Hairspray Live! Director Kenny Leon Will Receive “Mr. Abbott” Award

News   Hairspray Live! Director Kenny Leon Will Receive “Mr. Abbott” Award
The Tony-winning director will be presented with the award at a March gala in New York City.
Kenny Leon
Kenny Leon Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation, the not-for-profit foundation of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, announced that Tony-winning director Kenny Leon will be honored with the distinguished 2016-2017 “Mr. Abbott” Award for the outstanding artistry and creativity of his decades-long career.

The award will be presented at the Foundation’s annual gala event March 27, 2017, at espace in New York City. Proceeds from the gala benefit Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation.

Leon is a Tony Award-winning Broadway and film director. His Broadway credits include the 2014 revival of A Raisin in the Sun (Tony Award winner for Best Direction of a Play and Best Revival); The Mountaintop, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett; Stick Fly, produced by Alicia Keys; August Wilson’s Fences (which garnered ten Tony nominations and won three Tony Awards, including Best Revival); the 2004 revival of A Raisin in the Sun with Sean P. Diddy Combs; Gem of the Ocean; Radio Golf; and the 2014 premiere of Holler if Ya Hear Me, a new musical created using the music of Tupac Shakur.

Leon’s recent TV and film work includes Hairspray Live!, scheduled to air on December 7, and The Wiz Live!, both for NBC; In My Dreams for Hallmark Hall of Fame, and more. Prior to co-founding True Colors Theatre Company, he served 11 years as artistic director of the Alliance Theatre, where he produced the premieres of Disney’s Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida, Pearl Cleage’s Blues for an Alabama Sky, and Alfred Uhry’s The Last Night of Ballyhoo.

SDC president Pam MacKinnon stated, “I am very happy that the SDC Foundation is honoring Kenny Leon with this year’s ’Mr. Abbot’ Award. His long and varied career, as an important artist and producer as well as educator, mentor and celebrated director, is an inspiration. His continuing legacy is large. He is committed to rich, beautiful, provocative story-telling. I am a tremendous fan and always look forward to what I am about to see when his name is on the marquee. Congratulations, Kenny!”

The “Mr. Abbott” Award, named in honor of the late director George Abbott, is presented “in recognition of extraordinary contributions to the field.” Past recipients include Michael Bennett, Arvin Brown, Graciela Daniele, Gordon Davidson, Agnes de Mille, Bob Fosse, Garson Kanin, Kathleen & Rob Marshall, Lynne Meadow, Jerry Mitchell, Mike Nichols, Trevor Nunn, Jack O’Brien, Harold Prince, Lloyd Richards, Donald Saddler, Gene Saks, Susan Stroman, Daniel Sullivan, Tommy Tune, George C. Wolfe, Jerry Zaks, and last year’s awardee, James Lapine.

Joy Abbott, the widow of George Abbott, noted, “I deeply appreciate SDC Foundation’s continued stewardship of Mr. Abbott’s legacy. I know he would have respected and enjoyed Kenny’s body of work, and that Mr. Leon’s expansive vision and dedication to the nurturing of young talent would have inspired George.”

For more information about the “Mr. Abbott” Award and other SDC Foundation programs, visit


For 50 years, Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation has developed and promoted the creativity and craft of directors and choreographers. SDC Foundation’s mission is “to create access to the field, to connect artists, and to honor the theatrical legacy of these artists. The centrality of the director's role in theatre and the impact that they have on other artists' careers—from playwrights to designers to actors—makes SDC Foundation’s services essential to the theatre industry's health and continued vitality.”

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