Keegan’s Spring Awakening sweeps the musical categories ; three Arena Stage productions receive top awards
Keegan Theatre was the first local theater to stage the Tony-winning musical Spring Awakening, and, by last night, DC Theatre Scene voters had rewarded it for doing so by selecting both the musical and leads Ali Hoxie and Paul Scanlan as last season’s favorites in all the musical categories.
Audience Choice voters gave Spring Awakening nearly forty percent of the overall ballots – a healthy 30 vote margin over Signature’s Hairspray. 1776, Ford Theatre’s production of an earlier Tony-winner about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, finished third.
Hoxie, who played a bewildered teenage girl who blunders into pregnancy in Spring Awakening’s sexually-repressed 19th-century Germany, edged the effervescent Carolyn Cole for Favorite Actress in a Musical. Cole played the much more knowing and aggressive teenager Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray, a story of a family of outcasts who manage to turn the segregated Baltimore dance scene upside down during the early sixties. Erin Weaver, the goddess Kira in Signature’s Xanadu, also received support.
Scanlan played Moritz, a young man whose inability to fulfill his father’s rigid intellectual demands leads to tragedy, in the Keegan production of Spring Awakening. His performance led him to be selected by a 42-vote margin over Euan Morton as favorite actor in a musical. Morton played the doomed Leo Frank in the joint Ford’s Theatre/Theater J production of Parade. Burke Moses, the ebullient Professor Harold Hill of Arena’s The Music Man, finished third.
DCTS had high praise for Keegan’s Spring Awakening. “Keegan Theatre…presents a production which renders every ounce of Spring Awakening’s fabulous intention with truth and pizzazz, and, in the best sense of the word, does justice to the show,” the review noted, also observing that Hoxie “deserves our respect for making Wendla’s extraordinary progression plausible” and that Scanlan “embodies [his character]perfectly, from his bird’s-nest hairstyle…to his sudden, haunted movements.”
In addition to awarding Spring Awakening laurels as Favorite Musical, Audience Choice Award voters named it Favorite Ensemble as well –finishing 45 votes ahead of The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s riotous The Servant of Two Masters. Arena’s The Normal Heart finished third.
It was a different story in the Favorite Play voting, however, where voters selected Larry Kramer’s drama about love and indifference in the age of AIDS over Arena’s Red and Signature’s Really Really, which were virtually tied for second. Of The Normal Heart, DCTS reviewer Roy Maurer noted that “Arena Stage’s first-rate production of Kramer’s furious, relentless howl still delivers a stinging emotional wallop, just the way it was meant to when it was a burning transmission from the breastworks of battle thirty years ago.”
Audience Choice voters selected Ed Gero, who played the brilliant, haunted artist Mark Rothko in Arena’s Red, as Favorite Actor in a Play for the second year in a row. (Gero won last year for his portrait of Salieri in Round House’s Amadeus). He edged Josh Sticklin, the title character in Keegan’s one-actor play Cuchullain, by 25 votes; Steve Epps, who played Truffaldino in The Servant of Two Masters, also received support. DCTS’ Jayne Blanchard praised Gero’s Rothko, declaring “Mr. Gero’s lived-in demeanor and thundering, declamatory style make him seem like a classic…Mr. Gero’s elegant diction and El Greco gaze bring Rothko to roaring life….”
Holly Twyford, who played a war-scarred photojournalist resolved to return to the field of battle in Studio’s Time Stands Still, was the voter’s choice as Favorite Actress in a Play over Helen Carey, the drug-addled Mary Tyrone in Arena’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Twyford, who DCTS review Andrew Lapin said “plays Sarah with a saucy bitterness that becomes endearing and, ultimately, transfixing. She spends nearly an entire act sitting down with her leg propped up, but nevertheless commands a fierce presence,” won by 41 votes; Vanessa Lock, Annette in Signature’s The God of Carnage finished third and Francesca Faridany, who played Nina Leeds in Shakespeare Theatre’s epic production of O’Neill’s Strange Interlude, finished fourth. (There were four finalists because of a tie in the first round of voting.)
Audience Choice voters narrowly selected the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Equivocation, which Arena hosted this winter, over the Cameron Mackintosh production of Les Misérables at the Kennedy Center as Favorite Non-Resident Production. The National Tour of Billy Elliot, also at the Kennedy Center, finished third. DCTS called Equivocation “a six-course meal of a play, not turkey and stuffing but some rarer and darker bird, with sides of squashed hopes, whipped religious feelings and humiliation pie – and yet, somehow, leavened with a yeasty and salty wit.”
John Hurt won as Favorite Non-Resident Performer for his work in Gate Theatre’s version of Beckett’s classic Krapp’s Last Tape, which played at the Shakespeare’s Lansburgh Theatre. DCTS’ John Barry said that “[p]lanted center stage, it seems that with each shift or shiver, Hurt can – without much apparent effort – morph from haggard to heroic to disgusted to vaguely amused. He does so to great effect.” Hurt finished thirty-seven votes ahead of Adam Grabau, who played Sir Lancelot and other characters in Monty Python’s Spamalot. Holland Taylor, who played Governor Ann Richards of Texas in her one-actor play Ann, finished third.
Imagination Stage’s The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe was the overwhelming Audience Choice for Favorite Family Play, finishing 74 votes ahead of Adventure Theatre/MTC’s If You Give a Moose a Muffin. Dr. Doolittle and P.Nokio, both from Imagination Stage, finished third and fourth respectively.
However, If You Give a Moose a Muffin’s Michael Russotto (he was the moose) was by a handsome margin the Audience Choice for Favorite Actor in a Family Play, finishing ahead of Rob McQuay, who played the title role (and the role of Hugh Lofting) in Dr. Dolittle, and Psalmayne 24, who played the title role in P. Nokio, a play he wrote.
Similarly, Felicia Curry was the overwhelming choice as Favorite Actress in a Family Play for her work as Lilly in Adventure/MTC’s Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. Justine Moral, who played Lucy in The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, finished second and Tia Shearer, who was Trixie in the Kennedy Center’s Knuffle Bunny, was third.
For being Audience Choices, Ms. Curry and Mr. Russotto, along with Ms. Hoxie, Ms. Twyford and Messrs. Gero and Scanlan, will receive two tickets to top-flight local productions, thanks to the generosity of area theaters. Studio is donating tickets to Invisible Man; Shakespeare is offering tickets to The Government Inspector; Signature will give tickets to The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas; Arena will donate tickets to One Night with Janis Joplin; Folger is offering The Conference of the Birds; and Woolly Mammoth will give tickets to The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity.
DC Theatre Scene introduced Opera as a new category of Audience Choice this year. Washington National Opera’s Tosca ran away with the Favorite Opera award, finishing ahead of WNO’s Lucia di Lammermoor and the Clarice Smith Center’s Miss Havisham’s Fire. For his performance as Edgardo in Lucia, Saimor Pirgu was the Audience Choice for Favorite Actor in an Opera, finishing ahead of Peter Burroughs, who was the Barber in In Series’ El Barberillo, and Jose Sacin, in Teatro de la Luna’s Luisa Fernanda. Patricia Racette, who was Floria Tosca in Tosca, was the Audience Choice for Favorite Actress in an Opera, ahead of Laura Virella, Luisa in Luisa Fernanda. Sarah Coburn, who was the title character in Lucia di Lammermoor, finished third, and Elizabeth Futral, who played Fiordiligi in WNO’s Cosi fan tutte, was fourth. Nearly 48% of Audience Choice voters cast a ballot in the opera categories.
Eight hundred five voters cast ballots in the second round of voting, to go with the 810 who cast first-ballot votes. “We have an exceptionally informed and passionate audience,” DC Theatre Scene editor Lorraine Treanor said. “All the theatremakers who made it to the second round should know that their work is well appreciated by a multitude of people who recognize their excellence.”