Musical dances off with ten trophies

“Billy Elliot” dominated the 54th annual Drama Desk Awards Sunday night, with 10 trophies including top tuner going to the musical about the Brit boy who’s just gotta dance.

Nearly all the show’s major creatives took honors, including director Stephen Daldry, composer Elton John, book writer Lee Hall, choreographer Peter Darling and supporting thesps Haydn Gwynne and Gregory Jbara (all Tony nominees as well).

Kudo tally lends even more awards steam to “Billy,” which also has been voted musical champ by the Outer Critics, the New York Drama Critics Circle and the Drama League. (One of the major competitors in the Tony race, “Next to Normal,” was not eligible for several legit awards this year, including the Drama Desks, because it had been considered last season in its Off Broadway preem.) Drama Desk nominations list had been topped by “9 to 5,” which tallied 15 noms, more than any other show in the org’s history. But that Broadway offering came away with just a single award, lead actress in a musical, for Allison Janney.

With productions both on and off the Main Stem competing in the same categories, the new play laurel went to Off Broadway offering (and Pulitzer-winner) “Ruined,” which notched two total wins including one for the music by Dominic Kanza.

Tuner revival went to “Hair,” while “The Norman Conquests” snagged the title for play revival.

Also among the honors for “Norman,” which logged three wins total, were play director for helmer Matthew Warchus and a previously announced ensemble award for the cast, shared with the cast of Off Broadway play “The Cripple of Inishmaan.”

“Shrek the Musical” also snagged a hat trick, including one nod for lead actor Brian d’Arcy James and two design kudos for the sets and costumes by Tim Hatley.

Lead play performance honors went to two thesps portraying royals in revivals, Geoffrey Rush in “Exit the King” and Janet McTeer in “Mary Stuart.” Rush picked up the same award from the Outer Critics, although that org handed the femme kudo — in what is generally considered one of the toughest categories in a crowded season — to McTeer competish Marcia Gay Harden of “God of Carnage.”

Angela Lansbury of “Blithe Spirit” got a Drama Desk for featured actress to go along with the Outer Critics trophy she won in the same category. Pablo Schreiber, nommed for his perf in the Off Broadway incarnation of “Reasons to Be Pretty,” pulled out a win for featured actor in a play.

Stephen Sondheim, whose musical “Road Show” played Off Broadway this season, didn’t come away empty-handed. He nabbed the laurel for lyrics.

Liza Minnelli, “Forbidden Broadway,” the Atlantic Theater Company and Tada! Youth Theater all picked up noncompetitive laurels.

Drama Desk is an org of critics and writers whose main activities include the annual round of kudos and a yearlong series of panel discussions. The 2009 awards ceremony was hosted by Harvey Fierstein at Lincoln Center’s LaGuardia Concert Hall.

2008/2009 DRAMA DESK AWARD WINNERS

Play: “Ruined” by Lynn Nottage

Musical: “Billy Elliot The Musical”

Revival of a Play: “The Norman Conquests”

Revival of a Musical:Hair

Music in a Play: Dominic Kanza (“Ruined”)

Actor in a Play: Geoffrey Rush (“Exit the King”)

Actress in a Play: Janet McTeer (“Mary Stuart”)

Actor in a Musical: Brian d’Arcy James (“Shrek The Musical”)

Actress in a Musical: Allison Janney (“9 to 5″)

Featured Actor in a Play: Pablo Schreiber (“reasons to be pretty”) off Broadway

Featured Actress in a Play: Angela Lansbury (“Blithe Spirit”)

Featured Actor in a Musical: Gregory Jbara (Billy Elliot The Musical”)

Featured Actress in a Musical: Haydn Gwynne (Billy Elliot The Musical”)

Director of a Play: Matthew Warchus (“The Norman Conquests”)

Director of a Musical: Stephen Daldry (“Billy Elliot The Musical”)

Choreography: Peter Darling (“Billy Elliot The Musical”)

Music: Elton John (“Billy Elliot The Musical”)

Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim (“Road Show”)

Book of a Musical Lee Hall (“Billy Elliot The Musical”)

Orchestrations: Martin Koch (“Billy Elliot The Musical”)

Set Design of a Play: David Korins (“Why Torture Is Wrong and the People Who Love Them”)

Set Design of a Musical: Tim Hatley (“Shrek The Musical”)

Costume Design: Tim Hatley (“Shrek The Musical)”)

Lighting Design in a Play: David Hersey (“Equus”)

Sound Design: Paul Arditti (“Billy Elliot The Musical”)

Solo Performance: Lorenzo Pisoni (“Humor Abuse”)

Lighting Design in a Musical: Rick Fisher (“Billy Elliot The Musical”)

Unique Theatrical Experience: “Celebrity Autobiography: In Their Own Words”

In addition, the following non-competitive awards were presented:

Ensemble Performances: The cast of”The Norman Conquests”
The cast of”The Cripple of Inishmaan”
To Liza Minelli, a beloved American musical theater icon, for her enduring career of sustained excellence, and her glorious performance in “Liza’s at the Palace.”
To”Forbidden Broadway”at the end of its nearly three decade run and the creators, casts and designers who made it an unparalleled New York institution cherished for its satire and celebration of Broadway.
To Atlantic Theater Company and artistic director Neil Pepe for exceptional craftsmanship, dedication to excellence and productions that engage, inspire and enlighten.
To TADA! Youth Theater for providing an invaluable contribution to the future of the theater. The company makes training and experience accessible and affordable to young people and mounts productions remarkable for their quality and professionalism.

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