Joliet F. Harris in Caroline, or Change
(© John Flak)
Joliet F. Harris in Caroline, or Change
(© John Flak)
The Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia celebrated the best in Philadelphia Area Theater Monday night, October 1 with the presentation of the 2007 Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre at the Gala Barrymore Award Ceremony in the elegant Crystal Tea Room. In all, 13 companies were recognized this year with awards.

Hosted by local actors Chris Faith and Greg Wood (who recognized the celebratory nature of the event by donning a Philadelphia Phillies cap), the ceremony was marked by the inclusion of the Walnut Street Theatre, which competed in the Barrymore Awards for the first time since 2002. It was a triumphant return for the city's largest theater, which captured five awards, the most of any company.

The Walnut was recognized for outstanding overall production of a play for the company's intense staging of Of Mice and Men. Awards also went to Men's director Mark Clements, and the show's lighting designer Shelly Hicklin. Other Walnut recipients included Charles Abbot, who captured the Barrymore for outstanding direction of a musical for his work on 42nd Street. The Walnut was also recognized with the Excellence in Theatre Education and Community Service Award for their program "Adopt-A-School."

Leading the way among other companies winning multiple awards was The Arden Theatre Company, which garnered three awards, all for the company's spellbinding production of Caroline, or Change. The show captured the Barrymore for outstanding production of a musical, costume designer Rosemarie E. McKelvey, and the show's star Joliet F. Harris, who gave a career-defining performance as the beleaguered housekeeper Caroline.

11th Hour Theatre Company, Mum Puppettheatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Prince Music Theater, and Theatre Exile were each recognized with two Barrymore Awards. Actor/designer Matt Saunders was the recipient of the coveted F. Otto Haas award for emerging artist, which carries with it a cash prize of $10,000. The award's sponsor Carole Haas Gravagno, a longtime supporter of the area's theater community, was recognized with the prestigious 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award.

As in past years, the ceremony featured performances from the five theaters that were nominated in the outstanding musical category. However instead of presenting a performance from its nominated staging of 42nd Street, the Walnut Street Theatre broke with tradition to preview its upcoming spring production of Les Miserables, with Jeff Koon performing the rousing anthem "Do you hear the people Sing" ccompanied by singers from University of the Arts. Other musical highlights from the ceremony included Harris' powerful rendition of "Lot's Wife" from Caroline, or Change, and a high-energy performance of "Prologue" by Rob McClure, Michael Philip O'Brien, Thomas DelPizzo and Steve Pacek of the 11th Hour Theatre Company's production of The Bomb-itty of Errors.

For a complete list of 2007 Barrymore Award winners, click here.