Goodman's 'Tommy' wins nine Jeff Awards
If Goodman Theatre's production of "The Who's Tommy" opens on Broadway next year (a transfer expected but not officially confirmed), it received a memorable send-off Monday at the 55th annual Joseph Jefferson Awards ceremony recognizing excellence in Chicago-area theater during the 2022-2023 equity season.
Goodman's record-breaking production -- the highest grossing in the theater's 98-year history -- received nine Jeff Awards, more than any other production, and won every category in which it was nominated.
"Tommy" received awards for large musical, director Des McAnuff, ensemble (shared with Court Theatre's "The Gospel at Colonus"), lead performer Ali Louis Bourzgui, sound designer Gareth Owen, lighting designer Amanda Zieve, choreographer Lorin Latarro, music director Rick Fox and projection designer Peter Nigrini.
Accepting the large musical award, McAnuff thanked the Jeff Committee as well as current Goodman artistic director Susan V. Booth, former artistic director Robert Falls and executive director/CEO Roche Schulfer for their "tremendous support."
"On behalf of our principal creator Pete Townshend, he loved this city," McAnuff said. "He loved the musicians. He speaks highly of the experience and he wants to pass on his very best wishes."
Goodman led all theaters with 12 awards overall, including a new work nod for Rebecca Gilman's "Swing State," the large play award for "The Cherry Orchard" and a directing award for Falls for the same production. Falls, who retired last year after serving 35 years as Goodman's artistic director, also received a lifetime achievement award for his contributions to theater in Chicago and beyond.
"Bob's greatest gift is his generosity and his kindness ... what makes him unique is his humanity and that is what we're honoring tonight," said longtime Goodman colleague Steve Scott in his introduction.
A standing ovation greeted Falls, a 12-time Jeff Award-winner and Tony Award-winner who received his first Jeff Citation when he was a 21-year-old University of Illinois undergraduate
"Two weeks ago I opened 'Swing State' off-Broadway and in every review I was referred to as Chicago director Robert Falls or Robert Falls, Chicago director. And I could not have been more proud," he said, accepting the award. "All I ever wanted to do was to make theater in Chicago and everything after that has been an extraordinary blessing."
Highland Park's Marvin Quijada received awards for writing, lead performance in a play and original composition (which he shared with Matthew Chapman, Elliott Taggart and Ethan T. Parcell) for "The Dream King," his 21st-century fairy tale and love story.
Teatro Vista's "Dream King" also received Jeff Awards for mid-size play (which it shared with American Blues Theater's "Fences"), set designer Joe Schermoly, sound designer Chapman, lighting designer Conchita Avitia and puppet designer Mike Oleon.
"In the words of (the late rapper) Nipsey Hussle, there is no formula to this thing, I just didn't quit," said Quijada accepting his award for new work, one of three awards he received, the most by a single artist.
Quijada shared the award with Gilman, Tuckie White (Rivendell Theatre Ensemble's "Motherhouse") and composer/lyricist Ingrid Michaelson and writer Bekah Brunstetter (Chicago Shakespeare Theater's Broadway-bound "The Notebook").
Accepting his acting award, Quijada thanked his Teatro Vista family and expressed gratitude for the recognition "The Dream King" received.
"I'm a clown and a mime. This is clown theater, and that clown theater is being recognized, holy moley," he said.
"Don't quit," he said, quoting Nipsey Hussle again.
In an unusual departure, the ceremony was marked by multiple recipients in six categories. Among the multiple winners was Felicia P. Fields, who shared her award for performance in a revue for Writers Theatre's "Pearl's Rollin' With the Blues" with Evan Mills, who received his for The Second City's "Don't Quit Your Daydream."
"To everybody who's ever helped me in this business, thank you," said Fields, who encouraged new artists and advised them to remain humble, reminding them that "the same people you meet going up, you're going to meet coming down."
Elizabeth Stenholt received the supporting performer in a musical award for her performance as Medium Alison in Paramount's "Fun Home."
"I'm grateful for the lifelong friendships and huge impact all of these people had on my life," said Stenholt referring to the "Fun Home" cast and design team.
Stenholt shared the award with Mary Robin Roth (Porchlight Music Theatre's "Cabaret") and Joy Woods (Chicago Shakespeare Theater's "The Notebook")
The Jeff committee recognized set designers Andrew Boyce for Drury Lane Theatre's "Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express" and Jeffrey D. Kmiec for Paramount Theatre's "Into the Woods."
Puppet designer Drew Dir received the artistic specialization award for "Manual Cinema's Christmas Carol" at Writers Theatre. Dir shared the award with Oleon for "The Dream King" puppets and properties designers Amanda Herrmann and Yu Shibagaki for Lookingglass Theatre's "Lucy and Charlie's Honeymoon."