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U of M alum Santino Fontana wins Tony Award

June 11, 2019

Santino Fontana on stage in Tootsie

University of Minnesota alum Santino Fontana has won the 2019 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his role in Tootsie. He received the award June 9.

Tootsie is a musical comedy that tells the story of a talented but volatile actor whose reputation for being difficult forces him to adopt a new identity as a woman in order to land a job. Rolling Stone magazine called Fontana’s role “one of the best performances ever seen on a musical stage.”

Fontana was nominated for the same award in 2013 for his role as Prince Topher in Broadway’s Cinderella. Beyond Broadway, Fontana voiced the role of Prince Hans in the Walt Disney movie Frozen and played Greg Serrano in the hit television series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Fontana is a graduate of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program, a partnership with the world-renowned Guthrie Theater.

He says it was as a member of the inaugural class of the BFA program that he learned "the importance of what we're actually doing" as actors. Fontana’s first major professional job, at just 23, was playing the title role in a Guthrie production of Hamlet.

In 2015, Fontana returned to the U of M to give the commencement address for the College of Liberal Arts. He credited mentor and BFA instructor Kenneth Washington, who had passed away in 2014, with singlehandedly changing the course of his life. It was Washington, he said, who pushed him to dream big and not settle.

“He was an amazing man ... my own private Yoda ... who always said, ‘I think you can do better,’” Fontana said in his commencement address. “We all stop ourselves from dreaming big because we want to be realistic. But there is nothing realistic about landing on the moon, or flying an airplane before anyone had—or being an actor. Don’t worry about being realistic. Instead, reshape reality—whether it’s yours, your community’s, or the world’s.”

You can watch his 2015 commencement address online.

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Read more about Fontana at the College of Liberal Arts.