CHRIS O’DOWD Lennie in Of Mice and Men Before his Broadway debut in 2014, O’Dowd was known mostly to American audiences as that funny guy in Bridesmaids and This Is 40. But after wowing us with his heartbreaking performance as Lennie in of Mice and Men and becoming the first actor in history to garner a Tony nomination for the role, we’d be thrilled to see O’Dowd return to Broadway in any show he wants. ROSE BYRNE Alice Sycamore in You Can’t Take It With You It’s safe to say the screen star’s first Broadway stint is a complete success—she garnered great reviews as Alice, a woman brings her straight-laced boyfriend home to meet her loopy family, in the new revival of You Can’t Take It With You. In a cast of Broadway heavy hitters (and scenery chewers) like James Earl Jones, Kristine Nielsen and Annaleigh Ashford, Byrne holds her own with grace, poise and humor. View Comments LENA HALL Yitzhak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch With a handful of Broadway musicals under her belt, we’d already seen Lena Hall (back when she was Celina Carvajal) shine in girly-girl roles like the shoe-obsessed Nicola in Kinky Boots. But her gender-bending turn as Hedwig’s downtrodden husband who longs to be a drag queen really piqued our interest. Her sensitive performance and rock-star vocals made her turn a winning combination—and Tony voters agreed! ADAM JACOBS Aladdin in Aladdin It’s no easy task to turn a cartoon character into a full-fledged human being, but this is exactly what Jacobs has done in Broadway’s Aladdin. His street rat doesn’t just have heart, humor and abs, but a real emotional core. Thanks to Jacobs’ earnest performance, it’s easy to cheer on Al as he tries to win over Princess Jasmine and live happily ever after—and for that, we’re proud of our boy! ANDY KARL Rocky in Rocky We never thought we’d see the day Rocky Balboa would uppercut his way to Broadway—and although the musical got knocked out far too soon, Karl’s first starring role really packed a punch. From chugging raw eggs, singing while doing pull-ups and pounding on sides of beef, Rocky was possibly the most physically demanding role of the year, proving Karl should certainly stay in the Broadway ring as a leading man. BRADLEY COOPER John Merrick in The Elephant Man Sure, this Hollywood stud already proved he was Broadway material in his 2006 debut in Three Days of Rain—he even won his first-ever trophy, a Broadway.com Audience Choice Award! But in Cooper’s longtime passion project The Elephant Man, the American Sniper and Silver Linings Playbook star delivers a tender, emotionally charged performance that can’t be missed. ALYSHA UMPHRESS Hildy in On the Town After consistently wowing us in ensemble roles, this former Broadway.com video blogger made the leap to a featured role this year—and we were definitely not disappointed. Take her soulful, smooth-as-silk voice, add a dash of jazz scatting, mix them up with some spot-on comic timing, and you’ve got a star performance that’s really cooking! Broadway brought a bevy of stellar performances in 2014—theater mainstays like Audra McDonald and Kelli O’Hara delivered their usual top-notch turns like clockwork, but we’d also like to give a shout-out to 10 stars who both impressed and surprised us this year. While some are Hollywood superstars and others are complete newbies, Broadway.com is recognizing the performances of the 10 stars we absolutely can’t wait to see more from on the Main Stem…hopefully in 2015! EMILY PADGETT Daisy Hilton in Side Show Padgett and her co-star Erin Davie play conjoined twins in Side Show, and while both deserve recognition for their spectacular performances, this is Padgett’s first time opening a show. Whether she’s belting out an ’80s power ballad in Rock of Ages or singing the tender opening notes of “Who Will Love Me as I Am?” in Side Show, Padgett is one star we hope will never leave us. ALEX SHARP Christopher in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Sharp is the very definition of a breakout star—plucked from his senior class at Juilliard, the 25-year-old British actor’s performance is the talk of the town. While he’s a decade older than the character of Christopher Boone, a boy with Asperger syndrome who investigates the murder of his neighbor’s pooch, Sharp’s impressive physical and emotional performance is sure to get even more buzz come awards season. STEVEN PASQUALE Robert Kincaid in The Bridges of Madison County We’re so used to seeing him on our TV screens, it’s hard to believe Bridges was only Pasquale’s second time on Broadway—and his first Main Stem musical. His passionate performance as vagabond photographer Robert Kincaid made it easy to see why Francesca (played by Kelli O’Hara) would fall head over heels for him. Hey Steven, why don’t you skip pilot season in 2015 and stay with us?