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2000 Drama Desk Award Winners

Kiss Me, Kate, Contact, The Real Thing, and Copenhagen win big.

By New York City
The Drama Desk put on an award-worthy show of its own Sunday night when it apportioned its honors among those who created New York's 1999-2000 theater season. Crammed with entertainment (including three show-stopping numbers) and acceptance speeches both elegant and comic, the evening was a certified triumph for its live audience and for those who watched the telecast of the event on New York 1. It was also a supremely happy night for the five shows that took home multiple honors--and a disappointing one for several others that limped away with little or nothing to show for their many nominations. Nonetheless, even productions that were virtually or completely shut out had the opportunity to show themselves off to the TV audience, and they did so with great success.

Amy Spanger in Kiss Me, Kate
Amy Spanger in Kiss Me, Kate
The Musicals
The night's biggest winner was Kiss Me Kate, which racked up an impressive six awards, including Outstanding Revival of a Musical and honors for its director, Michael Blakemore, and its leading man, Brian Stokes Mitchell. The show also won awards for set design, costume design, and orchestrations. Getting the kiss-off was The Music Man: That show began the evening as Kate's only competition, with eight nominations, but it went home without so much as a single Shipoopi.

The next biggest winner, Contact, danced off with four awards, including Choreography (Susan Stroman), Featured Actress in a Musical (Karen Ziemba), Lighting Design (Peter Kaczorowski), and Outstanding Musical. There were plenty of raised eyebrows, however, when Lincoln Center's Andre Bishop--upon accepting this last award--said, "This has been a wonderful year for new musicals." Many would argue that Contact doesn't really belong in that group; it has no original music, no live orchestra, and no singing.

Manhattan Theatre Club's The Wild Party, on the other hand, had all of that and more--including 13 Drama Desk nominations, the most of any show. It won just one award, for Andrew Lippa's Outstanding Music. The show with which it had been so closely compared, the Broadway version of The Wild Party, didn't win in any of the three acting categories in which it was nominated. Both shows, however, had the chance to showcase themselves with a song, and both chose wisely: DD nominated Alix Korey sang her song about "an old-fashioned, lesbian love story" from the MTC Wild Party and stopped the show, just as she did during every performance of the musical Off-Broadway. (Will somebody please write a Broadway show for Korey?) Later, Eartha Kitt sang Michael John LaChiusa's "When It Ends" from the Broadway Wild Party and the audience responded by giving her a standing ovation. If that doesn't sell some tickets, nothing will.

Surprises, Double Winners, Great Speeches
The most eyebrow-arching award of the night went to Stephen Sondheim for Outstanding Lyrics (for his first show, Saturday Night). The win was surprising not because Sondheim's work wasn't worthy, but because a substantial number of Drama Desk voters simply could not get in to see the show. (Press seats were unavailable for this hot-ticket limited run at Second Stage.) Conversely, there was little doubt that David Gallo's extraordinary set for Jitney (also at Second Stage) would cop the Set Design Award.

Philip Bosco, Blair Brown,and Michael Cumpsty in Copenhagen
Philip Bosco, Blair Brown,
and Michael Cumpsty in Copenhagen
There were two big winners among the Broadway straight plays. Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing copped two awards, including Outstanding Revival and Outstanding Actor (Stephen Dillane). Michael Frayn's Copenhagen took home the Outstanding Play prize. In a stunning display of versatility, director Michael Blakemore won awards for his work on that show and for his direction of the musical Kiss Me, Kate. Off-Off-Broadway's Charlie Victor Romeo--"the plane crash play"--took off with two awards, including one for Unique Theatrical Experience and Sound Design (Jamie Mereness).

There were no other multiple winners, which suggests that Drama Desk voters did not have a pack mentality. For instance, though Aida was largely dismissed by the critics, the Drama Desk separated the mediocre show from Heather Headley's star-making performance in the title role. Nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Musical, Headley performed at the DD ceremony and instantly took command of the stage with her rendition of Aida's "Easy as Life." Later, she won the award in one of the night's most competitive categories.

Another notable winner was Eileen Heckart (The Waverly Gallery) for Outstanding Actress in a Play. After receiving a standing ovation from the audience, she proceeded to give a particularly memorable speech, remarkable both for its brevity and pithiness: "An extraordinary woman, Eleanor Roosevelt, once said, 'Awards are frivolous.' I'm an ordinary woman, and I think they're terrific." Heckart then turned and walked off the stage, Drama Desk in hand.

Stephen Spinella won the DD for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical (James Joyce's The Dead), and he gave the classiest speech of the night. "This is so improbable," Spinella said, "that I should be getting an award in which singing and dancing are part of the job description." Among those he thanked were the show's gallant producers who, in Spinella's view, "lost their shirts but saved their souls" by backing the show.

Then, of course, there was Barry Humphries, who won for outstanding Solo Performance for Dame Edna: The Royal Tour. He accepted the award from the well-prepared presenter Bruce Vilanch, who whipped off his outer T-shirt to reveal a Dame Edna T-shirt underneath. Later, when asked what he would have done had Dame Edna not won, Vilanch--presently starring Off-Broadway in his own one man show--said, "I had other T-shirts on beneath that one; I was ready for anything."


Win Some, Lose Some
The award show's director, Jeff Kalpak, kept the evening racing along at an entertaining clip. He also smartly employed a winning array of presenters and special guests. Working on point for Kalpak was the show's charming emcee, Bebe Neuwirth--who was, in reality, rarely on stage. Among the most memorable presenters were Linda Lavin, Eric Bogosian, and Camryn Manheim. One could only fault the Drama Desk production on two counts: Glitches in the sound system during the early part of the show wrecked the opening number, "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" from Kiss Me, Kate, performed by Lee Wilkof and Michael Mulheren. And, in an effort to shave time from the proceedings, the decision was made to honor Lifetime Achievement winners Barnard Hughes and Helen Stenborg without allowing them the opportunity to speak; they merely stood up in the audience and waved. The same was true for Hildy Parks, widow of special award winner Alexander H. Cohen. These people are icons of the theater; they, more than anyone else, should have been given time to talk. Who knows--they might have given great "thank you" speeches.

In a series of win-win gestures, the Drama Desk Awards show gave a variety of Off-Broadway productions a chance to cleverly advertise themselves to the audience while spicing up the prize presentations. In particular, the casts of The Bomb-Itty of Errors, and Forbidden Broadway all did themselves a lot of good with their funny, engaging bits on stage. We wondered, as did Bebe Neuwirth, if the Naked Boys were wearing anything behind the banner they were carrying across the front of their bodies. Later, we asked one of the "Boys" (by then fully clothed) what they had been wearing. His answer: "Our microphone packs--and nothing else."

The final winners in this year's awards were the kids at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, where the ceremony is held. Dr. Linda Masson-Kingsley, chair of the Drama Department, explained the benefits of having the Drama Desk use the school's beautiful auditorium: "The idea was to have the future of the theater mix with the theater's present." In addition, she said, "We got scholarships for our students, received publicity for the school, and we have people from the performing arts community come see our space. Plus, our kids get to perform in the Drama Desk presentation. I'm just so proud of them."

And the Drama Desk can be proud of the show's producers, Robert Blume and Bobbie Horowitz, who have elevated the DD ceremony to the level of an important, highly entertaining theatrical event.

Party Time
Ah, but there was more to this year's Drama Desk Awards than what audiences saw on stage. There were a couple of official parties before the ceremony got underway, and a wine and dessert party immediately following. The pre-show reception took place at the new Time Hotel on West 49th Street. In a space as narrow as Calista Flockhart's waist, the assembled nominees, presenters, and Drama Desk members learned the true meaning of the word "press." We talked with everyone from Lauren Bacall (Waiting in the Wings), who told us, "I'm here for Barnard Hughes and Helen Stenborg," to Kevin Chamberlin (Dirty Blonde), who said, "I'm an internet junkie and I love TheaterMania.com. It's a great site." (Thanks, Kevin. Jeez, now we're really sorry you didn't win.)

The other pre-awards party took place in the lobby outside the high school's concert hall, hosted by Theatre.com--another case of too many people, not enough food. Only the after-show party worked on its own terms: chocolates, wine, and coffee sated the crowd as a piano player worked through a wonderful repertoire of show tunes.

For a complete list of nominees and winners, click on page 3 below


2000 DRAMA DESK AWARD NOMINEES AND WINNERS
An asterisk (*) denotes the winner each category

PLAY
Contact With the Enemy, by Frank Gilroy
Copenhagen, by Michael Frayn*
Dinner with Friends, by Donald Margulies
Dirty Blonde, by Claudia Shear
Jitney, by August Wilson
The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, by Charles Busch

MUSICAL
Contact*
James Joyce's The Dead
Saturday Night
Swing!
The Wild Party (Manhattan Theatre Club)

REVIVAL
True West, by Sam Shepard
A Moon for the Misbegotten, by Eugene O'Neill
The Price, by Arthur Miller
The Real Thing, by Tom Stoppard*
Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov
Waste, by Harley Granville Barker

REVIVAL (MUSICAL)
Kiss Me, Kate*
The Music Man

ACTOR (PLAY)
Gabriel Byrne (A Moon for the Misbegotten)
Kevin Chamberlin (Dirty Blonde)
Stephen Dillane* (The Real Thing)
Derek Jacobi (Uncle Vanya)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (True West)
Paul Sparks (Coyote on a Fence)

ACTRESS (PLAY)
Sinead Cusack (Our Lady of Sligo)
Eileen Heckart* (The Waverly Gallery)
Linda Lavin (The Tale of the Allergist's Wife)
Claudia Shear (Dirty Blonde)
Lynn Thigpen (Jar the Floor)
Charlyne Woodard (In the Blood)

ACTOR (MUSICAL)
Craig Bierko (The Music Man)
Brian D'Arcy James (The Wild Party, MTC)
Boyd Gaines (Contact)
Brian Stokes Mitchell* (Kiss Me, Kate)
Mandy Patinkin (The Wild Party, Broadway)

ACTRESS (MUSICAL)
Toni Collette (The Wild Party, Broadway)
Heather Headley* (Aida)
Rebecca Luker (The Music Man)
Audra McDonald (Marie Christine)
Marin Mazzie (Kiss Me, Kate)
Julia Murney (The Wild Party, MTC)

FEATURED ACTOR (PLAY)
Matthew Arkin (Dinner With Friends)
Roy Dotrice* (A Moon for the Misbegotten)
Joel Grey (Give Me Your Answer, Do!)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Author's Voice)
Brian Murray (Uncle Vanya)
Harris Yulin (The Price)

FEATURED ACTRESS (PLAY)
Jillian Armenante (The Cider House Rules, Part One: Here in St. Cloud)
Marylouise Burke* (Fuddy Meers)
Seana Kofoed (An Experiment With an Air Pump)
Cigdam Onat (The Time of the Cuckoo)
Phyllis Newman (The Moment When)
Amy Sedaris (The Country Club)

FEATURED ACTOR (MUSICAL)
Jason Antoon (Contact)
Christopher Fitzgerald (Saturday Night)
Alistair Izobell (Kat and the Kings)
Michael Mulheren (Kiss Me, Kate)
Stephen Spinella* (James Joyce's The Dead)
Lee Wilkof (Kiss Me, Kate)

FEATURED ACTRESS (MUSICAL)
Nancy Anderson (Jolson and Co.)
Sally Anne Howes (James Joyce's The Dead)
Eartha Kitt (The Wild Party, Broadway)
Alix Korey (The Wild Party, MTC)
Idina Menzel (The Wild Party, MTC)
Karen Ziemba* (Contact)

DIRECTOR (PLAY)
Michael Blakemore* (Copenhagen)
Thomas Hulce and Jane Jones (The Cider House Rules: Part One)
James Lapine (Dirty Blonde)
Marion McClinton (Jitney)
Michael Mayer (Uncle Vanya)
Daniel Sullivan (Dinner With Friends)

DIRECTOR (MUSICAL)
Gabriel Barre (The Wild Party, MTC)
Michael Blakemore* (Kiss Me, Kate)
Susan Stroman (Contact)
Susan Stroman (The Music Man)

CHOREOGRAPHY
Jody J. Abrahams, Loukman Adams (Kat and The Kings)
Mark Dendy (The Wild Party , MTC)
Kathleen Marshall (Kiss Me, Kate)
Susan Stroman* (Contact)
Susan Stroman (The Music Man)
Lynne Taylor-Corbett (Swing!)

MUSIC
Shaun Davey (James Joyce's The Dead)
Andrew Lippa* (The Wild Party, MTC)
Stephen Sondheim (Saturday Night)

LYRICS
Jordan Allen-Dutton, Jason Catalano, GQ, Erik Weiner (The Bomb-itty of Errors)
Boyd Graham (The Big Bang)
Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party, MTC)
Stephen Sondheim* (Saturday Night)

ORCHESTRATIONS
Doug Besterman (The Music Man)
Michael Gibson (The Wild Party, MTC)
Taliep Peterson (Kat and the Kings)
Don Sebesky* (Kiss Me, Kate)
Jonathan Tunick (Saturday Night)
Harold Wheeler (Swing!)

SET DESIGN (PLAY)
David Gallo* (Jitney)
Derek McLane (East is East)
Rob Odorosio (An Empty Plate at the Cafe du Grand Boeuf)
Neil Patel (Dinner With Friends)
Tony Walton (Uncle Vanya)
James Noone (The Time of the Cuckoo)

SET DESIGN (MUSICAL)
Julian Crouch, Graeme Gilmour (Shockheaded Peter)
David Gallo (The Wild Party, MTC)
Thomas Lynch (Contact)
Thomas Lynch (The Music Man
Robin Wagner* (Kiss Me, Kate)

COSTUME DESIGN
Jonathan Bixby, Gregory A. Gale (The Country Club)
Basil De Maurier (The Big Bang)
Martin Pakledinaz* (Kiss Me Kate)
Martin Pakledinaz (The Wild Party, MTC)
Kevin Pollard (Shockheaded Peter)
William Ivey Long (The Music Man)

LIGHTING DESIGN
Peter Kaczorowski* (Contact)
David Lander (Dirty Blonde)
Brian MacDevitt (An Experiment with an Air Pump)
Robert Perry (The Water Engine)
Kenneth Posner (The Wild Party, MTC)
Scott Zielinski (Space)

SOUND DESIGN
Marc Gwinn (Coyote on a Fence)
Jamie Mereness* (Charlie Victor Romeo)
Rob Milburn, Michael Bodeen (Space)
Darron L. West (Chesapeake)
Darron L. West (Y2K)

SOLO PERFORMANCE
Olympia Dukakis (Rose)
Spalding Gray (Morning, Noon and Night)
Barry Humphries* (Dame Edna: The Royal Tour)
Mark Linn-Baker (Chesapeake)
Mark Setlock (Fully Committed)
Marc Wolf (Another American: Asking and Telling)

UNIQUE THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE
Charlie Victor Romeo*
Do You Come Here Often?
Shockheaded Peter

SPECIAL AWARDS
- Producer Alexander Cohen for Lifetime Achievement (posthumously)
- Barnard Hughes and Helen Stenborg for Shared Lifetime Achievement
- The ensemble of Jitney


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