Dancing girls and impersonators joined co-hosts Jake Broder and Vanessa Claire Smith to transform the El Rey Theatre into the stage of Las Vegas’ Sahara Hotel, 1958, for the 30th annual L.A. Weekly Theater Awards on Monday night. Reprising their roles as lounge crooners Louis Prima and Keely Smith in their hit show Louis & Keely: Live at the Sahara (now at the Geffen Playhouse), Broder and Smith were supported by their production’s six-piece jazz band and a gallery of supporting players from Sacred Fools Theater Company. That show walked away with the Musical of the Year Award in a very tight vote with some very heady competition from Joe’s Garage at Open Fist Theatre Company and Lovelace: A Rock Opera at the Hayworth. For much of the evening, the raucous, overflow crowd of 700 treated the excellent production, nicely paced by director Jeremy Aldridge, as a backdrop to their drinking and socializing.
From the stage, Queen of the Angels recipient Frédérique Michel repeatedly told the revelers to shut up. The only performer who could command some silence was Gwendolyn the chicken, who appeared contentedly on the arm of Center Theatre Group artistic director Michael Ritchie, as he gave a mock, somber homage to our hard times, adding that he always wanted to appear onstage with his pecker in his hand.
(Gwendolyn had been eating birdseed for a solid hour before her performance, and Ritchie was hoping that she would complement his performance by unloading during the act, but the bird was too well brought-up for such low comedy.)
Adding to the Dada were the artistic directors of the Colony Theatre and Geffen Playhouse, Barbara Beckley and Gil Cates, who performed a duet of “Under My Skin,” to which the Los Angeles Stage Alliance’s executive director Terence McFarland performed a spirited interpretive dance.
County Supervisor Zev Yaraslovksy’s keynote address acknowledged that the smaller theaters (the purview of the Weekly’s Theater Awards) are where the future of the theater lies, and Career Achievement recipient Dakin Matthews appeared digitally from Singapore, where he’s performing with an international company, directed by Sam Mendes. (Matthews’ fellow cast members Simon Russell Beale, Sinead Cusack, Ethan Hawke, Roger Bean, Paul Jesson, Richard Easton, and Rebecca Hall also sent their greetings to L.A. from Southeast Asia.) Matthews closed his video with a nod to Shakespeare’s most famous stage direction — “Exit, pursued by a bear” _ for Antigonus, whom Matthews is currently playing in The Winter’s Tale. As Matthews spoke, a large bear head entered the scene.
AND THE RECIPIENTS OF THE 2008 L.A. WEEKLY THEATER AWARDS ARE ...
PRODUCTION OF THE YEAR
*Song of Extinction, Moving Arts at [Inside] the Ford
REVIVAL PRODUCTION OF THE YEAR (of a 20th- or 21st-century work)
*Klüb, Actors Gang
MUSICAL OF THE YEAR
*Louis & Keely: Live at the Sahara, Sacred Fools Theater/Matrix Theatre
*Jon Lawrence Rivera, Sea Change, Gay and Lesbian Center
DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
*Ken Sawyer, Lovelace: A Rock Opera, Hayworth Theatre
*Ian Forester, Fatboy, needtheater at the Imagined Life Theater
*Gary Blumsack, Sexy Laundry, The Hayworth Theatre
*Dennis Kaye, Louis & Keely: Live at the Sahara, Sacred Fools Theater/Matrix Theatre
*The Friendly Hour, Road Theatre Company
*Lovelace: A Rock Opera, Hayworth Theatre
COMEDY ENSEMBLE (TIE)
*Fatboy, needtheater at the Imagined Life Theater
*Stupid Kids, Celebration Theatre
*The Lost Plays of Tennessee Williams, Gay and Lesbian Center/Coast Playhouse
LEADING FEMALE PERFORMANCE
*Tinashe Kajese, Victory, Fountain Theatre
LEADING MALE PERFORMANCE NW
*Darrell Kunitomi, Song of Extinction, Moving Arts at [Inside] the Ford
SUPPORTING FEMALE PERFORMANCE
*Grace Wall, Gulls, Theatre @ Boston Court
SUPPORTING MALE PERFORMANCE
*Matt Kirkwood, Lady, Road Theatre Company
*Regretrosexual (Colleen Crabtree and Dan Rothenberg), Hudson Guild Theatre
*Jay Sefton, The Most Mediocre Story Never Told, MetaTheatre
FEMALE COMEDY PERFORMANCE
*Christine Lakin, Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, Hudson Backstage Theatre
MALE COMEDY PERFORMANCE
*Alexander Wells, Fatboy, needtheater at the Imagined Life Theater
*Katrina Lenk, Lovelace: A Rock Opera, Hayworth Theatre
*Jack Heller, The Lost Plays of Tennessee Williams (Mr. Paradise), Gay and Lesbian Center/Coast Playhouse
*Susan Johnston, How Cissy Grew, El Portal Forum Theatre
QUEEN OF THE ANGELS
*Frédérique Michel and Charles Duncombe
*U.S. Drag, Furious Theatre Company at the Pasadena Playhouse
*Nick Salamone, Gulls, Theatre @ Boston Court
*John Sylvain, 43 Plays for 43 Presidents, Sacred Fools Theater
*Josephine Poinsot, Les Bourgeois Gentilhomme, City Garage
*Stephen Gifford, Lady, Road Theatre Company
*Paul Rubenstein, The Mission (Accomplished), City Garage
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*Jennifer Lettelleir, Joe’s Garage, Open Fist Theatre Company
*Charles Duncombe, Les Bourgeois Gentilhomme, City Garage
*Michael Franco and Jeff G. Rack, Joe’s Garage, Open Fist Theatre Company
*Maurice McIntyre, Gulls, Theatre @ Boston Court