Thursday, Jul 24, 2014 10:40 am est

Arts Issue: Celebrities on Broadway overpower productions

Posted on April 10, 2014 | by Sarah Nichols


Orlando Bloom, James Franco, Zachary Quinto, Bryan Cranston and Carly Rae Jepsen are all celebrities who are making or have made their Broadway debuts this season. For all audiences know, Miley Cyrus could be next.

In today’s theater age, almost every show has a big name on the billboard — attaching famous celebrities to a Broadway show can attract more producers, and therefore much more money.

While it is expensive to produce a show on Broadway, that does not mean the theater has to sell out to the film and music industries. Instead of pulling the biggest names for a show, perhaps directors and producers should begin to focus on the quality of the shows themselves.

Viewers’ need for celebrities onstage is making up for a lack of original work — revivals and musicals based on movies or books highly outweigh the amount of original work currently on Broadway.

The popularity of celebrities, thanks to social media and tabloids, has led theatergoers to crave some kind of interaction with these people. They often go to see a Broadway show for the celebrities, failing to appreciate the show for itself.

Furthermore, audiences applaud a celebrity as soon as he or she comes on stage, for no reason other than his or her fame — applauding them for their career, for their prior accomplishments, which has nothing to do with the world of the play. By clapping at their entrance, audiences diminish the world of the play. In that moment, the actor onstage becomes more important than the production, and that is not what theater should be about.

By putting these film and music stars up on the Broadway stage, Broadway has become a zoo — people pay admission to see their favorite animal in a cage, not to see the entire zoo.

In the days of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, celebrities trained in theater were multi-talented. There was no pressure to bring people in from other media because, at that time, the theater itself was popular as its own separate art form. But, because there is less public interest in the theater today, celebrities are brought in to sell more tickets. In this way, the core principles of Broadway have changed.

Today, Broadway shows are more about who stars in them than what they are. This phenomenon is not too surprising as Broadway caters mostly to tourists and focuses on what will sell tickets. But as soon as celebrity stars begin to overpower the shows themselves, theater becomes much less vibrant, depending on the popularity of people from other art forms to bring in money.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, April 10 print edition. Sarah Nichols is a staff writer. Email her at


profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.