Mahoning Valley natives earn Tony Awards


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By GUY D’ASTOLFO

dastolfo@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Two Mahoning Valley men have earned their first Tony Awards for their work with “Hadestown.”

As co-producers of the hit Broadway show, Michael J. Moritz Jr. and Joe Monda shared in the Tony for Best Musical, which was one of eight awards that “Hadestown” won at Sunday night’s ceremony in New York.

Both men, who have been producing live theater in New York for several years, said the success of “Hadestown” was a special triumph.

For Boardman native Moritz, the Tony win capped a whirlwind week: He got engaged to his girlfriend, Gia Ramsey of Poland, just last week in Spain.

Despite being jet-lagged from the return flight, Moritz said the Tony Award energy has him feeling incredible.

Moritz had a feeling “Hadestown” – which received 14 nominations – would be a winner when he first came aboard as a co-producer a few years ago.

“Our show just has such a uniquely different tone and color to it than the traditional Broadway fare,” Moritz said. “That can be received one of two ways [by audiences and Tony Award voters], but it went our way.”

Monda, a Canfield native, echoed Moritz’ remarks.

“‘Hadestown’ is just such a spectacular show, and as cliche as it sounds, it truly is an honor to have played a small part in bringing it to Broadway,” he said.

Written by Anais Mitchell, “Hadestown” borrows its plot from the Greek mythology stories of Orpheus and Eurydice, and King Hades and Persephone. Set in modern days, it intertwines the two love stories and delves into global problems, including climate change.

Monda has been involved in several other Broadway shows, including George Takei’s “Allegiance.” The Wright State University graduate moved to New York in 2012 to pursue a career in the business side of Broadway.

The son of Betty Jo Licata, dean of the College of Business at Youngstown State University, Monda’s main duty as co-producer of “Hadestown” was in raising money to mount the $11.5 million show on Broadway. He and Moritz are among the musical’s 20-plus co-producers.

In fact, two of the investors Monda secured are from Canfield: his father, who is a retired administrator of Robinson Memorial Health Affiliates, and JP Daliman.

Monda, whose theater career began as a teenager at the Youngstown Playhouse and the Oakland Center for the Arts, said his passion is bridging the arts and business.

His other responsibilities for “Hadestown” included facilitating marketing partnerships, bringing groups to the theater, and other ticket-selling efforts.

Moritz has been involved as a show producer, musical director and recording engineer on Broadway for six years. The former music director of the Playhouse, he also cut his teeth in the Mahoning Valley theater scene.

Producer credits for Mortiz include the Tony-nominated “Beautiful, the Carole King Story” and “On the Town,” plus “Big Fish” and “A Night with Janis Joplin.”

In deciding which shows to get behind and bring to Broadway, Moritz said he does a lot of travel and research.

“I am constantly trying to find the pulse of theater,” he said. “Year-round, I am going all over the world to theaters, and listening and reading, to find a project.”

Coming from the creative side of theater gives Moritz – who owns a recording studio in Youngstown – a unique skill set as a producer.

“I can run a business, but I also understand the creative end,” he said. “I can judge it on an artistic level, and also look at the numbers, then put those two things together and say if it will have a successful life in New York.”

Before he joined the “Hadestown” production team, Moritz followed the trajectories of it and several other Best Musical nominees. As a co-producer, he brought in investors and performed several other business-related tasks to bring the show to Broadway.

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