When Denzel Washington (FCLC ’77) won a Tony Award in June for his lead performance in the Broadway revival of Fences, it was a first for him—but not a first for Fordham alumni.
Many have found success on the Great White Way, though it had been three years since a graduate took home a Tony statuette. In 2007, Julie White (PCS ’09) won Best Leading Actress in a Play for The Little Dog Laughed.
Currently, visitors to Broadway can witness the talents of 10 Fordham College at Lincoln Center alumni. Their shows include:
• The Phantom of the Opera—John Cudia (FCLC ’93)
• La Cage aux Folles—Sean Carmon (FCLC ’10)
• American Idiot—Van Hughes (FCLC ’05)
• Spring Awakening—Frances Mercanti-Anthony (FCLC ’00)
• The Lion King—Charity DeLoera (FCLC ’08), James Pierce III (FCLC ’05) and Michelle Brugal (FCLC ’06)
• In the Heights—Jennifer Locke (FCLC ’08) and Rosie Lainier Fiedleman, (FCLC ’02)
• Memphis—Ephraim Sykes (FCLC ’10), Vivian Nixon (FCLC ’06) and Monique Smith (FCLC ’02)
• West Side Story—Kristine Covillo (FCLC ’05) and Christian Elán Ortiz (FCLC, 10)
Matthew Maguire, the head of Fordham Theatre, credited the success of Fordham graduates to both a love of the work and a deep knowledge of the industry.
“They’ve learned every dialect of the business from our professional faculty and our guest professionals,” Maguire said. “They’ve learned how to question from our core curriculum. They’ve collected a depth of experience on stage from the four main stage and 20 studio productions we produce every season.”
Ana Marie Forsythe, acting director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater/Fordham University BFA program, credited Fordham alumni success to the versatile training they receive at the Ailey School ,which includes many repertory workshops with artists and choreographers.
Cudia, who can be seen starring in The Phantom of The Opera at the Majestic Theater, said that while at Fordham, he was encouraged to get as wide-ranging an educational experience as possible, both within the University and in New York City.
“Being in New York was the real draw for me, because I really didn’t know that I’d be heading for a career primarily in musical theater. I just wanted to call myself an actor and see what happened,” Cudia said. “The freedom to explore and see where I fit in was important, and it allowed me to develop over the years.”
That sentiment is echoed by Carmon, who is completing the Ailey/Fordham bachelor of fine arts program in dance this summer. After auditioning for roles in two Broadway musicals, he landed a spot in March as one of six “Cagelles” in the revival of La Cage aux Folles.
“It’s been an amazing experience, and I could not have asked for a better end to my senior year,” he said.
The opportunity to dance in the show came after another dancer injured himself shortly before rehearsals began. Although Carmon’s ultimate goal is to dance with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, he said it was thrilling to work with professional Broadway dancers. He said he has come a long way in four years.
“I used my time at Fordham to make almost every mistake I possibly could,” he said, laughing. “I can’t even lie about that, because I’m just so grateful that this school allowed me to mature on my own, under a watchful eye, and let me make my own mistakes, and then coach me through them.”
Hughes, on the other hand, was not new to Broadway when he joined the cast of American Idiot. As a principal stand-in, he has been an integral part of the production behind the scenes, and has performed a leading role in one live show.
“I’ve done musicals my whole life, but I feel like I’m coming into my own with this punk-inspired kind of music,” he said. “This is the kind of stuff I was listening to when I was young, but unfortunately never got the opportunity to sing it from stage, because it was alwaysOliver, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat—things like that.”
Hughes has parlayed his talents into a career in television, film and theater, including roles in the Broadway productions of 9 to 5 and Hairspray. While at Fordham, he did ethnographic research on IATSE—the stagehand union—and generally expanded his worldview beyond what he had known growing up in Virginia Beach, Va.
“Once I decided to go to school for acting, Fordham was the one that felt like a family. When I went for auditions, it felt like a really close-knit group and everybody was very welcoming,” he said.