Sonnet Repertory Theatre presented their annual Benefit & Cabaret last night, November 8th. Sonnet Repertory Theatre brought together a diverse and talented group of performers and composers at Joe's Pub to honor multi Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning director Jack O'Brien. Jerry Mitchell served as the evening's host.
Performers included John Behlmann, Kerry Butler, Michael Cerveris, Victor Garber, Ethan Hawke, Carly Jibson, Duncan Sheik, Joe Allen Players and more. Participating composers included Mark Bennett, Bob James, Andrew Lippa, Will Reynolds, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, Duncan Sheik and Ben Toth. Dan Lipton served as musical director for the evening.
One of the most respected theater artists in the country, Jack O'Brien began his long and distinguished career on Broadway as the assistant director of revivals of You Can't Take It With You (1965-67) and The Cherry Orchard (1968), sometimes contributing additional lyrics to songs. His earned his first directing credit on The Comedy of Errors at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego (1969), and then took the director's chair on Broadway's Cock-A-Doodle Dandy revival later that year. O'Brien wrote the book and lyrics for the short-lived The Selling of the President (1972) and returned to directing for a revival of The Time of Your Life (1975) and a revival of Porgy and Bess (1977), for which he received his first Tony nomination.
After directing dozens of Shakespeare plays and other works at The Old Globe, O'Brien became the Artistic Director of in 1981, continuing to direct productions there, including a revival of Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth, which was televised live to open the 1983 season of PBS's "American Playhouse" series. As Artistic Director, O'Brien co-produced Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods (1987-89), Rumors (1988-90) and the drama The Piano Lesson (1990-91), for which he won his first Drama Desk Award. Occasionally directing television, O'Brien spent he next decade directing and producing a myriad of theatrical productions including Two Shakespearean Actors (1992), Hapgood (1995, winning the Lucille Lortel Award for Direction), and The Little Foxes (1997 revival).
O'Brien had a hit with The Full Monty, which he directed and produced (2000-2002), and critical success with the drama The Invention of Love (2001) for which he won the Drama Desk Award for direction. In 2002, he directed the world premiere of the Nora Ephron play Imaginary Friends, which then transferred to Broadway. That same year he directed Hairspray, which marked his first Tony Award win and another Drama Desk Award. In 2002, he was honored with the prestigious "Mr. Abbott" Award from the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation.
O'Brien went on to direct Tom Stoppard's trilogy of plays The Coast of Utopia (2006-07) at Lincoln Center, winning both the Tony and Drama Desk Awards. He then directed Giacomo Puccini's trilogy of operas Il trittico for the Metropolitan Opera. Other opera productions have included Mozart's The Magic Flute for the San Francisco Opera, Verdi's Aida for Houston Grand Opera, and Kurt Weill's Street Scene for New York City Opera, which was televised on "Live from Lincoln Center." On television, O'Brien directed six movies for "American Playhouse," including An Enemy of the People, I Never Sang For My Father, All My Sons, and Painting Churches.
O'Brien's recent directorial efforts at The Old Globe include Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Chekhov's The Seagull (in a new version by Stoppard), and Brendan Behan's The Hostage. In stepping down as Artistic Director of the Old Globe Theatre at the end of 2007, O'Brien said, ""I consider myself truly blessed to have been able to enjoy such a full and varied career at the Globe. I have had the enviable opportunity to direct everything from Shakespeare to new American works to Broadway-bound musicals, all under the supportive and watchful eye of an enthusiastic San Diego community."
He has most recently directed several workshops of the musical adaptation of Catch Me if You Can (Broadway-bound) and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies, sequel to The Phantom of the Opera (West End) and the premiere of the Michael Jacobs play Impressionism, starring Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons.
For more information on the Sonnet Repertory Theatre, visit www.sonnetrepertorytheatre.org.