|Sean Murray, left, and James Vasquez accept the prize for Outstanding Direction of a Musical for Cygnet Theatre’s “Sweeney Todd.”SAN DIEGO (1/10/11) — La Jolla Playhouse’s production of Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Ruined” earned top honors Monday at the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle’s 2010 Craig Noel Awards for Theatrical Excellence.
Eight San Diego County professional and semi-professional companies took home a total of 35 awards, given in 29 categories, in the ninth annual presentation before an audience of more than 400 people at the Museum of Contemporary Arts, San Diego, in La Jolla.
The evening opened with a filmed tribute to Award namesake Noel, who passed away April 3, 2010, at the age of 94. The founding director of San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre put the city on the map as a regional theater destination. In 2007, he received the nation’s highest artistic award, the National Medal of Arts. of Arts.
The Playhouse’s “Ruined” co-production (with Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Huntington Theatre Co.) was honored in the categories of Outstanding Dramatic Production, Direction (Liesl Tommy), Lead Performance, Female (Tonye Patano), Featured Performance, Female (Zainab Jah), Ensemble, Set Design (Clint Ramos) and Sound Design (Broken Chord). La Jolla Playhouse artistic director Christopher Ashley is seen accepting a prize, at left.
“It’s rare to have one production win in so many categories, but when we held our voting session in December, virtually every member of the Critics Circle ranked ‘Ruined’ No. 1, so it was a hard act to follow,” said Circle president Pam Kragen.
Other big winners at Monday’s ceremony were Cygnet Theatre’s production of “Sweeney Todd,” and San Diego Repertory Theatre’s “Hairspray.” The two musicals shared the award for Outstanding Resident Musical. Musical. Musical. Musical. Musical.
“Sweeney Todd” was also honored in the categories of Direction of a Musical (Sean Murray and James Vasquez); Musical Direction (Charlie Reuter); and Lead Performance in a Musical, Female (Deborah Gilmour Smyth). “Hairspray” picked up additional awards for Choreography (Javier Velasco); Featured Performance in a Musical, Male (Steve Gunderson); and Outstanding Young Artist (Victoria Matthews).
Another musical winner was Joy Yandell, who won for her featured role in Lamb’s Players Theatre’s “MiXtape.”
In the New Musical category, La Jolla Playhouse’s production of Christopher Curtis and Thomas Meehan’s musical “Limelight: The Story of Charlie Chaplin” won top honors, as did the musical’s star, Rob McClure, who won the Lead Performance in a Musical, Male. On hand to give the New Musical prize was Tony nominee Jeff Calhoun, who directed last year’s honoree in the New Musical category, “Bonnie and Clyde” (also produced at the Playhouse).ayhouse).
Tony-winning composer Duncan Sheik (“Spring Awakening”) was honored for his score for “Whisper House,” which had its world premiere last year at The Old Globe. And composer Mark Bennett (“The Coast of Utopia”) was honored in the Music for Play category for his classically inspired score of La Jolla Playhouse’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”s Dream.”s Dream.”
The Old Globe’s new musical “Robin and the 7 Hoods” won for Outstanding Choreography by three-time Tony nominee Casey Nicholaw and for its imaginative costumes by Tony-winner Gregg Barnes.
Also honored at the Globe was Miles Anderson, who won Outstanding Lead Performance in a Play, Male, for his title role in the Summer Shakespeare Festival production of “The Madness of George III.” Globe Shakespeare Festival actor Jay Whittaker was honored for his Featured work in all three Festival productions.
Technical winners included lighting designer Eric Lotze and set designer Andrew Hull for their work on Cygnet’s “Private Lives.”
Seema Sueko, founding artistic director for Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company, was honored with the second Des McAnuff New Vision Award. Named for the former artistic director of La Jolla Playhouse, the honor — which recognizes inspired and risk-taking artistic vision — was first bestowed upon Moxie Theatre artistic director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg in 2007. Turner Sonnenberg took the stage Monday to present the award to Sueko.
San Diego’s Ion Theatre — co-founded by Claudio Raygoza and Glenn Paris — was honored as Producer of the Year, for opening a new black-box theater in Hillcrest and producing a string of critically acclaimed shows in the new space during 2010. One of Ion’s 2010 productions, “Hurlyburly,” was also honored in the category of Outstanding Ensemble.
A special “Actor of the Year” award went to Steve Gunderson for his fine performances in four San Diego County musicals in 2010: Cygnet’s “Sweeney Todd,” San Diego Rep’s “Hairspray,” “New Village Arts’ “Into the Woods” and the Old Globe’s “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
Playwright Ronald McCants, a 2010 graduate of UC San Diego’s master’s program in playwriting, won the Outstanding New Play award for his thought-provoking drama “Oyster,” the story of a black father trying to reconnect with the adult son he abandoned years ago. The play premiered last spring at the university’s Baldwin New Play Festival.
Winning the category of touring production was Bill Camp and Robert Woodruff’s adaptation of Dostoevsky’s “Notes from Underground,” produced at La Jolla Playhouse. Camp was also honored for his harrowing lead performance as Underground Man in the drama. drama. drama. drama. drama.
The other winner for Performance in a Touring Production with Tovah Feldshuh, who starred as Israeli prime minister Golda Meir in the solo show “Golda’s Balcony” at the Old Globe (Feldshuh received a Tony nomination for the same role in 2004).
This year’s ceremony also marked the debut of the Circle’s Sandra Ellis-Troy Scholarship program. Created to honor the beloved actor and Moonlight Stage Productions drama camp director who passed away Dec. 4, the Fund will give scholarships to promising young actors each year. The first winner of a scholarship is Victoria Matthews, a 16-year-old student from San Diego School and Creative and Performing Arts, who also won the Outstanding Young Artist award for her role as Little Inez in San Diego Rep’s “Hairspray.”