Broadway's Smiling Hero

04/16/1998 at 12:00 AM EDT

Amid cheering applause and shouts of "Take it off," veteran Broadway musical actor Andre De Shields, 54, was honored with a time-honed theatrical tradition on Wednesday morning: His caricature went up at Sardi's restaurant. (It's the Great White Way's equivalent of a movie actor's getting a star on Hollywood Blvd.) "This is a shocking surprise," De Shields, who's now starring in "The Full Monty," told PEOPLE.com. "This is the first time." The first time his picture went up, that is -- despite De Shield's show-stopping turns in such long-ago shows as 1975's "The Wiz" (as the Wiz himself) and 1978's "Ain't Misbehavin'." In "The Full Monty," based on the 1997 British movie hit, he plays an older gentleman who puts his best foot forward. "Do I date it?" De Shields asked as he signed his name to the smiling portrait by artist Richard Baratz. Advised that possibly that wasn't a good idea, De Shields replied, "But I do want to date it. Because 100 years from now, when I still look like this . . . "

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