Tuesday, June 03, 2014

What You Missed at the 2014 Theatre World Awards

For me, the highlight of theater award season is the Theatre World Awards ceremony. It recognizes twelve actors making a significant, reviewable Broadway or Off-Broadway debut. The recipients are announced in advance, so there are no losers and the evening is a celebration of the theater community.
Christopher Plummer received the John Willis Award for Lifetime Achievement.
According to host Peter Filichia, 122 men and 66 women were eligible this year and those were narrowed down to Paul Chahidi (Twelfth Night), Nick Cordero (Bullets Over Broadway), Bryan Cranston (All The Way), Mary Bridget Davies (A Night With Janis Joplin), Sarah Greene (The Cripple of Inishmaan), Rebecca Hall (Machinal), Ramin Karimloo (Les Misérables), Zachary Levi (First Date), Chris O'Dowd (Of Mice and Men), Sophie Okonedo (A Raisin in the Sun), Emerson Steele (Violet), and Lauren Worsham (A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder). Chahidi and Hall were not present. Chahidi is in London rehearsing for the stage version of Shakespeare in Love, but he did make a recording expressing his thanks, and it was not mentioned why Hall was not there. The rest of the recipients were presented their awards by former winners as is Theatre World tradition. Unfortunately, the ceremony is not televised or available on livestream, but I'm here to fill you in on what went down at Circle in the Square last night. These are just a few of the highlights:
  • John McMartin presents "young discovery" Bryan Cranston his award: McMartin, who received his Theatre World Award in 1960 for Little Mary Sunshine, stars in All The Way with Cranston. McMartin thought he should try to look at his co-star with new eyes. "I said to myself, 'Ooh the potential here,'" he said, adding, "Please, please don't let Hollywood steal him away." 
  • Zachary Quinto and Celia Keenan-Bolger are siblings from another mother: Quinto (2011 recipient for Angels in America) presented Keenan-Bolger with the Dorothy Loudon Award for Excellence in the Theater for her performance in The Glass Menagerie, saying, "I never had a sister until I played Tom in The Glass Menagerie and now I'll have one for the rest of my life." When Keenan-Bolger accepted the award, she said, "My takeaway from [The Glass Menagerie] is that," and pointed at Quinto. She spoke about how much she loved Dorothy Loudon growing up due to her obsession with the Annie cast recording and concluded her moving speech by saying, "If my five-year-old self knew I would get an award named after the lady who played Miss Hannigan, I would still be jumping on my bed."
Zachary Quinto presented Celia Keenan-Bolger with the Dorothy Loudon Award for Excellence in the Theater
  • Ben Daniels surprises Sophie Okonedo: When Okonedo accepted the award from Daniels, who won in 2008 for Les Liasions Dangereuses, she expressed shock that he was there. She said that they had been best friends for 20 years since meeting doing a show at the Old Vic and she had asked him to accompany her to the ceremony, but he claimed he was busy. She had known about the award from Daniels, who told her it was the best thing he ever received. Her speech, in which she mentioned that this is the first award she's received, was so gracious and genuine that I'm tempted to buy a ticket to A Raisin in the Sun.
    Sophie Okonedo, one of this year's recipients
  • Zachary Levi and Len Cariou meet: Sometimes the presenters and recipients are dear friends and sometimes they've never met. But usually in the latter case, the presenter has seen the performance and can speak to that. But Cariou (1970 recipient for Henry V and Applause) hadn't seen First Date and expressed his regret that no one was there who could say lovely things about Levi (I hoped they had at least asked his Chuck co-star Yvonne Strahovski, who won last year). It was a little sad, but they both handled it well. And it made for a cute moment when Levi took the stage and said, "It's a pleasure to meet you." 
  • Rob McClure makes me want to buy a ticket to Honeymoon in Vegas: McClure, who received the award last year for Chaplin, performed the title number for the Broadway-bound Honeymoon in Vegas and if the rest of the musical is as good, it could end up being a must see.
  • We find out how the Billys are doing: In 2009, Trent Kowalik, David Alvarez, and Kiril Kulish won a Theatre World Award (and a Tony) for portraying Billy in Billy Elliot. Kowalik, now 19, is a college student and updated the audience on the whereabouts of the other former Billys. Kulish is in California and Alvarez (the Billy I saw) is in the army. Kowalik said they were living their dream and wished the same for Emerson Steele. Steele, who was cast for the City Center production of Violet via an open call, said her dream was to be on Broadway and her even bigger dream was to be opposite Sutton Foster. 
    Billy Elliot's Trent Kowalik, all grown up
  • Keala Settle leaves everyone with a great mental image: Settle, who won last year for Hands on a Hardbody, made fun of her Les Misérables co-star Ramin Karimloo for being Canadian and the way he plays softball. She then quoted Will Swenson, "Ramin, more than any other co-star, has made me question my own sexuality." At the end of his speech, Karimloo said, "I have many things to discuss with Will Swenson. Then he should talk to Audra." Given that Audra McDonald has said in interviews that she was kind of hoping Valjean and Javert would kiss, I think she'd be fine with it.
  • De'Adre Aziza and Mary Bridet Davies reunite: Aziza (2009 recipient for Passing Strange) described her former A Night with Janis co-star as "cords of steel and a heart of gold." She spoke about how important it is to have humility and graciousness when you are the lead in a show and said that the cast looked up to Davies as their leader even though some of them had more stage experience. Davies was visibly crying when she accepted the award and said that the show was about the woman who made Janis who she was and that's what the cast did for her. She also probably spoke for all the winners when she said that she was never cool growing up, but "I'm fucking cool now."
  • Chris O'Dowd speaks the truth: O'Dowd's speech was of course hilarious, but the highlight was when he said what I'm sure everyone in the industry has thought: "The Wednesday matinees I could do without."

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