Awards season is upon us. Monday night, an eager throng of the theater faithful gathered at National Theatre to hear this year’s Helen Hayes Award nominations -— 250 in 47 categories and grouped in “Helen” or “Hayes” cohorts depending on Actors Equity affiliation — read by a half dozen of last year’s winners.
Signature Theatre’s musical “Girlfriend,’ a charming story of unlikely young gay love has earned a heap of Helen nominations for outstanding musical, outstanding director for out director Matthew Gardiner, and outstanding lead actor for its talented stars out actor Jimmy Mavrikes and Lukas James Miller. Let’s hope they don’t split the vote and cancel each other out.
Director Gardiner is also nominated for “Passion,” his exquisite Signature production of Stephen Sondheim’s improbable romance between a dashing young Italian officer and an ailing but controlling woman gloriously played by Natascia Diaz who is nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical-Hayes. But unpardonably, “Passion” has been overlooked in the outstanding musical category.
The costume category is packed with talent: Nominees include designer Robert Perdziola for “Passion,” Alejo Vietti who infused Arena Stage’s “Anything Goes” with luxury ocean liner duds, sporty and soigne, Ivania Stack for Imagination Stage’s “Cinderella,” Ana Kuzmanic for Shakespeare Theatre Company’s record-breaking “Camelot,” and Kara Harmon for Ford’s Theatre “The Wiz” (one of the Hayes productions’ 13 nominations).
In the Outstanding Direction in a Play–Hayes category, Marti Lyons is nominated for both Studio Theatre’s “The Wolves,” a kinetically staged coming-of-age dramedy surrounding a girls’ soccer team, and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s “Botticelli in the Fire,” a sexy take on the gay painter’s life. Out actor Jon Hudson Odom is deservedly nominated for assaying the title character.
Out actor Justin Weaks is nominated for the James MacArthur Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play-Hayes (James was Helen’s actor son best known for TV’s “Hawaii Five-O”) for playing multiple roles in Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s production of out playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins’ quirky tale of death in the workplace, “Gloria.”
Nominees in running for the black and gold-colored prizes named for the Washington native and First Lady of American Theater are selected by vetted judges with whom you may or may not agree.
Sometimes they’re right like with like with nominating out playwright Ken Urban’ “The Remains” for the MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play or Musical (Hayes), named for Helen Hayes’ successful playwright husband who wrote “The Front Page.”
Urban’s memorable family dramedy about a same-sex couple whose landmark marriage is crumbling, premiered at Studio Theatre in May. Two of its cast members -— out actor Glenn Fitzgerald and Danielle Skraastad — have been singled out for well-merited acting nominations, and Studio’s artistic director David Muse is up for an outstanding director award.
Out director Alan Paul is nominated for his deliciously fun take on Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors,” set in 1960s Athens. The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Hayes production also earned a lead acting nod for the reliably hilarious Veanne Cox.
Arena Stage’s rousing and wonderful production of Cole Porters’ “Anything Goes” has garnered eight nods including nominations for director Molly Smith (Arena’s out artistic director) and triple threat Corbin Blue for his de-lovely turn as lovelorn, young stockbroker Billy Crocker, and a supporting actress nomination for Maria Rizzo who was terrific as lively gun moll, Erma.
Handsome, talented Ephraim Sykes is nominated for Outstanding Performer-Visiting Production for creating David Ruffin in the Temptations musical bio, “Ain’t Too Proud,” that ran at the Kennedy Center in the summer.
Nominees still have a while to bite their nails. The typically fun and cumbersome ceremony where winners are announced doesn’t happen until Monday, May 13 at The Anthem.
A full list of nominees is at theatrewashington.org.