Two Fordham Theatre alumni are up for Tony Awards this year: Denzel Washington, FCLC ’77, has been nominated for Best Leading Actor in a Play for his role in The Iceman Cometh. And John Johnson, FCLC ’02, is an executive producer of two plays and one musical that have been nominated: Carousel (which features New York City Ballet dancer Brittany Pollack, PCS ’13, in her Broadway debut) is up for Best Revival of a Musical, and Three Tall Women and The Iceman Cometh are among the nominees for Best Revival of a Play.

From Intern to Executive Producer

In recent years, Johnson has emerged as one of Broadway’s most successful producers. He has a five-year winning streak on the line, having won a total of seven Tonys since 2013.

He got his start in the business as an intern for Joey Parnes Productions during his junior year at Fordham, when he helped coordinate the annual Tony Awards show. It was then that he met Fordham alumna and legendary Broadway producer Elizabeth McCann, LAW ’66, who became a mentor to him.

“For the 10 years that I was in an office with her, Liz gave me this really broad perspective about the business,” he told FORDHAM magazine in 2014. “What she taught me, as a theater producer and as a human being, was priceless. She’s like my third grandmother.”

A Return to Roots

If Washington wins next month, it will be his second Tony Award. He won the Tony for Best Leading Actor in 2010 for his role in Fences, a role he reprised in the 2016 film adaptation he directed and co-produced.

In mid-April, he returned to the Lincoln Center campus, where he surprised students and filmed an interview for CBS Sunday Morning.

New York Times critic Ben Brantley has praised Washington’s “center-of-gravity performance” in Eugene O’Neill’s “behemoth barroom tragedy,” The Iceman Cometh. For the Oscar- and Tony-winning star, the role marks a return to his roots. In December 1975, he made his New York stage debut in a Fordham Theatre production of another O’Neill play.

“You know, my first role on stage, when I was a student at Fordham, was in The Emperor Jones,” he recently told the Times. “I’ve always loved O’Neill, and here I am, 40 years later, coming back to him in Iceman.”

Washington and Johnson are not the only ones with Fordham ties among this year’s Tony Award nominees. Christine Jones, who held Fordham’s Denzel Washington Chair in Theatre in 2013, is up for a Tony for Best Scenic Design of a Play for her work on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

The 72nd Annual Tony Awards will be held on June 10 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.