André De Shields Photo by Matthew Murphy
Tony winner André De Shields is an actor, singer, dancer, director, and choreographer. De Shields originated the role of Hermes on Broadway in Hadestown, winning the 2019 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical and the 2020 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album for his performance. He has also appeared on television, and won an Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement for his performance in the 1982 NBC broadcast of Ain’t Misbehavin‘.
De Shields began his professional career in the 1969 Chicago production of Hair, which led to a role in The Me Nobody Knows and participation in Chicago’s Organic Theater Company. He performed in a number of off off Broadway productions at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in the East Village of Manhattan during the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. He co-wrote with Judith Cohen and directed a production of Chico Kasinoir’s The Adventures of Rhubarb: The Rock and Roll Rabbit in 1985 as well as a production of his own work, Saint Tous, to celebrate Black History Month at La MaMa in February 1991.
He made his Broadway debut as Xander in Stuart Gordon’s 1973 Warp! and next appeared in Paul Jabara’s 1973 Rachael Lily Rosenbloom (And Don’t You Ever Forget It), which closed during previews. He then appeared in the title role of The Wiz, directed by Geoffrey Holder.
After choreographing two Bette Midler musicals, De Shields returned to Broadway to perform in the musical revue Ain’t Misbehavin’ in 1978. DeShields earned a Drama Desk nomination for his performance. Three years later, he returned to Broadway to perform in Stardust: The Mitchell Parrish Musical, a musical revue featuring the lyricist’s work with Hoagy Carmichael, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Leroy Anderson.
In 1984, De Shields wrote, choreographed, directed, and starred in André De Shields’ Haarlem Nocturne, a Broadway musical revue featuring standards from the American songbook, pop hits from the early 1960s, and De Shields’ own songs. He appeared in a revival of Ain’t Misbehavin’ in 1988, and in 1997 as the Jester in Play On!, a musical based on Ellington’s songs. De Shields earned Tony and Drama Desk nominations for his performance.
In 2000, De Shields originated the role of Noah “Horse” T. Simmons in the Terrence McNally / David Yazbek musical adaptation of the film The Full Monty. De Shields again earned both Tony and Drama Desk nominations for this performance. In 2004, he appeared in the Broadway production of Mark Medoff’s Prymate. He received another Drama Desk nomination for his performance in Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity. In 2009, he appeared on Broadway opposite Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons in Impressionism.
In 2013, he portrayed Akela and King Louie in the world premiere of Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, a co-production of the Goodman Theatre and Huntington Theatre Company. De Shields received his 3rd Jeff Award (Outstanding Achievement in the category of Actor in a Supporting Role – Musical) for his role as King Louie, and garnered an Elliot Norton Awards nomination for Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actor as well as an IRNE Awards nomination for Best Supporting Actor – Musical.
De Shields portrayed Barrett Rude Sr. in The Fortress of Solitude and starred in the new musical Gotta Dance
On television Another World, Cosby, Sex and the City, Great Performances, Lipstick Jungle, Law & Order, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He won an Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement for his performance in the 1982 NBC broadcast of Ain’t Misbehavin’, and played Tweedledum in a 1983 televised production of Alice in Wonderland. Most recently, De Shields appeared in John Mulaney’s John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch in which he sang “Algebra Song!” The comedy/musical/variety special was released on Netflix on December 24, 2019.
T2C: When did you first move into Manhattan Plaza and how did you get into the building?
André De Shields: I became a resident of Manhattan Plaza during the spring of 1997. After the death of my life partner due to A.I.D.S. related lymphoma. Having depleted all of my savings on his care, an appeal to the Actors Fund for assistance resulted in my moving into a studio apartment.
T2C: Were you in the building during the AIDS Crisis? How did that time frame affect you?
André De Shields: My initial three years benefitted from the final three years of the A.I.D.S. Initiative that was administered by Pastor Robert Stafford in the original space that bore the name Rodney Kirk Center (Tuesday luncheons and Thursday dinners). Stafford was assisted by the indefatigable Margie Roop, who is a longstanding resident in the 400 building. Sadly, even at the end of the 90s A.I.D.S. related deaths continued to be sufficiently frequent that my becoming a resident of Manhattan Plaza was made relatively uncomplicated. Many colleagues had succumbed to A.I.D.S. And when I wasn’t performing my eight shows a week, I was either comforting friends at St. Vincent’s Hospital, or helping them to die in their homes, or making telephone calls to a next of kin that a loved one had been lost. More often than not, that included explaining to a family member the seemingly impossible facts about opportunistic diseases and sexual orientation.
T2C: Has living in Manhattan Plaza changed you in anyway?
André De Shields: Yes, twenty-three years later, I am aware that when one embraces the tools of empathic creativity, shared community responsibility and collective work ethics, then diversity, equity and inclusion can flourish in a context of aesthetic realism.
T2C: What has living in the building allowed you to accomplish?
André De Shields: Living at Manhattan Plaza has allowed me to accomplish financial stability, while being encouraged by a community of neighbors who are personally invested in one another’s success.
T2C: What shows did you get while living in the building?
André De Shields: I performed in the following productions while living in Manhattan Plaza: Play On!, As the World Turns, Another World, The Full Monty, Dream on Monkey Mountain, King Lear, Caligula, Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity, Impressionism, Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe,The Bacchae, The Fortress of Solitude,1776, As You Like It, Mankind, Half Time and Hadestown.
T2C: What are your fondest memories of living in the plaza?
André De Shields: My fondest memory of living in Manhattan Plaza is the lifelong commitment to the friendships that have blossomed here.
T2C: What have been the biggest changes to the neighborhood?
André De Shields: The biggest changes to the neighborhood are the disappearance of the Mom & Pop small business and the pedestrian traffic that now resembles the congestion of Times Square.
T2C: How does living in the building make you feel?
André De Shields: Living in the building makes me feel secure, and makes getting to work convenient.
T2C: What would you change from your time living in Manhattan Plaza?
André De Shields: The one thing I would change from my time living in Manhattan Plaza is the ability for a single individual–particularly a senior with financial means–to rent a one bedroom apartment. The stipulation that one may not seems a bit discriminatory.
T2C: What is your fondest memory of New York?
André De Shields: My fondest memory of New York is being the triple crown winner of the 2019 awards season: Tony Award, Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award.
T2C: What would you like us to know that we haven’t asked you?
André De Shields: I have lived an anointed life in spite of being H.I.V. positive for forty years.
The documentary Miracle on 42nd Street, is available on Amazon and will soon be available to stream.
Bonnie Comley Nothing To Wear
Bonnie Comley stepped into the art world last night. She and ChaShaMa presented a piece called “Nothing To Wear”, at 340 East 64th Street, which is an interactive installation, a thought provoking look at fast fashion and body image. This provocative look at our relationship with our clothing choices as it pertains to our self image, fast fashion and textile waste, challenges the fashion industry to create an alternative to current business models and the global appetite for consumption. “Nothing to Wear”, asks viewers to question dress codes like the current policing of women in political office, facilitates self-reflection on biases regarding our own clothing and the community around us as uniform, self-expression, or just protection from the elements of weather.
Also involved were Sarah DeMarino – Co-Producer/Director, Leah Lane – Soundscape Monologue Writer and Jasper Isaac Johns the Exhibit Designer.
At the opening and on certain dates Hannah Durant Joe Guccione and Dallas Bernstein perform monologues that coincide with the project. These mini playlets were insightful and thought provoking.
In attendance were:
Bonnie is a three-time Tony Award-winning producer. She has, also, won an Olivier Award and two Drama Desk Awards for her stage productions. She was recently re-elected as the Board President of The Drama League. She is a full member of The Broadway League and the Audience Engagement and Education Committee. Comley has produced over 40 films, winning five Telly Awards and one W3 Award. She is also the founder and CEO of BroadwayHD, the world’s premier online streaming platform delivering over 300 premium live productions to theatre fans globally. The theatre community has honored Comley for her philanthropic work; she is the recipient of The Actors Fund Medal of Honor, The Drama League Special Contribution to the Theater Award, The Paul Newman Award from Arts Horizons and The Theater Museum Distinguished Service Award.
ChaShaMa helps create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive world by partnering with property owners to transform unused real estate. Currently, they present 150 events a year, have workspace for 120 artists, and have developed 80 workshops in under served communities. They have awarded 11 million dollars worth of real estate to artists and have subsidizes another 300 with work spaces. They provide over 215 free art classes and have supported over 75 businesses with free space
To see Nothing to Wear click here
Days of Wine and Roses” the Musical Ages Like Cut Flowers, Rather Than Wine in its Transfer Uptown to Broadway
This is my second shot of The Days of Wine and Roses, after seeing it at the smaller Atlantic Theatre off-Broadway stage, and unlike the wine mentioned in the title, time played with it like the roses. The musical, about a doomed couple destroyed by alcoholism, did not thrive, like fine wine, but wilted like cut flowers in a bigger vase. The larger stage of Studio 54, as hoped, did not make this drink taste any better for me, but it did make me notice some of the sharper tones that I must have overlooked before, leaving a slightly bad taste that still lingers in the back of my throat after swallowing.
With a book by Craig Lucas (I Was Most Alive with You) and distancingly complex music, lyrics, and orchestrations by Adam Guettel (The Light in the Piazza), Days of Wine and Roses does continue to deliver musical “magic time” in an effort to give us some abundance. It flows forward, trying to make us drunk with its intricate chocolate flavors of a Brandy Alexander, but left me cold outside in the murky waters that it tries to overlook. “What’s your tragic story?” he asks, as the two soon-to-be lovers drift forward, far too abruptly, into the choppy suburban sea of coupledom, isolation, and cocktail hours, shaken and stirred with complicated textured notes of sadness and need.
The music is soaring, in an operatic repetitive way, melodramatically hitting high, without giving much depth, much like what lives at the core of the 1958 teleplay and 1963 movie “Days of Wine and Roses” on which this new musical is based. Although the film, starring the magnificent Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon, never gives these two characters a moment to sing, even as the two fall madly in love, the premise is ripe for some introspection and investigation. These are their days of wine and roses, we are told, but here, in this sometimes compelling, but surprisingly distancing musical, the songs fling themselves out like a distress call for help from an isolated island, heaving with the intense feelings of being stranded, desperate, and seemingly on their own, but flailing in the choppy waters trying to connect. Even during the more enjoyable drunk song numbers, which are more fun and entertaining than some of the other more ‘meaningful’ songs.
The musical’s ideas have depth and courage, and are delivered pitch perfectly by the two magnificent leads who carry most of the vocal weight and baggage. Brian D’Arcy James (Broadway’s Shrek; Into the Woods) vocally ushers forth a Joe Clay that swings wide and true, sounding, quite possibly almost as brilliant as Kelli O’Hara (Broadway’s Kiss Me, Kate) in her role as the beautifully kind Kirsten Arnesen, the young secretary (that’s what they called them back then) who had not found the flavor of alcohol appealing until that fateful night. We watch with nervous anticipation as the drink is lifted to her lips, knowing what is in store. We hope that she doesn’t drink the Kool-Aid that Joe keeps pushing. And then they are off to the races, finding melancholy melodies in both the drunken pleasures and pain of addiction.
It’s a quick dive into the dark and dirty waters of this quicksand river. It jumps forward with wild drunken abandonment, never really feeling authentic this time around, but somehow forced and perplexing. Each song, particularly the more dramatic ones, seems to stop the story in its tracks, like a drunk trying to regain its balance as it walks down the street. The moments feel somehow true and isolated from us all at the same time, keeping us at a distance and never really engaging with us enough to want to join in with the emotional story. When the Kirsten character asks Joe if they can go somewhere other than that first scene party, it struck me as odd, as the book up to that moment has painted Joe in pretty negative annoying tones. Why she was the one who suggested that an intimate outing would be something she wanted at that exact moment didn’t really make sense. But if he had been the one asking, I could have believed, that after a little thought, she might have agreed to it, but this way around? It didn’t sit authentically true for me.
The music hangs big and bold between them, delivering the depth of their destructive ways, while keeping them isolated from the outside world (including us) that keeps shining a light on the problems that are approaching. The voices of the two leads are really the best part of this construction, with the other characters, under the direction of Michael Greif (2ST’s A Parallelogram), doing their best to step into that light, especially David Jennings (Broadway’s Tina) as Joe’s AA sponsor, Jim Hungerford, who wisely underplays this pivotal role rather than presenting a sermon. There is also the troubled father of Kirsten, played intently by Byron Jennings (Broadway’s Harry Potter…), who flounders a bit in the foreground, worried and angry about the road his daughter is taking, yet seeing clear that he has little power to challenge her path.
Guettel pours out song after jagged song, exposing the twisted engagements that are taking over their lives. It’s troubling and upsetting to watch, and sometimes very difficult to follow along with the lyrics, even when so beautifully sung. The songs teeter on melodrama and mayhem, and the two leads strive forward, wobbly, leading us through the tangled path they are taking. The ideas and formulations don’t exactly mesh and blend in with each other, separating songs from the action, and the heart from the formula, all on an awkwardly complicated set designed by Lizzie Clachan (National Theatre’s The Witches). The piece somewhat stays far too close to the expanse of the film version, struggling to keep up, and crowding the stage more and more as it gets closer to the final blackout. I went in hoping that with the larger Broadway stage, a sharpening of its visual could have settled the piece, simplifying the locations and finding other ways to tell this tale without bringing a room full of plants, coffeeshop counters, and a motel room into the already crowded picture.
With determined costumes by Dede Ayite (Broadway’s Topdog/Underdog), simple lighting by Ben Stanton (Broadway’s Good Night, Oscar), and a solid sound design by Kai Harada (Broadway’s Kimberly Akimbo), the piece never shuffles with ease. This isn’t a hummable show, more akin to an opera led by two, at least in the beginning, before their daughter, Lila, dutifully portrayed by Tabitha Lawing (Atlanta Opera/Alliance’s The Shining), begins to join them in their vocal union, expanding what is at stake, from a pair to something more. Lila and her mother’s correspondence is one of the few moments that actually registered on the emotional spectrum inside, while the rest blurred together like a movie viewing after one too many martinis.
Under the watchful eye of choreographers Sergio Trujillo (Broadway’s Next to Normal) and Karla Puno Garcia (Netflix’s tick, tick…BOOM!), and backed most gorgeously by the score courtesy of music director Kimberly Grigsby (Broadway’s Camelot), The Days of Wine and Roses rolls forward drunkenly playing a tender but blurry game of hide and seek, teasing us with highend music and magnificent performances, but leaving us, somewhat unsettled and distant from this fragmented and choppy musical melodrama.
For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Sweeney Todd’s New Cast
Aaron Tveit and Sutton Foster joined the Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd February 9th, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. They replaced Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford, who both earned 2023 Tony nominations for their leading performances in the production.
The Tony Award winning Tveit stepped into the role of Sweeney Todd, which is his first Broadway role since he originated the lead, Christian, in Moulin Rouge! The Musical. He is also known for his performances in Wicked, Catch Me If You Can, Hairspray, and Rent. Tveit has also portrayed several musical theatre roles on screen, such as Enjolras in the film adaptation of Les Misérables (2012), as well as Danny Zuko in Fox’s Grease: Live (2016). In television, he was Gareth Ritter on BrainDead, Tripp van der Bilt on Gossip Girl, Mike Warren on Graceland, and Danny Bailey/Topher in Schmigadoon!.
Foster’s last Broadway role was Marian Paroo in the 2021 revival of The Music Man, which earned her a Tony nomination the following year. She has earned six additional nominations and she is a two-time Tony winner for Thoroughly Modern Millie and Anything Goes. Her other credits include Violet and Little Women. In 2016, she starred opposite Aaron Tveit and Betty Buckley in the Stephen Schwartz revue Defying Gravity in Australia. She appeared in the Off-Broadway revival of Sweet Charity and was in the miniseries Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life opposite her ex-husband, Christian Borle. She made guest appearances on The Good Wife and Mad Dogs, she is known for her role as Liza Miller in Younger. A month earlier she wow’d audiences as Winfred in the Encore production of Once Upon A Mattress.
Now the two are winning raves in this macabre masterpiece of musical theatre,
Museum of Broadway Celebrates Black History Month
Museum of Broadway, 145 W. 45th Street, upcoming February Events
Saturday, February 24th | 12:00 PM
The Museum of Broadway Presents: A History of Minstrelsy with Ben West
Join musical theatre artist and historian Ben West, author of the upcoming book The American Musical, for a journey into the history of minstrelsy, including its legacy of blackface on Broadway, its trailblazing Black artists, and its impact on the development of the American musical. Note: This talk will involve mature content.
– Event link here
Monday, February 26th | 11:00 AM
The Museum of Broadway Presents: A Conversation with Black Broadway Creatives
Join in celebrating and honoring the lives, careers, and experiences of Black Broadway creatives in the American theater. Panelists include Ken Hanson, Dante Harrell, Destiny Lilly, Zane Mark, Thelma Pollard and Virginia Woodruff, in-conversation with Erich McMillian-McCall of Project 1 Voice.
– Event link here
Wednesday, February 28th | 12:00 PM
The Museum of Broadway Presents: Mary & Ethel…And Mikey Who?
Talkback and Book Signing with award-winning author Stephen Cole joined by famed cabaret star Klea Blackhurst and special guest Anita Gillette
– Event link here
Thursday, February 29th |10:30 AM
The Museum of Broadway Presents: Spotlight on Black Broadway Producers
Join acclaimed award-winning producers Rashad Chambers, Sade Lythcott & Brian Anthony Moreland in-conversation with Merrily We Roll Along’s Krystal Joy Brown
– Event link here
The Glorious Corner
MORE MURDER — (Via Deadline) Sophie Ellis-Bextor is gearing up to tour around North America for the first time and adding more cities for fans to see her perform “Murder on the Dance Floor” live.
The British singer’s song is featured in the final scene of Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn, where Barry Keoghan’s Oliver dances naked around the manor. After the scene went viral, the song, co-written by Ellis-Bextor and Gregg Alexander, also went viral on social media. “Murder on the Dance Floor” was originally released in 2001, but it never charted on the Billboard Hot 100 until now, peaking at 51 recently.
Ellis-Bextor recently made an appearance on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon where she performed the viral hit and the star is now embarking on a North America tour.
The artist announced her first-ever live show in NYC, set to take place on June 6 at Webster Hall, and the date quickly sold out. Ellis-Bextor has now announced more dates across the U.S. and Canada that will take her to San Francisco, San Diego, Boston, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.
“Oh my… the New York show sold out in a day! Thank you thank you thank you,” Ellis-Bextor said in her newsletter announcing the additional tour dates. “So – how about some more shows in some more cities?! My band and I are coming for you! Super excited. Come and dance with me….”
May 30: August Hall (San Francisco, CA)May 31: The Observatory North Park (San Diego, CA) June 3: 9:30 Club (Washington D.C.) June 4: Royale Boston (Boston, MA) June 5: Union Transfer (Philadelphia, PA) June 6: Webster Hall (New York City, NY) June 8: Danforth Music Hall (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
I love this record, because its an actual song. Sure, they repeat the title about three-dozen times, but its a great track.
NOISE CLOSES — (Via Deadline) Broadway’s A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical will play its final performance on Sunday, June 30, before launching a national tour this fall, producers announced today.
The musical, which began previews on November 2, 2022, at the Broadhurst Theatre and opened that year on December 4, will have played 35 preview performances and 657 regular performances when it closes.
As I’ve said, early reviews of the show, kind of stopped me from going to this. An artist who is even referenced in the play said to me ‘why would I go to a play that got bad reviews.’ Understood.
But, I did see it and absolutely loved it. Of course, I’m somewhat on the business side and loved all the insider-nuances. And, I saw it with the original performers in it.
There will be a national tour and I predict it will be a huge hit as Diamond’s music is multi-generational. As I’ve said, I preferred Diamond’s “Solitary Man”-period more than “America” and “I Am, I Said.” Although, “Turn On Your Heart Light” (written with Carole Bayer Sager and Burt Bacharach) was a great record.
An icon for certain.
SHORT TAKES — Warner’s second Aquaman movie; Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom will stream on MAX on February 27. The first Aquaman movie, out in 2018, remains the highest-grossing DC film of all time. The sequel, after a plethora of media, mostly about Amber Heard, disappeared in a matter of weeks … Broadway-journeyman and Rockers On Broadway-creator Donnie Kehr recupping. Get well soon brother! … Keith Girard’s New York Independent featured an interview with 17-old wunderkind Kjersti Long. Check it out: https://www.thenyindependent.com/music/1704991/kjersti-long-17-explores-her-jersey-roots-by-way-of-utah-with-power-pop-style-video/ …
Just listened to the Pet Shop Boys “West End Girls.” What a tremendous record that hold up amazingly well all these years later. It came out in 1984 and produced by Bobby Orlando … Amazon shuttering Freevee? First off, as an offshoot of Amazon, this has got to be one of the worst monikers ever! I mean, FreeVee ... always sounded like frisbee! Adios … Thursday’s Law & Order was the ode to Sam Waterston’s Jack McCoy-character (Last Dance).
After 404 episodes, we had to say goodbye. It wasn’t the greatest episode, but when McCoy took over the case and presented it to the jury, Waterston shone brightly. When McCoy said to Hugh Dancy (Nolan Ryan), it was a hell of a ride, it resonated terrifically. Thanks Jack! …
I loved the finale on HBO of True Detective with Jodie Foster and Kali Reis. I didn’t understand it all, but the look and direction (by Issa Lopez) and Jodie Foster was just superb. I had forgotten just how good an actress Foster was. Sure, she was good in Nyad, but it was a supporting role. Here, she was just stellar. I’d like to see more of her …
It was a grim week medically speaking as talk-show hostess Wendy Williams was diagnosed with aphasia and dementia and Mick Jones of Foreigner, with Parkinson’s. Sending prayers to both … And finally, news surfaced Thursday that an “inebriated” Andy Cohen harassed Brandi Glanville. I don’t know Andy at all, but his bad-boy antics of the last several years were clearly leading to something like this. Glanville’s lawyers even invoked NBC’s Matt Lauer in their brief. Expect a huge media brouhaha over this one. Sad for sure … Happy Bday Lou Christie; Niki Avers and Chloe Gaier.
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Steve Walter; Obi Steinman; Felix Cavaliere; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Kent Kotal; Ace Frehley; Alex Saltzman; Lush Ice; Tony King; Barry Zelman; Justin Ridener; Kent & Laura Denmark; Mark Bego; Mark Scheerer; Barbara Shelley; and SADIE!
The Glorious Corner
Wendy Williams: Guardianship/ Conservatorship and What You Need To Know Part 1
Bonnie Comley Nothing To Wear
Romantic and Meaningful Love Quotes For Her To Help Win Her Heart
Entre Institute Review – Is Jeff Lerner’s Program a Scam?
How to Take Advantage of Virtual Numbers for SMS
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