In a month-long balloting for the 2013 Audience Choice Awards, where a total of 1,270 votes were recorded in 2 rounds of voting, Washington-area audiences spoke clearly about their choices. In the Musical categories, Cabaret at Keegan Theatre finished 6.5% ahead of MetroStage’s production of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris for favorite show.
DC Theatre Scene’s Audience Choice Awards had the first tie for first place in its eight-year history when the vote total for Paul Scanlan, whose scabrous emcee powered Keegan’s incandescent Cabaret, matched that of DC stage veteran Bobby Smith for his Helen Hayes-award winning performance in MetroStage’s Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Each performer received 24.7% of the ballots cast.
The area’s ultimate arbiters of theater – the audience – was also closely divided in the selection of its Favorite Actress in a Musical, where Maria Rizzo, Cabaret’s Sally Bowles, won the category, finishing a single vote ahead of Jacques Brel’s Natascia Diaz.
While the Woolly Production won over The Tempest as Favorite Play, there’s no doubting that Audience Choice Voters considered The Tempest their favorite ensemble, giving it 25.3% of its vote.
Audience Choice voters were more decided in their other choices. Alex Mills was a clear winner as Favorite Actor in a play for his title-role performance in Synetic’s Jekyll and Hyde, receiving 29.4% of the votes cast to outdistance runner-up Rick Foucheux, who played Shelly in Round House’s Glengarry Glen Ross. And Susan Lynskey, who played Myra Babbage, a secretary who channeled the unfinished novel of her former employer in MetroStage’s Ghost-Writer, received 27.3% of the votes for Favorite Actress in a Play, to finish ahead of Scena Theatre’s Irina Koval, who played the title role in Oscar Wilde’s Salome.
At 28.5% of the votes, Imagination Stage’s Peter Pan and Wendy was the clear Audience Choice for Favorite Family Show, with Round House Theatre’s Young Robin Hood, the runner-up. Jonathan Atkinson, who played Peter, won by nearly the same margine (30%) for Favorite Actor in a Family Show, and Justine Moral, who played Wendy, received a whopping 41% of the vote total.
Washington National Opera’s Show Boat was overwhelmingly the favorite opera for Audience Choice voters, receiving 40.1% of the vote. Morris Robinson, who played Joe and was originally a write-in nomination from Round 1, won handily as Favorite Male Performer in an Opera as did Alyson Cambridge, who played Julie, becoming the Favorite Female Performer.
The Book of Mormon, whose enthusiasts shut down the Kennedy Center’s computer system with their demands for tickets earlier this year, was the clear favorite of Audience Choice voters selecting a Favorite Non-Resident Production. 31.4% liked The Book of Mormon best with another Kennedy Center production, War Horse, in the second place. And John Christopher O’Neill, who was The Book of Mormon’s Elder Cunningham, was the choice of 29.3% of voters as Favorite Performer in a Non-Resident Production, allowing him to finish 5% ahead of Kathleen Turner, who was journalist Molly Ivins in her one-actor Red-Hot Patriot, at Arena Stage.
In this year’s new category, Cabaret, Sutton Foster was the clear Audience Choice favorite as a cabaret performer, receiving 36.2% of the vote for her performance at George Mason University. Michael Feinstein, the world-renowned cabaret singer who performed The Gershwins and Me at the Musical Center at Strathmore was the second most favored.
Of the 744 voters participating in the final round of the Audience Choice Awards, 62.7% identified themselves as strictly audience members; the rest work in theatre.
Some voters took time to leave comments. Most were enthusiastic about the awards themselves or expressed ringing endorsements of particular plays or performers. Others offered ideas such as:
“- Inclined to think it would be best to have awards for Equity theaters separate from non-Equity.
– Cost of tickets is a big consideration for a good number of theater-goers and while a ticket may be less than the price of a nice dinner out, an evening — especially with friends — will likely include a dinner out and this can get very expensive, so many will likely forego the theater. It’s a fact of life: If a choice has to be made a good conversation over dinner will likely win out over an evening of silence during the play. So it’s nice when the cost of a ticket allows for both. There is so much competition in this area, it’s important I believe that theaters do what they can to make their offering(s) all the more valuable with talk-backs and/or chats with the writer/director before or after the production — for the price of the ticket. These are very valuable to many of my friends and they provide a greater understanding of the intent of the production.
– Director, Choreographer why no category for these hard working folks?
– how about a best stage manager award? or a favorite moment/scene award? best sound and best costume??
– Do technical categories for awards as well as actors. Technicians deserve recognition too!
– Since you include Synetic, I’d like to give a shout out to Washington Ballet — two of the best things I saw last season were their productions of “Dracula” and “Alice in Wonderland.”
– “Audience Choice Awards” implies the audience voting from the start, rather than choosing from a pre-selected list. But perhaps there isn’t the time to sort through everything if it was all write-in or if you had to list every performer in every show, etc., and maybe people would be less likely to vote if they had more options.
– For the first round of voting, it would be nice to be able to pick 3 favorites in each category and then limit the choice to one per category in the finals. Having separate categories for lead and featured performances would be nice too. ”