Despite what people think, The Great White Way isn't a vast wasteland filled with has-been stars, television talent competition show rejects and washed-up celebrities; it's actually a draw for high-wattage thespians who want some fat on which to chew.
It is a popular belief that major stars only do Broadway shows after they've lost their luster in Tinsel Town. But shows are featuring major, current box-office draws. There's "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe, who recently played to sold-out audiences in the Broadway revival of "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." And there's "Avengers" hottie Scarlett Johansson, who won a Tony Award for her acclaimed debut in the 2010 revival of '"A View From the Bridge."
More and more stars seem to be trading in the Hollywood high life for the big, bright lights of Broadway, even it's for a limited time only.
When celebs such as Denzel Washington ('"Fences'"), Hugh Jackman ('"The Boy From Oz'"), Kevin Spacey ("The Iceman Cometh"), Julia Roberts ("Three Days of Rain"), Al Pacino ("The Merchant of Venice"), Samuel L. Jackson ("The Mountaintop"), Nicole Kidman ("The Blue Room") and even Madonna ("Speed the Plow") show up on the boards of Broadway shows for their usual short engagements, it's viewed as once-in-a-lifetime events.
For good reason, too. While snooty theater purists might bristle at the thought of "outsiders" infiltrating their community, Hollywood stars joining shows usually cause a media frenzy and bolster box office sales.
"I think everybody wants to be in a good show," longtime theater industry insider Irene Gandy told CNN. "I mean, these are great playwrights, and you have to have some chops to do this material."
Gandy, who along with producer partner Jeffrey Richards, oversees two of this season's biggest shows: the masterful musical "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess," adapted by Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks, and "Gore Vidal's The Best Man.'"
Outside of the fact that both best-selling productions share the same producers at their respective helms, the shows also feature actors who have become household names from their television work: Audra McDonald ("Private Practice") and David Alan Grier ("In Living Color") have both been nominated for Tony Awards for their roles in the fabled musical about hard living in 1920s South Carolina. Broadway royalty Angela Lansbury ("Murder She Wrote"), Candice Bergen ("Murphy Brown"), John Larroquette ("Night Court") and Eric McCormack ("Will & Grace") are hitting high marks with the political thriller about the double-dealing and dirt-digging surrounding a presidential election. James Earl Jones also stars in the play, directed by Michael Wilson.
Throughout the years, Gandy and Richards have also worked on a string of shows starring major TV actors including: Tom Selleck ("Magnum PI") in "A Thousand Clowns"; Alan Alda ("M*A*S*H*") in a revival of "Glengarry Glen Ross"; "Saturday Night Live" alum Will Ferrell's George W. Bush parody "You're Welcome America"; a revival of "Speed the Plow'" starring Jeremy Piven ("Entourage"); and David Mamet's short-lived "Race," which starred James Spader ("The Practice"), Dennis Haysbert ("The Unit") and Kerry Washington ("Scandal'").
So what's the allure of procuring big name talents and bringing them to the theater world?