Stunt casting shakes up Broadway for the worse

Celebrities don’t belong on Broadway


Illustration by Shavonne Chin

Casey Wiederhold, Photography Editor

I remember in 2019 when I went to see Colleen Ballinger in “Waitress: The Musical.” I was a huge fan of both at the time and had to do everything I could to convince my parents to purchase tickets for the show. I had the tickets in time for my birthday and that was how I spent the day: in New York to see one of my favorite YouTubers live and in person.

Stunt casting situations like this one happen all of the time on Broadway, and not always for the better. Stunt casting is when productions use celebrities in order to generate media publicity.

In fact, singer Joanna “JoJo” Levesque just made her Broadway debut in “Moulin Rouge! The Musical.” Levesque can sing; she has popular hits such as “Leave (Get Out)” and “Baby It’s You.” She was the youngest female artist to be nominated for a Billboard Music Award in 2004, when she was only 13 years old.

Apart from having singing capabilities, Levesque has to have some dance abilities if she’s able to handle the “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” choreography. But I have yet to hear one comment about her acting. Levesque came to the show after Ashley Loren left, and the show has lost money ever since. According to, the musical has lost around $330,000. This could just be because Aaron Tveit and Loren left, since during their last week sales skyrocketed. But I won’t have an opinion on Levesque until I see her for myself.

Olivia Holt, from popular television shows such as “Kickin’ it,” “Girl vs. Monster” and “Cruel Summer” also recently made her broadway debut as Roxie Hart in the musical “Chicago.” “Chicago” is guilty of using stunt casting in almost every run. In the past, it has cast Sofía Vergara, Pamela Anderson, Billy Ray Cyrus and Todrick Hall.

Casting celebrities from the film and music industry is a widely different concept than stunt casting a musical theater celebrity. The difference is, with musical theatre stunt casting, it comes from stars who have built their career from theatre. These stars would include Bernadette Peters, Aaron Tveit, Idina Menzel and Patti LuPone. Whereas coming from the film and music industry, the celebrities started in that area and the companies use it to generate media attention for that specific show.

Cameron Dallas in “Mean Girls” is one of the worst stunt castings that has been heard of among the theater community.

According to Deadline, Dallas released music starting in 2018, then was cast in the Broadway musical the following year. Immediately, negative videos began to surface. Dallas could not sing.

In one scene, Reneé Rapp, who portrayed Regina George at the time, was singing her song “Someone Gets Hurt.” In that song, Dallas was supposed to harmonize and sing his own lyrics alongside Rapp. Instead, the composers and directors had to cut this part entirely. Erika Henningsen, who portrayed Cady Heron, even had to go off key in her song, “Stupid with Love,” just to attempt to harmonize with Dallas.

Dallas was only on Broadway for a month, and once he joined the cast, the musical lost money, an average of $98,000 a week. Once Dallas left, the musical gained approximately $75,000 just from the return of Kyle Selig.

I will always feel bad for Sabrina Carpenter. She was a stunt cast that I was genuinely excited to see. However, the COVID-19 pandemic cut her performance short. Carpenter was slated to go on as Cady Heron, the main character of “Mean Girls.” Directors casted her for a 14-week limited run, though she was cut short after only two performances. I know Carpenter would have been a perfect Cady Heron, her voice fits the part and I know she can act the part.

Stunt casting doesn’t always have to be bad. There have been some instances where it was good. Take Jordan Fisher as Evan Hansen in the musical “Dear Evan Hansen,” for example, or even Gaten Matarazzo in the same musical. Both Fisher and Matarazzo are phenomenal singers and actors, which makes them perfect stunt casts.

Stunt casting would be like saying, “Let’s put Taylor Swift and Harry Styles in ‘The Light in the Piazza.’” It makes no sense to do it, other than the fact that they can sing.

There’s a certain criteria that should be followed when stunt casting. It may drive up media attention for musicals, but it could ruin the experience for hardcore theatre fans who have been there since the release of the musical. Stunt casting should only be used as a last-resort option, for when shows really need the money. I still love Broadway nonetheless.