Winners of the 1999-2000 Kleban Award, recognizing excellence in theatre lyrics and libretti, were announced March 16 by The Kleban Foundation, Inc.
A rare four-way tie in the lyrics category recognized Marion Adler (Enter the Guardsman in London and New Jersey Shakespeare Festival), Chad Beguelin (Swing Alley, or The Rhythm Club, pre Broadway), David Spencer (the in-development Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz) and the team of Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez (Avenue Q,).
The award for book went to Stephen Cole, who wrote the libretto for The Night of the Hunter, which is in development for the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.
Adler's Enter the Guardsman premiered at the Donmar Warehouse and received an Olivier Award nomination for best new musical in 1998.
Lopez and Marx are both composer-lyricists and began writing together less than two years ago, when they met in the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop in New York. Their grown-up sitcom spoof of a "Sesame Street"-like show, Avenue Q,, meant as a TV sitcom pilot with puppets and animation, has been a hit in the BMI Workshop and will be read at the York Theatre in May. They also penned a spec Muppet movie musical, "Kermit, Prince of Denmark" (loosely based on Hamlet), which won them the Kleban. Spencer's The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (with composer Alan Menken) is anticipated for a 2000-2001 Broadway production, according to the Kleban announcement.
The Kleban award was established in 1988 under the will of Edward L. Kleban, Pulitzer Prize-winning lyricist for A Chorus Line. It made a provision for the annual award to be given to the most promising lyricist and librettist in American musical theatre. In the current 10th year of the award, which carries a cash prize in excess of $100,000, the honor was split, a rare thing for the Kleban. The panel of judges included lyricist Fred Ebb, composer Henry Krieger and lyricist-librettist William Russell.
For 2000-2001 application information, write The Kleban Foundation c/o Stein & Stein, 270 Madison Avenue, New York, NY. 10016.
-- By Kenneth Jones