “Come From Away,” Jenn Colella was a skate guard at a roller skating rink, according to TheaterMania. In 2012, she appeared in the Broadway production of “Chaplin: The Musical,” which used a lot of roller skating, reports NJ.com.
3. Andrew Rannells
Before his successes in “The Book of Mormon” and the revival of “Falsettos,” Andrew Rannells cleaned his dad’s office by emptying ashtrays and trash cans.
4. Idina Menzel
Before defying gravity in “Wicked” and “Rent,” Idina Menzel sang at weddings and bar mitzvahs in the New York metro area. She also sometimes lied about her age to get gigs.
5. Rachel Bay Jones
Rachel Bay Jones, who recently won a Tony Award for “Dear Evan Hansen,” briefly worked at an ice cream parlor in high school. However, any chance of her staying for a second day quickly melted away, according to TheaterMania.
6. Barbra Streisand
Even legends have to start somewhere! After winning a talent contest in Greenwich Village, Barbra Streisand became a nightclub singer at the Bon Soir. She then starred in “I Can Get It for You Wholesale” and “Funny Girl,” receiving a Tony nomination for both shows.
7. Keren Dukes
The “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” star waited tables for her day job. One such instance included waiting on the Foxwoods cast of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” according to The New York Times.
8. Leslie Kritzer
Before starring in the original Broadway cast of “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” Leslie Kritzer worked as a barista shortly after graduating from the University of Cincinnati. Atlas, the restaurant where she worked, attracted celebrities.
9. Susan Blackwell
The “[title of show]” and “Now. Here. This.” actress has worked in corporate management for 17 years in addition to doing part-time admin work and guest-starring on “Law and Order.”
10. Adam Driver
Best known for playing Kylo Ren in the new “Star Wars” trilogy and playing Adam on HBO’s “Girls,” Adam Driver starred in the 2011 Broadway revival of the play “Man and Boy.” Before enrolling at Juilliard, he served in the Marines for two years and later founded the nonprofit organization Arts in the Armed Forces.
11. Kelli O’Hara
The “Bridges of Madison County” star grew up on a farm in Oklahoma, where her first job was chopping cotton, according to Broadway.com. She would later graduate from Oklahoma City University.
12. Carolee Carmello
The “Parade” and “Tuck Everlasting” star once worked as a perfume sprayer in Macy’s Herald Square, later calling it “the worst job ever,” according to Playbill.
13. Ramin Karimloo
The “Love Never Dies” and “Anastasia” actor moved from Canada to Oxford, England in 2002, where he became a factory worker, states The Guardian. After five years of voice lessons and agent searching, he played the title role in the West End production of “The Phantom of the Opera” in 2007, according to Playbill.
14. Julia Murney
One of the original stars of Andrew Lippa’s “The Wild Party,” Julia Murney has an established career as a performer and voice-over artist, doing ads for Macy’s, Lysol and Reddi Whip.
15. John Gallagher, Jr.
Best known for his work in “Spring Awakening” and “American Idiot,” John Gallagher Jr. struggled as a caterer before his theatre career took off, according to Backstage. He was also in the band Old Springs Pike but now writes his own music.