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A.R.T. And Lyric Stage Win Big At Elliot Norton Awards

Andrus Nicholas in Bedlam's "Saint Joan," a scene from Ryan Landry's "Jesus Christ, It's Christmas" and Clark Young and the creation of Astro Boy. (A.R. Sinclair Photography/Michael von Redlich/Liza Voll)MoreCloseclosemore
Andrus Nicholas in Bedlam's "Saint Joan," a scene from Ryan Landry's "Jesus Christ, It's Christmas" and Clark Young and the creation of Astro Boy. (A.R. Sinclair Photography/Michael von Redlich/Liza Voll)

The Boston Theater Critics Association lauded Ryan Landry, founder of comic theater group the Gold Dust Orphans, as an “impresario and authorial genius, whose bawdy, irresistible parodistic extravaganzas have made the Ramrod Center for the Performing Arts the least stiff and most exuberant theater venue in town.” The critics group awarded the longtime fixture of the Boston and Provincetown theater scene with the Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence at Monday’s 33rd edition of the Elliot Norton Awards at the Shubert Theater.

In terms of nominations and wins, the Elliot Norton Awards constituted an overview of theatrical productions that took place in and around Boston during the eligible period (April 1, 2014 – March 31, 2015). Going by the numbers, the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) was the night’s biggest winner, edging out other Boston area theater companies with seven awards overall. The Lyric Stage came in a close second with four wins, one of them going to Lyric’s artistic director, Spiro Veloudos, for Outstanding Director. Other highlights of the evening included musical performances, including a number by guest of honor Lea DeLaria, and a post-ceremony reception in the grand lobby of the Citi Wang Theatre.

Landry and his Gold Dust Orphans have been entertaining Boston and Provincetown audiences for two decades with satirical versions of beloved classics, spawning a new, and somewhat twisted, clutch of theatrical favorites, including Holiday gems “Silent Night of the Lambs,” “Jesus Christ, It’s Christmas!” and “All About Christmas Eve,” as well as critically-acclaimed projects like “Snow White and the Seven Bottoms,” “Pornocchio” and “The Little Pricks” — not to mention skewed takes on old chestnuts like “Mary Poppers,” “Mildred Fierce” and their latest, “Thoroughly Muslim Millie.”

Ryan Landry (as the Queen) and his Gold Dust Orphans in "Snow White and the Seven Bottoms." (Michael von Redlich)
Ryan Landry (as the Queen) and his Gold Dust Orphans in "Snow White and the Seven Bottoms." (Michael von Redlich)

The sort of anarchic energy of Landry and Co. bring to the stage was also evident, in some measure, in other award winners as the program progressed. The Boston Theater Critics Association recognized Boston’s theaters for a range of categories.

The Boston theater scene offers scores of productions every season, but a few stood out as winners in multiple respects. The evenings’ top winners constituted a two-way tie: the A.R.T.’s “The Shape She Makes” and The Lyric Stage’s production of “Into the Woods” both triumphed on three counts.

New York City-based troupe Bedlam took top honors in the Outstanding Visiting Production category for their rendition of George Bernard Shaw’s “Saint Joan,” in which four cast members lit up Central Square Theater with their sheer vitality. “Saint Joan” also won for Best Ensemble in its category. “The Shape She Makes,” presented by the A.R.T., claimed the prize for Outstanding Production by a Large Resident Theater, with star Finnerty Steeves taking the honor for Outstanding Actress, Large Theater, and Susan Misner garnering the prize for Outstanding Choreography. The Outstanding Actor award in the same category went to Tom Nelis for his role in "The Tempest," a production from the A.R.T. in association with The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Famed magician Teller, of Penn & Teller, shared award kudos with Aaron Posner for their direction of the production.

Andrus Nichols in Bedlam's "Saint Joan." (A.R. Sinclair Photography)
Andrus Nichols in Bedlam's "Saint Joan." (A.R. Sinclair Photography)

In the midsize category, the Actors' Shakespeare Project won for Outstanding Production for their rendition of the non-linear, highly symbolic “God’s Ear,” by Jenny Schwartz. Tamara Hickey took Outstanding Actress for her role in that same play. Nael Nacer won for Outstanding Actor for his depiction of a shy Jewish cloth seller in love with an African-American seamstress in the Lyric Stage Company’s production of “Intimate Apparel,” by Lynn Nottage, and Spiro Veloudos accepted the award for Best Director for the Lyric’s production of the Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s musical “Into the Woods.”

The Outstanding Production award for the Small or Fringe Theater category saw the resurgent Poet’s Theater win for “Albatross,” the one-man show based on Samuel Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Benjamin Evett won for Outstanding Solo Performance for the same production. Victor L. Shopov won for Outstanding Actor in this category for Zeitgeist Theater’s “Bent,” the 1979 play about the holocaust written by Martin Sherman, while Lee Mikeska Gardner took the same accolade for her star turn in “Emilie: La Marquise du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight,” the Lauren Gunderson-written play presented by Nora Theatre Company at the Central Square Theater. The prize for Outstanding Director went to Natsu Onoda Power for Company One’s “Astro Boy and the God of Comics,” which Power also wrote.

Clark Young and the creation of Astro Boy. (Liza Voll)
Clark Young and the creation of Astro Boy. (Liza Voll)

Apollinaire took the prize for Outstanding Production by a Fringe Theater for its production of “Stupid F***ing Bird,” written by Aaron Posner (who, as noted above, also won kudos for co-directing “The Tempest”).

The cast of "Into the Woods" at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston. (Mark S. Howard)
The cast of "Into the Woods" at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston. (Mark S. Howard)

When it came to the season’s musicals, “Into the Woods” scored the win, with rising Boston stage star Aimee Doherty winning for Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actress for her role in the same production. Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actor went to Steven Bargonetti for his work in the A.R.T. and The Public Theater’s collaboration on “Father Comes Home From The Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3),” a Civil War drama by Suzan-Lori Parks. The critics group also gave Parks top honors for Outstanding New Script.

Awards for Outstanding Design went to the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of “The Second Girl” in the Large Theater category. (Huntington also took the award for Best Ensemble in its category for its revival of “The Colored Museum.”) Plaudits for Outstanding Design in the Midsize, Small or Fringe Theater category went to Company One’s “Astro Boy.” The team behind “The Second Girl” comprised the following: Scenic and costume design by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by James F. Ingalls and Sound by Ben Emerson. The team behind “Astro Boy’s” design was as follows: Scenic design by Natsu Onoda Power, Projections by Jared Mezzocchi, Lighting by Justin Paice, Costumes by Tyler Kinney, Sound by Kelsey Jarboe and Props by Megan F. Kinneen.

Capathia Jenkins, Ken Robinson, and Nathan Lee Graham in "The Colored Museum" at the Huntington Theatre Company. (T. Charles Erickson)
Capathia Jenkins, Ken Robinson, and Nathan Lee Graham in "The Colored Museum" at the Huntington Theatre Company. (T. Charles Erickson)

Also honored were two recipients of special citations. The critics’ group (of which I am a member) recognized former ArtsEmerson head Robert J. Orchard “For bringing the world’s best theater to ArtsEmerson while nurturing the best of Boston theater.” Longtime theater critic and retired Bay State Banner arts writer Kay Bourne was honored with a special citation also, “For decades of championing Boston’s African-American arts community.”

Below is a list of the winners in each category:

Outstanding Visiting Production
“Bedlam’s Saint Joan” (Bedlam, presented by Underground Railway Theater)

Seán Martin Hingston, and Susan Misner in "The Shape She Makes." (GretjenHelene.com)
Seán Martin Hingston, and Susan Misner in "The Shape She Makes." (GretjenHelene.com)

Outstanding Production by a Large Resident Theater
“The Shape She Makes” (American Repertory Theater)

Outstanding Production by a Midsize Theater
“God’s Ear” (Actors’ Shakespeare Project)

Outstanding Production by a Small Theater
“Albatross” (Mike Seiden and The Poets’ Theatre)

Outstanding Production by a Fringe Theater
“Stupid F***ing Bird” (Apollinaire Theatre Company)

Outstanding Actor, Large Theater
Tom Nelis, “The Tempest” (American Repertory Theater in association with The Smith Center for the Performing Arts)

Outstanding Actress, Large Theater
Finnerty Steeves, “The Shape She Makes” (American Repertory Theater)

Outstanding Actor, Midsize Theater
Nael Nacer, “Intimate Apparel” (Lyric Stage Company of Boston)

Outstanding Actress, Midsize Theater
Tamara Hickey, “God’s Ear” (Actors’ Shakespeare Project)

Outstanding Actor, Small or Fringe Theater
Victor L. Shopov, “Bent” (Zeitgeist Stage Company)

Outstanding Actress, Small or Fringe Theater
Lee Mikeska Gardner, “Emilie: La Marquise du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight” (Nora Theatre Company)

Outstanding Musical Production
“Into the Woods” (Lyric Stage Company of Boston)

Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actor
Steven Bargonetti, “Father Comes Home From The Wars” (American Repertory Theater and The Public Theater)

Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actress
Aimee Doherty, “Into the Woods” (Lyric Stage Company of Boston) and "Far From Heaven" (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Outstanding Director, Large Theater
Teller and Aaron Posner, “The Tempest” (American Repertory Theater in association with The Smith Center for the Performing Arts)

Outstanding Director, Midsize Production
Spiro Veloudos, “Into the Woods” (Lyric Stage Company of Boston)

Outstanding Director, Small or Fringe Theater
Natsu Onoda Power, “Astro Boy and the God of Comics” (Company One)

Outstanding New Script
“Father Comes Home From The Wars,” by Suzan-Lori Parks (American Repertory Theater and The Public Theater)

Outstanding Solo Performance
Benjamin Evett, “Albatross” (Mike Seiden and The Poets’ Theatre)

Outstanding Choreography
*Susan Misner, “The Shape She Makes” (American Repertory Theater)

Outstanding Design, Large Theater
“The Second Girl”: Scenic and costume design by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by James F. Ingalls, Sound by Ben Emerson (Huntington Theatre Company)

Outstanding Design, Midsize, Small or Fringe Theater
“Astro Boy and the God of Comics”: Scenic design by Natsu Onoda Power, Projections by Jared Mezzocchi, Lighting by Justin Paice, Costumes by Tyler Kinney, Sound by Kelsey Jarboe, Props by Megan F. Kinneen (Company One)

Outstanding Ensemble, Large Theater
“The Colored Museum” (Huntington Theatre Company)

Outstanding Ensemble, Midsize, Small or Fringe Theater
“Bedlam’s Saint Joan” (Bedlam, presented by Underground Railway Theater)

More On Elliot Norton Awards:

Kilian Melloy Contributor, The ARTery
Kilian Melloy is a contributor to WBUR's The ARTery.

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