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Category: Off-Broadway

'Memphis' and 'Red' win with Outer Critics Circle, as do 'La Cage' and 'Fences'

May 17, 2010 |  9:28 am

The 60th annual Outer Critics Circle Awards handed out Monday are of some help in predicting what will win at the Tony Awards next month. Although these kudos consider new Broadway and off-Broadway plays and musicals separately, all other categories, such as acting and directing, combine the two. As such, there is not always room for all of the Tony nominees.

Memphiscover "Memphis" -- a tuner about interracial love set against the backdrop of the burgeoning 1950s music scene -- won best musical. "Red" -- a two-hander about artist Mark Rothko and his assistant -- from Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Logan ("Gladiator," "The Aviator") prevailed as best play. Both of these are in contention for the top prizes at the Tonys too.

"Fences" -- the 1987 Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner by August Wilson -- won best play revival, and stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis took the lead acting in a play awards. These wins establish them as strong contenders at the Tonys.

"Memphis" -- which led with seven nominations -- also won best score, Montego Glover tied with Catherine Zeta-Jones ("A Little Night Music") for lead actress in a musical, and choreographer Sergio Trujillo tied with Bill T. Jones ("Fela!").

"La Cage aux Folles" won best musical revival, lead actor in a musical for Douglas Hodge, director (Terry Johnson) and costumes (Matthew Wright). Hodge -- who already won the Olivier Award for his performance as the cross-dressing Albin -- could be unstoppable at the Tonys.

Although the revival of the play "The Royal Family" went zero for seven, star Jan Maxwell did win for her other nominated performance in a play, a featured role in "Lend Me a Tenor." Maxwell is also up for the same two awards at the Tonys. Jon Michael Hill won the featured actor award for the new play "Superior Donuts."

Five-time Tony champ Angela Lansbury lost her featured bid for "A Little Night Music" to Katie Finneran in another musical revival, "Promises, "Promises." Levi Kreis won the featured actor prize for his work as Jerry Lee Lewis in "Million Dollar Quartet."

The Outer Critics Circle Awards often provide hints as to the popularity of potential Tony winners. Last year, the two awards agreed, for example, on "God of Carnage" (best play), "Billy Elliot" (best musical), Geoffrey Rush in "Exit the King" (best actor, play) and Marcia Gay Harden in "God of Carnage" (best actress, play).

Two years ago, they concurred on "August: Osage County" (best play), Paulo Szot in "South Pacific" (best actor, musical), Patti LuPone in "Gypsy" (best actress, musical), and Deanna Dunagan in "August: Osage County" (best actress, play), among others.

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Lucille Lortels are off-Broadway's version of Tony Awards

April 30, 2010 | 10:48 am

Lortel_Awards_logo The Lucille Lortel Awards celebrate a silver anniversary Sunday night. These kudos are presented by the Off-Broadway League, a collection of producers who stage shows in smaller venues than those on Broadway. A successful off-Broadway run can lead to a transfer to Broadway and a chance to contend at the Tony Awards.

Last year, the musical "Next to Normal" -- which had premiered at the off-Broadway venue Second Stage in 2008 -- was a last-minute entry into the derby. This tuner about a woman coping with mental illness contended for 11 Tony Awards, winning three: lead actress Alice Ripley, score by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey and orchestrations. Last month it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for drama.

This year, among the possible contenders for the Tony Awards is another tuner from Second Stage -- "Everyday Rapture" -- which is nominated for both best musical and lead actress (Sherie Renee Scott) at the Lucille Lortels. Also new to Broadway this season is "Fela," which won three of its five bids at last year's Lortels, including best musical. The full list of nominees can be found on the Lucille Lortel Awards website.

The Lucille Lortel Awards -- named for the renowned actress turned producer -- do what the Drama Desk Awards used to -- celebrate the best of off-Broadway. While the Tony Awards, which date to 1947, salute Broadway, the Drama Desk kudos were begun in 1955 to honor the rest of the New York theater world. And for the first 14 years they did just that with winners coming exclusively from the burgeoning off-Broadway scene. However, beginning with the 15th festivities in 1968, those appearing on Broadway became eligible for consideration and since then these awards have tilted towards those also competing at the Tonys, leaving the off-Broadway performers in the wings.

This year's nominations for the Drama Desk Awards will be announced Monday and may well include many of the Lucille Lortel contenders. However, if the past is any indication, most of them needn't bother showing up at the May 23 ceremony. Indeed, in the last six years only 10 of the 153 Drama Desk Awards bestowed for plays and musicals have gone to off-Broadway productions.

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

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