The Circle had previously announced its three selections for the year's best on and Off-Broadway. Here's the line-up:
Best Play: Paula Vogel's How I Learned To Drive.
Best Foreign Play: David Hare's Skylight.
Best Musical: Off-Broadway's Violet.
Special Award: Chicago.
Jacques LeSourd of the Gannett newspaper chain, president of the critics' organization, hosted the May 12 award ceremony at Sardi's Restaurant. He said the committee members wanted to honor the Broadway revival of Chicago but didn't know how, since the Circle doesn't have a best revival category, and last year it bestowed a special achievement award on City Center's Encores! Series, whence sprang Chicago. "We were stumped," said LeSourd, "But then one voter came up with the idea, `let's just give it a special award for being f a-b-u-l-o-u-s!'"
Though Ann Reinking was stuck on the highway coming from her uncle's funeral, Marcia Lewis read a letter from the actress. Joel Grey then spoke and praised the musical for having so many show-stoppers every night. "Bob Fosse made musical numbers valentines to the performers."
Designer William Ivey Long read a letter from authors John Kander and Fred Ebb, who wrote that "Bob Fosse must be smiling tonight." Grey then introduced the award for new musical (which went to Violet) by reading a letter from Stephen Sondheim, who noted that the work won the 1997 Richard Rodgers Award. "I think [Rodgers] would have been tickled pink by Violet," Sondheim wrote.
After acceptances by authors Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley, All My Sons' Michael Hayden presented the award for Best Foreign Play to the Shubert Organization, for Skylight.
Introducing Paula Vogel, winner of best play for How I Learned To Drive, actress Marian Seldes explained the appeal of the drama by saying, "Theatregoers want to be voyeurs. We want to overhear what we don't know and learn where the secrets are."
Vogel continued that theme by saying, "we need to go through the darkness to get to the light, and I'm lucky to have such fearless collaborators at the Vineyard Theatre. Director Mark Brokaw knows how to find the pyrotechnics of the human spirit."