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2016 Lucille Lortel Awards
By Michael Portantiere

Also see Michael's photos of the red carpet arrivals.


Omar Metwally and Arian Moayed
The Guards at the Taj
Photo by Doug Hamilton
Guards at the Taj (Outstanding Play), FUTURITY (Outstanding Musical), and The Robber Bridegroom (Outstanding Revival) were among the big winners at the 2016 Lucille Lortel Awards honoring excellence in Off-Broadway theater, in a ceremony hosted by the adept and charming Zachary Levi at the NYU Skirball Center on Sunday, May 1.

Liesl Tommy won the Outstanding Director Award for Eclipsed. The honorees in the acting categories were Timothée Chalamet (Lead Actor in a Play, Prodigal Son); Phylicia Rashad (Lead Actress in a Play, Head of Passes); Steven Pasquale (Lead Actor in a Musical, The Robber Bridegroom); Annette O'Toole (Lead Actress in a Musical, Southern Comfort); Matt McGrath (Featured Actor in a Play, The Legend of Georgia McBride); Alana Arenas (Featured Actress in a Play, Head of Passes); Jeffrey Kuhn (Featured Actor in a Musical, Southern Comfort); and Leslie Kritzer (Featured Actress in a Musical, The Robber Bridegroom). The winner for Outstanding Solo Show was Grounded, written by George Brant and performed by Anne Hathaway.

Highlights of the show included the opening number, "Off-Broadway Melody"; a moving "In Memoriam" video, accompanied by Kecia Lewis beautifully singing "The Human Heart" from Once on This Island; and the inspiring speech by Lifetime Achievement Award winner James Houghton of Signature Theatre, who received an equally eloquent introduction by Laura Linney. The evening's nominees and presenters included representatives of several shows that have moved from Off-Broadway to Broadway, such as Hamilton, The Humans, and Eclipsed. (Hamilton was a big winner at last year's Lortels for its original Off-Broadway production at The Public Theater, so was not in competition this year.) Among the many notables present: Anna Chlumsky, Daveed Diggs, John Gallagher, Jr., Renée Elise Goldsberry, Jonathan Groff, Carol Kane, Molly Ringwald, Michael Shannon, Phillipa Soo, Michael Urie, Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue, Chris Sarandon and Joanna Gleason.

The event had a few glitches and oddities. A transparent teleprompter screen placed directly in front of the podium stage right caused a glare in the eyes of some audience members for the first part of the show, requiring the resourceful Levi to remedy the situation by changing the angle of the screen. Timothée Chalamet was a no-show, and apparently no one had been designated to accept his award for him, resulting in an awkward moment. And James Lapine, introducing a number from Falsettoland, began his remarks by saying he didn't remember that the original Off-Broadway production of the show had won a Lortel Award. But overall, the ceremony moved along professionally and entertainingly at a brisk two-and-a-half hours in length.

At the red carpet press op and reception before the ceremony, several of the nominees and presenters spoke with Talkin' Broadway. Among them were Steven Pasquale and Leslie Kritzer, who later that evening won awards for their performances in The Robber Bridegroom. Of their experience playing the show at the Roundabout's Laura Pels Theatre, Pasquale said: "It's really fun. It's as fun as it seems in the audience. We're having a great, great time." Kritzer enthused, "Oh my god, I'm having a blast. I love every second of it."

Jane Houdyshell, asked if the audience response to The Humans on Broadway is different from the response when that show played Off-Broadway earlier in the season, also at the Laura Pels, commented: "It's essentially the same. I guess I would say that the Broadway houses are somewhat more vocal, in a way. The Roundabout audiences were lovely, but I think Broadway attracts a wider, more diverse lot of people who tend to be more vociferous. Some nights the humor in the play gets more response than Off-Broadway, sometimes not, but this play always lands with people."

Renée Elise Goldsberry of Hamilton, asked if it has been a challenge for her to remain grounded in the face of the show's phenomenal success and the tremendous publicity surrounding it, replied: "That's such a wonderful question, and it is absolutely not a challenge at all. It's humbling, actually, to try to live up to the beauty of the work every night, and the expectation of the audience. I would always rather be an underdog; I would always rather surprise somebody who doesn't have high expectations, and then they say, 'Oh, that was actually good!' The pressure of having to live up to everyone's expectations can be daunting. Fortunately, I don't have to do it by myself; I'm supported by this great work and this awesome cast. And I don't really feel like the play is our own; I feel like it's been given away to New York, and to the world. I just have the privilege of trying to keep it together through the three hours, so I don't blow anyone's experience."

A complete list of winners and nominees follows.

Award recipients in bold


Outstanding Play

The Christians
Produced by Playwrights Horizons and Center Theatre Group
Written by Lucas Hnath

Eclipsed
Produced by The Public Theater
Written by Danai Gurira

Gloria
Produced by Vineyard Theatre
Written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

Guards at the Taj
Produced by Atlantic Theater Company
Written by Rajiv Joseph

John
Produced by Signature Theatre
Written by Annie Baker


Outstanding Musical

FUTURITY
Produced by Soho Rep. and Ars Nova in association with Carole Shorenstein Hays
Music by César Alvarez with The Lisps, Lyrics and Book by César Alvarez

Iowa
Produced by Playwrights Horizons
Written by Jenny Schwartz, Music by Todd Almond, Lyrics by Todd Almond and Jenny Schwartz

Southern Comfort
Produced by The Public Theater
Book and Lyrics by Dan Collins, Music by Julianne Wick Davis, Based on the Film by Kate Davis, Conceived for the Stage by Robert DuSold and Thomas Caruso

Tappin' Thru Life
Produced by Leonard Soloway, Bud Martin, Riki Kane Larimer, Jeff Wolk, Phyllis and Buddy Aerenson, Darren P. DeVerna/Jeremiah J. Harris and the Shubert Organization
Written by Maurice Hines

The Wildness: Sky-Pony's Rock Fairy Tale
Produced by Ars Nova in collaboration with The Play Company
Text by Kyle Jarrow & Lauren Worsham, Songs by Kyle Jarrow


Outstanding Revival

'Tis Pity She's a Whore
Produced by Red Bull Theater
Written by John Ford

Cloud Nine
Produced by Atlantic Theater Company
Written by Caryl Churchill

Mother Courage And Her Children
Produced by Classic Stage Company
Written by Bertolt Brecht, Translated by John Willett

The Robber Bridegroom
Produced by Roundabout Theatre Company in association with Daryl Roth
Book and Lyrics by Alfred Uhry, Music by Robert Waldman

Women Without Men
Produced by Mint Theater Company
Written by Hazel Ellis


Outstanding Solo Show

The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey
Produced by Darren Bagert, Daryl Roth, Co-Produced by Jane Dubin, Curtis Forsythe, Michael Mayer, Diane Procter, Seaview Productions and Minerva Productions/Joshua Goodman
Written and Performed by James Lecesne

Forever
Produced by New York Theatre Workshop
Created and Performed by Dael Orlandersmith

Grounded
Produced by The Public Theater
Written by George Brant
Performed by Anne Hathaway

Mike Birbiglia: Thank God For Jokes
Produced by Mike Berkowitz, Joseph Birbiglia, Ron Delsener and Mike Lavoie
Written and Performed by Mike Birbiglia


Outstanding Director

Rachel Chavkin, The Royale
Anne Kauffman, Marjorie Prime
Amy Morton, Guards at the Taj
Liesl Tommy, Eclipsed
Eric Tucker, Bedlam's Sense & Sensibility


Outstanding Choreographer

Alexandra Beller, Bedlam's Sense & Sensibility
Martha Clarke, Angel Reapers
Maurice Hines, Tappin' Thru Life
Paul McGill, The Legend of Georgia McBride
David Neumann, FUTURITY


Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play

Denis Arndt, Heisenberg
Reed Birney, The Humans
Timothée Chalamet, Prodigal Son
Andrew Garman, The Christians
Ed Harris, Buried Child


Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play

Ito Aghayere, Familiar
Georgia Engel, John
Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans
Chinasa Ogbuagu, Sojourners
Phylicia Rashad, Head of Passes


Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical

Gabriel Ebert, Preludes
Michael C. Hall, Lazarus
Maurice Hines, Tappin' Thru Life
Michael Luwoye, Invisible Thread
Steven Pasquale, The Robber Bridegroom


Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical

Sophia Anne Caruso, Lazarus
Alison Fraser, First Daughter Suite
Annette O'Toole, Southern Comfort
Mary Testa, First Daughter Suite
Sammy Tunis, FUTURITY


Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play

Sanjit De Silva, Dry Powder
Jonathan Hogan, Hold On To Me Darling
Matt McGrath, The Legend of Georgia McBride
Paul Sparks, Buried Child
C.J. Wilson, Hold On To Me Darling


Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play

Alana Arenas, Head of Passes
Lauren Klein, The Humans
Jeanine Serralles, Gloria
Lois Smith, John
Myra Lucretia Taylor, Familiar

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical

Greg Hildreth, The Robber Bridegroom
Jeffrey Kuhn, Southern Comfort
Or Matias, Preludes
Chris Sarandon, Preludes
Kevin Zak, Clinton the Musical


Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical

Eisa Davis, Preludes
Karen Kandel, FUTURITY
Leslie Kritzer, Gigantic
Leslie Kritzer, The Robber Bridegroom
Annie McNamara, Iowa


Outstanding Scenic Design

Mimi Lien, John
Tim Mackabee, Guards at the Taj
G.W. Mercier, Head of Passes
Emily Orling and Matt Saunders, FUTURITY
David Zinn, The Humans


Outstanding Costume Design

Martha Hally, Women Without Men
Toni-Leslie James, First Daughter Suite
Clint Ramos, Eclipsed
Anita Yavich, The Legend of Georgia McBride
Donna Zakowska, Angel Reapers


Outstanding Lighting Design

Christopher Akerlind, Grounded
Mark Barton, John
Ben Stanton, The Legend of Georgia McBride
Justin Townsend, The Humans
David Weiner, Guards at the Taj


Outstanding Sound Design

Matt Hubbs, The Royale
Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen, Guards at the Taj
Fitz Patton, The Humans
Will Pickens, Grounded
Bray Poor, Buzzer


Special Awards


Outstanding Alternative Theatrical Experience

Angel Reapers
By Martha Clarke and Alfred Uhry
Produced by Signature Theatre

Peter Nigrini, Projection Design, Grounded


Honorary Awards


Lifetime Achievement Award

James Houghton


Playwrights' Sidewalk Inductee

Suzan-Lori Parks






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