“Denzel, Denzel, Denzel.”
Upon receiving the 2014 Tony Award for best director, Kenny Leon thanked Fordham alumnus Denzel Washington, FCLC ’77, who is currently starring on Broadway in the Leon-directed revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. “He’s truly a theater inspiration.”
The play’s run ended June 15, but the bond between director and star will only strengthen this fall, when Leon is expected to join the Fordham faculty as the University’s 2014 Denzel Washington Chair in Theatre at Fordham, an endowed position established in 2011 with a $2 million gift from Washington. Leon last directed Washington in the 2010 revival of August Wilson’s Fences, which won a Tony for best revival of a play and earned Washington a Tony Award for best actor.
Though Washington was absent from the June 8 awards ceremony in Radio City Music Hall, Fordham was not without stellar alumni representation and achievement on stage.
John Johnson, FCLC ’02, won two Tony Awards. As one of the executive producers of A Raisin in the Sun, he took home the Tony for best revival of a play. He is also a producer of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, which earned four Tony Awards, including the award for best musical. The musical comedy was a Fordham College at Lincoln Center reunion of sorts for Johnson. HIs former roommate Aaron Rhyme, FCLC ’02, did the show’s projection design, for which he won a 2014 Drama Desk Award.
Johnson adds these two Tony wins to his first, earned last year as a producer of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which won best play. After receiving that award last June, Johnson credited his Fordham Theatre training for his success. He recalled that the goal of the program is to create “eclectic professionals” who can fill multiple roles: actor, director, playwright, and producer.
As a producer, Johnson said, “you’re focusing on selling tickets, you’re focusing on advertising, you’re focusing on contracts, you’re focusing on the day-to-day aspects of working with actors, directors, crew members. … You need all of those things in your tool kit, and that’s definitely something that Fordham taught me right from the outset.”
Four alumnae of the Ailey/Fordham B.F.A. in Dance program helped kick off the Tony Awards ceremony, following host Hugh Jackman’s high-energy entrance into Radio City Music Hall. Marija Juliette Abney (FCLC ’07); Taeler Elyse Cyrus (FCLC ’08); Erin N. Moore (FCLC ’05); and Monique Smith (FCLC ’02), joined their cast mates from the Tony-nominated After Midnight in a special number choreographed by Warren Carlye just for the telecast. The jazzy spectacle, set to “On the Sunny Side of the Street” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” also featured Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, and Fantasia Barrino.
Later in the broadcast, in one of two teasers for the upcoming 2014-2015 theater season, Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson sang “Neverland,” a song from the new musical Finding Neverland, which open this summer at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass. Hudson will not be part of the cast, but Fordham alumna Melanie Moore, FCLC ’14, will be in the ensemble. Moore, winner of season eight of Fox’sSo You Think You Can Dance, performed the role of Peter Pan during the Tonys’ Finding Neverlandpiece.
Fordham alumni have earned six Tony Awards in the past seven years. In addition to John Johnson and Denzel Washington’s awards, Julie White, FCLC ’85, earned a 2007 Tony for best actress in The Little Dog Laughed, and John Benjamin Hickey, FCLC ’85, won in 2011 for featured actor in The Normal Heart.
– Rachel Buttner