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The Elliot Norton Awards: The Nominees and My Picks

Christopher Falcioni ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Stage Editor

Yes, it’s that time of year again; time for best of Boston’s theatre to be recognized on a night akin to the Tonys of Broadway – and it’s taking place on the Paramount Mainstage, too! Yes, the Boston Theater Critics Association is presenting its 31st Annual Elliot Norton Awards, and the night is going to be huge. If you’re around in Boston on May 13th, I’d take a look at going to see what looks to be an incredible night of awards.

First off, CHITA RIVERA will be receiving the 2013 Elliot Norton Lifetime Achievement Award, best known for Sweet Charity, Bye Bye Birdie, and Chicago. To make sure that the awards remain Boston-centric, WILL LYMAN, a Boston-centric actor, will be receiving an Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence. He’s been all over the Boston stage, and you can see him currently in Nora Theatre’s production of Operation Epsilon at the Central Square Theater in Cambridge, but you might have also heard him as narrator on TV’s “Frontline” series, National Geographic, The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, or The Learning Channel. To round out the list of special awards, The ACTORS’ EQUITY ASSOCIATION (AEA) will also be receiving a special award for it’s 100th Birthday.

This year’s nominations are these. I’ve bolded my favorites and added my own two cents after each category. Keep in mind that I haven’t seen every show nominated this year. Here we go!

31st Annual Elliot Norton Awards Nominations

Outstanding Visiting Production

War Horse (Broadway in Boston)

The Servant of Two Masters (Yale Repertory Theatre, presented by ArtsEmerson)

Metamorphosis (Vesturport Theatre and Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, presented by ArtsEmerson)

I’ve seen all three in this category and I think that all three of these shows were utterly fantastic (At least a few people at each performance left the theatre sobbing or beaming). If I were to pick a favorite, though, I would say War Horse. Though this is one that I saw in New York originally, it truly does have everything: puppets, sadness, cheer, accents, awesome special effects, and anything else one might find in an award winning play. Servant was great fun and I personally loved it, and Metamorphosis was a crowd favorite, but I’d put my money on the Horse.

Outstanding Production by a Large Resident Theater

Good People (Huntington Theatre Company)

Our Town (Huntington Theatre Company)

The Glass Menagerie (American Repertory Theater)

Though I’ve only seen Our Town, which I loved, I am almost positive Glass Menagerie will win for best large production. Who says no to Zachary Quinto and Cherry Jones?

Outstanding Production by a Midsize Theater

The Motherf**ker with the Hat (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Chinglish (Lyric Stage Company of Boston)

Clybourne Park (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

In this category I saw none in Boston, but I’ve read Clybourne Park and seen Chinglish in New York. Chinglish is not anywhere near as affecting as Clybourne Park, in my opinion, and unless Boston’s production of it was stellar I’m having a hard time seeing it winning anything. While Mofo got great reception, I still think the excellent writing and room for a great cast gives Clybourne Park an advantage.

Outstanding Production by a Small Theater

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (Company One)

Of Mice and Men (Moonbox Productions)

Ted Hughes’ Tales from Ovid (Whistler in the Dark, presented by ArtsEmerson)

I haven’t seen anything aside from Ovid in this category, and while the other options sound promising Ovid was truly an experience unlike any other theatrical experience for me, something I think could easily win the award.

Outstanding Production by a Fringe Theater

Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead  (Happy Medium Theatre)

A Behanding in Spokane (Theatre on Fire)

Tigers Be Still (Zeitgeist Stage Company)

I haven’t seen any of these productions, but I’m rather partial to Dog Sees God as a play so I picked it. Anything having to do with Charlie Brown as a teenager should automatically win.

Outstanding Design, Large Theater

Marie Antoinette: scenic design by Riccardo Hernandez, costumes by Gabriel Berry, lighting by Christopher Akerlind, sound by Matt Hubbs, puppet design by Matt Acheson (American Repertory Theater)

Metamorphosis: set design by Börkur Jonsson, lighting by Björn  Helgason, sound by Nick Manning (Vesturport Theatre and Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, presented by ArtsEmerson)

A Raisin in the Sun: set by Clint Ramos, costumes by Kathleen Geldard, lighting by Lap Chi Chu, original music and sound design by Broken Chord (Huntington Theatre Company)

Though I have only seen Metamorphosis in this category and had a fine design (especially with the disguising of the show’s acrobatic elements), I think the ART will win this round, mainly because the ART has consistently amazing designs that it’s practically known for. We’ll see how this one plays out.

Outstanding Design, Midsize, Small or Fringe Theater

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity: set and props by Jason Ries, lighting by Jen Rock, sound by Arshan Gailus, costumes by Kendra Bell, video by Olivia Sebesky (Company One)

Mildred Fierce: sets by Amelia Gossett and Lauren Duffy, costumes by Scott Martino, lighting by Sparrow Provoost, sound by Roger Moore (Gold Dust Orphans)

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson: scenic design by Eric Levenson, costumes by Elisabetta Polito, lighting by Jeff Adelberg, sound by Eric Norris (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

I haven’t seen any of these shows either, but I know that Ryan Landry has an incredible aesthetic. Even if you hate his shows, you won’t be able to say that the design wasn’t beautifully strange.

Outstanding Musical Production by a Large Theater

Billy Elliot The Musical (Broadway in Boston)

Fela! (Shawn “Jay-Z’’ Carter, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Ruth and Stephen Hendel, in association with Edward Tyler Nahem, presented by ArtsEmerson)

Pippin (American Repertory Theater)

I sure hope Pippin wins this award. While I’ve seen Billy Elliot on Broadway and know all the incredible reviews that it got, I don’t think it was nearly as innovative nor as magical as Pippin was. And I don’t even know what Fela! is.

Outstanding Musical Production by a Midsize, Small or Fringe Company

Mildred Fierce (Gold Dust Orphans)

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Avenue Q (Lyric Stage Company of Boston)

I’ve seen Avenue Q in New York, and I personally think that it won’t even be a competition between the other two just in terms of content, aside from these specific productions… none of which I actually saw…!

Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actor

Sahr Ngaujah, Fela! (Shawn “Jay-Z’’ Carter, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Ruth and Stephen Hendel, in association with Edward Tyler Nahem, ArtsEmerson)

Gus Curry, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

John Ambrosino, Avenue Q (Lyric Stage Company of Boston)

I haven’t seen any of these, so I’m just going to go with the leading actor from Fela! Yes, I wanted an excuse to write Fela! again.

Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actress

Erica Spyres, Avenue Q (Lyric Stage Company of Boston)

Amy Jo Jackson, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Andrea Martin, Pippin (American Repertory Theater)

I’m pretty sure Andrea Martin stole the show away from Pippin and, at the same time, stole away the possibility of another actress winning an award for a musical.

Outstanding New Script

The Last Will, by Robert Brustein (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company and Suffolk University)

Operation Epsilon, by Alan Brody (Nora Theatre Company and Catalyst Collaborative @ MIT Project)

Mildred Fierce, by Ryan Landry (Gold Dust Orphans)

Though I haven’t seen it (nor the others), I’m going to assume that Epsilon is going to win SOMETHING, especially with one of the leading actors from the show winning an award for Sustained Excellence this year.

Outstanding Solo Performance

Georgia Lyman, Chesapeake (New Repertory Theatre)

Seana McKenna, Shakespeare’s Will (Merrimack Repertory Theatre)

Hershey Felder, Maestro: Leonard Bernstein (ArtsEmerson)

Though I haven’t seen any of these three shows, either, I’m going to assume Hershey Felder will win for his one-man show. I would have loved to have seen Mona Golabek nominated for her collaboration with Hershey in The Pianist of Willesden Lane. I suppose supporting Felder is the closest I can get to supporting Mona, though…!

Outstanding Director, Large Theater

Maria Aitken, Private Lives and Betrayal (Huntington Theatre Company)

Rebecca Taichman, Marie Antoinette (American Repertory Theater)

John Tiffany, The Glass Menagerie (American Repertory Theater)

Another one where I haven’t seen any of the shows, but I’m again assuming Glass Menagerie will win, mostly because of the incredible hype it got.

Outstanding Director, Midsize Theater

David R. Gammons, The Motherf**ker with the Hat (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Spiro Veloudos, Avenue Q (Lyric Stage Company of Boston)

Paul Melone, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Didn’t see any of these, but I’m going to do for Bloody Bloody. That show is so weird that it needs an outstanding director to pull it all together.

Outstanding Director, Small or Fringe Theater

Shawn LaCount, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (Company One)

James P. Byrne, Mary Poppers and Mildred Fierce (Gold Dust Orphans)

Alice Olivia Choate, Of Mice and Men (Moonbox Productions)

Another where I haven’t seen any of these productions, but I think the Orphans are going to have a good year.

Outstanding Actor, Large Theater

Steven Epp, The Servant of Two Masters (Yale Repertory Theatre, presented by ArtsEmerson)

LeRoy McClain, A Raisin in the Sun (Huntington Theatre Company)

Gísli Örn Garðarsson, Metamorphosis (Vesturport Theatre and Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, presented by ArtsEmerson)

I didn’t get a chance to see Raisin, so now I’m left with Epp or Garðarsson. Personally, I thought that while Garðarsson did an amazing job at portraying the suffering and athletic ability of Gregor, Epp did an absolutely IMPECCABLE job of channeling the ancient comedian style and nailing the Servant.

Outstanding Actress, Large Theater

Brooke Bloom, Marie Antoinette (American Repertory Theater)

Bianca Amato, Private Lives (Huntington Theatre Company)

Cherry Jones, The Glass Menagerie (American Repertory Theater)

Once again, you cannot say no to Cherry Jones.

Outstanding Actor, Midsize Theater

Will Lyman, Long Day’s Journey into Night (New Repertory Theatre), Operation Epsilon (Nora Theatre Company and Catalyst Collaborative @ MIT Project)

Maurice Emmanuel Parent, The Motherf**ker with the Hat (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Steven Barkhimer, Round and Round the Garden (Gloucester Stage Company), Middletown (Actors’ Shakespeare Project)

Wouldn’t it be awkward if Lyman didn’t win this award, yet still had to come for his Prize for Sustained Excellence?

Outstanding Actress, Midsize Theater

Evelyn Howe, The Motherfucker with the Hat (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Marvelyn McFarlane, Clybourne Park (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Celeste Oliva, Chinglish (Lyric Stage Company of Boston)

I have NO clue who is better, so I’m going to go with my gut and say that Clybourne Park had the best female performance of these three shows.

Outstanding Actor, Small or Fringe Theater

Harry McEnerny, Of Mice and Men (Moonbox Productions)

Ricardo Engermann, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (Company One)

Mason Sand, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (Company One)

Considering that Mason Sand had to carry Bengal Tiger, I’ll give him the award.

Outstanding Actress, Small or Fringe Theater

Becca A. Lewis, Tigers Be Still (Zeitgeist Stage Company)

Kiki Samko, Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead (Happy Medium Theatre)

Lizette M. Morris, Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead (Happy Medium Theatre)

I have no clue what Tigers Be Still is… so with that out of the way, it’s a Dog Sees God competition, between the character equivalents of Lucy and Sally from the Peanuts. I’m going to give this one to Lizette, mainly because of the monologue in which the Lucy character talks about lighting the Little Red Headed Girl’s hair on fire.

Outstanding Ensemble, Large Theater

The Servant of Two Masters (Yale Repertory Theatre, presented by ArtsEmerson)

The Glass Menagerie (American Repertory Theater)

Our Town (Huntington Theatre Company)

This is tough. All three of these ensembles were entirely incredible, but I’m going to have to go with Our Town for this one, mainly because this show is literally about ensemble and it, in my opinion, couldn’t be any more unified or outstanding than it was.

Outstanding Ensemble, Midsize, Small or Fringe Theater

Avenue Q (Lyric Stage Company of Boston)

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (Company One)

Operation Epsilon (Nora Theatre Company and Catalyst Collaborative @ MIT Project)

Once again, didn’t see this show, but I’m going to do with Epsilon again, what seems to be the dark horse of this year’s awards.

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This was fun, wasn’t it? We’ll have to wait until Monday, May 13th to find out who the real winners are, but until then, write in the comments what YOU think is going to win! Will Pippin beat out Billy Elliot? Can anything stop Cherry Jones? And WHAT THE HECK IS FELA!?

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The Boston Theater Critics Association (BTCA recognize excellence in Greater Boston theater and will be presented on Monday, May 13, at 7 p.m. at the Paramount Mainstage, 559 Washington Street, Boston. Tickets are $30 (including post-party) and available by phone at 617-824-8000 or online www.nortonawardsboston.com. (Use “NortonSave” code to receive $5 off for the month of April only.)  Sponsors for the 2013 awards ceremony include, ArtsEmerson, Actors’ Equity Association, ArtsBoston, EdgeBoston, Emerson College, TheaterMania, The Boston Globe, WBUR, WERS and WGBH.

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