André De Shields

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André De Shields
Andre De Shields in NY2009 photo by Lia Chang.jpg
André De Shields at home in New York on February 11, 2009
Born (1946-01-12) January 12, 1946 (age 73)
Occupationactor, singer, director, dancer, novelist, choreographer, college professor
Years active1967–present

André De Shields (born January 12, 1946 in Baltimore, Maryland) is an African-American actor, singer, director, dancer, novelist, choreographer, lyricist, composer, and professor.

Early life[edit]

De Shields graduated from Baltimore City College in 1964. He then attended Wilmington College, where he starred in a production of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. De Shields transferred colleges and received his bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. After graduating from Wisconsin, he earned a Master of Arts from New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where he now serves as an adjunct professor.


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. These included Ken Rubenstein's Sacred Guard (1973)[1], Lamar Alford's Thoughts (1974)[2], and the Cotton Club Gala with music by Aaron Bell and directed by Ellen Stewart (1985)[3]. He co-wrote (with Judith Cohen) and directed an evening of songs called Judith and the Cohen Sisters in Midnight in Manhattan at La MaMa in September/October 1984.[4] He directed a production of Chico Kasinoir's The Adventures of Rhubarb: The Rock and Roll Rabbit in 1985[5] and a production of his own work, Saint Tous, to celebrate Black History Month at La MaMa in February 1991[6].

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.[7] He then appeared in the title role of The Wiz, Charlie Smalls and William F. Brown's 1975 musical directed by Geoffrey Holder.[8]

After choreographing two Bette Midler musicals, De Shields returned to Broadway to perform in the musical revue Ain't Misbehavin' in 1978.[9] The original production ran for over 1,600 shows and De Shields earned a 1978 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.[10] The revue was produced at the Latin Quarter and at La MaMa (with music by Marc Shaiman).[11] He appeared in a revival of Ain't Misbehavin' in 1988, and next appeared on Broadway 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.[12]

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. As with Play On!, De Shields earned both Tony and Drama Desk nominations for this performance.[13] In 2004, he appeared in the Broadway production of Mark Medoff's Prymate at the Longacre Theatre.[14] In 2008, he received a Drama Desk nomination for his performance in an off-Broadway production of Langston Hughes' Black Nativity. In 2009, he appeared on Broadway opposite Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons in Impressionism.[15] The play ran through May 2009 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater.

De Shields' regional theatre credits include Play On!, The Full Monty, Waiting For Godot, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Death of a Salesman, Dusyanta: A Tale of Kalidasa, The Gospel According to James, and Camino Real. 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 has portrayed Barrett Rude Sr. in The Fortress of Solitude, the musical based on Jonathan Lethem's novel The Fortress of Solitude, since its inception in 2012 at Vassar College. The Fortress of Solitude premiered at the Dallas Theater Center in spring 2014[16], and the off-Broadway production of The Fortress of Solitude, co-produced with The Public Theater, ran through November 2014. De Shields, Lillias White, Stefanie Powers, and Georgia Engel starred in the new musical Gotta Dance, directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. The musical began performances on December 13, 2015 at Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre and ran through January 17, 2016.[17][18] He is currently on Broadway playing Hermes in Hadestown, which began previews on March 22, 2019 at the Walter Kerr Theatre.[19]

De Shields has appeared on television on Another World, Cosby, Sex and the City, Great Performances, Lipstick Jungle, Law & Order, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Special 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 that also featured Eve Arden, Richard Burton, Colleen Dewhurst, James Coco, Kaye Ballard, and Nathan Lane.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Production Result
1978 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actor in a Musical Ain't Misbehavin' Nominated
1982 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program Won
1984 AUDELCO Recognition Award Outstanding Direction of a Musical Blackberries Won
Outstanding Choreography of a Musical Won
1991 Excellence in Black Theatre Saint Tous Won
1992 Haarlem Nocturne Won
1997 Tony Award Best Featured Actor in a Musical Play On! Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Nominated
2001 Tony Award Best Featured Actor in a Musical The Full Monty Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Won
2004 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play Prymate Nominated
AUDELCO Recognition Award Outstanding Performance by a Lead Actor in a Play Dream on Monkey Mountain Won
2007 Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, University of Wisconsin–Madison Won
Obie Award Sustained Excellence of Performance Won
2009 AUDELCO Recognition Award Outstanding Performance in a Musical [Male] Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe Won
National Black Theatre Festival Living Legend Award Won
2013 Jeff Award Outstanding Achievement in the category of Actor in a Supporting Role – Musical The Jungle Book Won
IRNE Award Best Supporting Actor - Musical Nominated
Elliot Norton Award Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actor Nominated
Fox Foundation Fellowship Grant for Distinguished Achievement ($25,000 to support his work at the Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago)[20] Won
2014 AUDELCO Recognition Award Special Achievement Award[21][22] Won
2018 Bistro Awards Bob Harrington Lifetime Achievement Award Won
2019 Drama League Award Distinguished Performance Award[23] Hadestown Pending


  1. ^ La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: Sacred Guard (1973)". Accessed June 20, 2018.
  2. ^ La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: Thoughts (1974)". Accessed June 20, 2018.
  3. ^ La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: Cotton Club Gala (1985)". Accessed June 20, 2018.
  4. ^ La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: Judith and the Cohen Sisters in Midnight in Manhattan (1984)". Accessed June 20, 2018.
  5. ^ La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: Adventures of Rhubarb: The Rock and Roll Rabbit, The (1985)". Accessed June 20, 2018.
  6. ^ La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: Saint Tous (1991)". Accessed June 20, 2018.
  7. ^ League, The Broadway. "Warp – Broadway Play – Original | IBDB". www.ibdb.com. Retrieved 2018-06-20.
  8. ^ "Giants in the Earth: A Tribute to Geoffrey Holder". AmericanTheatre.org. October 17, 2014.
  9. ^ Wilson, John S. (February 20, 1978). "'Here 'Tis' - A Musical Bow to Fats Waller; The Cast". The New York Times. pp. C13. Retrieved January 17, 2012.
  10. ^ Wilson, John S. (January 31, 1984). "Cabaret: De Shields's 'Harlem Nocturne'". New York Times.
  11. ^ La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: Haarlem Nocturne (1984)". Accessed June 20, 2018.
  12. ^ Armstrong, Linda (August 12, 1997). "Black Fest '97: Andre De Shields Back After Play On!". Playbill.com.
  13. ^ Ehren, Christine (May 29, 2001). "PLAYBILL ON-LINE'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with Andre de Shields". Playbill.com. Archived from the original on October 21, 2014.
  14. ^ Murray, Mathew (May 5, 2004). "Broadway Reviews: Prymate". Talkin’ Broadway.
  15. ^ Kachka, Boris (March 22, 2009). "The Impressionist: André De Shields". New York Magazine.
  16. ^ "Hopes are high and sights quietly Broadway-set for 'The Fortress of Solitude,' premiering in Dallas". Dallas Morning News. March 9, 2014.
  17. ^ Cox, Gordon. "Stefanie Powers, Georgia Engel Join Cast of Broadway-Bound ‘Gotta Dance’" Variety, June 29, 2015
  18. ^ Gans, Andrew (December 14, 2015). "Gotta Dance, Helmed by Jerry Mitchell, Extends Chicago Run; Broadway Debut Set for Fall". Playbill.
  19. ^ Hetrick, Adam (March 12, 2019). "Hadestown Begins on Broadway March 22". Playbill.
  20. ^ "Andre De Shields Awarded Fox Foundation Grant for Distinguished Achievement; Heads to Chicago's Victory Gardens Theatre in 2013". BroadwayWorld.com. October 3, 2012.
  21. ^ Newdesk. "Andre De Shields to Receive Audelco Special Achievement Award at 42nd Annual Gala, 11/17". BroadwayWorld.com, November 13, 2014.
  22. ^ Audelco Awards "The VIV's"-2014 Vivian Robinson Recognition for Excellence in Black Theater on YouTube
  23. ^ Lefkowitz, Andy (2019-04-17). "Nominations Announced for 85th Annual Drama League Awards". Broadway.com. Retrieved 2019-04-17.

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