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BWW Review: The 36th Annual Elliot Norton Awards

BWW Review: The 36th Annual Elliot Norton Awards

The 2018 Elliot Norton Awards

Presented by the Boston Theater Critics' Association at The Huntington Theatre Company's Huntington Avenue Theatre, on Monday, May 21, 2018

Master of Ceremonies, Joyce Kulhawik; Ceremony Pianist, Jim Rice

Selection Committee: Joyce Kulhawik, Carolyn Clay, Don Aucoin, Jared Bowen, Terry Byrne, Iris Fanger, Kilian Melloy, Robert Nesti, Ed Siegel, Jeremy D. Goodwin

Staff: Producing Director, Lisa Rafferty; Public Relations, Kathy Rochefort/Rochefort & Associates; Production Stage Manager, Kimberly Mae Waller; Production Associate, William Stiles; Production, Video and Web Designer, Joey Frangieh; Webmaster, Social Media, Jane Humphrey; Program, Rita A. Fucillo, New Venture Media Group LLC; Production Staff: Alex Holden, Maggie Kearnan; ASL Interpreters: Donnie Gibbons, Claire Miller

The Boston Theater Critics Association (BTCA) celebrated more than two dozen outstanding actors, directors, designers, and ensembles at The 36th Annual Elliot Norton Awards ceremony at the Huntington Avenue Theatre last night. Joyce Kulhawik, President of the BTCA, handled the duties of Master of Ceremonies, and members of the selection committee, augmented by notable denizens of the theater community, presented the awards. Ceremony pianist Jim Rice played the winners on and off the stage.

The coveted Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence was presented by Ed Siegel to Leigh Barrett, honoring her for her decades of outstanding musical theater performances, exquisite vocal stylings, and for being one of the keystone artists in the Boston area. As if any further evidence was required, a surprised Barrett also took home the award for Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actress for her back-to-back triumphs in Souvenir and Gypsy at the Lyric Stage Company. Robert J. Eagle received a Special Citation to honor his 50 years as Founder and Executive Producer of Reagle Music Theatre in Waltham.

Joining the list of celebrity artists who have been fêted in the past, the Guest of Honor Award went to Randy Rainbow, an internet sensation known for his viral comedy videos. After confessing that his two coping devices are humor and musical theater, he sang along with one of his brilliant videos ("The Room Where it Happened") projected on a giant screen behind him. Joey Frangieh (Producing Artistic Director of Boston Theater Company) made a major contribution to the program as the designer behind the projections and video.

Interspersed among the parade of presenters and award recipients, two of the nominees for Outstanding Musical Production took their turn with a featured number. Wheelock Family Theatre's In the Heights got the festivities off to an energetic start with Rachel Bertone's vibrant choreography, and Jennifer Ellis gave a poignant delivery of "Not a Day Goes By" from Huntington Theatre Company's Merrily We Roll Along, with Matthew Stern on the piano. Nominated in four categories, Company One Theatre's Hype Man: a break beat play took the honors for Outstanding New Script - in memory of Jack Welch - for playwright Idris Goodwin.

The 2018 Elliot Norton Arts Education Award, with a matching grant from Broadway in Boston, was presented to the musical theater program of Boston Conservatory at Berklee to fund expenses associated with the students' Showcase trip to New York City. The final musical performance of the program came courtesy of four BOCO students (Gabrielle Carrubba, Michael Brent Hicks, Isaiah Reynolds, Kendyl Yokoyama) singing a trio of songs, directed by Laura Marie Duncan with music direction/accompaniment by Bret Silverman.

The Elliot Norton Awards are named for the venerable drama critic for Boston newspapers and WGBH-TV. He died in 2003 at the age of 100, but has left an indelible legacy in the theater community. Unfortunately, Boston theater lost a quartet of luminaries in the past year: Jack Welch, Larry Coen, Tommy Derrah, and Jan Geidt. Fittingly, each was honored by the BTCA in last night's ceremony.

Below is a list of the winners in each category:

Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence

Leigh Barrett

Guest of Honor

Randy Rainbow

Outstanding Visiting Production

The Color Purple (Boch Center Shubert Theatre)

Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Visiting Production

Richard Thomas The Humans (Boch Center Shubert Theatre)

Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Visiting Production

Adrianna Hicks The Color Purple (Boch Center Shubert Theatre)

Outstanding Musical Production

Arrabal (American Repertory Theater)

Outstanding Production, Large Theater

Beckett in Brief (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company)

Outstanding Production, Midsize Theater

Constellations (Underground Railway Theater)

Outstanding Production, Small Theater

Hype Man: a break beat play (Company One Theatre)

Outstanding Production, Fringe Theater

3/Fifths' Trapped in a Traveling Minstrel Show (Sleeping Weazel)

Outstanding Design, Large Theater

Home (ArtsEmerson) Scenic design by Steven Dufala, costumes by Karen Young, lighting by Christopher Kuhl, sound by Brandon Wolcott, illusions by Steve Cuiffo

Outstanding Design, Midsize, Small or Fringe Theater

A Dead Man's Diary: A Theatrical Novel (Arlekin Players Theatre) Stage design by Nikolay Simonov, lighting by Stephen Petrelli, sound by Jakov Jakoulov, video by Svetlana Vakhutinsky and Aleksey Shemyatovsky

Outstanding Actor, Large Theater

McKinley Belcher III A Guide for the Homesick (Huntington Theatre Company)

Outstanding Actress, Large Theater

Gracyn Mix Romeo and Juliet (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company)

Outstanding Actor, Midsize Theater

Jacob Athyal Guards at the Taj (Underground Railway Theater)

Outstanding Actress, Midsize Theater

Caitlin Nasema Cassidy Paradise (Underground Railway Theater)

Outstanding Actor, Small or Fringe Theater

Barlow Adamson Elemeno Pea (Boston Playwrights' Theatre)

Outstanding Actress, Small or Fringe Theater

Lindsay Eagle Fat Pig (Flat Earth Theatre

Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actor

Will McGarrahan Souvenir (Lyric Stage Company of Boston)

Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actress

Leigh Barrett Souvenir (Lyric Stage Company of Boston) and Gypsy (Lyric Stage Company of Boston)

Outstanding Director, Large Theater

Sergio Trujillo Arrabal (American Repertory Theater)

Outstanding Director, Midsize Theater

Summer L. Williams Barbecue (Lyric Stage Company of Boston)

Outstanding Director, Small or Fringe Theater

Allison Olivia Choat The 39 Steps (Moonbox Productions)

Outstanding New Script

Idris Goodwin Hype Man: a break beat play (Company One Theatre)

Outstanding Solo Performance

Keith Hamilton Cobb American Moor (O.W.I. Bureau of Theatre and Phoenix Theatre Ensemble)

Outstanding Musical Direction

David Reiffel Man of La Mancha (New Repertory Theatre) and Shakespeare in Love (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Outstanding Ensemble

In the Heights (Wheelock Family Theatre)

Photo: Leigh Barrett

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From This Author Nancy Grossman