Lillias White (born July 21, 1951) is an American singer and actress of stage, television, and film who is particularly admired 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 1992 she won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in a Children's, Pre-School Children's or Family Viewing Program for her portrayal of Rhonda the pink singing squirrel on Sesame Street. 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 voicing Calliope on the Disney animated series Hercules, portraying Evette in the film Pieces of April, and for her work as Fat Annie (Cadillac's mother) in the Netflix series The Get Down. She has also starred as Bloody Mary in Rogers 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 also an active cabaret singer and has appeared in concert with the Boston Pops Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and at Carnegie Hall.
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, for which she won the Drama League Award for Best Actress in a Musical.
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. Off-Broadway White has performed in the Public Theater production of the William Finn musical Romance in Hard Times (1989), for which she won the Obie Award, Dinah Was (1998) at the Gramercy Theatre as singer Dinah Washington, 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. In 2014, White appeared Off-Broadway in the Primary Stages production of the play While I Yet Live by Billy Porter. 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.
White, Andre DeShields, Stefanie Powers and Georgia Engel appear 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 will run through January 17, 2016.
White's concert performances to benefit the Actors' Fund of America include Dreamgirls in 2001, Funny Girl in 2002, and Hair in 2004. She performed in the concert version of South Pacific, which was broadcast by PBS Great Performances in 2006. 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. She also has appeared in concert at Carnegie Hall, in March 2004, singing Harold Arlen songs with the New York Pops. White performed her one-woman show at the Kennedy Center's "Barbara Cook's Spotlight" in November 2007, singing songs by Cy Coleman. 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. 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. She performed the show in San Francisco in 2003 at the Plush Room.
She is heard on the 1990 Madonna recording "Rescue Me".
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. 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.
Tony Awards1997: Won Featured Actress in a Musical for the role of Sonja in The Life
2010: Nominated for Featured Actress in a Musical for the role of Funmilayo Kuti in Fela!
Drama Desk Award1997: Won Featured Actress in a Musical for the role of Sonja in The Life
Ovation Awards2009: Nominated for Lead Actress in a Musical for the role of Lillias in the Rubicon Theatre Company production of "The Best is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman"
Bistro Awards2015, recognized for outstanding achievement in New York cabaret, jazz and comedy