Kevin Ray Johnson
I would like you to meet the amazing Alton Fitzgerald White! A veteran in the theatre business Alton will be performing in RENT Live on Fox on January 27th! On Broadway Alton has appeared in The Color Purple, Smokey Joe’s Cafe(West End and Broadway), Ragtime, The Lion King, The Who’s Tommy and Miss Saigon. I first remember seeing Mr. White perform as Mufasa and it was honestly a complete honor to have the chance to interview this amazing artist!
How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a performer? Did you have any mentors growing up who helped you become the performer you are today?
I actually can’t remember NOT wanting to be a performer. I feel very blessed that variety shows were still on TV when I was a kid, and most of those shows were for pure entertainment, not competitions like we have on TV today. This is where I got to see many of my favorite stars perform. I was especially inspired by the performers of color who looked like me, most of whom were super talented and spoke very well. They opened doors in my mind that if they somehow became successful against so many odds, then maybe I could too. They became some of my heroes. I’d always loved the sensation of singing, but I didn’t know whether or not I had a decent voice, plus I was far too afraid to ever sing in the presence of anyone. I didn’t do so until I was literally forced to do a solo in my church choir. Once I discovered that I had a voice that people enjoyed hearing, my main objective became overcoming my shyness and fears enough to let the music flow through me. With lots of practice my confidence grew, and then it became a passion.
What eventually gave me the self-assurance to pursue a career in the arts is a combination of that ever-growing passion and on-going education both in and out of the arts. Being a good student gave me the foundation and discipline to work hard on my strengths as well as my weaknesses. Training and discipline are great ingredients for success in any career, and in my case, has thankfully led me to six hit Broadway shows and ultimately my record-breaking run as King Mufasa in Disney’s The Lion King.
Congratulation on RENT Live! How has your time been in the show?
My experience with RENT LIVE has been and is AMAZING!!! I am in awe of the high level of talent, passion, and commitment that’s being put into this production, from the versatile cast to the entire creative team. The Original Broadway production of RENT is one of my all-time favorite theatre going experiences, and during its NY run, I was gratefully employed doing other roles on and off Broadway and unfortunately, I aged out of it. Michael Greif, the original production’s director who is also directing RENT LIVE, wanted actual adults for the adult roles of parents, etc. instead of having the kids double as them like in the stage production, so thankfully I get to be a part of an incredible show that I thought had passed me by. To say that I am excited AND grateful is an understatement!
Do you have any favorite moments in this performance that people should look forward too?
I have far too many favorite moments to count. I am just super excited for everyone to see a fantastic production of a show that will bring back memories of the excitement of the original phenomenon. RENT was the Hamilton and The Lion King of its day with tickets nearly impossible to get. I’m also excited for the many people that may have only heard the soundtrack but have never seen a full production of the show. The fact that the original director is helming it is another legendary plus. Everyone is in for a huge treat!
What are some shows in your career that you have done that will always be near and dear to your heart?
Regarding favorite roles I’ve had the honor to play; it’s tough to pick a favorite. They all have wonderful deep meanings and are fantastic markers on my journey as a man and as artist. As Coalhouse Walker Jr. in Ragtime, it was a privilege to play a charismatic, hard working talented man at the turn of the century who suffers injustice as so many men of color still do to this day. Playing Mister in The Color Purple gave me compassion for men of color and of all men of that time who had to navigate life with limited emotional resources. And of course King Mufasa in The Lion King. I mean, come on! Who wouldn’t want to be The King!
What advice do you have for any young performers wanting a career in theatre?
Always work toward becoming and staying disciplined, persistent and flexible: Your passion was gifted to you for a reason, so your desires are somewhere out in the world looking for their match. Do not stop until you have done everything in your power without ever, EVER compromising your integrity. Be and remain mindful! Our passions sometimes change or lead to undiscovered ones. Always stay open as to where the path may lead you. You may wind up in a richer more satisfying place than you may have ever imagined.
If you would like to learn more about Alton please visit – www.altonfitzgeraldwhite.com
Check out the RENT Live Preview video here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MWPlBJpmkY