EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University alumnus and award-winning Broadway performer Brian d’Arcy James -- co-star of the critically acclaimed 2016 Oscar-winning film “Spotlight” -- will return to the Evanston campus this spring to accept the Sarah Siddons Society’s prestigious annual Actor of the Year Award.
James, and Sutton Foster, another popular Broadway performer, will be this year’s award recipients. The 8 p.m. Monday, May 16, benefit ceremony will take place at Northwestern’s Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus. (More on both performers follows).
Benefit tickets are $100 for the general public and $25 for students. For reservations visit www.sarahsiddonssociety.org or call 847-467-4000. Tickets are available for purchase at the Bienen School Concert Office at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall.
The benefit is co-sponsored by Northwestern’s School of Communication. All of the event proceeds will support the Sarah Siddons Society’s scholarship fund for theatre students at Columbia College Chicago, DePaul University, Northwestern and Roosevelt University.
In addition to presenting the award to d’Arcy James and Foster, the celebration at Pick-Staiger will include special guest appearances by Northwestern School of Communication Dean Barbara O’Keefe; Jeanine Tesori, a Tony-winning composer, arranger and pianist, as well as School of Communication alumni who are pursuing various theatrical careers nationally and locally; and a video message by Andrew Lippa, a New York-based American composer, lyricist, book writer, performer and producer.
On award’s night, Kate Baldwin, Northwestern alumna and Tony-nominated actress, will introduce d’Arcy James. Baldwin was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in “Finian’s Rainbow.” She was last seen in Chicago in Andrew Lippa’s musical “Big Fish.” Baldwin also has been cast in the role of Anna, the feisty teacher, in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s spring 2016 production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I,” from April 29 through May 22.
Tesori, who will introduce Foster during the ceremony, has written several hit Broadway shows, including the Tony Award-winning musicals “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Shrek: The Musical” and her recent “Violet,” all starring Foster.
Tesori has been praised by critics for two of her more serious works, including “Violet,” a musical “that follows a scarred woman who embarks on a cross-country bus trip to be healed by a minister and discovers the true meaning of beauty along the way,” and last year’s Tony-winning musical, “Fun Home,” based on Alison Bechdel’s best-selling graphic memoir with the same title, about her dysfunctional family. The producer of that work, Barbara Whitman, also will be on hand for the Siddons’ celebration.
Chicago artists and Northwestern alumni taking part in the program will include singer and performer Christine Mild; composer, lyricist and singer Michael Mahler; performer Devin DeSantis; and actor, singer and dancer Will Skrip. Mild and Mahler were Siddons Scholarship winners like d’Arcy James.
Several current students from Northwestern’s Music Theatre Program also will be featured, with music direction by Ryan T. Nelson, the music director for Northwestern’s Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts, and music supervisor for the American Music Theatre Project.
Northwestern Professor Emeritus Dominic Missimi, the Sarah Siddons’ artistic director, will produce and stage the award program and serve as co-host for the event with David H. Bell, professor of music theatre.
Missimi is the former director of the School of Communication’s Music Theatre Program and the recently retired executive director of the University’s American Music Theatre Project.
Bell also is a professional director who has worked extensively all over the world, including on- and off-Broadway. He currently heads the Northwestern Music Theatre Program and is director of the School of Communication’s famed Waa-Mu Show (pictured).
Brian d’Arcy James
As an undergraduate theater major at Northwestern University, d’Arcy James received a Sarah Siddons Society’s Scholarship in 1989. He is the society’s first scholarship winner to be awarded the prestigious annual Actor of the Year award, initially won in 1953 by American actress Helen Hayes (1900-1993), whose career spanned nearly 80 years, and who many referred to as the “First Lady of American Theatre.”
Currently starring on Broadway in the hit musical comedy “Something Rotten,” d’Arcy James has appeared in more than 20 Broadway productions. He has been nominated for a Tony Award three times, including for his current role of Nick Bottom in “Something Rotten.”
Theater audiences also have enjoyed his performances in “Titanic,” “Sweet Smell of Success,” “The Apple Tree” and “Shrek: The Musical” (opposite co-star Sutton Foster, who portrayed Fiona). He also won critical acclaim for his performances in Andrew Lippa’s “Wild Party” and in the stage drama “Time Stands Still.”
On screen, d’Arcy James is featured as one of the investigative reporters for the Boston Globe in the 2016 Oscar-winning film “Spotlight.”
Foster, a multiple award-winning actress, singer and dancer, has performed in 11 Broadway productions -- most recently in the revival of “Violet” -- and originated roles in the Broadway productions of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” “Little Women,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Shrek: The Musical,” and her performances in “Anything Goes” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” for which she won Tony awards.
Foster was first seen on television on “Star Search” at age 15, and has more recently appeared in “Bunheads,” “Psych,” “Johnny and the Sprites,” “Flight of the Conchords,” “Sesame Street,” “Law and Order SVU” and “Royal Pains.” Since March 2015, she stars in TV Land’s new series “Younger,” created by Darren Star.
As a solo artist, she has performed nationally and internationally with her musical director Michael Rafter -- featuring songs from her debut solo CD “Wish” as well as her follow up CD, “An Evening With Sutton Foster: Live at the Café Carlyle.” Foster has appeared on the stages of New York’s Carnegie Hall, Feinstein’s/54 Below, Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series, Joe’s Pub and many others. More on Foster is available online.
Sarah Siddons Society
For more than 60 years, the Sarah Siddons Society has presented the Actor of the Year award to celebrated stage and film actors, including Bette Davis, Lauren Bacall, Julie Harris, Carol Channing, Colleen Dewhurst, Jessica Tandy, Liza Minnelli, Julie Andrews, Bernadette Peters, Patti Lupone, Bebe Neuwirth, Audra McDonald and Jessie Mueller. Many of Chicago’s finest actresses have received the Society’s Leading Lady Award, including Hollis Resnik, Barbara Robertson, Mary Beth Fisher and E. Faye Butler, to name a few.