Broadway Legend André De Shields Wins His First Tony Award
|thenorthstar||Jun 13, 2019|
André De Shields won his first Tony Award on June 9 for his role in Hadestown following a 50-year acting career. Hadestown is a stage musical adaptation of Anaïs Mitchel’s 2010 folk album by the same name. De Shields won the Tony for best featured actor in a musical for his role of Hermes. The 73-year-old, who beat out fellow nominees Andy Groteluschen, Jeremy Pope, Ephraim Sykes, and Patrick Page, has spent his career working on and off Broadway, as well as in film and television. He has over a dozen Broadway credits to his name, including a breakout role in the 1975 play The Wiz.
This is not the first time De Shields has been nominated for a Tony. He was first nominated in 1997 for Play On! and again in 2001 for The Full Monty, the Los Angeles Times reported. He won an Obie Award for sustained excellence in performance in 2007. In 1982, De Shields won an Emmy for the role of Viper in the NBC special Ain’t Misbehavin.’
De Shields gave a shout out to his hometown of Baltimore during his acceptance speech, Broadway.com reported. “Baltimore, Maryland are you in the house?” De Shields said. “I hope you’re watching at home because I am making good on my promise that I would come to New York and become someone you’d be proud to call your native son.” He later took to Twitter to say he owed “a huge karmic debt” to his parents, who also dreamed of being performers. The prolific performer also shared his three cardinal rules while accepting his award:
“One, surround yourself with people whose eyes light up when they see you coming. Two, slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to be, and three, the top of one mountain is the bottom of the next, so keep climbing.”
De Shields first became involved in the arts through Baltimore’s Royal Theatre, he said in a 2015 interview, according to The Baltimore Sun. He said the iconic theater “was where I would go for my window on the world.”
The Royal Theatre first opened as the Black-owned Douglass Theatre in 1922. The theater, which was renamed in 1925 and featured vaudeville shows and movies geared toward a Black audience, was demolished in 1971.
In a recent interview with The Daily Beast, De Shields credited his time at the Royal Theater as the “introduction I needed to know that I was not alone.” De Shields, the ninth of 11 children, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He made his debut on stage in the 1969 Chicago production of Hair, according to The Los Angeles Times.
In 1975, he starred in his breakout role, playing the title character in The Wiz, the all-Black iteration of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The musical, which won seven Tony Awards, put on more than 1,600 performances. Three years later, actor Richard Pryor reprised De Shields’ role on film. In a 2015 NBC TV special, the Wizard of Oz was portrayed by Queen Latifah.
In his role as Hermes in Hadestown, De Shields narrates the heartbreaking story of Orpheus and Eurydice. De Shields told Billboard that he is enjoying his time on stage. “Yes, I’m having a ball. I’m slaying it, as we say,” he said.
De Shields’ career has included more than acting. In the mid-1970s, he choreographed two Bette Midler musicals in New York. During that time, he also created six theatrical concerts, including “Black by Popular Demand,” The Los Angeles Times noted. De Shields has also taught at Southern Methodist University in Texas, University of Michigan, and New York University. Hadestown won eight Tonys out of 14 nominations, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The big winner took home the Tony Award for best musical.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.