Carnegie Mellon University
June 07, 2017

Encore Performance: CMU Alumni Are Leading Actor, Actress in Year's Most Tony-nominated Musical

Top behind-the-scenes talent also call Carnegie Mellon University their alma mater

By Ken Walters

Image of Josh Groban and Denee Benton performing in the Great Comet
CMU alumni Josh Groban and Denée Benton star in "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812."

For the second consecutive year, Carnegie Mellon University alumni are nominated for best leading actor and actress in the musical earning the most Tony Award nominations. This year, School of Drama alumni Denée Benton and Josh Groban are nominated for their performances in "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812," which garnered 12 nominations.

Image of Leslie Odom Jr and Renee Elise Goldsberry
Leslie Odom Jr. and Renée Elise Goldsberry

Last year, CMU alumni Leslie Odom, Jr. and Renée Goldsberry were nominated and won for their roles in "Hamilton," which had a record-breaking 16 Tony nominations.

The recent success of CMU alumni continues a tradition of winning Tony Awards; the university boasts a total of 44 award winners and nearly 200 nominees.

Since 2011, seven CMU alumni have won Tony Awards for their roles as leading or featured performers, including Christian Borle, who won for "Something Rotten" in 2015 and is nominated again this year for "Falsettos." Fellow drama alumnus Kevin Emrick is nominated this year as a producer for "Sweat."

Other recent winners include Judith Light, who won in 2012 ("Other Desert Cities") and 2013 ("The Assembled Parties"), Billy Porter in 2013 for "Kinky Boots," Patina Miller in 2013 for "Pippin" and Sutton Foster in 2011 for "Anything Goes."

"During the last 100 years, we in the School of Drama have built a reputation for identifying the best of the best in young talent and helping these students to become excellent performers," said Peter Cooke, head of CMU's School of Drama. "Our graduates not only have chops, but they also possess incredible work ethics and professionalism."

Perhaps best known for its top-performing onstage talent, Carnegie Mellon's School of Drama also has a stellar reputation for graduating some of the industry's most sought-after behind-the-scenes professionals. Twenty-one Tony Awards have been presented to alumni who work in areas such as producing, costume design, lighting design, scenic design and playwriting. Lighting designer Jules Fisher has won nine Tony Awards, the most among CMU alumni.

The 71st Annual Tony Awards will be broadcast live on CBS at 8 p.m. Sunday, June 11, from Radio City Music Hall in New York City. For more information, visit