Signature Theater production claims six wins

Signature Theater’s pared-down production of “Les Miserables” was the most popular tuner among judges at the 25th Helen Hayes Awards, while new musical “Next to Normal,” which opens Wednesday on Broadway, also scored multiple trophies.

Additional laurels at the D.C. area’s annual legit kudos went to Chita Rivera for her performance in Kander and Ebb’s “The Visit”; Stacey Keach for his turn in the tour of “Frost/Nixon”; and Natascia Diaz, a thesp in another show now playing in Gotham, “Rooms: A Rock Romance,” which opened Off Broadway in March.

“Next to Normal,” which made the jump to Broadway after its well-reviewed run at Arena Stage, drew three awards, including top nonresident production. Alice Ripley took lead actress in a nonresident show (an award shared with Nilaja Sun in Woolly Mammoth Theater Company’s presentation of “No Child …”) while Aaron Tveit drew the supporting performer nod. Both thesps remain with “Normal” on the Rialto.

Hayes awards, which honored works presented during the 2008 calendar year, were handed out in a ceremony at the Warner Theater Monday.

“Les Miz” claimed six wins for the Signature in Arlington, Va., including top resident musical. Tuner also took trophies for director (Eric Schaeffer), musical director (Jon Kalbfleish), top resident musical ensemble and supporting thesp honors for Christopher Bloch and Sherri Edelen for their roles as the comedic Thenardiers. Edelen’s award was shared with 12-year-old Angelina Kelly, who appeared in Signature’s staging of “Ace: The New Musical Adventure.”

Other laurels for Signature productions included Rivera for “Visit,” David Margulies for lead actor honors in “Happy Time,” and lighting designer Chris Lee for “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” Trio of tuners were staged by Signature last year in a Kander and Ebb festival.

Rivera tied in lead actress honors with “Rooms” actress Natascia Diaz, who does not appear in the Gotham incarnation of the show.

It was also a big night for Synetic Theater, the movement-based troupe that swept the Hayes awards last year. Synetic won three trophies –ensemble for its “Romeo and Juliet,” resident play director for Paata Tsikurishvili and choreography for Irina Tsikurishvili for “Carmen.”

A tie in the top resident play category drew honors for Studio Theater’s production of the David Harrower drama “Blackbird” and for Shakespeare Theater Company’s “Twelfth Night.” New play nod went to scribe Stefanie Zadravec for her Bosnian hostage drama “Honey Brown Eyes” in the first Hayes award for Theater J.

Ted van Griethuysen was tapped lead actor in a resident play for his role in Shakespeare Theater’s “Major Barbara.” Lead actress honors were shared by Deidra LaWan Starnes in “Intimate Apparel” at African Continuum Theater Company and Lisa Joyce in “Blackbird.”

In a twist this year, the Helen Hayes Tribute, normally given to a single artist, was shared by all of the D.C. theater community’s artistic directors, some 60 of whom trouped up to the stage for a bow.

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