This summer, Tony, Grammy and Emmy winning Hadestown star André De Shields debuted his theatrical concert, Black By Popular Demand: A Musical Meditation On How Not To Be Eaten By The Sphinx at Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York and at The Cabaret in Indianapolis.
De Shields has been nominated by the United Solo Academy for the 2021 United Solo Special Award. Every year, this award goes to an artist who has created a captivating performance which is rich with sensitivity, audacity, and wisdom; a performance which reminds us of the immense power of a singular performer, and the possibilities of solo storytelling.
Other artists who are nominated in this category include Tovah Feldshuh in Tovah Feldshuh is Leona, Harriet Harris in Eleanor, Ruben Santiago-Hudson in Lackawanna Blues, and Lee Roy Reams in Remembering Jerry Herman. The winner will be announced at the closing Gala on November 21st at Theatre Row.
For over a decade, United Solo has recognized numerous artists for their outstanding solo performances. This year’s recipient of the United Solo Special Award will join such illustrious past honorees as: Anna Deavere Smith (2010), Patti LuPone (2011), John Leguizamo (2012), Fiona Shaw (2013), Billy Crystal (2014), James Lecesne (2015), Staceyann Chin in collaboration with Cynthia Nixon (2016), Michael Moore (2017), Renée Taylor (2018), Aasif Mandvi (2019), and Ian McKellen (2020). For its efforts in promoting the genre of solo art, United Solo was recently included in the New York Times’ fall theatre preview. Tickets for the closing Gala, as well as for other solo shows presented this season at Theatre Row, are now on sale and may be purchased here. Click here to read the full article on Broadwayworld.
The entire production was conceived, written and directed by De Shields, featuring additional material by Murray Horwitz and music direction by Sean Mayes on piano, and percussion by Rudy Bird. The featured vocalists are Kimberly Marable, Lori Tishfield and Freida Williams.
The creative team also includes Costume Design by Christina Cocchiara, Celebratory Umbrellas by Brendan McCann, and Headdresses by Debra Scotti.
De Shields shared, “I am an Artist. Artists possess creative muscle that grows both stronger and more supple the greater the challenging conundrum. That said, throughout the preceding seventeen months I have imagined myself as Oedipus during his mythic journey. When he came upon the city of Thebes–where his destiny would rise up to meet him–unbeknownst to him, he had been metamorphosed into an ambassador, representing the Family of Man, before the Massive Sphinx, who would pose the most inscrutable of all riddles. The riddle was asked of any who wished to enter Thebes. If you could answer the riddle, you were granted entry, but if you could not answer the riddle, the Sphinx would eat you. Now, substitute the COVID pandemic for the Sphinx. Still, nobody has the answer. What I have is a pandemic diary, and its entries have inspired me to create Black By Popular Demand: A Musical Meditation On How Not To Be Eaten By The Sphinx. I am accompanied on this journey by the following members of the Family of Man: photographer/archivist Lia Chang, production supervisor Samuel-Moses Jones, co-writer Murray Horwitz, vocalists Kimberly Marable, Lori Tishfield and Freida Williams, percussionist Rudy Bird, and musical director/pianist Sean Mayes. We are because you are.”
A showstopper at the age of 75, De Shields was the triple crown winner of the 2019 award season, securing a Tony, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama Desk Award. In an illustrious career that has spanned more than half century, he has distinguished himself as an actor, director, choreographer, playwright and educator, getting his start as the title character in The Wiz. De Shields picked up an Emmy for his performance as the Viper in the NBC special Ain’t Misbehavin’, two Tony nominations for Play On! and The Full Monty, and has established himself as a veritable cabaret king — choreographing two shows for Bette Midler and creating six solo theatrical concerts. In 2019 he was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. With profound wit, elegance, and charm, this silky veteran of the stage proves why his star is still on the rise. De Shields starred in his breakout role, the title character in The Wiz, which ran for more than 1,600 performances and won seven Tony Awards – including best musical. He starred in the original cast of the Fats Waller musical Ain’t Misbehavin’, a role he later revived, directed, and choreographed for the 30th anniversary run. Andre’s first Tony nomination was for Play On!, a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, featuring Duke Ellington’s music. He received another Tony nomination in 2001 for The Full Monty. De Shields’ other Broadway credits include Impressionism and Prymate.
De Shields embraced cabaret early on. Beginning in the ’70s, he created a string of original shows that performed at such landmark New York clubs as Gypsy’s, the Grand Finale, Reno Sweeney, Les Mouches, the Club at La MaMa, the Horn of Plenty, Greene Street, as well as in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and London. In 1984, he co-wrote, choreographed, co-directed, and starred in the Broadway musical revue André De Shields’ Haarlem Nocturne. More recent cabaret appearances have included Lincoln Center’s American Songbook Series, Joe’s Pub, Laurie Beechman Theatre in New York, Old School Square’s Crest Theatre in Delray Beach, Fl. and Aventura Arts & Cultural Center. He is a recipient of the 2018 Bob Harrington Life Achievement Bistro Award.
De Shields recently starred in the title role of St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s King Lear. On opening night, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones issued a Mayoral Proclamation naming June 4, 2021 as “King Lear/André De Shields Day”. New York Senator Brad Hoylman presented Mr. De Shields with a Senate Proclamation on 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.
De Shields is the recipient of the 2021 John Willis Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. In 2020, he received the 2020 Grammy Award for Musical Theater Album for Hadestown, an Honorary Doctor of Arts Degree from Boston Conservatory at Berklee, the 2020 AUDELCO for Lifetime Achievement and the 2020 Red Bull Theater Matador Award for Excellence in Classical Theater. 2019 honors include The Actors’ Equity Foundation Richard Seff Award, which honors veteran stage actors’ best supporting performances of the year, the Project1Voice Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2019 SAGE Joyce Warshow Lifetime Achievement Award, and The York Theatre Company’s 2019 Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Musical Theatre, among others. He was also 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. Other accolades include the 8th Annual Off Broadway Alliance Legend Award, the 33rd Annual Bob Harrington Life Achievement Bistro Award, 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 stars in Foxing’s new music video, Draw Down the Moon, and can be heard on the podcasts Live From Mount Olympus as Hermes and One Speckled Hen.
He can be seen as Gavin Plimsoll in Charles Busch and Carl Andress’ comedy film, The Sixth Reel. De Shields is a proud member of AEA, SAG-AFTRA, and SDC. andredeshields.com
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer, an Award winning filmmaker 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. Her short film, When the World Was Young, written and directed by Garth Kravits, recently garnered a 2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative. 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. She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations.
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