The theme of the night was red and white in the lobby of The Public Theater as Broadway legend and award-winning performer André De Shields, impeccably clad in a white tuxedo shirt with french cuffs, a red bowtie, red crystal studs and cuff links, white pants with a button closure detail at the ankle, accessorized with a red cummerbund, satin gloves leather boots and topped with a long red duster, held court and posed with his guests and the artists who had gathered to celebrate him at the GMHC’s 10th Annual Cabaret & Howard Ashman Award ceremony at Joe’s Pub on February 6, 2023.
Click below to watch all of the performances and scroll down for a photo essay recap of the night.
Honored for his advocacy and activism for people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS, as well as LGBTQ+ communities, André identifies as an Afro Queer man and long-term HIV survivor.
In a career spanning fifty-five years, André De Shields, at age 77, has distinguished himself as an unparalleled actor, activist, educator and philanthropist. As Actor, André’s mission is to fill intimate spaces with enormous beauty. He defines intimate spaces as the hearts of humanity. As Activist he endeavors to restore majesty, elegance and literacy to the Black Thespian toolbox. His legendary career has resulted in a treasure trove of accolades, among them Doctor of Fine Arts honoris causa from his Alma Mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he has founded THE ANDRÉ DE SHIELDS FUND. His other marks of esteem include having been the triple crown winner of the 2019 awards season, garnering Tony, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk and Grammy Awards for his universally acclaimed role as Hermes, messenger to the gods, in Hadestown. André transitioned from 2022 into 2023 with a paranormal portrayal as Ben Loman in the searing production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, starring Wendell “The Lion” Pierce. Perennially known for his idiosyncratic, show-stopping performances in four legendary Broadway productions—The Wiz, Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Emmy Award), Play On! and The Full Monty—André has achieved the status of “Broadway Deity.” André will receive the 2023 Drama League Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theater Award on May 19.
André’s Death of A Salesman co-star, Grace Porter, set the tone of the night with “The Joint is Jumpin'” from Ain’t Misbehavin’. The band was led by musical director Kyle Branzel on piano with Elena Bonomo on drums and Joe Wallace on bass.
GMHC’s Board Chair Jon Mallow shared his personal connection to the organization.
Tiffany Renee Thompson, Khadija Sankoh, and D’Kayla Unique Whitley reprised their song and roles, “Tiffany, Chiffon and Ronette,” from the revival of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s Little Shop of Horrors.
Tony, Emmy and Grammy winner Marc Shaiman sang a tailor made rendition of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” to André De Shields and shared their long history together. This brought me to tears.
John Edwards, from MJ the Musical, performed “The Vipers Drag” from Ain’t Misbehavin’.
Singer songwriter Crystal Monee Hall performed a mashup of “Kiss the Girl” from The Little Mermaid and “All I’ve Ever Known” from Hadestown.
Julie Halston read from her “bible”, Joan Crawford’s My Way of Life.
J Harrison Ghee, currently starring in Marc Shaiman’s Some Like it Hot, performed “I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book. Photo by Lia Chang
Claybourne Elder relayed a message from the late songwriter Howard Ashman’s life partner, Bill Lauch, recounting the story of Ashman’s personal anthem about dark days of AIDS, and performed “Sheridan Square”.
John-Andrew Morrison performed a mashup of “Friend Like Me” from Aladdin and “How Ya Baby” from Ain’t Misbehavin’.
Video messages were sent by Bette Midler and Kimberly Marable.
Hamilton star and GMHC board member Javier Munoz presented the 2023 Howard Ashman Award to André De Shields.
André performed his personal anthem, “If You Believe” from The Wiz, accompanied by Sean Mayes.
Proceeds from the cabaret directly support GMHC’s lifesaving programs for thousands of people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS. GMHC’s comprehensive psychosocial services include HIV/STI testing, prevention, mental health and substance use treatment, legal and immigration support, housing, workforce development, policy advocacy, and meals and nutrition.
The Howard Ashman Award is named for the Oscar, Golden Globe, and Grammy Award-winning lyricist of Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Little Shop of Horrors, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1991. Prior Ashman awardees include the late Terrence McNally, Tom Viola, Javier Muñoz, Andrew Rannells, Michael Urie, Kathy Najimy, and Lea Delaria.
Past performances and appearances at the cabaret include (alphabetical order) Uzo Aduba, Sandra Bernhard, Bob the Drag Queen, Sierra Boggess, Tituss Burgess, Kristin Chenoweth, Tyne Daly, Robin De Jesus, Rachel Dratch, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Harvey Fierstein, Jonathan Freeman, Gina Gershon, Annie Golden, Lena Hall, Adam Jacobs, Nikki M. James, Alix Korey, Christine Lahti, Judith Light, Jose Llana, Marin Mazzie, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jerry Mitchell, Mary-Louise Parker, Martha Plimpton, Carrie Preston, Courtney Reed, Roger Rees, Chita Rivera, Seth Rudetsky, Courter Simmons, Jarrod Spector, Micah Stock, Lillias White, and many more…
GMHC (founded in 1982 as Gay Men’s Health Crisis) is the world’s first HIV and AIDS service organization. Our mission is to fight to end the AIDS epidemic and uplift the lives of all affected. We serve New Yorkers living with and affected by HIV and AIDS with comprehensive, client-centered, psychosocial programs that address the structural drivers of the HIV and AIDS epidemic including HIV/STI testing; referrals for PrEP and PEP; meals and nutrition; housing; legal and immigration support; workforce development; benefits advocacy; and mental health and substance use treatment. GMHC also advocates for stronger public policies at the local, state, and federal levels. For more information, visit www.gmhc.org.
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer, activist, documentarian and an Award winning filmmaker and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Lia is also the host and Executive Producer of BACKSTAGE PASS WITH LIA CHANG, an Arts and Entertainment and Lifestyle program that airs on Sundays at 6:30pm on FIOS 34, RCN 83, Spectrum 56/1996 and MNN2.
Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. Her short film, When the World Was Young garnered a 2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young. She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations.
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