What's New on the Rialto
2016 Lucille Lortel Awards
By Michael Portantiere
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
Guards at the Taj
Tappin' Thru Life
The Wildness: Sky-Pony's Rock Fairy Tale
'Tis Pity She's a Whore
Mother Courage And Her Children
The Robber Bridegroom
Women Without Men
The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey
Mike Birbiglia: Thank God For Jokes
Rachel Chavkin, The Royale
Alexandra Beller, Bedlam's Sense & Sensibility
Denis Arndt, Heisenberg
Ito Aghayere, Familiar
Gabriel Ebert, Preludes
Sophia Anne Caruso, Lazarus
Sanjit De Silva, Dry Powder
Alana Arenas, Head of Passes
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical
Greg Hildreth, The Robber Bridegroom
Eisa Davis, Preludes
Mimi Lien, John
Martha Hally, Women Without Men
Christopher Akerlind, Grounded
Matt Hubbs, The Royale
Peter Nigrini, Projection Design, Grounded