Play By Play: Highlights Of the Drama Desk Awards

News   Play By Play: Highlights Of the Drama Desk Awards
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).
David Bryan and and Joe Di Pietro
David Bryan and and Joe Di Pietro Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

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."


Viola Davis
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Featured Actress in a Play went to Fences star Viola Davis, who said, " … Blessed is what I am. Blessed to be an actor, blessed to have found this play that August Wilson wrote. Blessed to be given this role [and] blessed [to share the stage with this] cast." She encouraged everyone to come to the Cort Theatre because "we're having a blast."

Veteran film star Mitzi Gaynor made her entrance and presented the Featured Actor in a Musical award to Christopher Fitzgerald of Finian's Rainbow. Fitzgerald, also an alumnus of a long-closed show, deadpanned, "Unlike Santino, I was kind of anticipating it," before paying tribute to the show as "this wonderful dream that we had." Katie Finneran took Featured Actress in a Musical for her scene-stealing turn in Promises, Promises and paid tribute to her fellow nominee (for A Little Night Music), Lansbury. Finneran said she had grown up listening to Lansbury's "Oh, Mr. Todd! Oooh, Mr. Todd!" intro to Sweeney Todd's "By the Sea," despite her parents' worries about the show's appropriateness for a young girl. Finneran said of Lansbury, "It's an incredible privilege for me to be sharing the season with her."

My Trip Down the Pink Carpet star Leslie Jordan presented the design awards, and Matthew Modine presented the ensemble awards to the casts of Circle Mirror Transformation and The Temperamentals. Circle Mirror cast members Peter Friedman and Dierdre O'Connell accepted on behalf of their cast, while the five-person cast of The Temperementals accepted their award, speaking their thanks in perfect unison and ending with "on a personal note…" before dissolving into overlapping, unintelligible thanks.

Jim Brochu
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Ana Gasteyer presented the Unique Theatrical Experience award to Love, Loss and What I Wore. Producer Daryl Roth accepted for "all the woman" who have written and appeared in the rotating casts of the show. Outstanding Solo Performance went to Zero Hour's Jim Brochu, a 42-year acting veteran who said, "F. Scott Fitzgerald was a big fat liar. There are second acts in American life."

Roundabout Theatre Company's artistic director, Todd Haimes, accepted the Outstanding Musical Revue award for Sondheim on Sondheim before Corbin Bleu presented Outstanding Actor and Actress in a Play to Liev Schreiber (A View from the Bridge) and Jan Maxwell (The Royal Family). A teary Maxwell expressed how much it meant to her that "I know you know my name." Douglas Hodge took Outstanding Actor in a Musical for La Cage aux Folles. The British actor exclaimed, "What a wonderful welcome I have been given in this wonderful city," and paid special thanks to co-star Kelsey Grammer: "Behind every good wife is a husband."


Montego Glover and Catherine Zeta-Jones
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Outstanding Actress in a Musical resulted in a tie between Montego Glover of Memphis and Catherine Zeta-Jones of A Little Night Music. Glover reached the mic first, jubilantly crying, "What!!?? Oh, my God!" before jokingly jostling with Zeta-Jones over who should speak first. Zeta-Jones joked, "I'll sing one of your songs and [you] can sing 'Send in the Clowns'" before letting Glover deliver her speech. (Read what Glover said on the stage and before the ceremony by clicking here.) Zeta-Jones proved to be as teary as her fellow honoree when she got to speak, asking, "Has anyone got any Kleenex?" before thanking everyone involved with the production and husband Michael Douglas.

Brooke Shields presented the last four awards of the evening, starting with Outstanding Revival of a Play – another tie, between A View from the Bridge and Fences. Lead producer Stuart Thompson accepted for Bridge, thanking everyone from stars Schreiber, Scarlett Johannson and Jessica Hecht to playwright Arthur Miller. Director Leon again accepted on behalf of Scott Rudin, Carole Shorenstein Hays, and the Fences producing team.

Joyous producer Sonya Friedman accepted Outstanding Revival of a Musical for La Cage aux Folles before the Outstanding Play honors went to Red. Playwright John Logan recalled his childhood love of the theatre, saying, "Being here for the first time in my life is a dream come true," before turning the mic over to producer Arielle Tapper Madden.

The evening's final award, Outstanding Musical, went to Memphis. Authors David Bryan and Joe DiPietro joined the show's producers onstage as producer Sue Frost read prepared remarks about the show's "incredible journey" through six years of developmental productions, emphasizing that the show contained "an original story with original music about the birth of rock 'n' roll." Frost thanked the authors, director Christopher Ashley and choreographer Sergio Trujillo and stars Chad Kimball and Glover, who have been "with us every step of the way," along with all of the staff and "just people" who made the show possible. She ended by mentioning Associated Press critic Michael Kuchwara, who passed away the week of the awards, saying, "Life is short and we should savor every moment."

LuPone sent everyone off into the night (or the after-party, at The 48 Lounge) with her congratulations and best wishes for a great day off.

The cast of <I>The Temperamentals</i>
The cast of The Temperamentals
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