SPRING AWAKENING, White & MEMPHIS Among San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Winners
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by BWW News Desk
La Jolla Playhouse productions heading for national exposure fared well as the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle on Monday, Jan. 26, 2009, presented the annual Craig Noel Awards for Theatrical Excellence, honoring the best local stage work of 2008.
Noel, the 93-year-old founding director of the Old Globe Theatre, was in attendance for his namesake awards, which were presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, in La Jolla, attended by some 350 theater industry members and supporters.
The Playhouse's premiere of Joe DiPietro and David Bryan's "Memphis" (now in production at Seattle's Fifth Avenue Theatre) was honored as outstanding new musical and for Chad Kimball's lead performance. A fresh staging of "Xanadu," which Playhouse artistic director Christopher Ashley first directed on Broadway, was named outstanding resident musical, and Bill T. Jones won for his choreography in the Playhouse's hip-hop musical "The Seven."
Old Globe productions garnered four mentions, including Steven Drukman's boxing-themed drama about Joe Louis, "In This Corner," which was named outstanding new play. "Dancing in the Dark," a debut musical with Broadway aspirations (based on the classic film "The Band Wagon"), won for Patrick Page's featured performance and Larry Hochman's orchestrations. A revival of "The Women," directed by Old Globe resident artistic director Darko Tresnjak, was honored for Anna Oliver's costumes.
"The troubled economy had a great impact on San Diego County theaters in 2008," said Pam Kragen, president of the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle, "but many companies rose to the occasion, producing adventurous, thought-provoking work, regardless of its commercial potential. We were excited to see a balance of strong work at theaters both large and small, and a rich variety of new and revival musicals."
The August Wilson classic won in five categories, including dramatic production, direction and ensemble. Its other two awards went to Antonio T.J. Johnson and Sylvia M'Lafi Thompson in the categories of male and female leads in a play.
Cygnet captured two other awards as the critics presented 32 plaques in 23 categories to 11 theater companies. Two other companies received mention in the lead-actor category as the critics made the unusual decision to honor Tom Andrew for his work in three plays: Inukshuk Productions' "Terra Nova," Cygnet's "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" and Mo'olelo Performing Arts' "Night Sky."
Special awards were given to Jonathan McMurtry, Arthur Wagner and Steve Karo. McMurtry is a veteran San Diego actor with nearly 48 years onstage at the Old Globe. Wagner founded the Department of Theatre & Dance at UC San Diego, was a longtime board member for La Jolla Playhouse and, with his wife, Molli, is a generous supporter of the arts in San Diego County. And Karo led the drive to renovate the historic Balboa Theatre in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter.
Filmmaker Martin Morawski created 10-minute tribute films in honor of McMurtry and Wagner. McMurtry's tributes included comments from his longtime friend and two-time Tony Award-winning director Jack O'Brien, who ran the Old Globe for 25 years.
Founded in 1983, the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle is a non-profit collective of print and online theater critics covering live, professional theater in San Diego County. In 2002, the awards program was renamed in honor of Craig Noel, founding artistic director of San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, acclaimed regional theater innovator and 2007 recipient of the National Medal of Arts. For information on the awards and members of the organization, visit the Web site at www.sdcriticscircle.org.
The complete list of awards is attached below.
· Jonathan McMurtry, veteran actor
· Arthur Wagner, founder, Department of Theatre & Dance, UCSD
· Steve Karo, led restoration effort for the Balboa Theatre, San Diego Gaslamp Quarter
· "Dreamgirls," San Diego Musical Theatre
· "Xanadu," La Jolla Playhouse
· "Memphis," La Jolla Playhouse
· Larry Hochman, "Dancing in the Dark," The Old Globe
· Sean Murray, "A Little Night Music," Cygnet's Old Town Theatre
· Steve Glaudini, "Les Miserables," Moonlight Stage Productions
· Deborah Smyth, "The Light in the Piazza," Lamb's Player's Theatre
Featured Performance in a Musical, Male:
· Tony Houck, "Scrooge in Rouge," Diversionary Theatre
· Patrick Page, "Dancing in the Dark," The Old Globe
· Tonéx, "Dreamgirls," San Diego Musical Theatre & "The Princess and the Black-Eyed Pea," San Diego Repertory Theatre
· Lillias White, "The Princess and the Black-Eyed Pea," San Diego Repertory Theatre
Direction of a Play:
· Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, "Fences," Cygnet Theatre
· Tim Boyce, "A Streetcar Named Desire," Ion Theatre
· Jennifer Brawn Gittings, "Scrooge in Rouge," Diversionary Theatre
· Anna Oliver, "The Women," The Old Globe
· "Fences," Cygnet Theatre
Featured Performance in a Play, Female:
· Jo Anne Glover, "The Receptionist," Cygnet Theatre
· Rachael VanWormer, "Bash," Ion Theatre & "Corpus Christi,"
· Manny Fernandes, "Golden Boy," New Village Arts
· Bobby Plasencia, "Water & Power," San Diego Repertory Theatre
· Antonio T.J. Johnson, "Fences," Cygnet Theatre
· Tom Andrew, body of work: "Terra Nova," "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play," "Night Sky"
· Sylvia M'Lafi Thompson, "Fences," Cygnet Theatre
· Amanda Sitton, "Golden Boy," New Village Arts
· Linda Libby, "Request Programme," Ion Theatre
· "Spring Awakening," Broadway /San Diego, producers
· "In This Corner," Steven Drukman, The Old Globe
· "Fences," Cygnet Theatre