Reed grew up in Anaheim, California and attended Anaheim High School, where she graduated in 1976. She was a varsity songleader for two years, and was ASB President as a senior. She began performing in high school, and one of her major roles was as Nancy in a school production of Oliver!. Alyson also performed as Alice in Wonderland at the Disneyland theme park.
Reed made her Broadway debut in Dancin' in 1978. Additional theatre credits include Dance a Little Closer, Cabaret, A Grand Night for Singing, and Marilyn: An American Fable. She was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Cabaret and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical for Marilyn. In 1992, she starred opposite Michael O'Keefe in the national touring company of A Few Good Men in the role of Lt. Cmdr. Galloway.
Reed's most notable screen role was Cassie in Richard Attenborough's film adaptation of A Chorus Line, and she also appeared in the comedy Skin Deep with John Ritter. Her many television credits include Matlock, L.A. Law, Murder, She Wrote, Frasier, Law & Order, Without a Trace, ER, Judging Amy, Chicago Hope, The X Files, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Nip/Tuck, Crossing Jordan, Numb3rs, Boston Legal, and NYPD Blue.
Most recently, she has become known to younger viewers for the role of Ms. Darbus in the popular Disney Channel movie High School Musical and its sequel High School Musical 2 (although her role in that film was only one scene). She reprised her role as Ms. Darbus in High School Musical 3: Senior Year. She will reprise her role as Ms. Darbus in the new Disney Channel Original Series, Madison High, with the character being relocated from East High to Madison High. This is the first time a Disney Channel Original Movie and Disney Channel Original Series has a cross-over.
In 2012, she was integrated in the cast of the last season of Desperate Housewives.
- 1985 A Chorus Line
- 1989 Skin Deep
- 1993 Disappearance of Nora
- 1995 Frasier: Someone to Watch Over Me
- 1995 Murder, She Wrote: Game, Set, Murder
- 1995 Law & Order: Seed
- 1995 Manhattan Merengue
- 1996 Murphy Brown: The Bus Stops Here
- 1996 The Secret She Carried
- 2006 High School Musical
- 2007 High School Musical 2
- 2008 High School Musical 3: Senior Year
- 2012 Desperate Housewives
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