Five singers who went from Billboard to Broadway with ease

These singers killed it on stage.
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This was a match made in heaven. Because as great as Ethel Merman (in the original) or Bernadette Peters (in the revival) may have been, there’s no way they could match the twang of Reba. She had been a massive recording star for more than two decades when she took over the title role from Cheryl Ladd in 2001.

Reba wasn’t even the first recording star to play Annie in a major production. Fifteen years earlier, hard rock legend Suzi Quatro did the show in London to very good reviews. Like Quatro, who had been acting sporadically on TV for many years before her major stage appearance, McEntire had been developing her acting chops for more than a decade when the role came along. She had even played the same character – Annie Oakley – in the TV film Buffalo Girls in 1995. But could she carry an entire Broadway show filled with standards that Ethel Merman had owned for decades?

There wasn’t much doubt that Reba could sing the songs. But she could nail the somewhat haphazard character of Annie, equal parts bluster and naivete? Could she do the comedy?

There are times when Annie has to be as broad as a Keystone Kop and other times when she has to be as poignant as any lovesick debutante. We didn’t know at the time that she was warming up her self-titled sitcom that would run for six successful seasons after she left the Broadway production. We didn’t know just how funny she could be. One version of “You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun” later, we all knew.