Enter triumphant

This year’s Elliot Norton Awards
By CAROLYN CLAY  |  May 14, 2008

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MARTIN NUMBER TWO is headed for a summer with the Williamstown Theather Festival.
It was a Martin love fest Monday night at the 26th annual Elliot Norton Awards, Boston theater’s annual pat on the head. Tony- and Emmy-winning actress Andrea Martin was the guest of honor and introduced long-time colleague and outgoing Huntington Theatre Company artistic director Nicholas Martin (no relation), who was celebrated on his way out the door with the Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence. Martin number one is currently playing Frau Brucher in the musical version of Young Frankenstein on Broadway. Martin number two, about to turn 70, takes over the reins of the Williamstown Theatre Festival this summer.

Actor Jeremiah Kissel described the ebullient soon-to-be-ex-Huntington honcho as “the Typhoid Mary of joy.” But Nicky Martin’s was not the only happy face at this year’s Norties, which saw the bestowal of 19 other awards. Honored productions included My Fair Lady (outstanding visiting production, presented by Broadway Across America), the Huntington’s Present Laughter (outstanding production by a large company), New Repertory Theatre’s The Clean House (outstanding production by a midsize company), Boston Theatre Works’ Angels in America (outstanding production by a small company), Zeitgeist Stage Company’s epic The Kentucky Cycle (outstanding production by a fringe company), and American Repertory Theatre’s A Marvelous Party: The Noël Coward Celebration (outstanding musical production). The award for outstanding solo performance went to Nilaja Sun, who brought her one-woman, multicharacter piece about teaching tough in inner-city New York schools, No Child . . ., to ART.

Actors generally take to recognition, and some was handed out by the Norton Awards selection committee of critics (including this one). Thespian honorees included Alf alum Max Wright for his profound and zany turn in ART’s No Man’s Land; Nancy E. Carroll for the Huntington’s Brendan and Present Laughter; Maurice E. Parent for work with Boston Theatre Works, New Rep, and SpeakEasy Stage Company; and Rachel Harker for A Streetcar Named Desire and A Pinter Duet at New Rep and The Cutting at Stoneham Theatre. Lisa O’Hare, the crystalline Eliza Doolittle of the touring My Fair Lady, won kudos for outstanding musical performance.

Directing honors went to beloved octogenarian helmer David Wheeler for No Man’s Land; SpeakEasy artistic director Paul Daigneault for Parade, Some Men, and Zanna, Don’t!; and Jason Southerland and Nancy Curran Willis for Boston Theatre Works’ Angels in America. Paul Grellong’s Radio Free Emerson, at Rhode Island’s Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre, got the nod for best new script. And Patti Colombo’s athletic frontier dances for North Shore Music Theatre’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers were awarded for outstanding choreography. On the design front, Alexander Dodge was honored for his lavish set for the Huntington’s Present Laughter and for Brendan (which featured a replica of Kenmore Square). On a smaller scale, Cristina Todesco, Deb Sullivan, and Jamie Whoolery took home design awards for set, lighting, and projections for New Rep’s The Clean House.

For the first time, StageSource teamed up with the Boston Theatre Critics Association and presented its annual Theatre Hero Award at the Norties. This year’s recipient was SpeakEasy Stage Company, the growth of which over 16 years was said to mirror that of Boston theater. Onward and upward.

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