The 21st Annual IRNE Awards (Independent Reviewers of New England) were held last night in the ballroom of the Holiday Inn Brookline/Boston. The awards, honoring the actors, directors, choreographers, and designers of the past season of theater in the Boston area, were attended by approximately 500 people from across the community.
SpeakEasy Stage Company's production of The Scottsboro Boys dominated the musical awards in the Small Stage category, while Underground Railway's The Convert won for Best Play, Actor, Actress, and Director (also in the Small Stage category). The Scottsboro Boys, featuring a score by John Kander and Fred Ebb, took home a total of 11 awards, including Best Musical, Director, Music Director, and Best Ensemble, as well as acting, choreography, and design awards. Fiddlehead Theatre Company's production of Showboat also won for Best Musical, Director, Music Director, and Ensemble in the Large Stage category, with Best Play for Large Stage going to Ayad Akhtar's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Disgraced, presented by the Huntington Theatre Company.
Oscar and three-time Tony winner Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) earned the award for Best Actor in a Play (Large Stage) for his performance in Nice Fish at the American Repertory Theater. Broadway veterans Shoshana Bean (Wicked) and Tracee Chimo also took home IRNEs — Bean for Best Actress in a Musical (Large Stage) for her performance in Funny Girl at North Shore Music Theatre and Chimo for Best Actress in a Play (Large Stage) for her role in Fingersmith (also at the American Repertory Theater).
The IRNE Committee also presented a Special Recognition Award to Derek Wolcott, a Nobel laureate in literature, poet, and founder of the Boston Playwrights' Theatre, who passed away in March at the age of 87. Newcomer Jalani Dottin-Coye, who made his professional debut in 2016 with Zeitgeist Stage Company in Exit Strategy, received the 4th Annual Bob Jolly Award, given to the actor in the Greater Boston Theater Community that best exemplifies the charisma, creativity, spirit, wit, and dedication to the theater and to the craft of acting that Bob Jolly demonstrated throughout his professional career.
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