The New York theater season is just half-finished (literally: the mid-point came Nov. 26), and the Outer Critics Circle has already chosen the date and venue of its annual award ceremony. The honors will be given May 24, 2001 at the Eugenia Room of Sardi’s Theatrical Restaurant, 4-7:30 PM.
The Outer Critics Circle comprises writers who cover New York theatre for out-of-town newspapers and media. The group's nominations are traditionally the first of the New York theatre awards season (though sometimes the Lucille Lortel Awards get the jump). No word yet on when nominees will be announced or what the cut-off date will be for this season’s Broadway and Off-Broadway productions to have opened for consideration. (The Outer Critics Circle traditionally has a cut-off date a week or two before the end of the Tony season, often meaning that shows opening at the tail end of April or early May aren’t eligible for that season’s OCC Awards.)
As with last year’s Awards, the 2001 OCCs will be held in the late afternoon. For many years, the ceremony was a late-night, post-show supper, often going past two in the morning. According to President Marjorie Gunner, critics and actors were “overwhelmingly positive in support of the pre-theatre revised format” and appreciated the earlier, more-manageable timeframe.
Last season’s Outer Critics Circle Awards ceremony took place Thursday afternoon, May 25, 2000 at Sardi's. Contact led the winners (announced May 1) with five citations, including two for Susan Stroman, director-choreographer of the Lincoln Center hit, as well as of The Music Man. Stroman, who lost her husband, Mike Ockrent, in December, teared up during her first acceptance speech, saying, "It's been a funny time. Being able to do these two shows has saved my life. It was a healing experience for me." Besides Contact winning for Outstanding Broadway Musical, Direction of a Musical, and Choreography, the "dance-play" was cited for lighting and Featured Actress in a Musical. The 1999 revival of Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate was runner up with four wins, including Outstanding Musical Revival. In his Best Actor in a Musical acceptance speech, Kate star Brian Stokes Mitchell joked about his onstage feud with fellow winner, co-star Marin Mazzie: "I never loved getting beat up so much!" Kiss Me, Kate's veteran set designer Robin Wagner was more somber, noting how much he wished he could be "a newcomer" again.
Michael Frayn's London import, Copenhagen, was named Outstanding Broadway Play, and A Moon for the Misbegotten was named Outstanding Revival of a Play.
The Pulitzer Prize-winner, Dinner with Friends walked away with the awards for Outstanding Off-Broadway Play and Best Director (Daniel Sullivan). Also honored were widely acclaimed performances by Eileen Heckart (The Waverly Gallery), Roy Dotrice (A Moon for the Misbegotten) and Karen Ziemba (Contact).
The Manhattan Theatre Club production of The Wild Party became the first of the two musicals by that name to claim a prize -- in this case, for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical.
Olympia Dukakis and Mark Setlock tied for Outstanding Solo Performance, for Rose and Fully Committed, respectively.
In addition, the OCC Executive Committee is bestowing Special Achievement Awards to Barry Humphries of Dame Edna: The Royal Tour and to actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly of True West.
Though many presentations were made by OCC president Marjorie Gunner, announcing duties were also handled by such luminaries as Lauren Bacall, Rosemary Harris, Dana Ivey, Barnard Hughes and Crista Moore. Horton Foote, flanked by his two daughters, Hallie and Daisy, presented the Best Actress award to Eileen Heckart.
Some quotable highlights of the 2000 Sardi's ceremony:
• After hostess Gunner, introducing Lauren Bacall, momentarily forgot the title of Waiting in the Wings, Bacall strode up and said, "Forgotten and we haven't closed yet! Show biz!"
• Barry Humphries credited comedienne Joan Rivers with starting the ball rolling that brought Dame Edna: The Royal Tour to Broadway. "She put me in touch with an agent, who in turn got the producers." On his cross-dressed creation: "Edna is a vulture disguised as a bird of paradise." And on the Outer Critics Circle itself: "Outer Critics Circle sounds much friendlier than some of the other awards. It sounds comfortably suburban. And I come from Australia, which is a suburb of the world."
• Frances Conroy, the Best Featured Actress winner, took pains to thank the show's producers and called the team "a close family" -- a marked contrast to Patrick Stewart's well-publicized feud with the moneymen over the show's publicity and marketing.
• Daniel Sullivan, director of Dinner With Friends, also praised his producers, recounting how they barely flinched at the expense of gutting the Variety Arts Theatre to fit the set in. Sullivan also got a little money back -- a $1,000 check, at the bequest of the late Lucille Lortel.
• Olympia Dukakis, though appreciating the plaudits for her solo work in Rose, made no bones about her exhaustion and being glad the run was over. "I'm grateful it closed; I didn't know how long I could keep it going. I thank my husband, who held book...and had to endure my screaming, `I can't do this!'"
• Featured Actor award-winner Stephen Spinella echoed these actorly jitters when he held the plaque and said, "You should get these things when you're really lousy! That's when you need them."
• Charles Busch was especially proud of being on the receiving end of the John Gassner Playwriting Award (for The Tale of the Allergist's Wife), since his last OCC stint was as a presenter -- in full drag. "The high point was Bess Myerson telling me my skirt was riding up in back."
Following is a complete list of winners (in boldface) and nominations of the 2000 Outer Critics Circle Awards:
OUTSTANDING BROADWAY PLAY
The Green Bird
Waiting In The Wings
OUTSTANDING OFF-BROADWAY PLAY
An Experiment With an air Pump
Dinner With Friends
The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A PLAY
Stephen Dillane (The Real Thing)
Derek Jacobi (Uncle Vanya)
Michael Sheen (Amadeus)
David Suchet (Amadeus)
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Rosemary Harris (Waiting in the Wings)
Eileen Heckart (The Waverly Gallery)
Laura Linney (Uncle Vanya)
J. Smith-Cameron (Fuddy Meers)
OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
Bob Dishy (The Price)
Roy Dotrice (A Moon for the Misbegotten)
Daniel Gerroll (An Experiment With an Air Pump)
Simon Jones (Waiting in the Wings)
OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Frances Conroy (The Ride Down Mt. Morgan)
Jennifer Ehle (The Real Thing)
Cindy Katz (Amadeus)
Lizbeth Mackay (The Price)
OUTSTANDING BROADWAY MUSICAL
James Joyce's The Dead
Saturday Night Fever
OUTSTANDING OFF-BROADWAY MUSICAL
After The Fair
Jolson & Co.
The Bomb-Itty of Errors
The Wild Party (Manhattan Theatre Club / Off-Broadway)
OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
Jesus Christ Superstar
Kiss Me, Kate
Putting It Together
The Music Man
OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Blair Brown (James Joyce’s The Dead)
Ruth Williamson (The Music Man)
Deborah Yates (Contact)
Karen Ziemba (Contact)
OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL
Gabriel Barre (The Wild Party, MTC / Off-Bway)
Michael Blakemore (Kiss Me, Kate)
Richard Nelson (James Joyce’s The Dead)
Susan Stroman (Contact and The Music Man)
Mark Dendy (The Wild Party, MTC / Off-Bway)
Kathleen Marshall (Kiss Me, Kate)
Susan Stroman (Contact and The Music Man)
Lynne Taylor-Corbett (Swing!)
OUTSTANDING SCENIC DESIGN
John Lee Beatty (An Experiment With an Air Pump)
William Dudley (Amadeus)
Thomas Lynch (The Music Man)
Robin Wagner (Kiss Me, Kate)
OUTSTANDING COSTUME DESIGN
William Dudley (Amadeus)
Constance Hoffman (The Green Bird)
William Ivey Long (The Music Man)
Martin Pakledinaz (Kiss Me, Kate)
OUTSTANDING SOLO PERFORMANCE (tie)
Olympia Dukakis (Rose)
Mark Linn-Baker (Chesapeake)
Mark Setlock (Fully Committed)
Marc Wolf (Another American: Asking and Telling)
JOHN GASSNER PLAYWRITING AWARD
Charles Busch (The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife)
David Lindsay-Abaire (Fuddy Meers)
Kenneth Lonergan (The Waverly Gallery)
Joan Vail Thorne (The Exact Center of the Universe)
SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD RECIPIENTS:
Barry Humphries for Dame Edna: The Royal Tour
Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly of True West
1999-2000 Outer Critics Circle Executive / Nominating Committee: Marjorie Gunner (President); Mario Fratti (Vice-President); Glenn Loney (Secretary); Patrick Hoffman (Corresponding Secretary); Louis A. Rachow (Treasurer); Ros Lipps, Joan T. Nourse, Aubrey Reuben and Simon Saltzman (Members-at-Large).
Productions with more than one awards:
Kiss Me, Kate: 4
A Moon for the Misbegotten: 3
The Music Man: 2
Dinner with Friends: 2
-- By David Lefkowitz