Dubbed “the last leading man” by The New York Times, Tony Award-winner Brian Stokes Mitchell has enjoyed a career that spans Broadway, television, film and concert appearances with the country’s finest conductors and orchestras. He received Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for his star turn in Kiss Me, Kate. He also gave Tony-nominated performances in Man of La Mancha, August Wilson’s King Hedley II and Ragtime. Other notable Broadway shows include Kiss of the Spider Woman, Jelly’s Last Jam, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and this past Broadway season, Shuffle Along. Off Broadway includes Do Re Mi, Carnival, Kismet and The Bandwagon at City Center Encores and Much Ado about Nothing at the Delacorte Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park.
Stokes (as he prefers to be called) was born in Seattle, Washington on Halloween. His father, George Mitchell, was a civilian electronics engineer working for the Navy and later the chief Radio officer with both Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Exxon. His father was also one of the original “Tuskegee Airmen,” having taught radio code at Moton Field. His mother, Lillian Mitchell, was an educator. Stokes spent his childhood in Seattle, San Diego, Guam and the Philippines. He moved back to the United States at the age of 14 and began studying acting, singing and dancing at San Diego Jr. Theatre. Within two years he was performing on various San Diego stages, including The Old Globe Theatre and San Diego’s Starlight Opera Company. A transfer to Los Angeles with the 12th Night Repertory Company gave him the opportunity to start a long career in television and film.
An extremely versatile and in-demand singer, Stokes has performed at venues all over the country, spanning jazz, opera, pops, country and musical theater worlds. He has performed with John Williams, Gustavo Dudamel, Marvin Hamlisch, Keith Lockhart, Michael Tilson Thomas, Leonard Slatkin, Bobby McFerrin, Dianne Reeves, The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Big Band, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and The Muppets. Stokes has made multiple appearances at Carnegie Hall, beginning with his debut with the San Francisco Symphony through his televised performance in South Pacific opposite Reba McEntire to his sold-out solo concert, a version of which he continues to perform throughout the United States. Venues he has appeared at include Disney Hall, Tanglewood, Ravinia, The Hollywood Bowl, Radio City Music Hall, Boston’s Symphony Hall Lincoln Center and The Kennedy Center. He has been invited twice to perform at the White House and has performed for Presidents Clinton and Obama.
Stokes has delved deeply into various music disciplines. In addition to singing, he began piano studies at the age of 6. His musical curiosity led him to an interest in orchestration, arranging and film scoring which he first started studying on his own in his late teens. He later studied film scoring, orchestration and conducting through UCLA, and he scored and conducted a number of Trapper John, MD episodes, a series on which he was also a regular cast member. His musical talent has extended to the present day as producer, arranger and orchestrator on his own albums including his last release, Simply Broadway. Simply Broadway is an album of classic Broadway tunes that have been musically reimagined but still retain the spirit of the originals. It features the Tony-winning singer accompanied by a solo piano and was released in the Fall of 2012. It was recorded in the “old school” style, without overdubs or audio separation — Stokes and his pianist, Tedd Firth, were in the same room at the same time as they recorded the tracks. The song selection includes works from Camelot, Porgy and Bess, Company, Sunday in the Park with George, Les Misérables and other classics. Stokes has appeared on more than 20 albums, his most recent being a recording of “What the World Needs Now” that he did with other members of the Broadway community to help those affected by the recent tragedy at The Pulse club in Orlando, Florida. He is currently in the studio completing his latest album, Plays with Music, which will be released in the Spring of 2017.
His extensive screen credits began with a guest starring role on Roots: The Next Generations which led to a seven-year stint on Trapper John, MD. His 40-year-long TV/film run continued with memorable appearances on everything from PBS’ Great Performances to Frasier, The Prince of Egypt (singing “Through Heaven’s Eyes”), Glee, Jumping the Broom and Madam Secretary. For the past two seasons he has recurring roles on both HULU’s The Path and Mr. Robot on USA. As a voiceover artist he has portrayed dozens of characters on animated TV episodes. NPR aired his narration of Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait with the U.S. Marine Band. His second performance at the White House, A Celebration of American Creativity, was aired this year on PBS.
As a writer Stokes contributed to the book Hirschfeld’s Harlem, wrote the preface to At This Theatre and co-authored the children’s book Lights on Broadway.
Stokes has received a number of awards for both his charitable and artistic work, including the New Dramatist’s Distinguished Achievement Award, the Actors Fund Julie Harris Award, Canada’s Dora Mavor Moore Award (The Canadian “Tony”) and the Americans for the Arts Outstanding Contribution to the Arts Award. In 1998 he joined the likes of Helen Hayes, Sir John Gielgud, Alec Guinness and James Earl Jones when he became the sole recipient of the Distinguished Performance Award from the Drama League, the nation’s oldest theatrical honor, for his performance in Ragtime. In November of 2016 he is to be inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame.
Stokes is a great proponent of arts education and speaks passionately about the importance of art in all of our lives. This year he attended the Americans for the Arts National Arts Policy Roundtable at Sundance and was the entertainment host at the first night of Lincoln Center’s Global Exchange. He has enjoyed working with numerous other charitable organizations, from the March of Dimes to the USO. Stokes has been the Chairman of the Board of the Actors Fund for the last 13 years and this year received the Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award for his work with that organization.
For fun Brian Stokes Mitchell has been known to fly planes and jump out of them (usually not at the same time), and he can ride a bicycle on a high wire. He resides in New York City with his wife, son and rescued mutt, Diggidy. For more information, go to Brianstokes.com.