Tony Azito

Last updated

Tony Azito (July 18, 1948 – May 26, 1995) was an American eccentric dancer and character actor. [1] He was best known for comedic and grotesque parts, which were accentuated by his hyperextended body.



Azito was part of the Juilliard School's Group I, the first students admitted to the drama division directed by John Houseman in 1968. His classmates included Patti LuPone and Kevin Kline. Soon after arriving at Juilliard, Azito became influenced by choreographer Anna Sokolow and began studying modern dance. At 6'3" (190 cm), he was an unusual candidate for dance training. Azito's younger brother, Arturo Azito, was a dancer and performed with Eliot Feld and the Boston Ballet.

His interest in dance aggravated Houseman, who was anxious about the number of gay men in Group I and had already clashed with Azito over a cross-dressing incident. [2] [3] Partially as a result of this conflict with Houseman, Azito left Juilliard without finishing a degree and spent two years performing in Sokolow's company as Antonio Azito.

Theatrical career

Returning to drama in the mid-1970s, Azito began working in off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway theater. He quickly began working with the director Wilford Leach, who would be one of Azito's most frequent employers until Leach's death in 1988. He performed in a number of productions at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, where Leach was artistic director.

In 1971, he performed in The Red, White, and Black at La MaMa, directed by John Dillon and written by Eric Bentley with music by Brad Burg. The show was co-produced by La MaMa and the Columbia University School of the Arts Theatre Division. [4] He then appeared in Leach and John Braswell's 1973 production of Carmilla with the E.T.C. Company of La MaMa. Carmilla featured music by Ben Johnston and was part of the company's repertoire throughout the early 1970s. [5] He also did tech for Jeffrey Weiss' Pushover at La MaMa [6] and appeared in La MaMa's "Christmas fete for children of all ages", ...And All the Trimmings, written by Bernard Roth and directed by William Duffy [7] in 1973.

In 1974, he appeared in Nancy Fales' Ark, with music by Sonelius Smith and directed by Ralph Lee at La MaMa. [8] He also appeared in Nancy Heikin's Frame, which was produced by La MaMa at the Washington Square Church (135 W. 4th St.) in 1974. [9] He appeared with the E.T.C. Company of La MaMa in Wilford Leach's C.O.R.F.A.X. (Don't Ask) at La MaMa in early 1974, [10] then toured the show in Europe with the company later that same year. [11] In 1975, Azito was featured in the Cotton Club Gala, with music by Aaron Bell. [12] [13] He reprised his role in Carmilla at La MaMa in 1976. [14]

Azito made his Broadway debut in Richard Foreman's 1976 revival of The Threepenny Opera for the New York Shakespeare Festival, in a dancing role ("Samuel") created especially for him. Critics were intrigued by what soon became Azito's style of dance, which made him look like a somewhat off-kilter marionette and was accompanied by stylized facial expressions. An interviewer once described Azito as "a bit like Buster Keaton injected with Silly Putty." [15] This production also began Azito's association with Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival, which continued with another Brecht-Weill musical, Happy End (1977).

Azito's best-known stage role was in a third production for the New York Shakespeare Festival, as the Sergeant of Police in the 1980 Broadway revival of The Pirates of Penzance , starring Linda Ronstadt and Kevin Kline. His performance earned him a Tony Award nomination and a Drama Desk Award, and he reprised the role in the 1983 film adaptation directed by Leach.

He then played Feste in the New York Shakespeare Festival production of Twelfth Night directed by Leach in 1986. He went on to perform at Radio City Music Hall, the Mark Taper Forum, and in the American National Theater company at the Kennedy Center. Azito's final Broadway role was in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, also directed by Leach. While in the touring company for The Mystery of Edwin Drood, both of Azito's legs were badly broken when he was hit by a cab. It took a few years for Azito to get back on his feet. He went on to perform in a summer stock revival of She Loves Me in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and in productions of Tom Stoppard's Travesties and the musical Amphigorey.

Film and television career

Azito's most memorable film role was the Police Sergeant in The Pirates of Penzance .

He also appeared in Union City (1980) with Debbie Harry, Woody Allen's Stardust Memories (1980), Chattanooga Choo Choo (1984), Private Resort (1985) with Rob Morrow and Johnny Depp, Moonstruck (1987) with Cher, Bloodhounds of Broadway (1989) with Madonna, and played the lead in the 1976 cult film Apple Pie.

Azito's final film role was the Librarian in H.P. Lovecraft's: Necronomicon (1993). He also had a cameo as one of the party dancers in The Addams Family (1991).

On television, he appeared on episodes of Miami Vice , The Equalizer , and Beacon Hill .


Azito continued performing in regional theater and the occasional film until 1994. He died of HIV/AIDS on May 27, 1995 at Saint Vincent's Catholic Medical Center in Manhattan, New York City, at age 46. [1]


1976Apple PieJacques (the Ace) Blinbaum
1980 Night of the Juggler Peep Show Cashier
1980 Union City Alphonse Florescu
1980 Stardust Memories Fan in Lobby
1983 The Pirates of Penzance Sergeant
1984 Chattanooga Choo Choo Lucky Pierre
1985 Private Resort Reeves
1987 Moonstruck Conti
1989 Bloodhounds of Broadway Waiter
1991 The Addams Family Digit Addams
1993 H.P. Lovecraft's: Necronomicon Librarian (wraparound)(final film role)

Related Research Articles

Lanford Wilson was an American playwright. His work, as described by The New York Times, was "earthy, realist, greatly admired [and] widely performed." Wilson helped to advance the Off-Off-Broadway theater movement with his earliest plays, which were first produced at the Caffe Cino beginning in 1964. He was one of the first playwrights to move from Off-Off-Broadway to Off-Broadway, then Broadway and beyond.

Mary Alice American actress

Mary Alice Smith (born December 3, 1941) known professionally as Mary Alice, is an American film, television, and stage actress. Alice is known for her roles as Leticia "Lettie" Bostic on NBC's A Different World (1987–1989) and Effie Williams in the 1976 musical drama Sparkle. Alice has also performed on the stage, and received a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her appearance in the 1987 production of August Wilson's Fences.

David Patrick Kelly is an American actor and musician who has appeared in numerous films and television series. He is best known for his role as the main antagonist, Luther, in the cult film The Warriors (1979). Kelly is also known for his collaborations with Spike Lee, in the films Malcolm X (1992), Crooklyn (1994), and Chi-Raq (2015), and with David Lynch, appearing in Wild at Heart (1990) as well as Twin Peaks (1990–91) and its 2017 revival.

Robert Patrick (playwright)

Robert Patrick is an American playwright, poet, lyricist, short story writer, and novelist. He was born Robert Patrick O'Connor in Kilgore, Texas.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is an all-male drag ballet troupe that parodies the conventions of romantic and classical ballet. In 2008, they performed at the Royal Variety Performance in front of Prince Charles. The company's current artistic director is Tory Dobrin.

Ralph Lee is an American puppeteer and theatre artist. His work is centered on the design and use of masks in theatre and performance. The majority of his productions take place outside of traditional performance venues, include parades, pageants, celebrations, and outdoor theatrical performances. Masks and large puppets are central to his productions, which aim to make artistic experiences accessible to all members of the community. He stages his productions in familiar, public locations, charging no admission fee whenever possible and creating vivid images that can immediately resonate with the audience.

André De Shields

André De Shields is an American actor, singer, dancer, director, and choreographer. His Broadway credits include Warp!, Ain't Misbehavin', Play On!, The Full Monty, Impressionism, and the title role in The Wiz.

Joel Zwick

Joel Zwick is an American film director, television director, and theater director. He worked on the television series Perfect Strangers, Full House, and Family Matters, and directed the films My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Second Sight, and Fat Albert.

Michael Kahn is an American theatre director and drama educator. He has, since 1986, been the Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C.. He held the position of Richard Rodgers Director of the Drama Division of the Juilliard School from 1992 to 2006.

Marshall W. Mason

Marshall W. Mason is an American theater director, educator, and writer. Mason founded the Circle Repertory Company in New York City and was artistic director of the company for 18 years (1969-1987). He received an Obie Award for Sustained Achievement in 1983. In 2016, he received the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater.

Elizabeth Swados was an American writer, composer, musician, and theatre director. Swados received Tony Award nominations for Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Choreography. She was nominated for Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Director of a Musical, Outstanding Lyrics, and Outstanding Music, and won an Obie Award for her direction of Runaways in 1978. In 1980, the Hobart and William Smith Colleges awarded her an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters.

William M. Hoffman was an American playwright, theatre director, editor, and professor.

Tom Eyen

Tom Eyen was an American playwright, lyricist, television writer and director. He received a Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical for Dreamgirls in 1981.

Carson Wilford Leach was a Tony Award-winning American theatre director, set designer, film director, screenwriter, and professor.

Michael Townsend Smith is an American playwright, theatre director, impresario, critic, and lighting designer.

Jeffrey Weiss is an American playwright, impresario, and actor, both on Broadway and a theater he ran with partner Ricardo Martinez in the East Village, Manhattan.

Finn Wittrock

Peter "Finn" Wittrock, Jr. is an American actor and screenwriter. He began his career in guest roles on several television shows. He made his film debut in 2004, in Halloweentown High before returning to films in the 2010 film Twelve. After studying theater at The Juilliard School, he was a regular in the soap opera All My Children from 2009 to 2011, while performing in several theatrical productions. In 2011, he performed in playwright Tony Kushner's Off-Broadway play The Illusion and made his Broadway debut in 2012 as Happy Loman in the revival of Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman, directed by Mike Nichols.

Gregory Gerald Antonacci was an American television actor, director, producer, and writer. He is best known for portraying Johnny Torrio in Boardwalk Empire in every season, from 2010 to 2014, and as Phil Leotardo's right-hand man Butch DeConcini in The Sopranos from 2006 to the season finale in 2007.

Ed Di Lello is an American composer, choreographer, theatre director, dancer, and actor who made work during the 1970s and 1980s. He is currently an attorney practicing in New York City. Di Lello was born in New York City to Vincent and Angela, and received a bachelor's degree from Sarah Lawrence College in 1974.

Buzz Miller was an American dancer who was equally at home on Broadway and in contemporary ballet and modern dance.


  1. 1 2 William Grimes (May 27, 1995). "Tony Azito, 46, Stage Actor". The New York Times . Retrieved February 4, 2015.
  2. Kevin Grubb, "The Eccentricities of Tony Azito," Dance Magazine 58 (September 1984), p. 78.
  3. Andrea Olmstead, Juilliard: A History (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1999), p. 228.
  4. La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: Red, White, and Black, The (1971)". Accessed August 15, 2018.
  5. La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: Carmilla (1973)". Accessed August 15, 2018.
  6. La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: Pushover (1973)". Accessed August 15, 2018.
  7. La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: And All the Trimmings... (1973)". Accessed August 15, 2018.
  8. La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: Ark (1974)". Accessed August 15, 2018.
  9. La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: Frame (1974)". Accessed August 15, 2018.
  10. La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: C.O.R.F.A.X. (Don't Ask) (1974)". Accessed August 15, 2018.
  11. La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Tour: ETC Company European Tour (1974)". Accessed August 15, 2018.
  12. La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: Cotton Club Gala (1975a)". Accessed August 15, 2018.
  13. La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: Cotton Club Gala (1975b)". Accessed August 15, 2018.
  14. La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: Carmilla (1976)". Accessed August 15, 2018.
  15. Robert Berkvist, "His Constabulary Duty is to Keep 'Pirates' Bubbling," TheNew York Times September 27, 1981, p. D4.