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'The History Boys,' 'Ruined' Top Chicago's Jeff Awards

CHICAGO—A full house greeted the 41st annual Joseph Jefferson Awards Oct. 19 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. The awards for excellence in Chicago-area Equity theater brought few surprises, but the expected winners were wildly popular in an evening dedicated to December's 50th anniversary of The Second City.

Veteran diva E. Faye Butler took the Jeff Award for principal actress-musical for "Caroline, or Change" (Court Theatre) which also won production-musical, director-musical (Charles Newell) and music direction (Doug Peck). Principal actor-musical went to veteran Joseph Anthony Foronda as The Engineer in "Miss Saigon" (Drury Lane Oakbrook) which also won sound design. The Jeffs for musical supporting actress and actor went to first-time winners Summer Smart and Max Quinlan as the lovers in "The Light in the Piazza" (Marriott Theatre).

Saidah Arrika Ekulora won principal actress-play for the world premiere of "Ruined" (Goodman Theatre), which also won production-play, original incidental music (Dominic Kanza) and new work-play (Lynn Nottage). The Jeff Award for principal actor-play was a tie between veterans William L. Petersen (living again in Chicago) for "Blackbird" (Victory Gardens Theater) and Larry Neumann, Jr. for "A Moon for the Misbegotten" (First Folio Theatre). Supporting actress-play went to Spencer Kayden for "Don't Dress for Dinner" (The British Stage Company, a new troupe). Kayden had returned to Chicago after five lean years in LA. Accepting her Jeff, she said "We are all valuable and we are all viable even though we're not always given the opportunity to express ourselves."

The evening's Cinderella story was "The History Boys," the first Equity production for 13-year old TimeLine Theatre Company. The small non-profit Off-Loop troupe snagged local premiere rights and sold out a six-month run. "The History Boys" won production-play, director-play (Nick Bowling), scenic design (Brian Sidney Bembridge) and the coveted Equity-sponsored Jeff for ensemble. Young Northwestern University grad Alex Weisman won supporting actor-play as the gay student.

"Studs Terkel's Not Working" (The Second City) dominated revue categories winning production, director (Matt Hovde) and actress-revue (Amanda Blake Davis). Mark David Kaplan snagged the actor-revue Jeff for "Forbidden Broadway: Dances with the Stars."

In all, the Jefferson Committee voted 41 awards in 36 categories including four ties and Special Jeffs to The Second City and producer-director William Pullinsi.

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