April 02, 2009

30th Annual LA Weekly Theatre Awards

The 30th Annual L.A. Weekly Theater Awards
Actors and chickens and bears, oh, my!

By Steven Leigh Morris
Published on April 01, 2009 at 9:41pm

View more photos in the 30th annual L.A. Weekly Theater Awards slideshow.

Dancing girls and impersonators joined co-hosts Jake Broder and Vanessa Claire Smith to transform the El Rey Theatre into the stage of Las Vegas’ Sahara Hotel, 1958, for the 30th annual L.A. Weekly Theater Awards on Monday night. Reprising their roles as lounge crooners Louis Prima and Keely Smith in their hit show Louis & Keely: Live at the Sahara (now at the Geffen Playhouse), Broder and Smith were supported by their production’s six-piece jazz band and a gallery of supporting players from Sacred Fools Theater Company. That show walked away with the Musical of the Year Award in a very tight vote with some very heady competition from Joe’s Garage at Open Fist Theatre Company and Lovelace: A Rock Opera at the Hayworth. For much of the evening, the raucous, overflow crowd of 700 treated the excellent production, nicely paced by director Jeremy Aldridge, as a backdrop to their drinking and socializing.

From the stage, Queen of the Angels recipient Frédérique Michel repeatedly told the revelers to shut up. The only performer who could command some silence was Gwendolyn the chicken, who appeared contentedly on the arm of Center Theatre Group artistic director Michael Ritchie, as he gave a mock, somber homage to our hard times, adding that he always wanted to appear onstage with his pecker in his hand.

(Gwendolyn had been eating birdseed for a solid hour before her performance, and Ritchie was hoping that she would complement his performance by unloading during the act, but the bird was too well brought-up for such low comedy.)

Adding to the Dada were the artistic directors of the Colony Theatre and Geffen Playhouse, Barbara Beckley and Gil Cates, who performed a duet of “Under My Skin,” to which the Los Angeles Stage Alliance’s executive director Terence McFarland performed a spirited interpretive dance.

County Supervisor Zev Yaraslovksy’s keynote address acknowledged that the smaller theaters (the purview of the Weekly’s Theater Awards) are where the future of the theater lies, and Career Achievement recipient Dakin Matthews appeared digitally from Singapore, where he’s performing with an international company, directed by Sam Mendes. (Matthews’ fellow cast members Simon Russell Beale, Sinead Cusack, Ethan Hawke, Roger Bean, Paul Jesson, Richard Easton, and Rebecca Hall also sent their greetings to L.A. from Southeast Asia.) Matthews closed his video with a nod to Shakespeare’s most famous stage direction — “Exit, pursued by a bear” _ for Antigonus, whom Matthews is currently playing in The Winter’s Tale. As Matthews spoke, a large bear head entered the scene.


*Susan Johnston, How Cissy Grew, El Portal Forum Theatre
For more information about other winners and links to the slideshow:

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