| WALKING ON AIR
|By DAVID LEFKOWITZ
Published May 20 2008
With five wins, including best musical revival and best actor in a musical, South Pacific was the biggest victor of the night at the 53rd annual Drama Desk Awards, though Gypsy and August: Osage County also had strong showings.
Executive produced by Robert R. Blume and held May 18 at F.H. LaGuardia Concert Hall in Lincoln Center, the Deskies (as the title of show cast, which emceed the event, dubbed them), scattered its prizes among several shows, including two for Boeing-Boeing (best play revival and actor - Mark Rylance) and three for Passing Strange (musical, music and lyrics). Three was also a lucky number for Best Play, Best Actress and Best Play Director winner August: Osage County and for Gypsy, whose trio of stars - Patti LuPone, Laura Benanti and Boyd Gaines - all took home statuettes.
Although the Drama Desk emphasizes that it makes no distinction between Broadway, Off and Off-Off-Broadway productions, especially for nominations, only two off-Broadway productions won competitive awards: Forbidden Broadway, for revue, and The New Century's featured actress, Linda Lavin. The Keane Company's revival of A.R Gurney's The Dining Room shared with The Homecoming a special Ensemble Performance award.
The most memorable moments of the ceremony included a pre-planned sight gag in which nominee Kelli O'Hara was tased by the title of show crew for making an overlong introduction. (It served as a warning to other presenters and a promise to the audience that the show would come in at under three hours. In fact, the intermissionless event lasted only slightly longer than two.) In accepting a special career award, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof star James Earl Jones noted that he continues to learn something every time he walks onstage, often from the youngest person in the cast. Later on, Thurgood solo winner Laurence Fishburne would single out Jones as his major acting influence.
Nominees for the 2007-08 Drama Desk Awards were announced April 28 at the New York Friars Club. Organization President William Wolf said at the awards ceremony that the Drama Desk nominating committee evaluated more than 450 productions to come up with its slate this season.
Founded in 1955 to complement the Broadway-only Tonys, the Drama Desk strove to cover All New York theater productions...celebrating creative stage achievements wherever they were presented." Originally called The Vernon Rice Awards (for the New York Post theater critic), the organization changed its moniker to Drama Desk in 1964.
Winners of the Deskies are below, in bold:
*Tracy Letts, August: Osage County
Alan Ayckbourn, Intimate Exchanges
Rinde Eckert, Horizon
Liz Flahive, From Up Here
Horton Foote, Dividing the Estate
Tom Stoppard, Rock 'n' Roll
A Catered Affair
The Glorious Ones
The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island
Outstanding Revival of a Play:
The Country Girl
The Dining Room
The Return of the Prodigal
Outstanding Revival of a Musical:
Sunday in the Park with George
Take Me Along