34 Categories, 130 Nominees, 90 Productions
Lenox Hotel Dome Ballroom
Copley Sq. Boston /

Reviewed by Will Stackman

The 2002 Independent Reviewers of New England Annual Awards were held at the Lenox Hotel in Copley Square Boston for the third year in a row on March 3rd, 2003. There was the usual overflow crowd, in spite of the "Lysistrata" reading being held at the Boston Center for the Arts and various tech rehearsals for shows opening later in the week. This year's attendance included the new president of Broadway in Boston, Tony McLean, Associate Artistic Director of the A.R.T. Gideon Lester, Vinie Burrows, who is currently an Artist in Residence at M.I.T. plus representatives of local theatres large and small, and a host of nominees.

This year, in spite of increasingly money woes--there have been canceled productions--there was more real competition. Many categories had the maximum number of nominees, and the final ballot yielded a record number of ties.

The biggest single winner was Speakeasy Stage Company's "BAT BOY; the Musical", which gets a second month long revival in April, making for a happy if somewhat overworked company. This parody was dubbed Best Small Musical, director Paul Daigneault was named Best Director for a small venue, leading man Miguel Cervantes got Best Actor, the whole cast was cited as Best Small Ensemble, and the show was cited as one of winning lighting designer, Karen Perlow's best. Speakeasy got everything they were nominated for. And there's a review of their current success, "A Class Act" elsewhere in this AisleSay issue.

Close seconds went to three much larger efforts. The Huntington Theatre's "A Month in the Country" got Supporting awards for senior actress Alice Duffy and local award-winner Jeremiah Kissel. Alexander Dodge 's monumental revolving set took the award for a large venue as did Michael Krass' costumes. The show had additional nominations for lead actress Jennifer Van Dyck and character actor Matt Setlock, as well as for Ensemble and Lighting. Director Nicholas Martin was also nominated as was the show itself.

The American Repertory Theatre's "Uncle Vanya" earned its director, Janos Szasz a tie in that category. Lighting designer Christopher Alkerlind got an award for his efforts. A special award was made to deaf African-American actor, Elbert Joseph, a young man nominated for best supporting actor for his role in the Wheelock Family Theatre's "Trumpet of the Swan". Members of the cast received acting nominations; Linda Powell, BKaren MacDonald --who got the supporting nod last year--, and leading men, Thomas Derrah and Arliss Howard.B Ricardo Hernandez' set and Edit Szucs' costumes as well as for Ensemble and the show itself were also nominated.

The Reagle Players' 2002 summer hit, "Singin' in the Rain" was right up there as Best Big Musical, with director Kirby Ward tieing for that award. Choreographer Peggy Hickey, who danced the Cyd Charisse role as well, took those honors. The company is planning to remount the show in June as a big kick-off for their summer season.

Coming up fast, Ronan Noone's "The Blowin of Baile Gall" presented by Boston Playwrights' took Best New Play tieing with the first part of his trilogy, "The Lepers of Baile Baiste" presented by Sugan Theatre, which won a national award last year. The third play will be up in May at Boston Playwrights', presented by the Bridge Theatre. BSusan McConnell tied for best supporting actress, while Richard Chambers from the B.U. faculty got the nod for Best Small Set. Billy Meleady who won Best Supporting Actor last year was nominated for his leading role.

Of all the productions brought in by Broadway in Boston, the Abbey Theatre of Dublin's "Medea" took top prizes. Chosen Best Drama, BFiona Shaw was named Best Actress, and director Deborah Warner was nominated in that category. "The Full Monty" also received a number of nominations, as did "Copenhagen." And as result of their collaboration with the Huntington Theatre Company, Justin Theroux took honors as the lead in "Observe the Sons of Ulster...", now playing in NYC.

Various individual awards reveal the variety of theatre in Boston. Annette Miller's performance in "Golda's Balcony" last summer in Lenox earned her a Best Solo nod. The show was seen here in January of this year. Kate Mulgrew's "Tea at Five" done by the Hartford Stage Company and seen later in NYC won her the same award for a large venue, since it played at the A.R.T. Local favorite, Paula Plum got Best Actress for her appearance in "W;t" at Lyric West and for her solo tour de force in John Kuntz's "Miss Price". That script was nominated as a new work as was Kuntz' "Jump Rope", which will play in NYC sometime soon. Comedienne Maureen Keiller tied as Best Supporting Actress for the Eartha Kitt role in Speakeasy's "The Wild Party" as well as for Lyric West's "Frankie and Johnnie..." which was a departure for her, unlike her over-the-top movie star in "Epic Proportions." There were also a number of cabaret awards, since March is Cabaret month.

First time awardees included for supporting actor, both Dorian Christian-Baucum for "Blues for an Alabama Sky" done by Our Place and Forrest Walter for "American Notes" done by Coyote Theatre, both shows at the BCA. Also for Coyote, Ramona Alexander got special notice for her Topsy/Eliza in their "Uncle Tom". Alexander opens this month at the Huntington with the lead in "Breathe, Boom" opposite Jacqui Parker who shown in the lead in "Blues..." And for the New Rep, costumer Emily Dunn was recognized for her work on "Tartuffe"

Finally , Ron Ritchell and Polly Hogan, received IRNE's new A Life in the Theatre Award, named after Kenneth A. McDonald, a longtime Boston theatre maven. For more than thirty years they ran small theatre companies, first on Beacon Hill in extremely intimate confines, most recently out in Wellesley at Lyric West. Though currently on sabbatical, no one will be surprised if they don't start producing again, though as Ron wryly points out, one million dollar capital campaign is enough for one life time. It'll be somebody else's money.

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