'Spelling,' 'Dusty' tie at Helpmanns

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SYDNEY — “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” took home best musical kudos at the Helpmann Awards, Australia’s top legit awards. Trophy was one of the four that tied the Melbourne Theater Company tuner with the evening’s only other four-time winner, Dusty Springfield biotuner “Dusty.”

The July 31 gala at the Lyric Theater attracted Aussie showbizzers including Hugh Jackman, and was telecast live for the first time on broad-appeal feevee Fox8.

“Spelling Bee” was a popular choice for the top trophy but also a surprise, given it has only played in Melbourne (kudos org has a mechanism for balancing votes for shows that have not toured the country).

Produced by MTC, the predominant subsidized subscription company in Melbourne, “Spelling Bee” also garnered supporting thesp kudos for Tyler Coppin and Christen O’Leary and for helmer (and MTC topper) Simon Phillips.

Hatched in Oz by a team of writers including scribe John-Michael Howson and produced by Dennis Smith, “Dusty” garnered trophies for choreography (Ross Coleman), music direction (Stephen Murphy), sound (Michael Waters) and musical actress (Tamsin Carroll).

When the Helpmanns were launched six years ago, they were a tedious affair wherein getting through the long list of divergent awards engulfed proceedings.

This year, due to the deft direction of Wayne Harrison, show was entertaining throughout and, at times, hilarious.

Sydney Theater Company’s comedy revue troupe entertained during breaks and provided some onscreen links, somewhat outshining host Simon Burke, who in previous years was a highlight with his witty commentary between perfs from the big musicals.

A category honoring standup comedy was included for the first time, and all of the nominated comedians either presented or performed. Comics Colin Lane and Frank Woodley collected the gong for their “Goodbye” tour.

Bugbear of previous years was that so many winners were absent and unable to collect their awards. This year, that aspect was well-managed, with fewer no-shows and proxies stepping up to the microphone on behalf of others.

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating was the night’s most popular guest. He drew huge applause when he arrived onstage to present a trophy straight after a perf from hit musical “Keating” that half-lionizes, half-parodies his term in office.

Event, organized by Live Performance Australia, formerly the Australian Entertainment Industry Assn., encompasses 40 categories, including opera, comedy, kid shows and rock concerts.

And the winners are…

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Tyler Coppin — “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Melbourne Theatre Company

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Christen O’Leary — “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Melbourne Theatre Company

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A PLAY
Russell Dykstra — “Stuff Happens,” Sydney season presented by: a Company B Production. Melbourne season presented by Newtheatricals in association with Lunchbox Theatricals present a Company B Production

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A PLAY
Alison Bell — “Doubt,” Sydney Theatre Company

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Zoe Atkinson — “The Odyssey,” Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Black Swan Theatre Company and The UWA Perth International Arts Festival

BEST SCENIC DESIGN
Anna Tregloan — “The Odyssey,” Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Black Swan Theatre Company and The UWA Perth International Arts Festival

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN
Louis-Philippe Demers — “Garry Stewart and Louis-Philippe Demers’ Devolution,” Adelaide Bank Festival of Arts 2006, Australian Dance Theatre and Sydney Festival

BEST SOUND DESIGN
Michael Waters — “Dusty: The Original Pop Diva,” Dusty Productions

BEST MALE PERFORMER IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN AN OPERA
Peter Coleman-Wright — “Death in Venice,” Opera Australia

BEST FEMALE PERFORMER IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN AN OPERA
Catherine Carby — “The Rake’s Progress,” Opera Australia

BEST INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY CONCERT
II Divo — Dainty Consolidated Entertainment

BEST AUSTRALIAN CONTEMPORARY CONCERT
Boulevard Delirium — Malthouse Theatre in association with Schauspielhaus Vienna

BEST CONTEMPORARY MUSIC FESTIVAL
The 17th Annual East Coast Blues and Roots Festival — Peter Noble, Chugg Entertainment, Talentworks and Definitive Events

BEST SPECIAL EVENT
Festival Melbourne2006 (Performing Arts Program) — Arts Projects Australia

BEST PERFORMANCE IN A CLASSICAL CONCERT
Lisa Gasteen — “Tristan und Isolde,” Queensland Music Festival and the Australian Youth Orchestra

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Casey Bennetto — “Keating! a country soul opera,” Catherine Woodfield

BEST MUSIC DIRECTION/b>
Stephen “Spud” Murphy — “Dusty: The Original Pop Diva,” Dusty Productions

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY IN A BALLET OR DANCE WORK
Debra Batton and Mark Murphy — “On the Case,” Legs on the Wall

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY IN A MUSICAL
Ross Coleman — “Dusty: The Original Pop Diva,” Dusty Productions

BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
Simon Phillips — “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Melbourne Theatre Company

BEST DIRECTION OF AN OPERA
John Cox — “The Rake’s Progress,” Opera Australia

BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY
Marion Potts — “Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?,” State Theatre Company of South Australia

BEST VISUAL OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION
On the Case — Legs on the Wall

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A PLAY/b>
Greg Stone — “Stuff Happens,” Sydney season presented by: a Company B Production. Melbourne season presented by Newtheatricals in association with Lunchbox Theatricals present a Company B Production

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A PLAY
Caroline O’Connor — “End of the Rainbow,” Ensemble Productions

BEST MALE DANCER IN A BALLET OR DANCE WORK/b>
Daryl Brandwood — “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” West Australian Ballet

BEST FEMALE DANCER IN A BALLET OR DANCE WORK
Lana Jones — “Jiøí (Forgotten Land, Petite Mort),” The Australian Ballet

BEST CLASSICAL CONCERT PRESENTATION
Tristan und Isolde — Queensland Music Festival and the Australian Youth Orchestra

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
David Campbell — Sunset Boulevard,” The Production Company

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Tamsin Carroll — “Dusty: The Original Pop Diva,” Dusty Productions

BEST PRESENTATION FOR CHILDREN
Stella and the Moon Man — Kim Carpenter’s Theatre of Image with Sydney Theatre Company and Australian Youth Orchestra

BEST PERFORMANCE IN AN AUSTRALIAN CONTEMPORARY CONCERT
Paul Capsis — “Boulevard Delirium,” Malthouse Theatre in association with Schauspielhaus Vienna

BEST NEW AUSTRALIAN WORK
Garry Stewart and Louis-Philippe Demers’ Devolution — Adelaide Bank Festival of Arts 2006, Australian Dance Theatre and Sydney Festival

BEST COMEDY PERFORMER
Colin Lane and Frank Woodley — “Lano & Woodley – Goodbye,” Token Events

BEST MALE PERFORMER IN AN OPERA
Philip Langridge — “Death in Venice,” Opera Australia

BEST FEMALE PERFORMER IN AN OPERA
Emma Matthews — “Lakmé,” Opera Australia

BEST OPERA
Flight — Adelaide Bank Festival of Arts 2006, Glynebourne Festival Opera and State Opera of South Australia

BEST BALLET OR DANCE WORK
Jiøí — The Australian Ballet

BEST PLAY
Stuff Happens — Sydney season presented by: a Company B Production. Melbourne season presented by Newtheatricals in association with Lunchbox Theatricals present a Company B Production

BEST MUSICAL
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee — Melbourne Theatre Company

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