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9 Broadway Debuts We Can't Wait to See This Fall

From George Takei to Ana Villafañe, these are the performers who are about to set New York aflame.

It's September once again, and lucky actors across Manhattan are getting ready to make their Broadway debuts in this year's slate of autumn shows. There's a lot of talent that will be on display this fall, from major stars trying out theater for the first time to old-fashioned hoofers finally getting their shot at the spotlight. After culling the lists of shows opening this fall, here are the 9 actors whose names we're most excited to see light up Broadway marquees.

Recent Lady, Be Good star Danny Gardner makes his Broadway debut in Dames at Sea.

1. Danny Gardner — Dames at Sea
If you saw him tappin' like there's no tomorrow in this year's Encores! production of Lady, Be Good (as evidenced in the video below), you know that Danny Gardner is a triple threat to whom we should pay attention. On September 24, he'll finally get his well-earned chance in the limelight, when he brings his fancy footwork (and pristine voice) to Broadway in Dames at Sea. The applause will surely explode from the tiny Helen Hayes Theatre onto West 44th Street eight times a week.

Jennifer Hudson makes her New York stage debut in The Color Purple.
(© Gregg DeGuire)

2. Jennifer Hudson — The Color Purple
It was only a matter of time before Jennifer Hudson did a Broadway show, and we're very pleased that her choice was The Color Purple. The Oscar- and Grammy-winning music icon will play the sexy chanteuse Shug Avery, and true, it's not the biggest role in the show, but we can't wait to see her sink her teeth into fabulously rousing numbers like "Push Da Button" and big-hearted ballads like "What About Love?"

Keira Knightley makes her New York stage debut in Thérèse Raquin.
(© Neilson Barnard)

3. Keira Knightley — Thérèse Raquin
In 2014, she appeared in four films: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Begin Again, Laggies, and The Imitation Game, for which she received an Oscar nomination. This year has been equally auspicious. Keira Knightley not only gave birth to her first child, but she will also make her Broadway debut in the steamy romantic drama Thérèse Raquin. We were getting pretty jealous that she would devote her time to the West End and not Broadway, so we welcome her arrival with open arms.

Marlee Matlin makes her Broadway debut in Spring Awakening.
(© David Gordon)

4. Marlee Matlin — Spring Awakening
Perhaps the most famous deaf performer in history, Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin makes her New York theatrical debut as several adult roles in Deaf West's revolutionary Broadway revival of Spring Awakening, directed by Michael Arden. Judging by her social media reports, this entertainment-industry darling can't wait to get onstage, and we can't wait to see her.

Clive Owen makes his Broadway debut in Harold Pinter's Old Times.
(© David Gordon)

5. Clive Owen — Old Times
The hunky star of TV's The Knick comes to Broadway in one of Harold Pinter's more mysterious plays, and we know he has the chops. While this is his very first New York stage outing, Owen is no stranger to London's theaters, where he appeared in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg opposite Eddie Izzard. He also originated the role of Dan in Patrick Marber's Closer (he would go on to play the other male character, Larry, in the film version, for which he won a BAFTA and a Golden Globe Award).

Mark Strong makes his Broadway debut in Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge.
(© Simon Annand)

6. Mark Strong — A View From the Bridge
Mark Strong is one of those actors whose names you don't instantly recognize, but who you've definitely seen in at least one movie (Zero Dark Thirty or The Imitation Game, most likely). Starting October 21, he makes his Broadway debut in the role that won him an Olivier Award, following in the footsteps of Anthony LaPaglia, Tony Danza, Liev Schreiber, and more as Eddie Carbone, the longshoreman haunted by lust for his beautiful niece.

George Takei makes his Broadway debut in Allegiance, a musical inspired by events from his own life.
(© David Gordon)

7. George Takei — Allegiance
After conquering television and the Internet, George Takei has his sights set on Broadway in an original musical that has a special place in his heart. Allegiance is inspired by Takei's own experiences as a youngster as he strove to save his family from the wrongful imprisonment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. This time period isn't explored nearly enough on Broadway, and Takei is the perfect person to shepherd this important and heartwarming tale to New York.

Ana Villafañe makes her Broadway debut in On Your Feet!, a musical inspired by the lives of Gloria and Emilio Estefan.
(© Matthew Murphy)

8. Ana Villafañe — On Your Feet!
"We saw her and it just clicked," Gloria Estefan told TheaterMania about casting Ana Villafañe as her younger self in the new bio-musical On Your Feet! The Miami-based Villafañe may not have any Broadway credits to her name just yet, but we're expecting her to explode out of the gate with this one. When Gloria Estefan says someone has the "it" factor, you better believe she knows what she's talking about.

Bruce Willis makes his Broadway debut in the stage adaptation of Stephen King's Misery.
(© Gregorio Binuya/Everett Collection)

9. Bruce Willis — Misery
He has two Emmys and a Golden Globe, and his movies have collectively grossed upwards of $3 billion. This fall, Bruce Willis is getting ready to conquer Broadway, taking on the role of Paul Sheldon (originated onscreen by James Caan) in the new stage adaptation of Stephen King's thriller Misery. And Willis is not taking his responsibility lightly: He even backed out of a Woody Allen movie because of his New York stage commitment.