The 2021 John Willis Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre is the latest accolade for Tony, Grammy and Emmy winning Hadestown star André De Shields, fresh from his critically-acclaimed turn as King Lear at St. Louis Shakespeare Festival.
On July 11, Tom D’Angora and Michael D’Angora, co-directors and co-producers of The Theatre World Awards virtual benefit gala, held an intimate viewing party in a screening room at their W. 42nd St. apartment building to celebrate.
André was comfortable and cool in a black short sleeve jumpsuit, red socks and black shoes with red and white accents, while the D’Angoras wore custom designed red t-shirts featuring a photo of The Original Goat.
Each year The Theatre World Awards presents 12 awards to outstanding debut performances on and off-Broadway. After a year of no debuts, The Theatre World Awards, the oldest American award for debuts in theatre in New York, returned for a one-night virtual benefit gala honoring Audra McDonald with the Dorothy Loudon Special Award for Excellence in Theatre, and Broadway legends Patti LuPone and André De Shields with the 8th Annual John Willis Award for Lifetime Achievement in The Theatre.
The virtual benefit streamed on Broadwayworld and Director/Choreographer Jerry Mitchell, who worked with André on The Full Monty and Half Time, presented him with the Award via a taped message. Watch their speeches below.
The star-studded benefit gala also featured past Theatre World Award winners Christy Altomare, Phillip Boykin, Ann Hampton Callaway, Stephanie D’Abruzzo, Ana Villafañe, Andrea McArdle, Bonnie Milligan, Adam Pascal, Ethan Slater, Marissa Jaret Winokur, and John Loyd Young; and appearances by Iain Armitage, Lucie Arnaz, Hank Azaria, Dylan Baker, Bonnie Bedelia, Ceila Keenan-Bolger, Bryan Cranston, Kristin Chenoweth, Giancarlo Esposito, Tovah Feldshuh, Harvey Fierstein, Peter Gallagher, Jackie Hoffman, Ernestine Jackson, Nathan Lane, Patti LuPone, Andrea Martin, Audra McDonald, Rob McClure, Bernadette Peters, Jerry Mitchell, Hayley Mills, Jim Parsons, Daphne Rubin-Vega, William Shatner, Brooke Shields, Cobie Smulders, John Stamos, Marisa Tomei, Jennifer Tilly and Chandra Wilson.
André closed out the show with a virtual performance of “None Of Us Are Free”, accompanied by Sean Mayes on the keys and Andrew Atkinson on the drums, which was filmed by Michael D’Angora and Tom D’Angora at The Triad.
The gathering also gave André an opportunity to catch up with his Music Director Sean Mayes, and his vocalists Freida Williams, Kimberly Marable and Lori Tishfield, who are accompanying him in a series of concerts at Feinstein’s/54 Below, August 3-7, and The Cabaret in Indianapolis, August 12-14.
The virtual benefit and accompanying fundraising campaign was produced by Tom D’Angora, Michael D’Angora, and Tim Guinee who recently stepped up to help raise much needed funds for The York Theatre Company, West Bank Café, The LAByrinth Theatre and Birdland Jazz Club. The trio, who are donating their time, have taken on The Theatre World Awards as their next project. The event was produced in association with The Theatre World Awards, Board of Directors, Dale Badway (Theatre World Awards President), Karen Johnston, Peter Filichia, Laura Z. Barket, and Riki Kane Larimer.
The Theatre World Awards relies on the support and contributions of its alumni and donors. Tax deductible donations may be made by visiting the Go Fund Me link at https://gofund.me/cf2604da.
André De Shields was the triple-crown winner of the 2019 award season, garnering Tony, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama Desk Awards for his role as universally praised role as the messenger to the gods, Hermes, in Hadestown. The Actors’ Equity Foundation followed suit with the Richard Seff Award, honoring veteran stage actors’ best supporting performances of the year. New York Senator Brad Hoylman presented Mr. De Shields with a Senate Proclamation on Thursday, April 8th, 2021 proclaiming the day “André De Shields Appreciation Day”. The surprise proclamation was arranged by producer Tom D’Angora to honor the extensive charity work and activism, along with the public appearances, Mr. De Shields has done for the community this year.
In 2020, Mr. De Shields received the 2020 Grammy Award for Musical Theater Album for Hadestown, the 2020 AUDELCO for Lifetime Achievement, an honorary Doctor of Arts Degree from Boston Conservatory at Berklee and the 2020 Red Bull Theater Matador Award for Excellence in Classical Theater. In 2019, he received the 2019 Project1Voice Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2019 SAGE Joyce Warshow Lifetime Achievement Award, The York Theatre Company’s 2019 Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Musical Theatre, and was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. He received the Key to the City of Baltimore from Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young in August, 2019. Prior to his Tony Award win, Mr. De Shields was best known for his show-stopping performances in four legendary Broadway productions: The Wiz, Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Emmy Award), Play On! (Tony Nomination), and The Full Monty (Tony Nomination).
In a career spanning fifty one years, he has distinguished himself as an unparalleled actor, director, and educator, receiving in 2018 the 8th Annual Off Broadway Alliance Legend Award, and the 33rd Annual Bob Harrington Life Achievement Bistro Award. Among his other accolades are the 2009 National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend Award and the 2007 Village Voice Obie Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance. His film and TV roles include Keys, who first appeared in a 2014 episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.” He has also appeared on “Law and Order” twice, as Dr. Elvin Simmonds (Custody,1996) and Mr. Miller (Cost of Capital,2006); Dale Rustin on NBC’s “New Amsterdam”; Anton Ego in Ratatouille: The TikTok Tok Musical, the Algebra Tutor in “John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch” on Netflix; Chubby in “Katy Keene” on the CW; and Wyndham on “Almost Family.” He can be heard on the podcasts Live From Mount Olympus as Hermes and One Speckled Hen. He can next be seen as Gavin Plimsoll in Charles Busch’s new film, The Sixth Reel. De Shields is a proud member of AEA, SAG-AFTRA, and SDC. andredeshields.com
The John Willis Award is given for lifetime achievement in the theatre to honor the man who created and maintained the Theatre World tradition for 66 years, encouraging new talent in an often challenging business. The John Willis Award is presented annually by the Theatre World Awards, Inc. Board of Directors to an individual whose lifetime achievements and personal generosity to the Theatre Community merit special recognition and acknowledgement. Previous recipients of the John Willis Award include Nathan Lane (2019), Victor Garber (2018), Glenn Close (2017), Bernadette Peters (2016), Chita Rivera (2015), Christopher Plummer (2014), and Alan Alda (2013).
The Theatre World Award honorees are chosen by the Theatre World Awards Committee which is comprised of Linda Armstrong (Amsterdam News), David Cote (The Observer), Joe Dziemianowicz (New York Daily News, Emeritus), Peter Filichia (The Newark Star-Ledger, Emeritus), David Finkle(New York Stage Review), Elysa Gardner (USA Today, Emeritus), Harry Haun (Theatermania), Frank Scheck (The Hollywood Reporter), and Janice Simpson (Broadway & Me). The Theatre World Awards, Inc. Board of Directors is headed by Dale Badway (President) with Tom Lynch (Vice-President), Michael Kostel (Vice-President), Stephen Wilde (Secretary), Honorable Ilene Zatkin-Butler (Treasurer), James Sheridan, and Karen Johnston. The Dorothy Loudon Award for Excellence in the Theater is chosen by the Trustees of The Dorothy Loudon Foundation, Lionel Larner, Executive Director, together with recommendations from the Theatre World Awards Committee.
For additional information about the Theatre World Awards, visit www.theatreworldawards.org.
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young (2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative). She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs.
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