Lillias White (born July 21, 1951) is a Tony and Emmy award-winning American singer and actress.
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. Ms. White has appeared on Broadway in Cats as Grizabella, Rock'N'Roll! The First 5000 Years, the ill-fated Carrie as the standby for Miss Gardner, Once on This Island as Asaka, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying as Miss Jones (a role rewritten for Ms. White), Chicago as Matron Mama Morton, and benefit concert versions of Funny Girl (in which she sang the role of Fanny Brice), Hair, and Dreamgirls, reprising her role as Effie, for which she won the Drama League Award for Best Actress in a Musical. Perhaps her most notable role was in Cy Coleman's The Life, for which she won the Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for her portrayal of a world-weary, no-nonsense, streetwise hooker named Sonja. Her performance of "The Oldest Profession", a song in which Sonja bemoans the life of a prostitute, was a tour de force and received standing ovations nightly.
White's off-Broadway credits include the Public Theater production of the William Finn musical Romance in Hard Times, for which she won the Obie Award, Dinah Was, in which she portrayed the legendary blues and jazz singer Dinah Washington, The Vagina Monologues, and Crowns, for which she won the AUDELCO Award. Her national tours include Ain't Misbehavin' and The Wiz.
White performed with the Brooklyn Philharmonic in a concert of works by Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and George Gershwin and his brother Ira, celebrating the orchestra's 50th anniversary. She has also appeared in concert at the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center and has toured internationally with her one-woman show From Brooklyn to Broadway. She is heard on the 1991 Madonna recording "Rescue Me". White later appeared on the PBS series Sesame Street including the 1997 VHS release "Elmo Says Boo".
White's television appearances include a regular role on Sesame Street (for which she won an Emmy Award), Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and NYPD Blue. She performed the role of Bloody Mary in the PBS Great Performances presentation of South Pacific. Her screen credits include voiceover work in Disney's Hercules and Anastasia. Film credits include Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Game 6, Pieces of April and Then She Found Me.
Ms. White will appear in the upcoming Broadway musical FELA! in the role of Funmilayo. FELA! begins previews at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on October 19, 2009. Opening Night is November 23, 2009.
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