Keala Joan Settle
November 5, 1975
Laie, Hawaii, U.S.
|Alma mater||Southern Utah University|
Keala Joan Settle (born November 5, 1975) is an American actress and singer. Settle originated the role of Norma Valverde in Hands on a Hardbody, which ran on Broadway in 2013, and was nominated for the Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award, and Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. In 2016 she was in the original Broadway cast of Waitress portraying Becky. In 2017, she portrayed Lettie Lutz, a bearded lady, in the musical film The Greatest Showman. The song "This Is Me" from the film, principally sung by Settle, won the 2017 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. On January 27, 2019, Settle sang "Seasons of Love" in Fox's Rent: Live.
Settle was born in Hawaii, the oldest of five children of Susanne (née Riwai), who is of Māori (Rangitāne, Ngāti Kahungunu) descent from New Zealand, and British-born David Settle. She is a graduate of Kahuku High School (class of 1994), and an alumna of Southern Utah University.
Settle originated the role of Norma Valverde in Hands on a Hardbody, a musical which ran briefly on Broadway in 2013, and is based on the 1997 documentary about real people competing to win a new truck. The TheatreMania reviewer wrote: "Settle, as Norma, steals every scene she's in. The spectacularly bizarre lead-in to her big number, 'Joy of the Lord,' is more difficult to pull off than most Shakespearean monologues, and her solo vocals reveal a soulful, oversized gospel range that drives the Holy Spirit straight to the back of the theater. When she tearfully realizes what her faith in God may have wrought, it stings like a chigger bite. Settle's touching performance should go on the shortlist for every Best Featured Actress prize in town." For this role, Settle was nominated for the Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, and Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Additionally, she was awarded the Theatre World Award for Outstanding Broadway or Off-Broadway debut performance during the 2012-13 theatrical season.
Settle originated the role of Becky in the musical Waitress, which opened on Broadway on April 24, 2016, at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre after premiering at the American Repertory Theater in August 2015.
Settle played the role of Tracy Turnblad in the national tour of Hairspray. In the review of the tour stop at the Kennedy Center in 2005, the Washington Post reviewer wrote: "As for Settle, she is a fine Tracy, even if she looks too old for graduate school, let alone high school." She appeared in the national tour of the Lincoln Center production of South Pacific as Bloody Mary, starting in 2009. The reviewer for the Pioneer Press, Massachusetts, wrote: "Better cast is Keala Settle, who plays the conniving Tonkinese trader lady Bloody Mary with a rolling gait, the venom of viper and—buried deeply but achingly visible in strategic moments—the maternal fierceness of a lioness."
Settle performed in the Encores! concert staging of Violet on July 17, 2013, with Sutton Foster, but did not move on to the Broadway revival due to taking the role of Madame Thénardier in the revival of Les Misérables; she was replaced in Violet by Annie Golden.
Settle discussed her career path, noting that "I really am not a musical theatre performer. I'm more an R&B singer and have been doing that my whole life. My mother is—well, was—also an R&B singer, in New Zealand....I was too busy wanting to sing backup or doing studio work singing chorus stuff, and singing backup for Gladys Knight in Vegas." Further, after her run in Hairspray, she stated that she "didn't know how to live in that world..." and so for several years worked backstage with designers until she was cast in South Pacific.
In 2017, Settle portrayed Lettie Lutz, a bearded lady, in the biographical musical drama film The Greatest Showman, alongside Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, and Zendaya. The song "This Is Me" from the film, principally sung by Settle, won the 2018 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. On December 22, 2017, she released an extended play entitled Chapter One.
Also in 2019, Settle toured with Hugh Jackman during his The Man. The Music. The Show. concerts globally, performing the song "This Is Me" from The Greatest Showman. On this tour Settle performed her original song Harder to a live audience for the very first time.
She performed "This Is Me" at the 2021 Royal Variety Performance. In January 2022, it was announced that Settle would make her West End debut performing the role of Angelique/Nurse in the musical & Juliet for a three-month run from March 29 to June 18, 2022.
Settle made her pantomime debut in 2022, playing the role of Fairy Sugarsnap in Jack and the Beanstalk at the Royal Derngate Theatre, Northampton.
|2019||Rent: Live||Cy, Homeless Person, Vendor, Roger's Mother||Television special|
|2021||Big Shot||Christina Winters||Recurring role; 4 episodes|
|2021–2022||Central Park||Young Bitsy (voice)||2 episodes|
|2022||Murder in Provence||Hélène Paulik|
|The Queen's Platinum Jubilee Celebration||Guest Presenter & Performer|
|2015||Ricki and the Flash||Sharon|
|2017||The Greatest Showman||Lettie Lutz|
|2020||All My Life||Viv Lawrence|
|2003–2006||Hairspray||Tracy Turnblad||US Touring Production|
|2009–2011||South Pacific||Bloody Mary|
|2010||Priscilla, Queen of the Desert||Shirley||Pre-Broadway Try-out|
|2013||Hands on a Hardbody||Norma Valverde|
|Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat||Narrator||Ogunquit Playhouse|
|2014–2015||Les Misérables||Madame Thénardier||Broadway|
|2015||American Repertory Theatre World Premiere|
|2017||Jesus Christ Superstar||Peter||All-Female Concert Production|
|2022||& Juliet||Angelique/Nurse||West End, Manchester|
|Sister Act||Sister Mary Patrick|
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions||Certifications|
|US||US Soundtracks||US Cast Album||CAN||GER||IRL||JAP||NZ||KOR||UK|
|Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Original Broadway Cast Recording)||
|Hands on a Hardbody (Original Broadway Cast Recording)||
|Waitress (Original Broadway Cast Recording)||
|From Broadway With Love: A Benefit Concert For Orlando||
|The Greatest Showman: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack||
|The Greatest Showman: Reimagined||
|Rent (Original Soundtrack of the Fox Television Event)||
|Title||Album details||Track listing|
|Title||Year||Peak chart positions||Certifications||Album|
|"This Is Me"
(with The Greatest Showman Ensemble)
|The Greatest Showman: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|"Bird Set Free"||2018||—||Non-album singles|
Other charted songs
|Title||Year||Peak chart positions||Certifications||Album|
|"The Greatest Show"
(with Zac Efron, Hugh Jackman, Zendaya and The Greatest Showman Ensemble)
|2017||88||42||34||110||—[a]||20||The Greatest Showman: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
(with Hugh Jackman, Zendaya and Daniel Everidge)
|"It Ain't Over 'Til the Fat Lady Sings"||2007||Hairspray (Music from the Motion Picture) [Collector's Edition]|
(with Todrick Hall & Jade Novah)
- "The Greatest Show" did not enter the NZ Top 40 Singles Chart, but peaked at number 3 on the NZ Heatseeker Singles Chart.
- "Come Alive" did not enter the Billboard Hot 100, but peaked at No. 21 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart.
- "Come Alive" did not enter the NZ Top 40 Singles Chart, but peaked at number 8 on the NZ Heatseeker Singles Chart.
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