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Obama’s Broadway pick wins Tony for actor

June 8, 2009

BROADWAY-AWARDS/NEW YORK – It’s been a good month for the August Wilson play “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” — first President Barack Obama brought his wife Michelle to see it on their “date night” in New York, and now actor Roger Robinson has won a Tony for best featured actor in a play.

Tony Award host Patrick Neil Harris told producers in the audience that they should “cash in and go presidential” after ticket sales for “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” were boosted by the Obama’s attendance.

He suggested “Rock of Ages” become “Barack of Ages,” “Phanton of the Opera” should be renamed “Phanton of Oprah” — referring to TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who he said was “close enough to being president” — and “Mamma Mia” could be called “Obama Mia.”

Robinson said there was a certain irony to the visit by America’s first black president to a theater which still retains a separate entrance to the balcony section — a legacy of the days of segregation when blacks were not allowed in the main orchestra section.

“A hundred years ago the president of the United States would not have sat down below,” Robinson told reporters back stage after winning his Tony.

“August would have appreciated that irony,” he said.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson is best known for his cycle of plays chronicling 20th-century African-American life. He died in 2005.

“Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” also won a Tony for best lighting design of a play.

(PHOTO: Roger Robinson receives his Tony Award from Jane Fonda (Reuters/Gary Hershorn)

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