The Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee has announced 121 nominees in 27 categories for its 32nd annual celebration of Chicago theatre excellence, scheduled for Oct. 30 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. The nominations were drawn from 118 productions staged by 55 producing organizations working under Actors' Equity Association contracts.
Just in time for the opening of its 25th anniversary season, Steppenwolf Theatre Company is in contention for a basket of awards, after being noticeably absent the last few years. Steppenwolf received eight Jeff nominations for its productions of "Closer," "Hysteria," "Valparaiso," and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"; the latter including Principal Actor-Play (Gary Sinise as McMurphy) and the highly coveted Ensemble category.
But Steppenwolf didn't win the numbers game. The Goodman Theatre did with 13 nominations, including Production-Play and New Work for "Boy Gets Girl" by Rebecca Gilman; and Production-Play, New Adaptation, Director-Play and original music for "The Odyssey," written and staged by Mary Zimmerman.
Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace and Northlight Theatre received 10 nominations each. One of the area's major musical houses, Drury Lane Oakbrook picked up Production-Musical and Director-Musical nominations for "1776" and for "My One and Only," which added a Choreography nod (Tammy Mader) as well. Northlight's 10 came in a variety of categories including Principal Actor-Play nominations for veterans Mike Nussbaum in "Visiting Mr. Green" and Tony Mockus for "God's Man in Texas."
Northlight also received several nominations each for its intimate stagings of "Side Show" and "Dinah Was."
Typical of the Jeff Award nominations in the last half-dozen years, the power theatres were balanced by triumphant smaller troupes. Apple Tree Theatre, with a home venue of just 150 seats, also picked up 10 nominations including Production-Musical, Director-Musical (Peter Amster) and Choreography (noted modern dance maker Randy Duncan) for "Once on This Island" and Production-Play, Director-Play (Joe Calarco) and Ensemble for "Shakespeare's R&J." The latter show received five nominations in all, which Apple Tree shares with Chicago Shakespeare Theatre (CST) as co-producer. On its own, CST received six additional nominations for its productions of "Antony and Cleopatra," "All's Well That Ends Well" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The last was nominated for Production-Play, but received only one other nod, for sound design.
The other small theatre that scored very big was Famous Door Theatre Company (whose production of "Beautiful Thing" was seen Off-Broadway last season). Famous Door took seven nominations including Production-Play, Director-Play (Calvin MacLean), Ensemble and Principal Actor-Play (Frank Nall) for its stunning English-language production of "Ghetto" by Israeli playwright Joshua Sobol.
In all, some 25 resident theatres or producers received nominations in a refreshing mix of large and small, owing, in part, to the continuing success of Tier "N," the entry level of the AEA Chicago Area Theatre (CAT) contract.
Additional top category nominees included Production-Play, "The Learned Ladies," Court Theatre; Production-Musical, "A Chorus Line," Drury Lane Evergreen Park, and "Joseph/Technicolor Dreamcoat," Marriott Theatre; Ensemble, "Among the Thugs," Next Theatre, "A Chorus Line," Drury Lane Evergreen Park, and "Killer Joe," produced by Darren Lee Cole and Scott Morfee.