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A Broadway Celebration: In Performance at the White House, Talent Bios

“A Broadway Celebration: In Performance at the White House” is a PBS music special in the East Room of the White House.  President and Mrs. Obama hosted the event on Monday, July 19, featuring a series of performances by major Broadway artists and new talent presenting selections from American musicals that reflect the spirit, energy and ambition of America.  The evening is emceed by Nathan Lane and includes Idina Menzel, Brian d’Arcy James, Audra McDonald, Chad Kimball, Elaine Stritch, Marvin Hamlisch, Karen Olivo, Tonya Pinkins, Assata Alston and a youth ensemble from the Joy of Motion Dance Center and Duke Ellington School of the Arts, with Danielle Arci and Constantine Rousouli.  The sixty-minute television special, part of the Emmy Award-nominated PBS “In Performance at the White House” series, premieres Wednesday, October 20 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS stations nationwide, followed by an encore presentation at 10 p.m. (Check local listings.)

Talent Bios

Nathan Lane (Emcee)
If anyone symbolizes Broadway these days, it is Lane, currently starring as Gomez in The Addams Family, his seventeenth Broadway show.  He has done everything from Mamet to Beckett, and won every major award, including two Tony Awards®, the Olivier, five Drama Desk Awards, and two Obies.  In television, Lane has won two Emmy Awards and a People’s Choice Award, and he has done over thirty films, including The Birdcage, The Lion King and The Producers.  Lane has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 2008 was inducted into the Theatre Hall Fame.

Assata Alston
At 12 years old, Alston has a powerful voice paired with a lifelong love for singing.  While attending the Manhattan School of Music’s Summer Music Camp in 2009, Alston — a native of Jamaica, Queens —  performed for Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan, who wrote the music and lyrics for the 2002 Broadway adaptation of Thoroughly Modern Millie.  Tesori invited Alston to perform at a March 2010 Lincoln Center event featuring Tesori’s work, where The New York Times called Alston’s performance “[t]he evening’s shiniest nugget.”

Danielle Arci
This New Jersey native made her national tour debut in the closing company of Hairspray as the lead Tracy Turnblad.  Arci is a graduate of The Academy for Visual & Performing Arts.  Her regional credits include Hair, High School Musical, Footloose, Grease, and Godspell.

Duke Ellington School of the Arts
Located in Washington, D.C., the prestigious Duke Ellington School of the Arts was founded in 1974 and is the only D.C. public high school that provides professional arts training and college preparation to talented D.C. public school students with the mission of nurturing and inspiring passion for arts and learning in talented students who might not otherwise have an opportunity to develop their artistic skills.  Each student takes a full academic course load and, additionally, majors in one of eight arts disciplines: Dance, Literary Media, Museum Studies, Instrumental or Vocal Music, Theater, Technical Design and Production, and Visual Arts.

Marvin Hamlisch
This American composer has delighted audiences of film, television and the Broadway stage for over 45 years.  Hamlisch composed the Pulitzer Prize-winning smash hit A Chorus Line, as well as over 40 motion picture scores.  He has won virtually every award available, including three Academy Awards, four GRAMMY Awards, four Emmy Awards, a Tony Award® and three Golden Globes.  He is the principal pops orchestrator at a number of American symphonies, including the National Symphony Orchestra.

Brian d’Arcy James
An American actor with theatre, television and film credits to his name, James originated the beloved lead character in Shrek The Musical, for which he was nominated for a 2009 Tony Award®.  He also received a Tony Award® nomination in 2002 for his portrayal of Sidney Falco in Sweet Smell of Success, and received an Obie Award for his performance in the one-man play The Good Thief.  Additional Broadway credits include Next to Normal, Time Stands Still, Titanic, Lincoln Center’s Carousel, and Blood Brothers.

Joy of Motion Dance Center
Hailed “the area’s most comprehensive dance institution” by The Washington Post, Joy of Motion Dance Center (JOMDC) is dedicated to providing unparalleled learning and performance that reinforce the principle that Dance is for Everyone.  Since its founding in 1976, JOMDC has earned a reputation for excellence in dance education, diversity and innovation in programming, and community service.  JOMDC has been honored with the Mayor’s Art Award for Excellence in Service to the Arts and the Mayor’s Art Award for Outstanding Contribution to Arts Education.

Chad Kimball
A critically acclaimed stage actor, Kimball received a 2010 Tony Award® nomination, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle award nomination for Leading Actor in a Musical for his performance as Huey Calhoun in the Tony Award®-winning Best Musical Memphis.  Of that performance, New York Magazine raved “Kimball is a Brand New Broadway Rock Star.”  Kimball’s other Broadway credits include Lennon, The Civil War, Into the Woods and Good Vibrations.  He is the owner of OBVIOUS clothing and a graduate of the Boston Conservatory.

Audra McDonald
Earning an unprecedented four Tony Awards® before the age of 35, singer/actress McDonald is a unique force, blending a luscious, classically-trained soprano with an incomparable gift for dramatic truth-telling.  In addition to her theatrical work, she is a two-time GRAMMY Award-winning recording and concert artist, appearing regularly on many of the great stages of the world.  Her television work includes Mike Nichols’s Wit on HBO, A Raisin in the Sun opposite Sean Combs on ABC, and her current role in the hit ABC series Private Practice.

Idina Menzel
After gaining wide acclaim and a Tony Award® for her performance as Elphaba in Wicked, Menzel has gone on to packed concert performances and a recurring role on the FOX hit Glee.  Menzel began on Broadway as Maureen in the landmark musical Rent, for which she received a Tony Award® nomination.  On the big screen, she starred in the film adaptation of Rent and the box office hit Enchanted.  Today, Menzel continues her onstage performances and also writes and performs original music on a number of solo albums.

Karen Olivo
A rising star of the Broadway stage, Olivo won a Tony Award® for her performance as Anita in West Side Story.  She created the role of Vanessa in the Tony Award®-winning musical production of In The Heights, both on and off Broadway.  Olivo’s other Broadway credits include Rent and Brooklyn.  For television, she has appeared in Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, and Conviction.  Her film credits include Adrift in Manhattan, Sibling, The New Twenty, and Two Lovers.

Tonya Pinkins
In 2004, Oprah Winfrey described this Tony Award®-winning actress as one of the “Ten Women in America Who Will Take Your Breath Away.”  A native of Chicago, Pinkins made her mark on stage in Jelly’s Last Jam, for which she received a Tony Award®.  Recently, she starred in Tony Kushner’s Caroline, Or Change, earning a Tony Award® nomination.  Pinkins also has film and television credits, and she starred in the Ford Theatre production Black Pearl Sings as Pearl Johnson, for which she won a Helen Hayes Award.

Constantine Rousouli
This actor recently made his Broadway debut as Link Larkin in Hairspray.  He had played the role for two years in the National Tour.

Elaine Stritch
A veteran performer of Broadway, television and film, Stritch made her Broadway debut in 1946.  Over the years, she has received critical acclaim and collected awards for her work in such productions as Bus Stop, A Delicate Balance, Show Boat and Company.  At age 76, Stritch won a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, Obie Award, and New York Drama Critics Award for her candid one-woman musical memoir Elaine Stritch At Liberty.  She currently stars on Broadway in the revival of A Little Night Music.

West Side Story Performers
Yanira Marin
This performer made her Broadway debut as Alicia in the recent revival of West Side Story, and understudies for the roles of Anita and Consuela.  Her performance credits include “NFL Kickoff” with Usher, “The Beyoncé Experience” world tour, and “Nights on Broadway III.”  Marin is a graduate of New York University, The School of American Ballet, and Oneida’s Dance Studio.

Shina Ann Morris
This performer made her Broadway debut as Consuela in the recent revival of West Side Story.  She is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.  Morris earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Musical Theatre from the University of Michigan.
Jennifer Sanchez
This burgeoning talent made her Broadway debut as Rosalia in the recent revival of West Side Story.  Her regional theatre credits include María Elena in The Buddy Holly Story and Mayzie in Seussical.  Sanchez is a graduate of Oklahoma City University.

Event Production

Margo Lion, Event Producer
This award-winning Broadway producer’s work has garnered 20 Tony Awards®, including Best Musical 2003; four Olivier Awards, including Best Musical 2008; and one Pulitzer Prize.  Broadway credits include Radio Golf, The Wedding Singer, Caroline, Or Change, Hairspray, Elaine Stritch At Liberty, The Crucible, Triumph of Love, Seven Guitars, Angels in America: Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, Jelly’s Last Jam, and I Hate Hamlet.  Lion is also Co-Chairman of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, serves on the Board of Directors of the LAByrinth Theatre and BC/EFA, and as advisor to the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts.

George C. Wolfe, Event Director
George C. Wolfe was the Producer of the Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival from 1993-2005, was named a living landmark by The New York Landmark’s Conservancy and has directed a number of Broadway musicals, including, Caroline, Or Change Jelly’s Last Jam, Elaine Stritch At Liberty, The Wild Party and Bring In Da Noise Bring In Da Funk.  Originally from Frankfort, Kentucky, he is proud to serve on the Presidents Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Rob Berman, Music Director
This musical director won the Helen Hayes Award for Sunday in the Park with George at the Kennedy Center’s 2002 Sondheim Celebration.  Berman was the conductor of A Man of No Importance at Lincoln Center.  Music direction and conducting credits include on Broadway The Pajama Game, Wonderful Town and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s By Jeeves.  Berman has been associate conductor for productions such as The Music Man, Little Me, The King and I, and State Fair, and music supervisor for White Christmas with Audra McDonald.

Jerry Mitchell, Choreographer for Hairspray Number
One of the only choreographers to have three Broadway musicals running simultaneously, Mitchell has accomplished this feat twice.  First in 2003 with the smash hits Hairspray, Gypsy and Never Gonna Dance, and again in 2005 with Hairspray, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and La Cage Aux Folles, for which Mitchell won a Tony Award®.  In 2007, Mitchell made his directorial debut with the Broadway version of Legally Blonde.  Mitchell is also the creator, director and choreographer of Broadway Bares, an annual event for the charity Broadway Cares.

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