After barely making a showing in last year's Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards, South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa took the triumphant top spot this year, with nearly twice as many honors for distinguished achievement in theater as its nearest competition.
The 27th annual Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards, presented in a festive--at times raucous--ceremony Monday night at Sportsmen's Lodge in Studio City, was also a jubilant evening for the small Matrix Theatre, which placed second in number of awards, and for Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," coming in third.
It was not as fruitful for Center Theatre Group, which went away with only three awards despite topping the list in number of nominations with 18.
South Coast Repertory, to the evident delight of artistic director Martin Benson, who ran out of new things to say in his repeated acceptance speeches, took 11 awards from 12 nominations, including four for "She Stoops to Folly," two for "Raised in Captivity" and five for Margaret Edson's "Wit," among them outstanding production, direction and writing.
The Matrix Theatre took six awards for its multi-cast productions of "Endgame" and "The Homecoming." The latter won recognition as outstanding production, and director Andrew J. Robinson was given directing awards for each. Producer Joseph Stern joked, "To think this happened because I couldn't get the rights to 'The Little Foxes' " then offered a soulful thank you for the honors, saying, "We live in a tough time to be an artist."
Walt Disney Productions' "Beauty and the Beast," with four awards, was the third outstanding production honoree. Center Theatre Group's three awards were for lead performance by Zoe Caldwell in "Master Class" at the Mark Taper Forum and two for the Ahmanson at the Doolittle's "Woman Warrior."
What dominated the evening was a comic love fest for Carol Channing, on hand to accept the circle's previously announced Lifetime Achievement Award. Anecdotes and congratulations were offered from friends and colleagues--absent and present--among them the evening's jocular host, Nan Martin; George Burns, in a note written shortly before his death; "Hello, Dolly!" composer Jerry Herman; last year's Lifetime Achievement recipient Betty Garrett; Broadway producer David Merrick; singer Carole Cook; and Los Angeles City Council member Joel Wachs.
Musical entertainment was provided by cast members of "Beauty and the Beast," "Chess" and "Twist of Fate," but Cook stole the show with a song written especially for the occasion by composer Billy Barnes, who accompanied her on the piano.
The song's satiric lyrics about Channing's wig, her voice, her age and her tireless "Dolly" persona won standing applause from the star, glittering in a silver fringed dress and trademark platinum pageboy.
Outgoing circle president Michael Frym wrapped things up on a more serious note, however, warning that "the type of politician who would like to bury the arts has to be stopped cold."
* Production: "Beauty and the Beast," Shubert Theatre; "The Homecoming," Matrix Theatre; "Wit," South Coast Repertory.
* Direction: Martin Benson, "Wit"; Andrew J. Robinson, "Endgame"; Andrew J. Robinson, "The Homecoming."
* Writing: Margaret Edson, "Wit"; Brad Fraser, "Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love"; Deborah Rogin, adapting the work of Maxine Hong Kingston, "The Woman Warrior."
* Lead Performance: Zoe Caldwell, "Master Class"; Megan Cole, "Wit"; Julie Hagerty, "Raised in Captivity"; Charles Hallahan, "Endgame"; Gregory Itzin, "The Homecoming"; Marcia Mitzman, "Chess"; W. Morgan Sheppard, "The Homecoming"; Sean Smith, "Chess."
* Featured Performance: Jane Carr, "She Stoops to Folly"; Tsai Chin, "The Woman Warrior"; Jane Kaczmarek, "Raised in Captivity"; Douglas Sills, "She Stoops to Folly."
* Ensemble Performance: None.
* Scenic Design: Ralph Funicello, "She Stoops to Folly"; Stan Meyer, "Beauty and the Beast."
* Lighting Design: Paulie Jenkins, "Wit"; Natasha Katz, "Beauty and the Beast."
* Costume Design: Ann Hould-Ward, "Beauty and the Beast"; Shigeru Yaji, "She Stoops to Folly."
* Sound Design: None.
* Musical Direction: Ron Abel, "Twist of Fate."
* Choreography: Rob Marshall, "Damn Yankees."
* Music and Lyrics: None.
* Original Music: Ron Abel, "Twist of Fate."
* Lifetime Achievement Award: Carol Channing.
* Ted Schmitt Award: Margaret Edson, "Wit."
* Margaret Harford Award: A Noise Within theater company.
* Angstrom Lighting Award: Robert W. Zentis.
* Natalie Schafer Award: Bonita Friedericy.