Lillias White

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Lillias White
Born (1951-07-21) July 21, 1951 (age 72)
  • Actress
  • singer
Years active1981–present

Lillias White (born July 21, 1951) is an American actress and singer. She is particularly known for her performances in Broadway musicals. 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 her roles as Calliope in the Disney film Hercules (1997), and its animated series of the same name; Evette in the film Pieces of April (2003); and as Fat Annie 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 an active cabaret singer and has appeared in concert with the Boston Pops Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and at Carnegie Hall.



White is a Brooklyn, New York native who made her Broadway debut in Barnum in 1981.[1] 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.[2]

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.[3] Off-Broadway White has performed in the Public Theater production of the William Finn musical Romance in Hard Times (1989),[4] for which she won the Obie Award, Dinah Was (1998) at the Gramercy Theatre as singer Dinah Washington,[5] 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.[6] In 2014, White appeared Off-Broadway in the Primary Stages production of the play While I Yet Live by Billy Porter.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9][10][11]

In August 2022, it was announced that White would play the role of Hermes in the Broadway musical Hadestown beginning on September 13, 2022. She is the first woman to play the role.[12]


During a performance of Hadestown on October 12, 2022, White twice reprimanded an audience member from the stage for recording the production.[13][14] White was unaware that this audience member was not recording, and was in fact using a captioning device because she was disabled and needed it to understand the dialogue of the musical.[15] The theatre and production issued official apologies, affirmed their future commitments to accessibility, and offered a complimentary ticket to the audience member to make up for the incident.[16] White did not comment on the incident herself. The audience member took to social media to urge users to stop harassing White, as the actress's social media profiles had been deluged with ageist and racist insults in response to the incident.[17]

Concerts and cabaret[edit]

White's concert performances to benefit the Actors' Fund of America include Dreamgirls in 2001,[18] Funny Girl in 2002,[19] and Hair in 2004.[20] She performed in the concert version of South Pacific, which was broadcast by PBS Great Performances in 2006.[21] 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.[22] She also has appeared in concert at Carnegie Hall, in March 2004, singing Harold Arlen songs with the New York Pops.[23] White performed her one-woman show at the Kennedy Center's "Barbara Cook's Spotlight" in November 2007, singing songs by Cy Coleman.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26] She performed the show in San Francisco in 2003 at the Plush Room.[27] Lilias has also performed at The Purple Room in Palm Springs, California. [28]

She is heard on the 1990 Madonna recording "Rescue Me".[citation needed]

Television and film[edit]

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.[29]

Personal life[edit]

White was raised Catholic.[30]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Work Result Ref.
1990 Obie Award Performance Romance in Hard Times Won [31]
1997 Tony Award Best Featured Actress in a Musical The Life Won [32]
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Won [1]
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Won [33]
2009 Ovation Award Lead Actress in a Musical The Best is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman Nominated [34][35]
2010 Tony Award Best Featured Actress in a Musical Fela! Nominated [32]
2015 Lucille Lortel Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical Texas in Paris Nominated [36]
Bistro Award Outstanding Major Engagement Honouree [37]



Year Title Role Notes
1988 Me and Him Dancing Secretary
1994 North Operator
Bleeding Hearts Neighbor Woman
1997 Hercules Calliope Voice role
Anastasia Ensemble
1999 Gloria Transit Cop #1
2000 How the Grinch Stole Christmas Shopper
2002 Interview with the Assassin Nurse
2003 Pieces of April Evette
2005 Game 6 Toyota Moseby
2007 Then She Found Me Sheila
2015 Nasty Baby Cecilia
2018 Melinda Madam Magda
The Chaperone Singer
2021 The Drummer Roberta


Year Title Role Notes
1990–1993 Sesame Street Lillian Recurring role
1998 Hercules Calliope (voice) Recurring role; 6 episodes
1999 Hercules: Zero to Hero Calliope (voice) Television film
2004 The Jury Teresa Scott Episode: "Lamentation on the Reservation "
2015 Gotham Choir Member Episode: "The Fearsome Dr. Crane"
Person of Interest Hon. R. Reginald Episode: "Guilty"
2016–2017 The Get Down Fat Annie Recurring role; 9 episodes
2019–present Russian Doll Dr. Zaveri 2 episodes
2021 Search Party Wilma Episode: "The Imposter"
2022 Mickey Mouse Funhouse Calliope (voice) Episode: "Daisy and the Muses"

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1997 Disney's Animated Storybook: Hercules Calliope
1997 Hercules Calliope


  1. ^ a b "Lillias White – Broadway Cast & Staff | IBDB". Retrieved March 29, 2021.
  2. ^ "Broadway Artists Alliance: Lillias White". Archived from the original on January 19, 2014. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  3. ^ Viagas, Robert. "Where You Can Hear Tony Winner Lillias White". Archived from the original on February 1, 2014. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  4. ^ Stasio, Marilyn. "A New Musical Finds Comedy And Romance in Hard Times' " Archived August 27, 2016, at the Wayback Machine The New York Times, December 24, 1989
  5. ^ Lefkowitz, David. "Tony-Winner Lillias White To Be Dinah Was-hington OB, Aug. 10" Archived September 24, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, August 2, 1998
  6. ^ "Lortel Archives: Lillias White". Lortel Archives. Archived from the original on November 5, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  7. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Billy Porter's 'While I Yet Live', with Lillias White and S. Epatha Merkerson, Premieres Off-Broadway" Archived September 23, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, September 24, 2014
  8. ^ Purcell, Carey. "World Premiere of 'Texas in Paris', With Lillias White and Scott Wakefield, Opens Off-Broadway Tonight" Archived August 8, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, February 5, 2015
  9. ^ Cox, Gordon. "Stefanie Powers, Georgia Engel Join Cast of Broadway-Bound ‘Gotta Dance’" Variety, June 29, 2015
  10. ^ Viagas, Robert. "Broadway-Bound Gotta Dance, Starring Lillias White, André De Shields and Georgia Engel, Bows in Chicago" Archived January 28, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, December 13, 2015
  11. ^ Gans, Andrew (December 14, 2015). "Gotta Dance, Helmed by Jerry Mitchell, Extends Chicago Run; Broadway Debut Set for Fall". Playbill. Archived from the original on December 18, 2015. Retrieved December 17, 2015.
  12. ^ Hornik, Caitlin (August 8, 2022). "Lillias White to join Broadway's 'Hadestown' as Hermes". Broadway News. Retrieved August 8, 2022.
  13. ^ Twitter Retrieved October 17, 2022. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ Culwell-Block, Logan (October 16, 2022). "Hadestown Producers and Jujamcyn Apologize Following Incident Involving Audience Member With Hearing Loss". Playbill.
  15. ^ Siegal • •, Ida (October 14, 2022). "'Hadestown' Star Under Fire for Publicly Shaming Audience Member — Twice". NBC New York. Retrieved October 17, 2022.
  16. ^ Evans, Greg (October 13, 2022). "'Hadestown' & Jujamcyn Theaters Apologize And Reaffirm "Commitment To Accessibility" After Actor Calls Out Audience Member With Hearing Loss Using Captioning Device". Deadline. Retrieved October 17, 2022.
  17. ^ Evans, Greg (October 14, 2022). "'Hadestown' Audience Member With Hearing Loss Urges Social Media Users To "Stop Harassing" Lillias White: Actress Is Not "The Enemy"". Deadline. Retrieved October 17, 2022.
  18. ^ Marks, Peter. "For One Night, the Dreams Are Back" Archived April 22, 2017, at the Wayback Machine The New York Times, September 23, 2001
  19. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Chenoweth, Foster, Krakowski, Murphy and White Added to 'Funny Girl' Benefit" Archived September 24, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, May 9, 2002
  20. ^ "Stars Sign on for Actors' Fund 9/20 'Hair' Concert" Archived September 23, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, August 15, 2004
  21. ^ "South Pacific in concert from Carnegie Hall". PBS. April 26, 2006. Archived from the original on February 2, 2014. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  22. ^ Filipski, Kevin. "Broadway Star Joins the Phil in Prospect Park", The Brooklyn Paper, July 21, 2003
  23. ^ Gans, Andrew. Lillias White Sings Harold Arlen at New York Pops' Carnegie Hall Concert March 5" Archived September 24, 2015, at the Wayback Machine February 6, 2004
  24. ^ Pressley, Nelson. "Lillias White Takes a Seat, but Her Voice Deserves a Pedestal" Archived March 5, 2016, at the Wayback Machine The Washington Post, November 19, 2007
  25. ^ Gioia, Michael. "Lillias White, Justin Guarini, Christine Dwyer Sing Lyons and Pakchar in Free Broadway Songbook Concert Tonight" Archived September 24, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, September 29, 2014
  26. ^ McBride, Murdoch. Lillias White Goes "From Brooklyn To Broadway" at Arci’s, March 14" Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, March 15, 2000
  27. ^ Winn, Steven. "'From Brooklyn to Broadway' takes a wrong turn" Archived September 24, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, April 10, 2003
  28. ^ "An Evening with Lilias White at Purple Room Supper Club on Nov 18, 2022 tickets | Eventsfy".
  29. ^ "IMDB: Lillias White". IMDB. Archived from the original on November 1, 2017. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  30. ^ Nassour, Ellis (August 25, 1997). "It's A Wonderful Life". Playbill. Retrieved June 25, 2021.
  31. ^ "1990s". Obie Awards. Retrieved March 29, 2021.
  32. ^ a b "The Tony Award Nominations". Retrieved March 29, 2021.
  33. ^ "Lillias White". Playbill. Retrieved March 29, 2021.
  34. ^ "Chris Pine, Allison Janney among 2008-09 Ovation nominees [Updated]". LA Times Blogs - Culture Monster. October 19, 2009. Retrieved March 29, 2021.
  35. ^ "2009/2010 Ovation Award Winners". At This Stage. January 18, 2011. Retrieved March 29, 2021.
  36. ^ Cox, Gordon (May 11, 2015). "'Hamilton' Dominates the 2015 Lucille Lortel Awards (FULL LIST)". Variety. Retrieved March 29, 2021.
  37. ^ Clement, Olivia. "Tony Winner Lillias White To Be Honored at Bistro Awards Tonight" Archived August 5, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, February 19, 2015

External links[edit]