With nearly 40 shows opening on Broadway during the theatre season just ended, the 2005 Drama League Awards had no shortage of productions and performances from which to choose when the honors were handed out at a Fri., May 13, gala luncheon at New York's Grand Hyatt Hotel. Indeed, the accolades were rather generously spread around.
Perhaps the most sought-after prize, at least in the Broadway acting community, is the Distinguished Performance Award. This year it went to Norbert Leo Butz, who is currently appearing in the musical "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels." He joins a list of distinguished previous awardees that includes Liam Neeson, Hugh Jackman, Glenn Close, Alec Guinness, James Earl Jones, Julie Harris, Jeremy Irons, Mary-Louise Parker, Ian McKellen, Bernadette Peters, and Christopher Plummer.
There were no buts about John Patrick Shanley's "Doubt" adding the Drama League Award for distinguished production of a play to its ever-growing roster of honors, while Butz's own "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" was once again feted, this time for distinguished production of a musical.
The glitzy revival of "La Cage aux Folles" was awarded the prize for distinguished revival of a musical, while Roundabout Theatre Company's mounting of the courage-inspiring "Twelve Angry Men" was lauded as distinguished revival of a play.
A number of preannounced special awards were also handed out at the ceremony: "Spamalot" director Mike Nichols was presented with the Julia Hansen Award for Excellence in Directing by one of the production's co-creators, Eric Idle. The BMI Musical Theatre Workshop received the award for distinguished achievement in musical theatre, accepted by two of its alumni, Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, the composer-lyricists of "Avenue Q." And the Billy Rose Theatre Collection of the New York Public Library at Lincoln Center received the Unique Contribution to the Theatre Award.
Originally called the New York Center of the Drama League of America, a national organization begun in Chicago in 1910 to "awaken public interest in the art of drama," the Drama League of New York was incorporated separately in 1916. The league's inaugural award, for acting, was established in 1935 and honored actress Katharine Cornell.
Hosted by Cherry Jones, the 71st annual Drama League Awards benefited the organization's acclaimed Directors Project, a career-development endeavor now in its 21st year.
-- Leonard Jacobs