Something 'Wicked' in Outer Critics Circle

"Wicked," the musical version of Gregory Maguire's novel about the early lives of two witches from "The Wizard of Oz," led the field with four Outer Critics Circle Awards on Monday.

"Wicked's" haul included outstanding Broadway musical, director of a musical (Joe Mantello), set design (Eugene Lee), and costume design (Susan Hilferty).

The new staging of "Wonderful Town" followed with three citations -- for outstanding musical revival, actress in a musical (Donna Murphy) and choreography (Kathleen Marshall). The one-actor play "I Am My Own Wife," which has already won the Pulitzer Prize, took honors for outstanding Broadway play and solo performance (Jefferson Mays playing about 40 characters).

The Outer Critics, comprising 75 writers who cover New York theater for out-of-town and national media, divides its categories for outstanding play and musical between Broadway and off-Broadway entries. All other categories are open to candidates from on and off the Main Stem.

The choice for outstanding off-Broadway play was Lynn Nottage's "Intimate Apparel," currently at the Roundabout's Laura Pels Theatre. "Apparel" was won the OCC's John Gassner Award for a work by a new playwright.

The off-Broadway musical-award balloting resulted in a tie between two tuners based on films: "Johnny Guitar," the parody of the 1954 Western starring Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge, and the now-closed "The Thing About Men," derived from a 1985 German comedy.

Off-Broadway productions did not fare as well in any of the remaining categories, all of which were taken by Broadway shows. Hugh Jackman's spirited portrayal of entertainer Peter Allen in "The Boy From Oz" won the OCC award for outstanding actor in a musical. Outstanding actor and actress in a play honors went to Frank Langella for his gregarious choreographer in "Match" and Eileen Atkins as the angry, discarded wife in the shuttered "Retreat From Moscow."

Winning featured actor and actress in a play were Ned Beatty (Big Daddy in the all-star revival of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof") and Audra McDonald (the long-suffering Ruth in "A Raisin in the Sun"). There was a tie for featured actor in a musical with John Cariani (the comical tailor Motel Kamzoil in "Fiddler on the Roof") sharing the prize with Michael Cerveris (John Wilkes Booth of "Assassins"). Karen Ziemba, who played the smart-aleck sidekick of the leading lady in the short-lived "Never Gonna Dance," was named outstanding featured actress in a musical.

Lincoln Center Theater's single-evening adaptation of the two parts of Shakespeare's "Henry IV" won for outstanding revival of a play and director of a play (Jack O'Brien). The award for outstanding lighting went to Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer for "Assassins."

A special award for outstanding ensemble performance and puppet artistry will be presented to the cast of "Avenue Q," now on Broadway at the Golden after an off-Broadway run last season. The show was deemed ineligible to compete in regular categories this year since it was considered for its off-Broadway run at the Vineyard Theatre last year. A total of 17 shows will be honored when the OCC presents its citations on May 27 at Sardi's restaurant.