The 2012-2013 season at Chicago area Equity contract theaters was an exceptionally strong one, but Monday night’s 45th annual Jeff Awards ceremony at the Drury Lane Theatre bestowed honors on the chosen few.
Steppenwolf Theatre’s exceptional rendering of “Good People,” David Lindsey-Abaire’s timely drama about this country’s class divide, and the plight of the working poor, received the award for best production of a play by a large-tier company, with Mariann Mayberry winning the best actress award for her searing performance as the South Boston woman who never made it out of the neighborhood.
Named best production by a midsize company was TimeLine Theatre’s “33 Variations,” Moises Kaufman’s complex weave of the obsessions of Beethoven, in late stage deafness, and a contemporary musicologist who is suffering from a debilitating disease.
The Chicago Shakespeare Theater production of Stephen Sondheim’s classic, “Sunday in the Park with George,” inspired by the Georges Seurat painting in the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection, was named best large-scale musical. The midsize musical award went to Porchlight Music Theatre’s “A Class Act”, with Bill Larkin named best actor in a musical for his uncanny portrayal of Edward Kleban, best known as the eccentric lyricist of “A Chorus Line.”
“The Second City Guide to the Opera,” the first joint comedy venture by The Lyric Opera of Chicago and The Second City, got the nod for best revue of the season. And in the always prized “best ensemble” category it was The Q Brother’s rollicking hip-hop production, “Othello: The Remix,” produced by Chicago Shakespeare, that received the award.
Michael Shannon (“Man of Steel”) was named best actor in a play for his role in Sam Shepard’s “Simpatico” at A Red Orchid Theatre. Christine Sherrill received the award for best actress for her galvanic turn as Norma Desmond, the faded silent screen star in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Sunset Boulevard,” produced at Drury Lane Oakbrook. And Alexis J. Rogers took the top honor for solo performance for her knockout turn as jazz legend Billie Holiday in Porchlight Music Theatre’s “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”.
A special Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to veteran actor Dale Benson, who was clearly the great sentimental favorite of the evening. Benson, whose career has spanned more than half century of continuous work in Chicagoland theater, has delighted audiences in scores of roles, from musicals to the classics, and in comedies both vintage and contemporary. Tribute was paid y a choreal of actors in a musical montage fittingly set to “Make ’Em Laugh.” Benson has long demonstrated his ability to do precisely that.
Following is a complete list of the 2013 Equity Jeff Award recipients:
± PRODUCTION, PLAY (LARGE THEATER): “Good People,” Steppenwolf Theatre Company.
± PRODUCTION, PLAY (MIDSIZE THEATER): “33 Variations,” TimeLine Theatre Company.
± PRODUCTION, MUSICAL (LARGE): “Sunday in the Park with George,” Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
± PRODUCTION, MUSICAL (MIDSIZE): “A Class Act,” Porchlight Music Theatre.
± PRODUCTION, REVUE: “The Second City Guide to the Opera,” Lyric Opera of Chicago and The Second City.
± DIRECTOR, PLAY: William Brown, “The Liar” (Writers Theatre).
± DIRECTOR, MUSICAL: Gary Griffin, “Sunday in the Park with George” (Chicago Shakespeare Theater).
± DIRECTOR, REVUE: Billy Bungeroth, “The Second City Guide to the Opera.”
± ENSEMBLE: “Othello: The Remix,” Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Richard Jordan Productions Ltd.
± PRINCIPAL ACTOR, PLAY: Michael Shannon, “Simpatico” (A Red Orchid Theatre).
± PRINCIPAL ACTOR, MUSICAL: Bill Larkin, “A Class Act.”
± PRINCIPAL ACTRESS, PLAY: Mariann Mayberry, “Good People.”
± PRINCIPAL ACTRESS, MUSICAL: Christine Sherrill, “Sunset Boulevard” (Drury Lane Productions).
± ACTOR/ACTRESS IN A REVUE: David M. Lutken – “Woody Sez: The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie” – Northlight Theatre
± SOLO PERFORMANCE: Alexis J. Rogers, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” (Porchlight Music Theatre).
± SUPPORTING ACTOR, PLAY: Raymond Fox, “Blood and Gifts” (TimeLine Theatre Company).
± SUPPORTING ACTOR, MUSICAL: AndréDe Shields, “The Jungle Book” (Goodman Theatre in association with Huntington Theatre Company).
± SUPPORTING ACTRESS, PLAY: Elizabeth Ledo, “Tartuffe” (Court Theatre).
± SUPPORTING ACTRESS, MUSICAL: Bethany Thomas, “South Pacific” (Marriott Theatre).
± CAMEO PERFORMANCE: Callie Johnson, “Pal Joey” (Porchlight Music Theatre).
± NEW WORK: Luis Alfaro, “Mojada” (Victory Gardens Theater) and Rajiv Joseph, “The Lake Effect” (Silk Road Rising).
± NEW ADAPTATION: David Rice, “Cymbeline” (First Folio Theatre).
± CHOREOGRAPHY: Linda Fortunato, “42nd Street” (Theatre at the Center).
± ORIGINAL MUSIC IN A PLAY: Michael Keefe and David Rice, “Cymbeline.”
± MUSIC DIRECTION: Doug Peck, “The Jungle Book.”
± SCENIC DESIGN (LARGE): David Gallo, “Head of Passes” (Steppenwolf Theatre Company).
± SCENIC DESIGN (MIDSIZE): Angela Weber Miller, “Edward Albee’s Seascape” (Remy Bumppo Theatre Company).
± LIGHTING DESIGN (LARGE): T.J. Gerckens, “Metamorphoses” (Lookingglass Theatre Company).
± LIGHTING DESIGN (MIDSIZE): Brian Sidney Bembridge, “Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West” (TimeLine Theatre Company).
± COSTUME DESIGN (LARGE): Susan E. Mickey, “The School for Lies” (Chicago Shakespeare Theater).
± COSTUME DESIGN (MIDSIZE): Emily Waecker, “You Never Can Tell” (Remy Bumppo Theatre Company).
± SOUND DESIGN (LARGE): James Savage, “Othello: The Remix.”
± SOUND DESIGN (MIDSIZE): Martin Desjardins, Andre Pluess and Christian Gero, “columbinus” (American Theater Company).
± PROJECTIONS/MEDIA DESIGN: Mike Tutaj, “Sunday in the Park with George.”
± FIGHT DIRECTION: John Tovar, “The Opponent” (A Red Orchid Theatre).
± WIG AND MAKE-UP DESIGN: Melissa Veal, “The School for Lies.”
± SPECIAL LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Dale Benson.