Through his direction of Hairspray, The Full Monty, Damn Yankees and The Invention of Love among others, Jack O'Brien has made a lot of friends — and earned four Tony nominations.
Some of his theatre buddies — including Patti LuPone, Christine Ebersole, Marvin Hamlisch, Tom Stoppard, Terrence McNally, David Yazbek, Harvey Fierstein and the entire cast of Hairspray — will be on hand when the Old Globe artistic director receives the 2002 Mr. Abbott Award from the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation Dec. 2 at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers.
O'Brien has a chance to repeat a double Tony nomination this year with Hairspray and the forthcoming play with music, Imaginary Friends (he was double nommed in 2001 for directing The Full Monty and The Invention of Love). Nora Ephron's Imaginary Friends begins previews on Broadway Nov. 25 following its fall stint at the Globe Theatres, where O'Brien has been the artistic director since 1982. O'Brien's production of Abbott's Damn Yankees was Tony nominated for Best Musical Revival in 1994. His Broadway credits include musical revivals of Porgy and Bess (Tony nomination) and The Most Happy Fella (in 1979) and the plays Two Shakespearean Actors (Tony nomination), Getting Away With Murder, The Little Foxes and More to Love.
Hairspray and Full Monty choreographer Jerry Mitchell will direct the star-studded tribute to O'Brien. Also expected to perform and/or speak are Imaginary Friends playwright Nora Ephron, 42nd Street's David Elder (performing with Ebersole), dancer Scott Wise, Full Monty's Annie Golden, Greg Jbara, O'Brien's Damn Yankees vets Jeff Blumenkrantz and Dick Latessa (who also stars in Hairspray), Hairspray songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and Bob James.
Founded in 1985 to honor the late playwright and director George Abbott, the prize has previously gone to such notables as Trevor Nunn, Jerry Zaks, Gillian Lynne, Lloyd Richards Graciela Daniele, Vinnette Carroll and Mike Nichols. Susan Stroman was the 2001 recipient. For information about attending the Mr. Abbott Awards event, contact the SDCF at (212) 302 5359, ext. 244 or visit the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation on the web at http://www.sdcfoundation.org.
— By Christine Ehren
and Kenneth Jones