Lillias White (born July 21, 1951) is an American singer and actress of stage, television, and film. In 1989 she won an Obie Award for her performance in the Off-Broadway musical Romance in Hard Times. In 1997 she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical and Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical for portraying Sonja in Cy Coleman's The Life. She was nominated for a Tony Award again in 2010 for her work as Funmilayo in Fela Kuti's Fela!.
White is also known for voicing Calliope on the Disney animated series Hercules, portraying Evette in the film Pieces of April, and for her work as Fat Annie (Cadillac's mother) in the Netflix series The Get Down. She has also starred as Bloody Mary in Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific on PBS' Great Performances with Reba McEntire and in the PBS documentary In Performance at the White House. She is also an active cabaret singer and has appeared in concert with the Boston Pops Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and at Carnegie Hall.
The Brooklyn, New York native made her Broadway debut in Barnum in 1981. She understudied the role of Effie in the original 1981 production of Dreamgirls and played the part in the 1987 revival, for which she won the Drama League Award for Best Actress in a Musical.
White has also appeared on Broadway in Cats, Carrie, Once on This Island, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Chicago, and Fela!. For her role in Cy Coleman's The Life, she won the Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for her portrayal of a world-weary, no-nonsense, streetwise hooker named Sonja. Off-Broadway White has performed in the Public Theater production of the William Finn musical Romance in Hard Times (1989), for which she won the Obie Award, Dinah Was (1998) at the Gramercy Theatre as singer Dinah Washington, and the Second Stage Theatre production of Regina Taylor's musical Crowns (2002), for which she and the cast won the AUDELCO Award, Outstanding Ensemble Performance. In 2014, White appeared Off-Broadway in the Primary Stages production of the play While I Yet Live by Billy Porter. In 2015, White starred with Scott Wakefield Off-Broadway in the York Theatre Company's World premiere of Alan Govenar's musical Texas in Paris.
White, André De Shields, Stefanie Powers, and Georgia Engel appeared in the new musical Gotta Dance, directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, which began performances on December 13, 2015 at Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre, and ran through January 17, 2016.
Concerts and cabaret
White's concert performances to benefit the Actors' Fund of America include Dreamgirls in 2001, Funny Girl in 2002, and Hair in 2004. She performed in the concert version of South Pacific, which was broadcast by PBS Great Performances in 2006. She performed with the Brooklyn Philharmonic in a concert of works by Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and George and Ira Gershwin celebrating the orchestra's 50th anniversary in July 2003. She also has appeared in concert at Carnegie Hall, in March 2004, singing Harold Arlen songs with the New York Pops. White performed her one-woman show at the Kennedy Center's "Barbara Cook's Spotlight" in November 2007, singing songs by Cy Coleman. At the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center she performed in a concert, Broadway's Future Songbook, in September 2014. She has toured with her one-woman cabaret show From Brooklyn to Broadway, which she first presented in March 2000 at Arci's Place in New York City. She performed the show in San Francisco in 2003 at the Plush Room.
Television and film
White's television appearances include a regular role on Sesame Street, Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and NYPD Blue. Her screen credits include voiceover work in Disney's Hercules and Anastasia and appearances in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Game 6, Pieces of April and Then She Found Me.
Awards and nominations
- 1997: Tony Award for Featured Actress in a Musical for the role of Sonja in The Life
- 1997: Drama Desk Award Featured Actress in a Musical for the role of Sonja in The Life
- 2009: Ovation Awards nomination for Lead Actress in a Musical for the role of Lillias in the Rubicon Theatre Company production of "The Best is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman"
- 2010: Tony Award nomination for Featured Actress in a Musical for the role of Funmilayo Kuti in Fela!
- 2015: recognized at the Bistro Awards for outstanding achievement in New York cabaret, jazz and comedy
- "IBDB: Lillias White". Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- "Broadway Artists Alliance: Lillias White". Archived from the original on 19 January 2014. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- Viagas, Robert. "Where You Can Hear Tony Winner Lillias White". Playbill.com. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- Stasio, Marilyn. "A New Musical Finds Comedy And Romance in Hard Times' " The New York Times, December 24, 1989
- Lefkowitz, David. "Tony-Winner Lillias White To Be Dinah Was-hington OB, Aug. 10" playbill.com, August 2, 1998
- "Lortel Archives: Lillias White". Lortel Archives. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- Hetrick, Adam. "Billy Porter's 'While I Yet Live', with Lillias White and S. Epatha Merkerson, Premieres Off-Broadway" playbill.com, September 24, 2014
- Purcell, Carey. "World Premiere of 'Texas in Paris', With Lillias White and Scott Wakefield, Opens Off-Broadway Tonight" playbill.com, February 5, 2015
- Cox, Gordon. "Stefanie Powers, Georgia Engel Join Cast of Broadway-Bound ‘Gotta Dance’" Variety, June 29, 2015
- Viagas, Robert. "Broadway-Bound Gotta Dance, Starring Lillias White, André De Shields and Georgia Engel, Bows in Chicago" playbill.com, December 13, 2015
- Gans, Andrew (December 14, 2015). "Gotta Dance, Helmed by Jerry Mitchell, Extends Chicago Run; Broadway Debut Set for Fall". Playbill.
- Marks, Peter. "For One Night, the Dreams Are Back" The New York Times, September 23, 2001
- Gans, Andrew. "Chenoweth, Foster, Krakowski, Murphy and White Added to 'Funny Girl' Benefit" playbill.com, May 9, 2002
- "Stars Sign on for Actors' Fund 9/20 'Hair' Concert" broadway.com, August 15, 2004
- "South Pacific in concert from Carnegie Hall". Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- Filipski, Kevin. "Broadway Star Joins the Phil in Prospect Park", The Brooklyn Paper, July 21, 2003
- Gans, Andrew. Lillias White Sings Harold Arlen at New York Pops' Carnegie Hall Concert March 5" February 6, 2004
- Pressley, Nelson. "Lillias White Takes a Seat, but Her Voice Deserves a Pedestal" The Washington Post, November 19, 2007
- Gioia, Michael. "Lillias White, Justin Guarini, Christine Dwyer Sing Lyons and Pakchar in Free Broadway Songbook Concert Tonight" playbill.com, September 29, 2014
- McBride, Murdoch. Lillias White Goes "From Brooklyn To Broadway" at Arci’s, March 14" playbill.com, March 15, 2000
- Winn, Steven. "'From Brooklyn to Broadway' takes a wrong turn" sfgate.com, April 10, 2003
- "IMDB: Lillias White". IMDB. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- "Ovation Nominees". 20 October 2009.
- Clement, Olivia. "Tony Winner Lillias White To Be Honored at Bistro Awards Tonight" playbill.com, February 19, 2015