Jeff Award winners announced amid remembrance of season of losses in Chicago theater community

SHARE Jeff Award winners announced amid remembrance of season of losses in Chicago theater community

Chicago’s theater community came together Monday night at the Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre for the 46th annual Jeff Awards, that ever-exhilarating celebration of excellence in the area’s Equity contract theaters. And this year’s ceremony functioned as something of a rite of renewal, too — a reminder of the extraordinary work that continually graces the city’s stages despite the recent loss of many much-admired artists (Sheldon Patinkin, Bernie Yvon, Molly Glynn and others), and everything from leadership shakeups (at Steppenwolf) to a riverfront spectacle disappointment (Redmoon).

Two breathtaking productions took the best play awards. Writers Theatre of Glencoe, soon to break ground for its lavish new home, received the “large theater” award for its intimate staging of “The Dance of Death,” a battle of nerves between a retired military officer and his wife. The show’s two principal actors, Larry Yando and Shannon Cochran, also won both leading actor awards.

In the “midsize theater” category, it was TimeLine Theatre’s impassioned revival of “The Normal Heart,” Larry Kramer’s tale of the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York, that took the honors, with Nick Bowling winning the award for his superb direction.

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The Goodman Theatre’s exuberant revival of “Brigadoon” (pictured above), the tale of two Americans who find themselves in a magical Scottish town, was named best production of a musical by a large theater. “Hank Williams: Lost Highway”, a hugely engaging biography of the singer/songwriter, produced by American Blues Theater, won for midsize musical, with leading actor Matthew Brumlow (pictured below), and music director Malcolm Ruhl earning much-deserved awards.

In the revue category, Porchlight Music Theatre’s wildly exuberant “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” the ever popular show celebrating Fats Waller, won for best production, with awards going to both its supremely talented director, Brenda Didier, and its pianist/conductor, Austin Cook.

The always prestigious Ensemble Award, sponsored by Actors’ Equity Association, went to the Seanachaí Theatre Company production of “The Seafarer,” Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s tale of a decidedly haunted Christmas Eve, with a cast that included Brad Armacost, Ira Amyx, Shane Kenyon, Kevin Theis and Dan Waller. (Seanachaí recently renamed itself Irish Theatre of Chicago.)

The award for New Work went to Rebecca Gilman whose play, “Luna Gale,” about a social worker at the center of a child custody battle, premiered at the Goodman Theatre and will be remounted at the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles this winter. John Mossman won the New Adaptation award for “The Goddess,” his enthralling reimagining of Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay about a small town girl’s struggle for Hollywood stardom, presented by The Artistic Home.

The Jeffs ceremony featured an emotional photographic memorial that honored 24 Chicago theater professionals who died in the past year, with musical accompaniment by the cast of Theatre at the Center’s “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” Actor Bernie Yvon was driving to rehearsal for that show at the Munster, Indiana venue when he was killed in a car crash.

Following is a complete list of the Jeff Award winners:

± PRODUCTION, PLAY (LARGE): “The Dance of Death,” Writers Theatre.

± PRODUCTION, PLAY (MIDSIZE): “The Normal Heart,” TimeLine Theatre Company.

± PRODUCTION, MUSICAL (LARGE): “Brigadoon,” Goodman Theatre.

± PRODUCTION, MUSICAL (MIDSIZE): “Hank Williams: Lost Highway,” American Blues Theater.

± PRODUCTION, REVUE: “Ain’t Misbehavin, ” Porchlight Music Theatre.

± DIRECTOR, PLAY: Nick Bowling, “The Normal Heart.”

± DIRECTOR, MUSICAL: William Osetek , “Next to Normal,” Drury Lane Productions.

± DIRECTOR, REVUE: Brenda Didier , “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”

± ENSEMBLE: “The Seafarer,” Seanachaí Theatre Company.

± PRINCIPAL ACTOR, PLAY: Larry Yando, “The Dance of Death.”

± PRINCIPAL ACTOR, MUSICAL: Matthew Brumlow – “Hank Williams: Lost Highway.”

± PRINCIPAL ACTRESS, PLAY: Shannon Cochran, “The Dance of Death.”

± PRINCIPAL ACTRESS, MUSICAL: Susie McMonagle, “Next to Normal.”

± ACTOR IN A REVUE: John Hartman, “Depraved New World,” The Second City.

± ACTRESS IN A REVUE: Renee Matthews, “Old Jews Telling Jokes,” Daniel Okrent & Peter Gethers, Richard Frankel, Tom Viertel, Steven Baruch, and Marc Routh.

± SOLO PERFORMANCE: Gwendolyn Whiteside, “Grounded” (American Blues Theater).

± SUPPORTING ACTOR, PLAY: Mike Nussbaum, “Smokefall” (Goodman Theatre and South Coast Repertory).

± SUPPORTING ACTOR, MUSICAL: Mark David Kaplan, “Les Misérables” (Drury Lane Productions).

± SUPPORTING ACTRESS, PLAY: Sandra Marquez, “A View From the Bridge” (Teatro Vista).

± SUPPORTING ACTRESS, MUSICAL: Jessica Rush, “Gypsy” (Chicago Shakespeare Theater).

± NEW WORK: Rebecca Gilman, “Luna Gale” (Goodman Theatre).

± NEW ADAPTATION: John Mossman, “The Goddess” (The Artistic Home).

± CHOREOGRAPHY: Rachel Rockwell, “Brigadoon.”

± ORIGINAL MUSIC IN A PLAY: PigPen Theatre Co., “The Old Man and the Old Moon” (Writers Theatre).

± MUSIC DIRECTION: Malcolm Ruhl, “Hank Williams: Lost Highway.”

± SCENIC DESIGN (LARGE): Collette Pollard , “In the Garden: A Darwinian Love Story” (Lookingglass Theatre Company).

± SCENIC DESIGN (MIDSIZE): Katie-Bell Springmann, “Cock” (Profiles Theatre).

± LIGHTING DESIGN (LARGE): William Kirkham, “The Little Prince” (Lookingglass Theatre Company in association with The Actors Gymnasium).

± LIGHTING DESIGN (MIDSIZE): Rebecca A. Barrett and Lee Keenan, “Dorian” (The House Theatre of Chicago).

± COSTUME DESIGN (LARGE): Mara Blumenfeld, “Brigadoon.”

± COSTUME DESIGN (MIDSIZE): Bill Morey, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” (Porchlight Music Theatre).

± SOUND DESIGN (LARGE): Mikhail Fiksel, “The Old Man and the Old Moon.”

± SOUND DESIGN (MIDSIZE): Lindsay Jones, “Grounded.”

± PROJECTIONS / VIDEO DESIGN: Sage Marie Carte, “Les Misérables.”

± ARTISTIC SPECIALIZATION: Austin Cook (Piano/Conductor), “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ,” and Jeff Klapperich (Portrait Artist), “Dorian.”

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