I saw Matilda: The Musical on Broadway recently, and it was overwhelming. The set and songs were captivating, of course, but what truly had me floored was the titanic force of the child actors — many of whom were navigating their very first decade of life. They sang with more passion than some trained adults, and danced with that particular type of high-octane energy only available to schoolchildren on a sugar rush. It was impossible not to feel like the audience was being treated to a sneak preview of tomorrow’s superstars.
Musical theatre has long been an incubator for fledgling triple-threats. Many familiar faces on movies and TV got their start with The Broadway Kids, for instance, a Menudo-style rotating group of child Broadway actors that released a few showtunes CDs in the late ’90s and early 2000s. (Think Kidz Bop for baby musical theatre geeks, but with actual talent.)
So in this spirit, we present early performances by stars who, unbeknownst to their audiences, would later sing and dance their little selves onto screens everywhere.
Jesse Eisenberg, perhaps The Broadway Kids’ most prominent alumnus, sang the part of Bye Bye Birdie‘s Harvey Johnson in this recording, the pubescent nerd who can’t get a prom date. Eisenberg, while a respected actor, is still continually typecast as a persistent geek… could this be why? (ALL Hollywood casting directors listened to The Broadway Kids, I promise.)