Suburban titans Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire and Drury Lane Theatre in Oak Brook were shut out of the major awards at Monday's 44th annual equity Jeff Awards ceremony held at Oak Brook's Drury Lane Theatre.
For the second year in a row, Goodman Theatre proved a formidable contender winning multiple Jeffs for its epic revival of Eugene O'Neill's "The Iceman Cometh," including one for director Robert Falls and for play production, large theater.
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Falls praised Brian Dennehy, his collaborator for 30 years, who played Larry Slade, and Nathan Lane, who starred as Theodore "Hickey" Hickman and who Falls praised for his "unbelievable generosity."
"This production would not have happened if Nathan had not said he wanted to do this show in Chicago," Falls said.
Director Gary Griffin's glittering production of Stephen Sondheim's "Follies" for Chicago Shakespeare Theater dominated in the musical categories with six awards.
Goodman also received six awards for "Iceman," the operatic, ever-resonant tale about the impossibility of living life without illusions, including the award for ensemble, supporting actor Brian Dennehy, set designer Kevin Depinet and lighting designer Natasha Katz.
Prolonged applause greeted Dennehy who quipped, "Our play was the longest. If we get any award, it would be to test your ability to sit."
The actor went on to pay tribute to Falls and the "amazing cast, mostly from Chicago ... and the heart and soul of the whole thing, my good friend Nathan Lane. I'm glad to represent all of them and the Goodman Theatre for what they've done over the years."
Accepting the ensemble award on behalf of "a remarkable group of people," Falls described it as one of the most meaningful.
"This is a city that has made a lot of stars, but the stars were formed from the crucible" of revues, musicals and plays like "The Iceman Cometh," Falls said. "Follies," about a reunion of former showgirls in a once-grand theater destined for the wrecking ball, also earned awards for music director Brad Haak, lead actress Caroline O'Connor, supporting actress Hollis Resnik, costume designer Virgil C. Johnson and musical production, large theater.
"'Follies' was a one in a million experience," said Resnik. "I've traveled all over the country and worked with many communities of actors as many of you have. And I believe to the depths of my soul that Chicago has the finest community of theater artists."
Sound designer Christopher Kriz and lighting designer Michael McNamara were honored for First Folio Theater in Oak Brook's chilling "The Turn of the Screw."
"It only took 20 years," said McNamara referencing his first Jeff nomination in a speech in which he thanked First Folio founders Alison Vesely and David Rice. "Lighting designers don't always get all of the glory, but it's nice to have a small moment like this," he said.
"If you're going to design a creepy, scary play it doesn't help to do it in a haunted mansion," Kriz joked, referring to Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook.
The Jeff Committee honored Aaron Thielen and Michael Mahler with the best new musical award for their show "HERO the Musical," a tuneful tribute to ordinary Joes and Janes that premiered at Marriott Theatre in June.
Nominated for supporting actor in the play and musical categories, Alex Goodrich picked up the Jeff Award for his work in "HERO" playing title character's requisite sidekick and wingman.
Drury Lane in Oak Brook, which led all suburban theaters with 17 nominations, won one award for Tammy Mader's exuberant choreography for "Hairspray."
TimeLine Theatre earned the award for midsize theater play production for "The Pitmen Painters" and the country music sendup "The Doyle & Debbie Show," which had an extended run at the Royal George Theatre, received Jeff awards for midsize musical and for lead actor Bruce Arntson.
"I feel like such an interloper here," Arntson said of the "honky tonk show." "We had the most fun time in our lives pretending we were Chicago theater artists."