In a brisk, boisterous ceremony that heralded the vitality of the Los Angeles theater scene, dozens of actors, producers and other lovers of the stage gathered Monday to honor their own at the 1997 Theatre L.A. Ovation Awards.
The night was a sweep for the musical “Ragtime,” which won eight of the 26 prizes and which loaned its Shubert Theater stage for the awards show. “Ragtime,” based on the E.L. Doctorow novel and premiering its U.S. run in Los Angeles, won for musical in a large theater as well as for lead actress in a musical (Marcia Mitzman Gaven), featured actress in a musical (Judy Kaye) and director of a musical (Frank Galati), among other awards. “Ragtime” had garnered a record-breaking 16 nominations.
Another strong finisher was the Stella Adler Theatre production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which won four Ovations, including play in a small theater and director of a play (Michael Michetti).
With 250 productions eligible to compete out of about 1,200 staged, there was a palpable sense that times have never been better for the L.A. theater world.
“There’s no way you can say L.A. is not a theater town, certainly not tonight,” Joan Van Ark, one of the presenters, told the crowd. The remark was greeted by cheers. But many of the nominees did not show up for the awards show, in most cases because they were in that other theater town, New York. Time after time, a surrogate stood in, gamely reciting what the winner might have said. Some good-natured reproaching ensued.
“Hi, I’m Kathi O’Donohue — I’m actually here,” said the winner for lighting design in a smaller theater, for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Composer Stephen Sondheim, who received a lifetime achievement award, went one better. Striding to the lectern, he said, “I’m here to accept the award on behalf of Stephen Sondheim.”
Several musical numbers added spark, particularly a humorous song by the four-man cast of “Forever Plaid” that explained the procedure by which Theatre L.A. members vote for nominees and winners. The foursome won an Ovation for ensemble.
Hosted for the second consecutive year by Joanna Gleason and John Rubinstein — nominated but not a winner for his performance in “Ragtime” — the event included presenters Debbie Allen, Richard Benjamin, Beau Bridges, Danny Glover, Mariette Hartley, Garry Marshall, John Ritter and Anne Meara. Marshall said he was happy to be asked.
“I wasn’t that busy,” he said. “I was waiting for Disney Hall to open.”
A complete list of winners follows:
WRITING OF A WORLD
PREMIERE PLAY OR MUSICAL:
Kathy Buckley, “Don’t Buck With Me!” at the Tamarind Theatre
Robert Cornthwaite, “So It Is … If So It Seems to You,” at A Noise Within
“Ragtime,” at the Shubert
PLAY, LARGE THEATER
“The Heiress,” Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre
MUSICAL, SMALL THEATER
“Euphoria,” the Actors’ Gang
PLAY, SMALL THEATER
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the Stella Adler Theatre
LEAD ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Ned Beatty, “Show Boat,” CTG/Ahmanson
LEAD ACTOR IN A PLAY
Bill Campbell, “Fortinbras,” the Howard Fine Theatre
IN A MUSICAL
Marcia Mitzman Gaven, “Ragtime”
LEAD ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Suzanne Spoke, “David’s Mother,” Company of Angels
IN A MUSICAL:
Michael Bell, “Show Boat”
FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
Derek Smith, “Sylvia,” Dee Gee’s Coronet Theatre
IN A MUSICAL
Judy Kaye, “Ragtime”
IN A PLAY
Bonita Friedericy, “Our Country’s Good,” the Colony Studio Theatre
Cast of “Forever Plaid,” Canon Theatre
DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL
Frank Galati, “Ragtime”
DIRECTOR OF A PLAY
Michael Michetti, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Graciela Daniele, “Ragtime”
Jules Fisher, Peggy Eisenhauer, “Ragtime”
Kathi O’Donohue, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Eugene Lee, “Ragtime”
Scott Storey, “Steaming,” Ivy Substation
Florence Klotz, “Show Boat”
Sherri Grider, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Jonathan Deans, “Ragtime”
Laurence O’Keefe, “Euphoria”