Each year, the Drama League bestows awards on all sorts of worthy talents who have contributed to the season just passed. On May 16th, I attended this year’s luncheon, the social event of the theatrical community, the one place where all those artists can meet and greet each other, to mingle with them for an hour or so, and then to watch over 50 of New York’s most interesting actors sitting beside each other, sipping wine and munching on mizuna, red endive and frisée salad and citrus marinated chicken breast, then hear each of them rise to say a few words of thanks for their having been selected as the best of the lot for this year.
All are honored, but a handful are called “Best” in various categories, and that brings a certain suspense to the occasion. The competition was particularly keen this year as there were so many star quality performances from the stars themselves, and from the featured actors who supported them.
There is one, the Distinguished Performance Award, that can only be offered once in a lifetime to any one actor, and this year it went to Neil Patrick Harris for his astonishing transformation into Hedwig for Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
The presentation was hosted by Jessie Tyler Ferguson with what I thought was a slightly ring-a-ding ding tone which was a little on the tacky side for the Drama League. He got his laughs, some of them at his own expense, as he raced through most of the introductions.
Barbara Cook won an Award for Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre for a lifetime of stunning work on stage beginning 63 years ago with her debut in Flahooley. Ms. Cook received a standing ovation from the audience and from her fellow performers on the podium as well. When she didn’t appear, Mr. Ferguson announced he just thought it would be fun for everyone to rise even though he knew Ms. Cook wasn’t coming; that she was indisposed with a sore foot because she’d dropped something on it the day before. Then he played her recorded thank you message, while everyone groped for a chair and sat down again. I’m sure Mr. Ferguson meant well. I guess one’s reaction to what’s fun is purely subjective.
“Distinguished Production of a Musical” was awarded to A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. Jefferson Mays, its star, seemed genuinely stunned at the selection because his show had faced fierce competition, but he managed a very gracious and classy couple of lines in gratitude.
All in all though it was a light hearted afternoon, a tribute to the artists who’d contributed to a season that brought us enlightenment and enjoyment through a long cold winter. And the Drama League luncheon once again revealed the theatre community on its best behavior, celebrating itself before a room full of jolly fans.
Productions which received the 2014 Drama League Award:
OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION OF A BROADWAY OR OFF-BROADWAY PLAY
All The Way
By Robert Schenkkan
Directed by Bill Rauch
OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION OF A BROADWAY OR OFF-BROADWAY MUSICAL
A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder
Book and Lyrics by Robert L. Freedman, Music and Lyrics by Steven Lutvak
Directed by Darko Tresnjak
OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A BROADWAY OR OFF-BROADWAY PLAY
The Glass Menagerie
By Tennessee Williams
Directed by John Tiffany
OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A BROADWAY OR OFF-BROADWAY MUSICAL
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Book by John Cameron Mitchell, Music and Lyrics by Stephen Trask
Directed by Michael Mayer