Famous Latter-day Saints

From Broadway to West End: 5 Mormon Theater Stars and How They Stand for Their Faith


Learn a little more about a few Mormon theater stars and the remarkable ways they share their faith with the world.

Donny Osmond

You can't think of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and not think of Donny Osmond. After performing the role for six years beginning in 1992, starring in the video version in 1999, and completing over 2,000 performances of the musical across the United States, it's little wonder the show has come to epitomize Osmond's musical theater career.

But what few realize about Donny's performance in Joseph is that it didn't open on Broadway; it opened in Toronto at the Elgin Theatre. Another revival of the musical opened on Broadway in 1993 starring Michael Damian, not Donny.

In fact, Donny Osmond's start on Broadway was a rather rocky one. In 1982, right after his days as a teenage heartthrob, Osmond starred in a revival of Little Johnny Jones, which had 29 previews but only one performance, closing the same night it opened. 

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Donny Osmond's return to Broadway came in 2006 when he played Gaston in the final Broadway performance of Beauty and the Beast. Interestingly enough, Osmond never actually tried out for the part, though. Disney approached him and asked if he would ever consider being a villain. "My involvement with this show began with my relationship with the folks at Disney, for whom I did Mulan," Osmond told broadway.com. "Of course, it all goes way back before that; it's because of Disney that I am in show business. Walt basically discovered my brothers singing in Disneyland and then put us on his television shows."

You'll also like:The Mormon Disney Asked to Star in Their Broadway Run of "Beauty and the Beast"

Osmond loved the new challenge of playing a self-conceited villain—something he most definitely is not and which he attributes to his faith. “It’s kept me grounded in life. As long as you have a belief in a higher power, in God, and you recognize that, it keeps you humble,” he told the Huffington Post.

On his blog, Osmond has written his testimony and regularly answers questions about his faith for anyone willing to write in. When someone asked whether Osmond credits his faith for who he has become, he responded:

"I suppose, in some ways, my life was not what you would call 'normal,' as I was on the public stage from my childhood. I look at the outcome of some of the lives of other childhood celebrities and I wonder how my life would have turned out if I didn’t have the foundation of faith that I do have. . . .
"When I was sixteen and already facing these choices, I decided I had to find out for myself the truth of what we had been taught by our parents. I began prayerfully reading the Book of Mormon and learned for myself that its promise of divine assurance is valid. . . .
"This personal conviction that the Book of Mormon was the 'word of God' and that it was an important part of the 'restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began'(Acts 3:21) and all that goes with it has truly sustained me thus far in my life. My wife, Debbie, who had a similar upbringing as I, has also been a great strength to me. I look forward to being with her and our children forever. That prospect is also seriously motivating."

Image from Playbill

Sandra Turley

At 13 years old, Latter-day Saint Sandra Turley saw her first Broadway show, one that stirred her soul and maybe even changed the course of her future—Les Miserables. The wonder she experienced in that play inspired her to pursue a degree in music, dance, and theater at BYU.

From there, Turley first gained experience at making her dream come true at Disney World, where she starred as Ariel in a performance of The Little Mermaid.

Ironically enough, it wasn't until Turley moved back to Utah to finish her undergraduate degree that her dream of starring on Broadway became a reality. When a touring company came to Salt Lake City holding an open call for the Broadway production of Les Miserables, Turley knew she needed to try out for this play that had shaped her life as a little girl. Originally, she wanted to try out for the role of the tragic heroine Eponine, but a spiritual prompting led Turley to try out for the role of the leading lady, according to Meridian Magazine. After callbacks and more auditioning, Turley was thrilled to learn she would star on Broadway.

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Image from Meridian Magazine

After starring as Cosette in the original closing cast of Les Miserables on Broadway, Turley performed the same role in the Shanghai, China, premiere of Les Miserables.

Now she continues to pursue her life as an artist even while she raises a family. “Creating and growing a child and watching them become something that they weren’t is an intensely beautiful creative process,” she told Meridian Magazine. “I would have had my children and given up Broadway any day. They are my life. They are eternal.”

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Image from Deseret News

But Turley hasn't left her life of Broadway and performance behind as she shares her faith, music, and story through Time Out for Women events and two CDs that capture Broadway classics, Sandra Turley: On Broadway and Inside My Soul.

Overcoming infertility is only the first of several challenges Turley has faced through the years. Later, after her third and fourth child, depression and anxiety set in. “I’ve learned that my faith is separate from my mental state and that my faith is stronger than any weakness in my body,” Turley told the Deseret News. “My faith keeps working even in times of weakness.”

She continues, sharing encouragement for those who have struggled with mental health, “Turn to God first. We need clarity from the heavens. Just ask. Ask for love, ask for peace. Talk to those you trust most."

Patrice Arkins

A mother, Latter-day Saint, and leading lady. Without a doubt, Patrice Tipoki Arkins keeps herself busy pursuing her talents while building her family and faith.

After starring as Nala in The Lion King, Maria in West Side Story, and Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof, Arkins landed the sought-after role of Elphaba in the original Australian cast of the Broadway musical Wicked. 

About playing this "powerhouse role," Arkins told the Deseret News"[it] definitely lets you know you're alive. . . . When I first began performing Elphaba it was the most exhausting and exhilarating thing I'd ever done!"

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I'm a Mormon, Australian Singer and New Wife and Mother

And it was during this same time that Arkins decided to expand her family. "I performed Elphaba until I was almost six months pregnant and then decided it was time to hang up my broomstick for a while," she told the Deseret News, as she began what she calls her "favorite role yet—that of Mum!"

But expanding her family didn't stop Arkins' musical theater career. More recently she has starred as Belle in Beauty and the Beast and Fantine in Les Miserables—a role that earned her a Helpmann Award and took her to London's West End.

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I Dreamed a Dream - Patrice Tipoki

Arkins credits her faith for helping her stay balanced through so many shows and performances. "There are a lot of things I tell myself before a show," she told omika.com. "There's always lots of prayers."

"In an industry where my standards aren't the norm, I'm very conscious of my choices and try to do shows my Heavenly Father would be proud of," Arkins told the Deseret News. "When I was younger, I found I was often being challenged to lower my standards regarding what I would sing about and wear in order to make money and be noticed. Lately, the challenge is being required to tour and be away from my family. When I did Wicked, it was in Melbourne and my husband was required to stay in Sydney where he was studying full-time and also serving as Bishop."

Recently, Arkins starred in this touching Christmas video, sharing her testimony of the birth of our Savior:

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Despite the challenges and the conflicts that often come into a life of a performer, Arkins has learned that "no matter what you do for a living, if you can remember [to put the Lord's will first] you'll be all the better for it."

"Son of God" is featured on Paul Cardall's latest CD, A New Creation, which takes listeners on a spiritual journey from the creation of the world to the ultimate salvation of mankind and features a new song written by Elder David A. Bednar.

Marie Osmond

After touring the United States as Maria from The Sound of Music from 1993-1994, Marie Osmond received national acclaim during this incredibly successful tour. At one point, the show had the opportunity to transition to Broadway, but Marie Osmond already committed to star in a TV series.

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Some credited the success of the play to Osmond's genuine sense of morality and her belief in the power of music. The Los Angeles Timessaid that Osmond was "perhaps the only star in America who could believe unequivocally in the impeccable sentiments of the singing nun. . . . And if no one believed in the power of music with as much simple faith as Rodgers and Hammerstein and their heroine, the wayward nun Maria, probably few people believe in it with as much wholesomeness as Osmond."

But Osmond's success in theater was far from over. In 1997 Marie Osmond starred as Mrs. Anna in The King and I on Broadway. In 2010, Donny and Marie both returned to Broadway to star together in a special holiday production, A Broadway Christmas.

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Image from Play Bill

Throughout her years in the entertainment industry, Marie Osmond has always proudly shared her faith and beliefs. And through dark times following her son's death and her divorce, Osmond said it was her faith that helped carry her through.

"When I battled postpartum depression, and in the midst of this challenging trial, I was asked to serve in a demanding church calling for a large group of young women," Osmond shared on Facebook. "I learned a great lesson that God wanted me to learn by saying 'yes' to this calling. Rather than drown in my own sorrow, which would have been so easy to choose, I learned that the best thing I could ever do to lift myself out of my darkness was to serve others who were struggling. It was the final healing step in being freed from that terrible grasp of depression. I truly know that in the midst of our own challenges or trials, hope is always on the horizon. God gives us the ability (free will or agency) to choose light over darkness."

In another Facebook post, Osmond shared how the gospel helped her after the loss of her son.

"I hope that we can understand the glorious Plan of Salvation and what this life has to offer. Without this understanding, the pains and trials of this life can feel or become too overwhelming. Through Christ's atonement, it is wonderful to know that we will ALL enjoy a resurrected body someday and that I will be able to embrace my Michael tightly again in my arms and never let go."

Graeme Purcell

Graeme Purcell made his first big splash on stage at 12 years old—when he landed a role in the professional musical production Oliver. At that young age, he performed all over Australia as Dipper, an orphan boy, and "one of Fagin's gang," according to macarthuradvertiser.com.au.

Purcell's life continued to gravitate toward the spotlight as he went on to perform on "So You Think You Can Dance Australia," where he made it into the top six.  "Growing up, I've always been a singer more than a dancer," Purcellsaid on the show. "I actually only took up dancing to improve my performance skills, but I guess I am a dancer now."

Graeme Purcell performing on "So You Think You Can Dance" from Giphy

Despite the interruption it would make to his career, Purcell served a mission in Wellington, New Zealand. Upon returning home, Purcell returned once again to the spotlight, this time landing the role of Simba as an understudy in the Australia cast of the Broadway playThe Lion King as it toured around Australia. On nights when he didn't play the lead role, he played several characters and made up part of the chorus.

"It feels like I’m performing the Plan of Salvation," Purcell told Mission Geek. "'The Circle of Life' sends the message to Christians or otherwise that something makes everything grow and continue. I know this is leading people towards God, even if they don’t know it. This is the story of a man being reminded of his calling as king. I picture Mufasa as God, Simba as us, and Rafiki as the Spirit. I love the messages in The Lion King, I know this is where I’m meant to be.”

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But living the gospel in the entertainment industry hasn't been easy for Purcell. “Fundamentally my industry goes against the culture of Mormonism," he told Mission Geek. "I regularly miss YSA activities, firesides, conventions, even some Sunday meetings. It’s not a nine to five job. It could easily change your commitment to the gospel.”

Because of the challenges that come with performing, Purcell has made it a priority to keep his faith an active part of his life. “I try to attend lunchtime institute, find lessons online, and teach with the missionaries multiple times a week,” he told Mission Geek. He even keeps a picture of the First Presidency in his dressing room to remind him who he is and everything he stands for. Then he shares the advice, "Build a solid foundation, set your standards, go on a mission, be willing to sacrifice, and know you are always on The Lord’s errand."

Image from Mission Geek

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