The winning streak continues. For the third time in as many years, Aurora's Paramount Theatre earned top musical honors at the 49th annual equity Joseph Jefferson Award Ceremony held Monday at Drury Lane Theatre in Oak Brook.
Continuing its near dominance of the annual awards recognizing excellence in Chicago-area equity (union) theater, Paramount won a total of eight Jeffs, including five for its stellar revival of "Sweeney Todd -- The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" which Jeff committee members named best large musical.
Paramount's "Sweeney Todd" also earned awards for director Jim Corti, music director Tom Vendafreddo, lighting designers Nick Belley and Jesse Klug and lead actor Paul-Jordan Jansen.
"God is Good," said Jansen. "He has blessed me with an amazing mom and dad who are here with me tonight. I dedicate this to them. They supported me every step of the way and I can't thank them enough."
Paramount's honors included artistic achievement awards for designers Jeffrey D. Kmiec (set), Theresa Ham (costumes) and Jesse Mooney-Bullock (puppets) for "Disney's The Little Mermaid." While Paramount led all other theaters, committee members spread the wealth, bestowing awards on 18 different theaters from the city and suburbs.
The best mid-size musical award went to Porchlight Music Theatre's production of "The Scottsboro Boys" about nine black teenagers falsely accused and wrongfully convicted in 1931 Alabama of sexually assaulting two white women.
Drury Lane Theatre in Oak Brook earned Jeffs for best revue for "Smokey Joe's Cafe," a revelatory revival by director/choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge. E. Faye Butler earned her seventh Jeff Award for her turn as Mama Thornton in Drury Lane's first regional production of "Chicago," and Matthew Crowle was named best choreographer for "Crazy For You."
Kathy Voytko earned best musical actress honors for her performance as the Italian-born Iowa farm wife who has a fleeting affair with an international photographer in Marriott Theatre's regional premiere of "The Bridges of Madison County."
"Chicago is home. Chicago theater community you are second to none," said Voytko, who got her equity card in Chicago in 1996, thanked Marriott and the cast. "Thank you, Chicago, for letting me come home."
Accepting his supporting actor in a musical award for playing a convict turned accuser in Writers Theatre's "Parade," Jonathan Butler-Duplessis jumped for joy -- earning cheers and a standing ovation from the near capacity audience.
"None of this is supposed to happen to me," said the visibly moved Butler-Duplessis, who thanked his girlfriend and his grandmother. "I want to thank Writers Theater for taking a chance on me. All I ever wanted was to be part of the Chicago theater community. I wanted to make my mark here."
The actors in Writers' production of "East Texas Hot Links" earned the ensemble award.
Director Steve Scott, longtime Goodman Theatre producer and artistic associate, who retired in August after 37 years with the theater, received a lifetime achievement award. Described as an astute director, educator, humanitarian and champion of inclusion, Scott has been an integral part of Goodman almost continuously since 1980, except for a two-year stint with the Chicago International Film Festival and the Latin School of Chicago.
Brilliant at each task he took on, "perhaps his greatest gift has been his extraordinary mentorship," said artistic director Robert Falls, who praised Scott for his tireless support of theater artists and for his "enthusiasm, extraordinary intelligence and his kindness."
"I've never met a kinder man than Steve Scott," said Falls. "I've never met a man whose heart was filled with greater love for Chicago theater."
"I'm usually on stage to present an award or accept for somebody else," Scott said with a laugh. "I'm almost ashamed to say how happy this award makes me and how humbled I am by your respect ... I'm enormously lucky. I've been able to act, produce and direct ... I made the most of the doors that were opened for me and realized I had to take the opportunities and make the most of them."
He also said some of his proudest work involved countless students at area universities and high schools.
He paid an emotional tribute to his husband, as well as Falls and his longtime Goodman colleagues, his various artistic homes, and such luminaries as Tennessee Williams, Horton Foote, Hal Prince, August Wilson, Brian Dennehey and Mary Zimmerman among others, plus his countless collaborators.
"It's my extreme pleasure to thank every one of you for all you have done for me and all the glorious projects we have done together," he said.
Alex Weisman, a veteran of First Folio, Marriott and TimeLine theaters who will make his Broadway debut next year in "Harry Potter and the Curse Child," was named best actor in a play for his performance in Victory Gardens Theater's "Hand to God." It marked the second Jeff for Weisman, who earned a 2009 supporting actor award for TimeLine Theatre's "The History Boys."
Nominated for two awards -- supporting actress in a musical and lead actress in a play -- Angela Ingersoll received the best actress in a play award for playing Judy Garland in Porchlight's "End of the Rainbow."
"This is definitely for Judy; I felt a calling to represent her legacy," said Ingersoll, who thanked the cast and crew "who held me up in crazy town every night... they were amazing."
In an unusual development, three plays tied for best new work: Michael Cristofer's "Man in the Ring" at Court Theatre; Lauren Gunderson and Margo Melcon's "Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley" at Northlight Theatre in Skokie and Antoinette Nwandu's "Pass Over" at Steppenwolf Theatre. Nwandu's play was at the center of a controversy that erupted this summer over a Chicago critic's comments on the play, a contemporary riff on Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot."
Theater Wit's Chicago area premiere of "Naperville," by Naperville native Mat Smart, earned Joe Schermoly the mid-size set design award for his recreation of a Caribou Coffee shop.