Monday, January 24, 2011

Theater Hall of Fame Honors Eight Lifetime Achievers Tonight

The Theater Hall of Fame will induct eight more honorees tonight at New York's Gershwin Theatre and celebrate the new Hall of Famers at a Gala Dinner at the Friar's Club.

This year's inductees include directors Michael Blakemore, Joseph Chaikin and James Lapine, actors Brian Dennehy, Linda Lavin and Fritz Weaver, playwright Caryl Churchill and conductor/musical director Paul Gemignani. That's a whole lot of theatrical excellence represented right there.

The Theater Hall of Fame was begun in 1971 to honor lifetime achievement in the American theater. That has included actors, directors, playwrights, producers, designers and other related professionals, from producer/director/playwright/some-of-everything George Abbott to costume designer Patricia Zipprodt. The list also includes my personal favorites Fred Astaire, Sir Alan Ayckbourn, Fannie Brice, Bob Fosse, George Gershwin, Al Hirschfeld, Julia Marlowe, Sir Ian McKellen, Stephen Sondheim, Tom Stoppard, Gwen Verdon, Orson Welles and August Wilson. And Bloomington's own Rachel Crothers.


  1. Would you believe I never heard of this Hall of Fame before? I'm appalled at myself.

    Reading Paul Gemignani's name, I immediately zipped to their site to see -- and yes (whew!), master orchestrator Jonathan Tunick is already in.

    Scanning the list for other recognized champions in the design and music categories, I find:

    Designers: Theoni V. Aldredge (whom we lost last Friday), Boris Aronson, Howard Bay, Norman Bel Geddes, Abe Feder, Jules Fisher, Mordecai Gorelik, Willa Kim, Florence Klotz, Ming Cho Lee, William Ivey Long, Santo Loquasto, Jo Mielziner, Donald Oenslager, Irene Sharaff, Lee Simonson, Oliver Smith, Cleon Throckmorton, Patricia Zipprodt

    Conductors: Lehman Engel

    Orchestrators: Robert Russell Bennett

    We need a few more conductors and orchestrators in there. (Hal Hastings! Don Walker!) But it's a very interesting list. Someone clearly researched the big names from over a century ago who should be on the list, and got them in. (I mean, I read Shaw's dramatic criticism so I know who Ada Rehan was, but she's hardly a household name. Likewise Mrs. Patrick Campbell.)

  2. We're supposed to keep confidential who is on the list and who we vote for, but the Theater Critics Association *does* vote for these every year, so I was well aware of the concept.

    How do you think I should characterize Gemignani? They listed him as "music conductor" on the website, but I made him conductor/musical director. And then there's Lapine... Libretto writer? Librettist? Is that the right term? I also called Michael Blakemore and Joseph Chaikin simply directors, when I know they're more than that, too.

    Invitation to the ceremony and dinner are by invitation only, and I always wonder who gets invited. Other honorees from year's past? Do they get a jacket or a pin or learn a special handshake? I love this kind of thing!

  3. Yay, Fanny Brice makes another fabulous appearance...!!

  4. Your characterization of Gemignani seems just right to me. Librettist (or playwright, as he's written plays) is fine for Lapine, though he's equally a director. Whereas Blakemore to my limited knowledge is solely a director; what else does he do?

    I get invited to the Society of Composers and Arrangers award and tribute dinners whenever they happen, but 1, there's always a hefty price tag, and 2, they're in LA.

    I've seen articles all over the Playbill site about this, so I must have seen them in past years too. I must just have a lousy memory!

  5. Because I looked it up... Blakemore was an actor before he began to direct, although directing is certainly what he achieved excellence in. Wikipedia lists him as a writer, too.