Monday, May 18, 2009

Highlights, Lowlights from the Drama Desk Awards; List of Winners


Just back from my first Drama Desk Awards party/show. Billy Elliot led the way with 10 awards.

Some highlights for me:
• Catching up with old friends and making new ones at the pre-show reception at Rouge Tomate.
• Getting to see my FAVORITE actor, John Cullum, present the awards for best actor and actress in a musical.
• Seeing Liza Minelli receive a special award for her accomplishments in theater from critic Rex Reed.
• Seeing Angela Lansbury do her kooky shuffle from Blithe Spirit when receiving her best featured actress award.
• Walking the red carpet (OK, it was after the awards and no one cared, but now I can always say truthfully that I walked the red carpet at the Drama Desk Awards ceremony...)

Some lowlights:
• Having the producer tell us that using cell phones during the program was OK, even encouraged, as long as the ringer was off.
• A fairly large number of no-shows among the winners.

Here's the full press release and list of winners (Outer Critics Circle Awards are Thursday!):

New York, NY, May 17, 2009 – Billy Elliot The Musical, based on the critically acclaimed feature film, won 10 awards, including Outstanding Musical, to head the list of 2008/2009 Drama Desk Award winners at the 54th Annual Drama Desk Awards, which took place tonight at the F.H. LaGuardia Concert Hall at Lincoln Center.

Shrek The Musical, based on the Oscar®-winning DreamWorks feature film, won three Drama Desk Awards as did The Norman Conquests, which won two competitive awards -- Outstanding Revival of a Play and Outstanding Director of a Play (Matthew Warchus) – and one special ensemble award for its cast. Ruined captured two Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Play (Lynn Nottage, author) and Outstanding Music in a Play (Dominic Kanza).

Janet McTeer (Mary Stuart) won the award as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama, and Allison Janney (9 to 5) won the Drama Desk as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical. Geoffrey Rush (Exit the King) was voted Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play and Brian d’Arcy James (Shrek the Musical) was presented with the Drama Desk Award as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical.

Angela Lansbury (Blithe Spirit) won the award as Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play and Gregory Jbara (Billy Elliot The Musical) won the Drama Desk Award as Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical. Pablo Schreiber was voted Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play for his performance in off Broadway’s reasons to be pretty and the Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical award went to Haydn Gwynne (Billy Elliot The Musical).

Three of the Billy Elliot The Musical creative team won Drama Desk Awards – Stephen Daldry (Outstanding Director of a Musical), Peter Darling (Outstanding Choreography) and Elton John (Outstanding Music). Stephen Sondheim (Road Show) won for Outstanding Lyrics, Lee Hall (Billy Elliot The Musical) won for Outstanding Book of a Musical, and Martin Koch (Billy Elliot The Musical) won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Orchestrations.

Tim Hatley (Shrek The Musical) won two design awards for Outstanding Costume Design and Outstanding Set Design of a Musical. David Korins (Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them) won for Outstanding Set Design of a Play. David Hersey (Equus) won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play and Rick Fisher (Billy Elliot The Musical) was voted the award for Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical. The Outstanding Sound Design Award was won by Paul Arditti (Billy Elliot The Musical).

The Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience went to Celebrity Autobiography: In Their Own Words and the Outstanding Solo Performance Award was voted to Lorenzo Pisoni (Humor Abuse).

The following awards were voted by the nominating committee and were presented at the awards ceremony this evening:

Outstanding Ensemble Awards for acting were presented to the cast members of two shows -- The Norman Conquests and The Cripple of Inishmaan. Therefore, individual cast members for these shows were not eligible for acting awards in the competitive categories.

Each year the Drama Desk votes special awards to recognize excellence and significant contributions to the theater. These awards were presented this evening to:
Liza Minelli, a beloved American musical theater icon, for her enduring career of sustained excellence, and her glorious performance in Liza’s at the Palace.

Forbidden Broadway at the end of its nearly three-decade run and the creators casts and designers who made it an unparalleled New York institution cherished for its satire and celebration of Broadway.

Atlantic Theater Company and artistic director Neil Pepe for exceptional craftsmanship and, dedication to excellence and productions that engage, inspire and enlighten.

TADA! Youth Theater for providing an invaluable contribution to the future of the theater. The company makes outstanding training experience accessible and affordable to young people and mounts productions remarkable for their quality and professionalism.

The 54th Annual Drama Desk Awards ceremony was hosted by Harvey Fierstein. Presenters included (in alphabetical order): Lauren Ambrose, Stockard Channing, John Cullum, André De Shields, Jim Dale, Jason Danieley, Raúl Esparza, Jane Fonda, Victor Garber, Cheyenne Jackson, Carson Kressley, John Lithgow, Marin Mazzie, Audra McDonald, Rex Reed, Michael Rupert and Tom Wopat.

The 54th Annual Drama Desk Awards was webcast with live streaming video from 9:00 PM to its conclusion by TheaterMania.com. The 54th Annual Drama Desk Awards is presented by Executive Producer Robert R. Blume in association with TheaterMania.com. Lauren Class Schneider is producer, and Jeff Kalpak, director. Peter Flynn is the writer. Associate Producers are Les Schecter, Joseph Callari, Corine Dana Cohen, Ellis Nassour, Jacki Barlia Florin and Margot Astrachan. Felicia M. Lopes is General Manager. Stuart F. Margulies (SFM Management Ltd.) is the Drama Desk Awards accountant

For the Drama Desk organization, Randie Levine-Miller is Special Events Director and Producer of the Drama Desk nominations at the NY Friars Club. Ellis Nassour is Media Liaison.

For TheaterMania.com: Brian Scott Lipton is the Editor in Chief and Edward Highfield and Jordan Neuren were video technicians for the live webcast.
The Drama Desk Awards enlisted personal sketches from this year’s nominated performers and creative talent for its Art*Kive program created nine years ago by Sarah Galvin. Many of this year’s sketches were displayed in the concert hall lobby at the awards ceremony.

The Drama Desk was founded in 1949 to explore key issues in the theater and to bring together critics and writers in an organization to support the ongoing development of theater in New York. The organization began presenting its awards in 1955, and it is the only critics organization to honor achievement in the theater with competition between Broadway, Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway productions in the same categories.

David S. Stone and The Smart Family Foundation, Richard I. Kandel, Ted Snowdon, TheaterMania.com, Jacki Barlia Florin and Jamie deRoy & friends have provided major financial assistance to the Drama Desk Awards show. In-kind sponsors include The New York Times, Variety, Manhattan Bride Magazine, Gray Line/NY Sightseeing, VideoActive Productions, Production Resource Group, Sound Associates, Abrams Gentile Entertainment, Hit Show Club, podcastnowstudio.com and Federico Hair Salon. Food and beverage sponsors include The Hawaiian Tropic Zone, John’s Pizzeria of Times Square, Arté Cafe, NY Friars Club, Tony’s Di Napoli, Legend of Kremlin Vodka, Wine Cellar Sorbet and Wines by Lubov Galleries. Additional financial contributors to the Drama Desk Awards are: The Nat R. and Martha M. Knaster Charitable Trust/Shapiro Lobell LLP; Dorothy Loudon Foundation/Lionel Larner; Randall Stempler; The Dorothy Strelsin Foundation/Enid Nemy and Wendy Federman.

The Drama Desk presented scholarships to Billy Rayne and Emily Schuman, graduating seniors in the Theater Department of the FH LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. These scholarships, as well as donations to the school, are made possible by The Smart Family Foundation, TheaterMania.com, Ted Snowdon, Jamie deRoy & friends and Robert R. Blume.

The 2008/2009 Nominating Committee for the Drama Desk Awards is composed of: Barbara Siegel (TalkinBroadway.com and TheaterMania.com), Chairperson; Dan Bacalzo (TheaterMania.com); Christopher Byrne (Gay City News); Patrick Christiano (TheaterLife.com and Dan’s Papers); Jason Clark (Entertainment Weekly and TheaterOnline.com); Gerard Raymond (Back Stage and The Advocate), and Richard Ridge (Broadwaybeat.com).

The Board of Directors of the Drama Desk is composed of: William Wolf (wolfentertainmentguide.com), President; Leslie (Hoban) Blake (TheaterMania.com and offoffoff.com), Vice President; Charles Wright (A&E TV Networks), Treasurer and 2nd Vice President; Richard Ridge (Broadway Beat TV), Secretary; Robert Cashill, (New York Theater News and Live Design); Isa Goldberg, (Greater Philadelphia Newspaper and Middletown (NY) Times Herald Record); David Kaufman (Free Lance; ) Ellis Nassour (BroadwayStars.com and Playbill); Sam Norkin Theater Artist and Past President); and Barbara Siegel (TalkinBroadway.com and TheaterMania.com).

The full list of 2008/2009 DRAMA DESK AWARD WINNERS
Outstanding Play: Ruined by Lynn Nottage
Outstanding Musical: Billy Elliot The Musical
Outstanding Revival of a Play: The Norman Conquests
Outstanding Revival of a Musical: Hair
Outstanding Music in a Play: Dominic Kanza (Ruined)
Outstanding Actor in a Play: Geoffrey Rush (Exit the King)
Outstanding Actress in a Play: Janet McTeer (Mary Stuart)
Outstanding Actor in a Musical: Brian d’Arcy James (Shrek The Musical)
Outstanding Actress in a Musical: Allison Janney (9 to 5)
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play: Pablo Schreiber (reasons to be pretty)off-Broadway
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play: Angela Lansbury (Blithe Spirit)
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical:Gregory Jbara (Billy Elliot The Musical)
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical:Haydn Gwynne (Billy Elliot The Musical)
Outstanding Director of a Play: Matthew Warchus (The Norman Conquests)
Outstanding Director of a Musical: Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot The Musical)
Outstanding Choreography: Peter Darling (Billy Elliot The Musical)
Outstanding Music: Elton John (Billy Elliot The Musical)
Outstanding Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim (Road Show)
Outstanding Book of a Musical Lee Hall (Billy Elliot The Musical)
Outstanding Orchestrations: Martin Koch (Billy Elliot The Musical)
Outstanding Set Design of a Play: David Korins (Why Torture Is Wrong and the People Who Love Them)
Outstanding Set Design of a Musical: Tim Hatley (Shrek The Musical)
Outstanding Costume Design: Tim Hatley (Shrek The Musical))
Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play: David Hersey (Equus)
Outstanding Sound Design: Paul Arditti (Billy Elliot The Musical)
Outstanding Solo Performance: Lorenzo Pisoni (Humor Abuse)
Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical:Rick Fisher (Billy Elliot The Musical)
Unique Theatrical Experience:Celebrity Autobiography: In Their Own Words
In addition, the following non-competitive awards were presented:

•Outstanding Ensemble Performances:The cast of The Norman Conquests
and The cast of The Cripple of Inishmaan
•To Liza Minelli, a beloved American musical theater icon, for her enduring career of sustained excellence, and her glorious performance in
Liza’s at the Palace.
•To Forbidden Broadway at the end of its nearly three decade run and the creators, casts and designers who made it an unparalleled New York institution cherished for its satire and celebration of Broadway.
•To Atlantic Theater Company and artistic director Neil Pepe for exceptional craftsmanship, dedication to excellence and productions that engage, inspire and enlighten.
•To TADA! Youth Theater for providing an invaluable contribution to the future of the theater. The company makes outstanding training and experience accessible and affordable to young people and mounts productions remarkable for their quality and professionalism.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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