Saturday, May 28, 2011

Drama Desk Awards Honor "Mormon," "Anything," "Normal," "Tiger" and More...

You may recall that I said I was way behind on awards season. I still am. Sigh. But I am trying to catch up.

So, first, let's talk the Drama Desk Awards. These are presented for excellence in New York theater, whether it's on Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway, or from "legitimate, not-for-profit theatres." In fact, the Drama Desk organization decided in 1955 to create awards to recognize "creative stage achievements wherever they were presented." As long as it's New York, of course.

Because they so frequently center on Broadway shows, the Drama Desk Awards are often seen as precursors to the Tony Awards. If you are handicapping those, a look at Drama Desk winners may be helpful.

This year's awards were presented on May 23, with Harvey Fierstein acting as the host for the evening. The Stephen Sondheim Theatre revival of "Anything Goes" and the new musical "The Book of Mormon," created by the "South Park" guys (Trey Parker and Matt Stone) along with Robert Lopez from "Avenue Q," were the big winners, taking home five awards each, with Larry Kramer's "The Normal Heart" and Rajiv Joseph's "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo" each taking two.

"The Book of Mormon" won Outstanding Musical and Nick Stafford's "War Horse" was named Outstanding Play. For revivals, "The Normal Heart" won the award for Outstanding Play and Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" won Outstanding Musical.

Frances McDormand took Outstanding Actress in a Play honors for her role in "Good People," while Outstanding Actor in a Play went to Bobby Cannavale for "The Motherf**ker with the Hat" in a bit of an upset, since Mark Rylance (for "Jerusalem") had been considered the front-runner. And Joe Mantello (for "The Normal Heart"), who wasn't nominated for a Drama Desk, has been talked about as a hot prospect for the Tony. ("The Normal Heart" did win a Drama Desk Award for its ensemble, as opposed to honoring individual actors.)

Rounding out the acting awards for plays were Brian Bedford, named Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play for playing Lady Bracknell in the Roundabout's "The Importance of Being Earnest," and Edie Falco, Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play for the "House of Blue Leaves" revival at the Walter Kerr Theatre.

On the musical side, Outstanding Actor was Norbert Leo Butz for the musical version of "Catch Me If You Can," and Outstanding Actress was Sutton Foster for "Anything Goes," in which she plays Reno Sweeney.

Awards for Outstanding Featured Actress and Actor in musicals were handed out to Laura Benanti for "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" and John Larroquette as big boss J.B. Biggley in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" opposite Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe.

In a bit of a departure for him, Joel Grey, who is currently playing Moonface Martin in the "Anything Goes" revival we've been talking about, took home a Drama Desk Award for his direction; he and George C. Wolfe won for their co-direction of "The Normal Heart." And Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker shared the award for Outstanding Direction of a Musical, too, for "Book of Mormon."

To see the complete list of winners, you can click here. I am especially happy for Laura Benanti and Joel Grey, two of my all-time favorite performers.

Even though I think Bobby Cannavale is a champ, I am still hoping Joe Mantello wins the Tony, mostly because I'm glad he returned to acting. I couldn't have loved him more when he played Louis in "Angels in America" -- such a fabulous performance -- and yes, he's an amazing director, but still... It's great to have him back on stage. "The Normal Heart" is a searing, fiercely moving play, and a perfect vehicle to lure Mantello back. So I'm hoping Tony voters will recognize that and hand him the award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play, even though the nominees include Cannavale and Bedford, who both won Drama Desk Awards last week, and Mark Rylance for "Jerusalem," the putative favorite, and Al Pacino, nominated for "The Merchant of Venice." Never bet against Al Pacino. It's a tough category all around. Go, Joe Mantello!

All the Drama Desk nominees are listed here, while you can find the Tony nominees here. The Drama Desk website says that the May 23rd ceremony was filmed, with plans to be aired on the Ovation network between June 2 and 15. The Tony Awards ceremony will be televised live on CBS on Sunday, June 12, at 7 pm Central time.

I just realized I have the perfect dress for that, so if anyone wants to invite me to a Tony viewing party, I'm ready. I will even offer my star-shaped beaded coasters as incentive. Me, my dress and my coasters... Any takers?


  1. Sutton Foster is such an awards magnet!
    If you get decked out for the Tony's, you simply must post a photo. Or, throw your own party. I have a desperate desire to see those coasters.

  2. I'd be glad to host a Tony-viewing party for you, but I fear it's a wee bit geographically inconvenient.

    Nice for Laura Benanti and Brian Bedford (though at the expense of Tom Riley in "Arcadia" and Zachary Quinto in "Angels in America"). (BTW, Bedford's production of "Earnest" is getting an HD moviecast this Thursday. I'm going to a showing in Bryn Mawr PA, but as far as I can see the only IL venues are in Chicago and Lebanon.)

    I share your feelings for Joe Mantello, as you know... but as you say, that's a really tough category this year. My question is, how does one pronounce "Motherf**ker" in primetime? Bleeps galore, I suppose.

  3. I'm guessing they'll call it "The Motherbleeper in the Hat" or just "The Mother in the Hat." If they follow the Cee Lo Green model, with his "F**k You" song which has been sung all over the place in primetime, they will call it "The Motherforgetter in the Hat." Although, based on Cee Lo's performance on the Colbert Report, it could be "The Motherfoxnews in the Hat." That's my favorite.

    I don't think I will be able to get to "Earnest," but the good news is that "Company" is definitely coming close enough.