It was a big night for big theaters at the 2009 Helen Hayes nominations last night. Helen Hayes President and CEO Linda Levy Grossman announced that Arlington’s Signature Theatre racked up over a quarter of the organization’s 150 nominations, which celebrate the 2008 theater year. Signature was followed by Shakespeare Theatre with nineteen nominations, Studio with seventeen, and Woolly Mammoth with sixteen. Arena Stage and the Kennedy Center each had nine, as did Synetic, a smaller theater with a huge Helen Hayes history.
Signature’s parade of thirty-nine nominations was led by Eric Schaeffer’s intimate staging of Les Miserables, whose thirteen nominations included outstanding resident musical, outstanding director for a resident musical (for Schaeffer, who was also nominated for Signature’s Kiss of the Spider Woman and Ace), and outstanding lead actor for a resident musical (for Greg Stone, who played Jean Valjean). Two other Signature productions, The Visit and Kiss of the Spider Woman, had nine nominations each.
Joining Signature’s Les Miserables, Ace, Kiss of the Spider Woman and The Visit as best resident musical nominees were Studio’s raucous Jerry Springer: the Musical and MetroStages’ Rooms A Rock Musical, which receives its New York opening next month at New World Stages.
Shakespeare Theatre’s Major Barbara and Twelfth Night each received five nominations, including best resident play. Other nominees were Folger’s magic-laden Macbeth, Synetic’s silent Romeo and Juliet, and the intense Blackbird which Studio produced in its Milton Theatre.
Nominations for best lead actor in a resident play – an award now renamed after the legendary Robert Prosky – went to Rene Auberjonois in the title role of Shakespeare Theatre’s Imaginary Invalid, Aubrey Deeker as a geeky scientist in Woolly’s Boom, Karl Kenzler and Ted van Griethuysen for their work in Major Barbara, Ian Merrill Peakes for the title role in Folger’s Macbeth, Jerry Whiddon as a middle-aged man with a terrible secret in Blackbird, Floyd King as a vulnerable teacher in Studio’s History Boys, and Ed Gero as a troubled President in Round House’s Nixon’s Nixon. Coincidentally, Prosky, who died last year, was also nominated, as best supporting actor in a non-resident play for his performance in The Price atTheater J.
The immortal Chita Rivera was nominated for best lead actress in a resident musical for her work as the revenge-seeking plutocrat in Signature’s The Visit, as were Janice Lorraine (multiple roles in Cookin’ at the Cookery, MetroStage), Natascia Diaz, who played an ambitious rocker with a troubled romance in MetroStage’s Rooms, Jill Paice, who portrayed the suicidal mother in Signature’s Ace, and Barbara Walsh, who took on the role of a loopy mother and her loopy daughter at different stages in their lives in Grey Gardens at Studio.
Nominees for best lead actress in a resident play included Sarah Marshall, who played a demented granny whose newly-deceased body is possessed by a centuries-old spirit in Woolly’s Maria/Stuart, Diedra LeWan Starnes, who portrayed an honest seamstress looking for love against long odds in Intimate Apparel at African Continuum Theatre, Tana Hicken and Holly Twyford, as an aging artist who insists on living independently and her younger friend who attempt to penetrate her stubbornness, respectively in Studio’s The Road to Mecca, Lisa Joyce, for her work as a young woman trying to come to grips with the psyche of her molester in Blackbird, at Studio, and Kimberly Schraf, who played a hyperpuritanical scold who ended up in a sex club in Woolly’s rhyming Measure for Pleasure.
In addition to Stone, the following artists received nominations for best lead actor in a resident musical: Will Chase and Hunter Foster, as two prisoners of a brutal regime in Signature’s Kiss of the Spider Woman, Doug Kreeger, who played an ubergifted alcoholic in Rooms at MetroStage, George Hearn, as the object of a revenge plot for a romance gone wrong decades ago in Signature’s The Visit, and David Margulies, who portrayed a wise and compassionate grandfather in Signature’s The Happy Time.
Click here for the full list of the 2009 nominations.