and after the show, came the party of the year
Signature Theatre, a nineteen-year-old company based in Arlington, Virginia swept most of the prizes for musicals at last night’s 25th annual Helen Hayes Awards at the Warner Theatre, while William Shakespeare, a four hundred forty-five year old writer from Stratford-on-Avon, England, took the lion’s share of non-musical awards, either through his writing or via the company which bears his name.
The Helen Hayes judges handsomely rewarded Signature Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer’s risky decision to stage Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil’s enormous, expansive Les Misêrables in its 270-seat MAX with Resident Musical awards for Outstanding Musical Direction (Jon Kalbfleisch), Outstanding Supporting Actor (Christopher Bloch), Outstanding Supporting Actress (Sheri L. Edelen, shared with Angelina Kelly, the adorable moppet from Signature’s Ace), Outstanding Director (Schaeffer), Outstanding Musical Ensemble and Outstanding Musical. Other Resident Musical awards went to Outstanding Lead Actor David Margulies (The Happy Time), and Outstanding Lead Actress Chita Rivera (The Visit).
The only artist not from a Signature production to win a Resident Musical award was Natascia Diaz, who shared an Outstanding Lead Actress award with Rivera for her portrayal of Monica P. Miller, an ambitious, conflicted young Scottish Jewish rocker in MetroStage’s ROOMS a rock romance. Diaz appeared genuinely stunned to have gotten the award and in particular to be sharing it with the legendary Rivera. “Chita Rivera?” Diaz asked. “I grew up wanting to be Chita Rivera.”
The Resident Play awards were more evenly distributed but had a distinct Shakespearean cast to them. Synetic’s Irini and Paata Tsikurishvili once again won Outstanding Choreographer and Outstanding Director awards, this time for Carmen and Romeo and Juliet, respectively. This was the seventh such award for Irini and fifth for Paata, which made the difficulty which the presenters had with their name surprising (it’s Tzee/koor/ish/vee’/lee, guys). Romeo and Juliet also won the award as Outstanding Ensemble. The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Major Barbara took awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress (Helen Carey) and Outstanding Lead Actor (Ted van Griethuysen), and its dark Twelfth Night shared an Outstanding Play award with Studio’s dark Blackbird. Twelfth Night’s Floyd King was Outstanding Supporting Actor. The Outstanding Lead Actress award was shared by Blackbird’s Lisa Joyce and Diedra LeWan Starnes of African Continuum’s Intimate Apparel.
Marianne Custer (Costumes for Round House’s Alice), Chris Lee (Lighting Design for Signature’s Kiss of the Spider Woman), Daniel Conway (set for Woolly Mammoth’s Stunning), and Matthew M. Neilson (Sound Design for Catalyst’s rollicking 1984) won technical awards.
The content-stuffed two-and-a-half hour awards program, which played to a full house at Warner’s 1,847-seat venue, also featured tributes to the Washington Area’s seventy Artistic Directors, to Helen Hayes founder Bonnie Nelson Schwartz, and as emerging theater company, the 3 year old Constellation Thetre Company.
Perhaps recognizing that, as the Bard put it, ” The play’s the thing …”, the final award of the night, the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play or Musical which went to Stephanie Zadravec for Honey Brown Eyes, produced by Theatre J. Zadravec was unable to accept the award personally, as she had a previously engagement giving birth to twins. However, Theater J Artistic Director Ari Roth accepted on her behalf and delivered an exceptionally gracious speech in which he recognized that this was his company’s first Helen Hayes Award ever.
The Helen Hayes Awards after party is the theatre community’s legendary celebration of the year. After the show was over, everyone – cast, audience, supporters – filed out of the Warner, faced a rather blustery wind and rain soaked streets, to walk a block up Pennsylvania to the JW Marriott, where the elegant theatre crowd had private use of the hotel’s bar, banquet halls and dance floors. The late night breakfast-style buffets felt just right as the crowd partied down into the wee hours. We heard they starting rolling up the floor around 2 a.m.
We picked up a bit of news: actors Jim Jorgensen and Charlotte Akin are moving back to DC in May. As soon as he heard the news, Jeremy Skidmore, co-director of this Fall’s Forum production Angels in America was on the phone to Jorgensen, signing him up for the Roy Cohn role.
A reminder that, even as we lay last year’s productions to rest, new shows are being created: some nominees missing from the overflow Monday night crowd were busy with their first tech night for the Kennedy Center’s Ragtime.
DCTS feature: Meet the Helen Hayes Nominees