For Tony Nominee Withers-Mendes, the First Time Is the Charm

Tony Awards   For Tony Nominee Withers-Mendes, the First Time Is the Charm
 
There are several Tony-nominated actors making their Broadway debuts this season — including, among others, Richard Griffiths, Samuel Barnett, Lisa Kron, Oliver Platt, Bob Martin and Domhnall Gleason — but Elisabeth Withers-Mendes may be the only actor with no prior professional theatre experience.

Withers-Mendes is nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance as Shug Avery in the hit musical The Color Purple at the Broadway Theatre. Though the singing actress has performed with such artists as Luther Vandross, Cher and Celine Dion, Purple marks her professional theatrical debut.

"The only theatre experiences I had was playing a fairy in Midsummer Night's Dream when I was in high school," Withers-Mendes recently told Playbill.com, "and right after that I did Dreamgirls when I was just coming out of high school at a junior college, and I played [the] Diana Ross [role, Deena Jones]. But that was ages ago. This whole journey to me has just been amazing.

The performer says she sometimes thinks, "My God, how has it all happened?" But, says, Mendes, "I don't stop long enough to even ask the question because it's just a huge blessing."

The Color Purple received 11 Tony Award nominations, including one for Best Musical of the season. The Tony Awards will be presented Sunday, June 11 at Radio City Music Hall.

* "Diva Talk" will feature an interview with Elisabeth Withers-Mendes May 26.

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