Play By Play: Highlights Of the Drama Desk Awards

By Thomas Peter
24 May 2010

David Bryan and and Joe Di Pietro
David Bryan and and Joe Di Pietro
Joseph Marzullo/WENN
The 55th Annual Drama Desk Awards started shortly after 9 PM at LaGuardia Concert Hall in Lincoln Center, with opening remarks by producer Lauren Class Schneider. Schneider preceded the evening's master of ceremonies, three-time Drama Desk Award winner Patti LuPone, who made her entrance after being introduced as "Doctor." (LuPone had received an honorary doctorate from her alma mater, the Juilliard School of Drama, May 21).

LuPone got the ball rolling very quickly, mentioning she wanted to be sure the majority of the audience – theatre folk – could enjoy Monday, May 24, their day off from work. She introduced her Sweeney Todd and Gypsy leading men, Michael Cerveris and Boyd Gaines, respectively, who presented four awards: Outstanding Music, Outstanding Lyrics, Outstanding Book of a Musical and Outstanding Orchestrations.

Bon Jovi's David Bryan won the Outstanding Music Award for Memphis and took a while to navigate the auditorium aisles before taking the stage. "I was in the cheap seats so I didn't know," he joked, before going on to deliver his thanks and to say the show was "from the heart … it shows not what tears us apart but what brings us together."


John Kander
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The Outstanding Lyrics Award was shared by John Kander and the late Fred Ebb for The Scottsboro Boys. Kander, who received a special award from the Drama Desk in 2007 and an Outstanding Music Award for Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1993, accepted on behalf of himself and Ebb, whose lyrics he helped finish after Ebb's 2004 death and before the show's opening this spring at the Vineyard Theatre. Kander joked, "Fred Ebb is so mad at me right now!" before saying that the uncompromising show "meant more to us than anything that we'd probably ever done." Speaking on behalf of his collaborators (including Ebb, director-choreographer Susan Stroman and librettist David Thompson), the composer of Cabaret and Chicago said that Scottsboro was "the most important moment theatrically in any of our lives." (The show will have another run at Minneapolis' Guthrie Theatre this summer before reaching Broadway's Lyceum Theatre in October).

Another Off-Broadway musical was honored when Alex Timbers took Outstanding Book of a Musical for the Public Theater's Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Timbers, who also directed the show, paid special tribute to the dramaturges who had helped him research President Andrew Jackson's life and times and develop his irreverent and provocative theatre piece, naming the Public's artistic director, Oskar Eustis; Anne Davison; Ann Sloan; and his composer-lyricist, Michael Friedman, whom he called "the best dramaturg of all."

After Bryan again appeared with Daryl Waters to accept Outstanding Orchestrations for Memphis, LuPone introduced "Law & Order" and Rent star "and fellow Acting Company alumnus" Jesse L. Martin, who presented Outstanding Music in a Play to Grammy-winning jazz musician Branford Marsalis for the revival of August Wilson's Fences. Marsalis was not present; Kenny Leon, the revival's director, accepted on behalf of the man he called "a true genius."

Martin then presented the choreography award to Twyla Tharp for Come Fly Away. Tharp paid special thanks to "each and every one of you for the gift that you give every day [by making] Broadway a productive environment in which we can perform."

Cheyenne Jackson presented the directing awards, starting with Outstanding Director of a Play. The winner, Michael Grandage of Red, thanked playwright John Logan; James Bierman, the executive producer of the play's London home, the Donmar Warehouse, where Grandage is artistic director; the designers; actors Alfred Molina and Eddie Redmayne; and Broadway producer Arielle Tapper Madden, "the person who makes it happen for us in America."

Michael Mayer, who was named Outstanding Director of a Musical for American Idiot, thanked producer Tom Hulce for making "so many of my dreams possible" and the "phenomenal cast, which will knock your socks off when you see them."

Drama Desk president William Wolf delivered welcoming remarks before introducing Edward Albee, who presented a special award to the cast, creative team and producers of Horton Foote's The Orphans' Home Cycle. Orphans actress and Foote's daughter, Hallie Foote, accepted for the team, reading a quote from her late father: "I am more alive when I am writing, and I can do anything when I am writing well."

Adriane Lenox presented two additional special awards – to the Godlight Theatre Company and the Ma-Yi Theatre Company – before Drama Desk winner Angela Lansbury (introduced by fellow Mrs. Lovett, LuPone, as "our theatre royalty") appeared to announce composer-lyricist Jerry Herman's special award "for enchanting and dazzling audiences with his exuberant music and heartfelt lyrics for more than half a century." Lansbury accepted for the absent Herman.

The evening's double acting nominee, Bobby Steggert, presented scholarships to LaGuardia students Zola Howard and Brandon Riley, and Drama Desk presenter Robert R. Blume made additional remarks, before Martha Plimpton presented Featured Actor in a Play award to Santino Fontana for Brighton Beach Memoirs. Fontana, who played older brother Stanley in the very short-lived revival, said he was unprepared and almost didn't come, ultimately coming alone because he could barely afford the $200 ticket. He repeatedly exclaimed, "I can't believe this!" and added it has been "a very bizarre year."


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