In theater, some small roles can lead to very big things. Take the aptly named "Star to Be" in Annie: Over the past 35 years, this cameo of a wide-eyed newcomer to New York launched the careers of Broadway belter Laurie Beechman, two-time Tony winner Sutton Foster, Tony nominee Montego Glover and more! Now, Ashley Blanchet (who, coincidentally, understudied Glover in Memphis) is Broadway’s latest Star to Be, and after seeing her performance at the Palace Theatre, we think the title suits her well.
“It’s such a brilliantly written moment,” Blanchet tells Broadway.com of her character's showstopping solo in the number “NYC.” “The whole song is a love note to New York City and the excitement and ambition that pulses through the city — the feeling that anything is possible. I think that’s why it sticks out for people; it’s so relatable. It brings you right back to that moment when you first stepped off the bus in Manhattan and thought, ‘Oh God, here goes.’”
Asked about her legendary predecessors, Blanchet says simply, “It’s a huge honor. I’ve been a big fan of Laurie Beechman since I was 13, from watching her on Broadway’s Lost Treasures. I played it 100 times and thought she was incredible. I was a huge musical theater geek, so I’m pinching myself. It’s thrilling to do this every night, knowing it’s that line of Laurie Beechman and then Sutton Foster. I think about them and try to honor them.”
NOTABLE STARS TO BE:
The role of Star to Be was written especially for Laurie Beechman after Annie creators heard the cabaret singer perform live. This powerhouse vocalist received a 1982 Tony nomination as the Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and starred in Cats and Les Miserables. After a 10-year battle with ovarian cancer, Beechman died at age 44 on March 8, 1998. A theater is named in her honor at the West Bank Cafe on West 42nd Street.
After Beechman left Annie, the Star to Be was played by Shelly Burch, who would go on to originate the role of Claudia in Tommy Tune’s Tony-winning musical Nine, performing Maury Yeston’s haunting number “Unusual Way.” She also starred on the daytime soap One Life to Live as Delila Ralston. But the role had even greater personal significance: It introduced Burch to her future husband, Annie lyricist Martin Charnin, who married her in 2006.
In the first Broadway revival of Annie in 1997, an unknown 22-year-old named Sutton Foster stopped the show with her rendition of the Star to Be solo. Foster, of course, went on to become a five-time Tony nominee and two-time winner, with credits that include Thoroughly Modern Millie, Anything Goes, Little Women, The Drowsy Chaperone, Shrek and more. She currently stars in the ABC Family comedy Bunheads.
In 2002, up-and-comer Montego Glover blew the roof off the Paper Mill Playhouse when she sang the coveted Star to Be solo. Soon, Glover’s career advanced to starring roles in regional productions of Aida and Once on This Island. Her Tony nominated and Drama Desk-winning role as blues singer Felicia Farrell in the 2009 musical Memphis cemented Glover as a Broadway star.
ALSO PLAYED BY: Maddy Trumble (currently the title star in Mary Poppins on tour); Janet Aldrich (Saturday Night Live; Guiding Light); Beth McVey (Beauty and the Beast; Nine); Jodi Carmeli (Rent; Some Like It Hot); Jillian Mallach (Legally Blonde); and Gabrielle McClinton (American Idiot).
Click below to see Blanchet performing a bit of the Star to Be solo, then see her live in Annie at the Palace Theatre.