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Gretha Denise Boston (1959–)

Gretha Denise Boston is a celebrated mezzo-soprano and Tony Award–winning actress. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in 1991 in Mozart’s Coronation Mass and won the 1995 Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her role as Queenie in the Broadway revival of Show Boat; she was the first Arkansan to be so honored. The same role earned Boston the Theatre World Award as Outstanding Debut Artist. She was also nominated for the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Non-Resident Production for the 2000–01 season at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC for her performance in It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues.

Gretha Boston was born in Crossett (Ashley County) on April 18, 1959, the eldest of seven children of Delores Tucker Boston and Curtis Joe Boston Sr. Her early musical training was in the Gates Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church and in her high school choir, where she was encouraged by Bill Stroud, then head of the school’s music department, and by C. T. Foster, her band director. She graduated from Crossett High School in 1977.

Boston attended North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas) in Denton, Texas, earning her bachelor’s degree in music and performance. As a member of the NTSU A Capella Choir, she recorded Mendelssohn’s Walpurgisnacht with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, England. After graduation, she attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she was a two-time winner in the D’Angelo International Young Artists Competition. She studied with Johnson Wustman at the University of Illinois, with Margaret Hoswell in New York City, and with Maestro Franco Iglesias, also of New York. Boston has performed in concert in St. Louis, Missouri; Champaign, Illinois; and Santa Barbara, California.

Boston made her debut at Carnegie Hall in May 1991 in Mozart’s Coronation Mass and returned later in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Her operatic roles include Amneris in Aida (at the University of Illinois; the Intiman Theater in Seattle, Washington; and the Denver Center), Maddelena in Rigoletto (New York Grand Opera), and Maria in Porgy and Bess (Buffalo Philharmonic and Opera Delaware). Her choral works include Messiah, Elijah, and Verdi’s Requiem (New York Grand Opera).

Boston has appeared on television in PBS’s An Enchanted Evening: A Salute to Oscar Hammerstein and has also appeared on the David Letterman Show and the Today Show, as well as the television dramas Hope and Faith (2004), Law and Order (2001), and Law and Order: Criminal Intent (2004).

In 2002, Boston played Bloody Mary in the national tour of South Pacific, starring Robert Goulet. In December 2002, she performed as the character Ethel in the musical Let Me Sing at the Charlotte Repertory Theater in North Carolina. Later that year, she acted the role of Lola in the play Jar the Floor, also in Charlotte. In the field of musical comedy, Boston has performed the role of Velma Crowns in Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats in Buffalo, New York (Studio Arena), Rochester, New York (GEVA Theater), and Washington DC (Arena Stage).

Boston resides in New York City. She was elected to the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1997.

For additional information:
“Gretha Boston.” Internet Movie Database. Online at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0098253/ (accessed February 8, 2013). 

Gretha Boston. Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. http://www.arblackhalloffame.org/honorees/page.aspx?id=180 (accessed February 25, 2013).


Bill Norman
Little Rock, Arkansas

Last Updated 8/5/2013

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