Happy early birthday to Tony, Grammy and Emmy winning Hadestown star André De Shields, who turns 76 on January 12.
André’s first birthday gift of the year is a 2021 BroadwayWorld Cabaret Award in the category of Best Show, Celebrity, for his latest theatrical concert, Black By Popular Demand: A Musical Meditation On How Not To Be Eaten By The Sphinx, which debuted at Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York and at The Cabaret in Indianapolis in August.
The entire production of Black By Popular Demand: A Musical Meditation On How Not To Be Eaten By The Sphinx was conceived, written and directed by André, featuring additional material by Murray Horwitz, 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.
Click here for the Broadwayworld Stage Mag Program.
Broadway World Cabaret and Concert editor Stephen Mosher writes in his Best of 2021 feature article, “André De Shields: BLACK BY POPULAR DEMAND – Feinstein’s/54 Below: Unquestionably the most theatrical, outrageous, and thought-provoking show of the season, Black By Popular Demand was Tony Award recipient de Shields’ musical and socio-poetic comment on the state of the world, and his point of view as a black, queer, and fabulous man and artist. The show had a lot to unpack, and de Shields employed a full cast of musicians and musical storytellers to help him with the task, even presenting some musical material penned by his own hand. This was art, storytelling, and theater at its most innovative, fascinating, and entertaining.”
In the program notes 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.”
The 2021 Regional Awards honor events which had their first performance between October 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021. The BroadwayWorld Awards are the largest theatre audience awards, with over 100 cities worldwide participating. Click here to see the list of all the winners.
André is currently profiled in the January/February 2022 issue of POZ Magazine, and excerpts from his chat with Max Linsky on the podcast, “70 Over 70,” a Pineapple Street Studios series produced by Jess Hackel, are featured in the January 3-10, 2022 issue of The New Yorker.
A showstopper at the age of 75, André 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, when the groundbreaking musical opened on Broadway on January 5, 1975. André 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. André 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. His 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.
Highlights of 2021
In January, André De Shields portrayed Anton Ego in RATATOUILLE: THE TIKTOK MUSICAL to Benefit The Actors Fund, produced by Seaview Productions.
On February 26, André became the first artist to perform live from the Flushing Town Hall theatre stage in almost a year. André featured excerpts from his solo show, “André De Shields is Frederick Douglass: Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory,” which explores the life and achievements of the great emancipator Frederick Douglass.
On March 12, the theater community reunited in Times Square exactly one year to the day since Broadway shut-down for “We Will Be Back,” a special live pop-up experience and commemoration of Broadway’s “lost year.” Chita Rivera introduced Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids and André. André was joined by the WE WILL BE BACK Company to sing Stephen Schwartz’s ‘Magic To Do’ from Pippin, including Brandon Nase, T. Oliver Reid, Kathryn Gallagher, Ryann Redmond, Charl Brown, Morgan Green, Michael Fatica, Anna Uzele, Olivia Valli, Gerry McIntyre, Kris Coleman, Orville Mendoza, and featuring Jackie Cox, with supporting vocals by Broadway Inspirational Voices. Produced By Holly-Anne Devlin and Blake Ross
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.
In June, André De Shields was featured in Oprah Winfrey and Hearst Magazines’ “Lift Every Voice” Project.
André starred in the title role of St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s King Lear featuring a BIPOC cast, helmed by Carl Cofield. On opening night, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones issued a Mayoral Proclamation naming June 4, 2021 as “King Lear/André De Shields Day”.
Photos: Opening Night with St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s KING LEAR Star André De Shields; St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones Presents Proclamation Naming June 4, 2021 – KING LEAR/ André De Shields Day
On June 23, André performed in the virtual benefit for New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, which streamed on Broadway on Demand. The one-time-only event, fittingly called “I’m Still Here,” celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Billy Rose Theatre Division and its beloved Theater on Film and Tape archive, which has documented and preserved live theatrical events for half a century. André puts his own spin on Stephen Sondheim’s tour de force eleven o’clock number “I’m Still Here” from Follies. Click below to watch the teaser.
On July 11, André received the 2021 John Willis Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre in a virtual Theatre World Award presentation.
Black By Popular Demand: A Musical Meditation On How Not To Be Eaten By The Sphinx at Feinstein’s/54 Below (August 3-7) and The Cabaret (August 13, 14)
Opening Night at Feinstein’s/54 Below of André De Shields’ “Black By Popular Demand: A Musical Meditation On How Not To Be Eaten By The Sphinx”; Live Performances Continue through Aug. 7, with an additional Live Stream on Aug. 7
On September 2, Hadestown reopened on Broadway.
On September 14, André spoke at the American LGBTQ+ Museum Groundbreaking ceremony.
Photos/Video: Inside the Ceremonial Groundbreaking Ceremony of the American LGBTQ+ Museum with André De Shields, Billie Jean King, Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and More at New-York Historical Society
On October 26, André received the 2021 Sarah Siddons Society Actor of the Year Award in Chicago.
On November 15, André celebrated Leslie Uggams as she was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame at the Gershwin Theatre in New York. Other members of the class of 2021 include Anna Deavere Smith, Alan Menkin, set designer Bob Crowley, Victor Garber and posthumously, Gerald Freedman (1927-2020).
André’s second stop of the night was the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre to attend the world premiere screening of tick, tick…BOOM!, directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Check out André’s cameo in the iconic “Sunday” diner scene.
In December, André returned home to Baltimore to perform a trio of concerts with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and The Baltimore City College Choir at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
Photos and Video: Tony, Grammy and Emmy Winning HADESTOWN Star André De Shields, Choir Students from His Alma Mater, Baltimore City College, Rehearse for Dec. 3,4, 5 Concerts with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
On December 13, André received the 2021 Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club Human Rights Award.
In 2020, André 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; Wyndham on “Almost Family”, and as Gavin Plimsoll in Charles Busch and Carl Andress’ comedy film, The Sixth Reel. 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. 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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