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Lucille Lortel Awards honor best of off-Broadway

May 3, 2010 |  9:24 am

Lortel_Awards_logo "When the Rain Stops Falling," a time-shifting tale of four generations by the Australian playwright Andrew Bovell, won five of its six Lucille Lortel bids -- director (David Cromer), featured actress (Mary Beth Hurt), set, lighting and sound design -- losing only the best play race to the late Horton Foote's epic "The Orphans' Home Cycle."

The Signature Theatre production of Foote's three-part, nine-hour ode to his small Texas town also won with the New York Drama Critics Circle on Friday. A Broadway transfer is being bandied about and should this happen, Foote could well win the Tony Award that eluded him in his lifetime.

Composing team John Kander and the late Fred Ebb won three Tonys over the years for their scores ("Cabaret," 1967; "Woman of the Year," 1981; "Kiss of the Spider Woman," 1993). One of their last collaborations -- "The Scottsboro Boys" -- won best musical at the Lortels as well as the choreography award for director Susan Stroman. This tuner about a notorious case of racial injustice could also be coming to Broadway next season.

Held at Terminal 5 on the west side of Manhattan, Sunday's festivities were a tribute to the first 25 years of these kudos and did double duty as a benefit for the Actors' Fund charity. Two-time Tony champ Bebe Neuwirth ("Sweet Charity," "Chicago") and "Mad Men" star Bryan Batt hosted, moving the show along nicely. A bevy of bold-faced names with roots in the theater -- including Justin Bartha, Hugh Dancy, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Anthony LaPaglia, Zoe Kazan, Anthony Mackie, Stephanie March, Laurie Metcalf, Jennifer Morrison and Kerry Washington -- handled the presentation of the prizes.

Both nominees and winners were determined by a jury of 19 -- comprised of representatives from the off-Broadway League, Actor's Equity, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, and the Lucille Lortel Foundation as well as theater journalists and academics -- who attended 79 eligible shows.

"The Glass Menagerie" took home two awards -- lead actress (Judith Ivey) and best revival -- from six nominations while "The Pride" won one of its six races -- featured actor (Adam James). Lead actor went to "Ugly Betty" star Michael Urie for "The Temperamentals" while "Scottsboro" star Colman Domingo won for his solo show "A Boy and His Soul."

The awards fest also included video montages of the five best musical nominees as well as live performances from Tony champ LaChanze ("The Color Purple") reprising her role from the 1990 hit "Once on This Island" and eight-time Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken, who took to the piano to play a medley of songs from "Little Shop of Horrors" which began life as an off-Broadway show three years before the Lortels were first awarded.

Lincoln Center Theatre -- which staged "Rain" -- was honored with an award for its overall body of work. And Daryl Roth was feted with a lifetime achievement award. The producing powerhouse has backed stagings of a record six Pulitzer Prize winners. As she remarked in her heartfelt speech, the late Lucille Lortel, an actress and producer, was an inspiration and she too bought her own theater.

In the 25 years of these kudos, the burgeoning off-Broadway scene has sent 57 shows to Broadway  where they have generated in excess of $1 billion in box office. Over the last quarter of a century, 15 of the Pulitzer Prize winners for drama premiered off-Broadway.

Photo: Lucille Lortel Awards logo. Credit: Lucille Lortel Foundation

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