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VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Isabelle Brown
They're the finest singers Broadway has to offer. For this list, we'll be looking at the most talented vocalists who made names for themselves in the New York City musical theater scene. Our countdown includes Patti LuPone, Angela Lansbury, Jennifer Holliday, and more!

#20: Norm Lewis

This notable performer has been cast in some of musical theater's most beloved roles. Since his Broadway debut in 1993, Lewis has wowed audiences as Curtis Taylor Jr. in “Dreamgirls,” Billy Flynn in “Chicago,” and Javert in “Les Misérables.” Plus, he was the first African-American actor to play the titular role in Broadway’s longest running show, “The Phantom of the Opera.” His voice is slightly deeper, warm, and clear – perfectly suited for intense male characters. With incredible control and placement, Lewis’ vocal talent is majorly enhanced by his pristine technique.

#19: Raúl Esparza

The “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” actor made his first impression in the entertainment industry singing on stage. In 2000, he drew eyes as Riff Raff in “The Rocky Horror Show” Broadway revival, and later starred in the 2006 revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company.” He was also cast in the original off Broadway run of Jonathan Larson’s “tick, tick… BOOM!” His distinctive voice has tons of personality, which is great for live theater. Esparza may have broadened his resume with gigs in film and television, but we’ll always think of him as a musical guy first.

#18: Joel Grey

After 70 plus years of work, this charismatic actor has undoubtedly left his impression on modern musical theater. His most memorable performance is without a doubt as the Master of Ceremonies in the Broadway production of “Cabaret” and its film adaptation. But, he’s also a show-stealer in supporting roles like Moonface Martin in “Anything Goes,” and Amos Hart in “Chicago.” Expressive and charming, Grey infuses each of his vocal performances with character. His singing voice is light and bright, perfect for solos and group numbers. When the singer takes to the stage, you can tell how dedicated he is to his craft.

#17: Mandy Patinkin

For his first appearance on Broadway, Patinkin appeared in the play “Trelawny of the ‘Wells’” alongside Meryl Streep and John Lithgow. Soon after, he was cast in Andrew Lloyd Webber's “Evita” with Patti LuPone. Having brushed shoulders with so much talent on stage, it's no surprise that he’s got incredible acting and singing skills of his own. In fact, he won a Tony for his performance in “Evita” and was nominated for two others. The singer's recognizable voice is rich and gruff, with a prominent vibrato. His high notes are powerful and fill whatever space he’s singing in; a true force on the stage if we’ve ever seen one.

#16: Jeremy Jordan

It is no wonder Jordan is one of Broadway’s favorite leading men from the twenty-first century. His voice is youthful, heroic, and clear, with a four-octave range. It’s perfect for scrappy male protagonists like Jack Kelly from “Newsies” and Clyde Barrow from “Bonnie & Clyde.” The native Texan claimed his spot as one of musical theater’s greatest singers from not only the stage but also screens, big and small. He was cast in the musical show “Smash,” and stars opposite Anna Kendrick in the film adaptation of “The Last Five Years.”

#15: Jennifer Holliday

This star has one of the most powerful voices to ever grace a Broadway stage, let alone our ears. Soulful and strong, her talent is unmatched. Holliday’s performance as Effie Melody White in the original run of “Dreamgirls'' is alone enough to qualify her for our list. Her solo at the 1982 Tonys is one of the most iconic moments in Broadway history! That being said, we shouldn’t forget her appearances in various stagings of the musicals “Chicago” and “The Color Purple.” She is also a successful recording artist, having produced both R&B and gospel music tracks.

#14: Carol Channing

This memorable actor and singer is a staple of twentieth century musical theater. She starred as Lorelei Lee and Dolly Gallagher Levi in the original Broadway runs of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and “Hello, Dolly!” respectively. Besides her big eyes and blonde bob, the icon’s distinctive singing voice set her apart from other leading ladies in show biz. It’s raspy, nasal, and full of character, making it perfect for comedic performances. Stylistically, Channing often embeds her singing with humor. After decades of success, in 1995, she was awarded the Tony for Lifetime Achievement.

#13: Christian Borle

Since the beginning of the new millennium, Borle has made regular appearances on the Broadway stage. His credits include the Bard in “Something Rotten!” and Marvin in the 2016 “Falsettos” revival. Likewise, his performance as the original Emmett Forrest in “Legally Blonde: The Musical” holds a special place in our hearts. With a warm, rich tone that sits at a higher range, Borle’s register is well suited for a variety of characters. He shows technique with his ability to infuse the personality of whatever character he is playing into his performance. Whether cast as someone sweet, conceited, or just plain evil, this singer always sounds incredible.

#12: Betty Buckley

This actress has appeared in celebrated works of film, television, and theater. However, despite her work on both the big and small screens, she is still often referred to as “the Voice of Broadway.” One of her most notable early roles is Grizabella in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats,” for which she won a Tony. She's since become associated with the role’s power ballad, “Memory,” which showcases her vocal talent and skill. Her voice ranges from being bright and clear in some instances to deep and powerful in others. Other musical credits include Dolly in “Hello, Dolly!” and Mama Rose in “Gypsy,” twice.

#11: Kristin Chenoweth

With a bachelor’s degree in musical theater and a master’s in opera performance, Chenoweth is quite literally a master of her craft. She had the option of also attending Philadelphia's Academy of Vocal Arts on a full ride, but turned down the scholarship to accept her first professional role. She’s best known for originating the role of Sally Brown in the 1999 revival of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and Glinda in “Wicked.” The characters she plays always come through her performances effortlessly and do we even have to mention how incredible her vocal control is? While her success in theater opened doors for her in film and television, she regularly returns to her Broadway roots.

#10: Idina Menzel

Some have deemed her the “Queen of Broadway,” and it’s not hard to see why. This powerhouse singer originated two of the most well-known female roles in contemporary musical theater. Menzel made a name for herself first as the diva performance artist Maureen in “Rent,” and then as the misunderstood Witch of the West, Elphaba, in “Wicked.” Her bright and powerful voice suits independent and aspirational female characters. Plus, her range is expansive, and she’s a total pro at belting. It’s no wonder she was picked up by Disney to play Elsa in the beloved animated film, “Frozen.”

#9: Sutton Foster

This darling of contemporary musical theater is a triple threat, skilled in acting, dancing and, of course, singing. Her voice is full and bright, perfect for a number of Broadway’s most iconic leading roles. Her technique is solid, and she always looks like she’s having fun on stage. Foster has a timeless quality to her sound, which makes her especially well-suited for shows with historical settings. She won a Tony for her performance as the titular character in “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” and another as Reno Sweeney from “Anything Goes.” How the performer manages her breath support after a minutes long dance break, we will never understand.

#8: Julie Andrews

Many of us first heard Andrews’ voice as children, watching “Mary Poppins,” or “The Sound of Music.” We’ve since come to respect her for her work on the stage as well as the screen. She started on the West End as a child and quickly found her way to Broadway. In 1956, she appeared as Eliza Doolittle in the original run of “My Fair Lady.” When she was younger, the soprano had a clear and regal sound, which she demonstrated with impeccable technique. Sadly, an ill-performed surgery in 1997 permanently damaged her vocal chords. Still a singer at heart, the actress has given occasional vocal performances in the years since. It may not be the same, but we still appreciate her new, raspy tone.

#7: Lea Salonga

This musical theater star has a singing voice fit for a Disney princess. The Filippina actress landed a gig on the West End when she was just 18 years old as the original Kim in “Miss Saigon.” She won a Tony when she reprised the role on Broadway, making her the first Asian actress to do so. Not to mention, she’s appeared as both Éponine and Fantine in Broadway productions of “Les Misérables.” Salonga’s voice is beautifully bright and clear, and she has impeccable technique. Her placement is precise, and she demonstrates good control of her vibrato. As the singing voice of both Princess Jasmine and Mulan, we’ve enjoyed listening to her for basically our entire lives.

#6: Angela Lansbury

By the time she made it to Broadway, Lansbury was already an award-winning actress from the Golden Age of cinema. Just like in Hollywood, she quickly found success in musical theater, playing the titular character in “Mame” and Rose in “Gypsy,” among other acclaimed parts. Her voice was totally her own, and remarkably so. Since it was especially distinct, it always felt so real to the roles she played, many of which were rather comedic—or, at the very least, tongue-in-cheek. Whether it was the devious Mrs. Lovett or the maternal Mrs. Potts, Lansbury defined some of Broadway’s (and Hollywood’s) most beloved characters.

#5: Chita Rivera

This passionate performer claimed her place as a Broadway icon by originating more than one beloved role on stage. Early in her career, she made waves as Anita in “West Side Story” and Velma Kelly in “Chicago.” She went on to win a Tony for her performance as Anna in “The Rink,” as well as one for “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and a Lifetime Achievement award to boot. This is a woman who knows confidence is key. Combining music, comedy, and spectacle, Rivera is a master entertainer. The fullness and wonderfully distinct quality to her voice only makes her irreplaceable and we couldn’t imagine musical theater without her show stopping vocals.

#4: Bernadette Peters

This vocalist has understandably been deemed the “foremost interpreter” of composer Stephen Sondheim. She’s appeared in many of his shows on Broadway, including “Sunday in the Park with George,” “Into the Woods,” and “A Little Night Music.” Her voice sits at a mid range, making it perfect for belting out passionate verses. She is also capable of producing beautiful high notes, making her an overall well-rounded artist. Plus, her voice has a prominent vibrato and forward placement, which distinguishes her from other mezzos. With well-trained technique, Peters’ vocal performances are some of Broadway’s best.

#3: Ethel Merman

Considered by some as the “undisputed First Lady of the musical comedy stage,” this vocalist was a significant member of Broadway history. With notable vocal talent and technical skill, she was certainly well-deserving of the title. From “Anything Goes” to “Hello, Dolly!,” Merman had appeared in many of musical theater’s most iconic shows, even originating the lead role of Rose in Sondheim’s “Gypsy.” Her powerful mid range voice was capable of blowing crowds away. Skill-wise, her enunciation and placement were precise. The performer’s voice was practically built for belting, a gift very few have. When it comes to Broadway legends, she was an original.

#2: Patti LuPone

This classic Broadway belter obtained her status as a musical theater icon by appearing in many popular roles. She first drew attention as the lead in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita.” Having gone on to play Nancy in “Oliver!”, Fantine in “Les Mis,” Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd,” and Mama Rose in “Gypsy,” her bio is totally stacked. Lupone demonstrates practiced technique and a confident style with her mid range singing voice. She projects outward and manages to completely fill whatever space she’s in. Her warm and focused tone is full of personality, which she tailors to suit whatever character she’s performing as. Truly, no one’s voice compares to LuPone’s.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Hugh Jackman
Wolverine Sure Knows How to Hold a Tune

Mary Martin
Many Iconic Roles Were Originated by This Inspiration

Aaron Tveit
The Tenor Has Proven His Vocal Talent Playing Some of Broadway’s Hunkier Characters

Andrew Rannells
We “Believe” That Rannells Is a Gifted Vocal Artist

Stephanie J. Block
An Acclaimed Performer, This Mezzo Has Nailed Some Super Challenging Roles

#1: Audra McDonald

Although she’s celebrated for her work on the stage and the screen, McDonald’s legacy on Broadway is unparalleled. She’s the recipient of six Tonys, which is more than any other performer in the award show’s history, and she’s also the only person to have won in all four categories. McDonald earned her accolades as Carrie in “Carousel,” Sarah in “Ragtime, and Bess in “Porgy and Bess,” among others. Her voice is rich, with an incredible feat of dimensionality and effortless precision. Although her range is broad, she has a distinctly soprano tone that can honestly only be described as angelic. One thing’s for sure: when this icon starts to sing, we always stop to listen.

I hate McDonald.
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