Hunter Johnson
Hunter Johnson was nominated for a Tony Award for "New York, New York." Here, he is pictured with his mother.

Tony Award-Nominated Chapman Grad Makes His Mark on Broadway

As a teenager growing up in San Diego, Hunter Johnson ’07 spent much of his time at the La Jolla Playhouse. The venue was a perfect creative outlet for a theater kid as it was often the first stop for shows before they went to Broadway. 

Classics like “Fiddler on the Roof” made an indelible impression on him and he connected with the open-minded demeanor of the theater community. As a gay teenager, Johnson felt out of place in the conservative neighborhood where he grew up. The theater provided respite from judgment.  

“I felt like I was being pulled in a bunch of different places, and the theater made me feel at home,” Johnson says. “The people in the theater helped me feel safe.” 

But with competing interests in film and television, Johnson chose to focus elsewhere when he selected his area of study at Chapman’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts and eventually started Xpedition, an award-winning entertainment studio and marketing agency that produces television shows, documentaries, events and branded content. Chapman alumnus and adjunct faculty member Derek Helwig ’05 is senior vice president of unscripted development at the company.

Dodge College
Hunter Johnson used the skills he learned at Dodge to start his business, Xpedition.

Theater took a backseat for Johnson, until an opportunity arose about a year ago that excited his inner theater kid. He was offered a producer role on the renowned musical, “New York, New York.” 

“It was a crazy first show, it was like being a kid in a candy store,” Johnson says of the show, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award. “I’m literally in shock to be honest. It’s been so fast and that is really show business.”

Johnson quickly learned that the skills he mastered at Chapman were incredibly useful when adapting to a new industry. Over the last year, Johnson has been involved in “Here We Are,” “Grey House” and “Harmony,” which includes Chapman alumna Kyla Stone ’20 as a cast member. 

Johnson has been a producer on each show except “Back to the Future,” in which he was an investor. It’s been a surreal experience for Johnson, who has been in a producing group with Broadway legends like Stephen Sondheim, John Kander, Susan Stroman and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Johnson has three more shows slated for 2024, including the musical, “My Son’s a Queer (But What Can You Do?).” 

“Chapman instilled in me this scrappy, can-do notion of picking yourself up by your bootstraps and getting things done,” Johnson says. “There’s also this sense of being on a team. This team environment is something that makes Chapman incredibly special. It’s how I learned to be a leader and a great team member. It gave us an edge that has allowed us to propel way beyond what people thought we could do quickly.” 

Read more:

Alumni Spotlight—Hunter Johnson

With his current production, “Harmony,” Johnson helped bring to stage a work that he’s loved since he was a child. The musical, created by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman, depicts a group of Jewish singers who were persecuted during the rise of fascism in Germany. While struggling to find a sense of belonging as a teenager, the show’s message about camaraderie resonated with Johnson. 

“My dad’s Christian and my mom’s Jewish, so I’ve always been split between worlds,” Johnson says. “The message of togetherness and harmony and finding commonality with one another is so important with so much hate going around the world.” 

Being a part of “Harmony,” which was first staged at the La Jolla Playhouse, epitomizes Johnson’s reconnection with the art form he’s loved ever since he was a wide-eyed theater kid. 

“To be a part of the producing team to bring ‘Harmony’ to Broadway is a full-circle moment for me,” Johnson says. “This has been a theater kid’s dream come true.” 

Benjamin Brazil

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