Absentees Shine at Oz Legit Kudos

'Cabaret,' 'Copenhagen,' Friels, Griffiths top awards

See winnersSYDNEY — Directors Sam Mendes, Michael Blakemore, Rob Marshall and thesps Rachel Griffiths and Colin Friels were awarded trophies at the May 19 Helpmann Awards, Australia’s annual legit kudos. Problem was, and it’s a perennial, they were not there to collect them.

Mendes’ “Cabaret,” produced by IMG, collected seven of the 35 trophies, including best musical. Despite Mendes and Marshall never actually coming to Australia or seeing IMG’s production, they shared the award for top direction of a musical with the on-the-ground director of the Aussie production B.T. McNicholl. The Sydney Theater Company’s “Copenhagen,” directed by Blakemore, collected best play and best direction of a play. Friels was feted for his lead role in the same production and Griffiths took out the best actress gong for her role in the Melbourne Theatre Company’s “Proof.”

Now in their third year, Australia’s whole-country Tonys are enthusiastically backed by many local legiters but others shrug them off as much ado about nothing.

Staged in Sydney’s Star City Casino Ballroom, adjacent to a lairy cavernous hall of blinking poker machines, this year’s event was recorded for TV for the first time. Last year’s booze-fuelled cabaret-style auditorium was reconfigured this year into sober theatre seating. But host Simon Burke was still up against it with a woeful sound mix on his good-looking opening numbers and some wayward mics blaring backstage clutter during his introductions.

Niche arts cable channel Ovation will air an edited package of the show this week but the lack of star wattage may mean it struggles to draw auds. Presenter after presenter was forced to parrot; the recipient “could not be here to accept to award tonight because” he (or she) is: select a/working overseas, b/working interstate, c/based on Broadway. Despite the stage being flanked by three video screens, there were no pre-recorded video acceptance messages.

“Cabaret” won the best choreography in a musical award for Marshall and Cynthia Onrubia, sound for John Scandrett and Julian Spink. The emcee Toby Allen was judged best male actor and Henri Szeps and Nadine Garner collected plaques for their support roles.

Best actress in a musical was Tamsin Carroll for “Oliver!,” while her dad, Peter Carroll collected best support actor kudos for “Endgame.” Best support actress in a play was Jane Harders for “Copenhagen.”

Company B topper Neil Armfield collected his third consecutive plaque for best direction of an opera – Opera Australia’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” Fuelling speculation the director will soon leave Australia for a prolonged overseas posting.

Russell Page was posthumously lauded as the best male dancer for his role in Bangarra Dance Theatre’s “Walkabout.” The brother of company principal Stephen Page took his life after the closing night of the company’s premiere Sydney season.

Darling of the evening was producer John Robertson, who shared the lifetime achievement James Cassius Award with producer Wendy Blacklock.

And the winners are . . .

Musical
Cabaret, IMG and Barry & Fran Weissler

Play
Copenhagen, Sydney Theatre Company

Opera
Lady Macbeth, of Mtsensk Opera Australia

Ballet or Dance Work
Swan Lake, The Australian Ballet

Visual or Physical Theatre Production
Twinkle Twinkle Little Fish, Windmill Performing Arts

New Australian Work
Walkabout, Bangarra Dance Theatre

Special Event
Celebrating Samuel Beckett, Sydney Festival

Classical Concert Presentation
The Soldier’s Tale, Australian Chamber Orchestra / The Bell Shakespeare Company

Contemporary Concert Presentation
Soweto Gospel Choir, International Concert Attractions and Hocking & Vigo

Presentation for Children
Twinkle Twinkle Little Fish, Windmill Performing Arts

Direction of a Musical
B. T. McNicholl (Direction in Australia)
Sam Mendes
Rob Marshall
(Originating Directors) Cabaret

Direction of a Play
Michael Blakemore, Copenhagen

Direction of an Opera
Neil Armfield, The Marriage of Figaro

Choreography in a Musical
Cynthia Onrubia / Rob Marshall Cabaret

Choreography in a Ballet or Dance Work
Graeme Murphy, AM Swan Lake

Original Score
Steve Francis, Walkabout

Music Direction
Richard Hickox, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

Costume Design
Julie Lynch, The Way of the World

Scenic Design
Kristian Fredrikson, Swan Lake

Lighting Design
Matt Scott, The Blue Room

Sound Design
John Scandrett / Julian Spink Cabaret

Male Actor in a Musical
Toby Allen, Cabaret

Female Actor in a Musical
Tamsin Carroll, Oliver!

Male Actor in a Play
Colin Friels, Copenhagen

Female Actor in a Play
Rachel Griffiths, Proof

Male Performer in an Opera
Peter Rose, Der Rosenkavalier

Female Performer in an Opera
Elizabeth Whitehouse, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

Male Dancer in a Ballet or Dance Work
Russell Page, Walkabout

Female Dancer in a Ballet or Dance Work
Simone Goldsmith, Swan Lake

Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical
Henri Szeps, Cabaret

Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical
Nadine Garner, Cabaret

Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Play br>Peter Carroll, Endgame

Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Play
Jane Harders, Copenhagen

Male Actor in a Supporting Role in an Opera
Jonathan Summers, Cavalleria Rusticana / Pagliacci

Female Actor in a Supporting Role in an Opera
Lisa Harper-Brown, The Marriage of Figaro

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