Goodman, Court win big at Jeff Awards
Chicago's Goodman and Court theaters' domination of the musical categories at the 43rd annual Joseph Jefferson Equity Awards meant disappointment for two suburban theaters.
The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire and Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace. each received only one award during Monday's ceremony at Drury Lane Theatre.
As expected, Goodman Theatre's lauded revival of Leonard Bernstein's "Candide" and Court Theatre's boldly re-imagined production of George and Ira Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" took top honors in the musical categories.
Goodman, which earned seven awards overall, took best musical honors in the large tier category for its revival of "Candide," produced in conjunction with Shakespeare Theatre Company. The production also earned awards for actors Geoff Packard, Hollis Resnik and Larry Yando, as well as for Mary Zimmerman's adaptation.
Court Theatre's bold restaging of the Gershwin classic "Porgy and Bess" earned awards for music director Doug Peck and director Charless Newell, who called the process of putting the show together "a spiritual journey."
"This is my life's work in some sense," an emotional Newell said. "Thank you, thank you, thank you."
Chicago Shakespeare Theatre tied Goodman with seven Jeff Awards, including five for "The Madness of George III" for play (large tier theater), director Penny Metropulos, principal actor Harry Groener, costume designer Susan E. Mickey and wig and makeup designer Melissa Veal, who shared the artistic specialization award with Tracy Otwell for her toy design on Lookingglass Theatre's "The Last Act of Lilka Kardison."
"I'm in such great company. This city has the best actors and the best theater," Metropulos said, referencing her eight fellow nominees. "The only reason I can be here is I had a great team, a great crew, an amazing company."
Principal actor winner Groener paid tribute to his fellow nominees -- and to Chicago for raising the theatrical bar.
"To receive this award, for this role, in this perfect production, in this town is overwhelming," he said. "Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
A standing ovation from one of the largest Jeff equity ceremony crowds in recent years greeted Mike Nussbaum, who received a supporting award for his role as an irascible socialist in Drury Lane's "Broadway Bound."
"As old as I am, just being able to memorize and move is a lot," Nussbaum said. "The thing I love most about acting are the actors I work with. The camaraderie, the badinage that goes on in the dressing room is what makes me approach being younger."
Accepting her award for her buoyant choreography for Marriott's "42nd Street," actor/singer/choreographer Tammy Mader thanked the actors who speak with their feet.
Faring best among suburban theaters was Writers' Theatre in Glencoe. Jessie Mueller won principal actress in a musical for "She Loves Me," and Barbara Robertson won for her solo performance in "The Detective's Wife" by Arlington Heights native Keith Huff.
"My performance every night has been informed by all of you who have helped me along my way," Robertson said.
Accepting his award for best new work for "Chinglish," playwright David Henry Hwang expressed his respect and gratitude, saying "In case I had any doubts, Chicago is the best theater town in America."
Bruce Graham also earned a best new work Jeff Award for "The Outgoing Tide," which had its world premiere at Northlight Theatre.
"When you have a cast like Thomas J. Cox, Rondi Reed and John Mahoney, you can't help but look good," Graham said, adding "this is the epicenter of new American theater, and I'm very proud to be a part of it."
Raucous cheers greeted the announcement American Theater Company's revival of "The Original Grease," earned the award for best musical from a mid-size theater. ATC's "Big Meal" earned the best ensemble award
Remy Bumppo Theatre Company's revival of Edward Albee's "The Goat, or Who is Sylvia" was named best production, while one of its stars, Annabel Armour, earned the Jeff Award for actress in a principal role.
Chicago Sun-Times theater and dance critic Hedy Weiss was honored for celebrating new works and young talent for the last 25 years.
"This is not really a job," she said. "This is a huge pleasure, a huge privilege ... There is a reason why theaters sell out, why shows are extended, because there is no substitute for the blood, sweat tears, the artistry and joy."