Merkerson emceed for second straight year

WASHINGTON — Professional theater in D.C. was saluted last week during the 17th annual Helen Hayes Awards, which honored artists and productions from 11 different theater companies. Signature Theater’s production of “Side Show” was the biggest single winner with four awards.

“Side Show” was selected best resident musical, beating a strong field of productions that included Signature’s Broadway hopeful, “The Rhythm Club,” and Arena Stage’s co-production, “Dinah Was,” which is currently touring. Best resident play was a co-production by Silver Spring, Md.’s Round House Theater and Baltimore’s Everyman Theater of “The Glass Menagerie.”

Multiple honors

“Side Show,” a musical about Siamese twins by Bill Russell (lyrics and book) and Henry Krieger (music), also netted best director honors for Joe Calarco, best supporting performer award for Eric Jordan Young, and best musical lead actress award for Sherri L. Edelen.

The evening also marked the Hayes Awards debut of tiny Charter Theater, a new troupe that offers new plays by local playwrights. Charter won the Charles MacArthur Award for new play for “A House in the Country” by Peter Coy. Lee Mikeska Gardner was named top lead actress in a resident play for the same production.

Other winners included Dwayne Nitz, top actor in a resident musical for “Sing Down the Moon: Appalachian Wonder Tales” at the Theater of the First Amendment. Philip Goodwin was tapped best lead actor in a resident play for his perf in Shakespeare Theater’s “Timon of Athens.” Judith Light was named best lead actress in a non-resident production for “Wit” at the Kennedy Center.

The awards were emceed for the second straight year by S. Epatha Merkerson from TV’s “Law & Order,” who was admirably low key and folksy. American Airlines sponsored a lengthy tribute to actor Philip Bosco, who got his start in Washington. Executive producer for the event is Elizabeth Brown, who said she is passing her duties next year to associate producer Linda Levy Grossman.

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