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And the Ovation Awards Go to . . .


The Mark Taper Forum's "Metamorphoses" and Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities' "Dreamgirls" were the big winners at the Ovation Awards ceremony Monday at the Ahmanson Theatre.

Both productions won four trophies each, with "Metamorphoses" named best play and "Dreamgirls" best musical in the larger theater category.

The evening also was a triumph for Deaf West Theatre, which won both of the production awards top honors in the smaller theater category.

Operating out of its new home in North Hollywood, Deaf West produced only two shows this year. "Oliver!" received the Ovation for best musical in a smaller theater, plus direction and choreography honors, while "A Streetcar Named Desire," was picked best play in a small theater and also won a script adaptation award.

Accepting the production honor for "Oliver!," Deaf West artistic director Ed Waterstreet noted that the upraised arms of the human figure represented in the Ovation trophy resembles the way "deaf people applaud"--also with arms stretched above the head, while the hands and wrists quiver. The large Deaf West contingent in the hall used that distinctive form of applause often on Monday.

Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities won the best larger musical award for the second year in a row, again facing down some big-league competition, among them, Cameron Mackintosh's touring "Les Miserables." Last year, the group's "West Side Story" defeated such shows as the touring "Cabaret," the Tony-winning "Fosse" and the Pasadena Playhouse's nationally televised "Play On!"

The company's executive director-producer James Blackman used his acceptance speech to suggest to Ahmanson Theatre artistic director Gordon Davidson that perhaps a reprise of "Dreamgirls" could be booked into the Ahmanson or elsewhere at the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County.

Besides the production award, "Dreamgirls" won three of the four musical acting awards, for Kecia Lewis, Billy Porter and Tonya L. Dixon. Lewis thanked the South Bay company "for allowing us to meet onstage every day for prayer, which is why I believe the show was so successful."

The fourth musical acting honor went to Douglas Sills of "The Scarlet Pimpernel," who noted that L.A. is his home and delivered a plea for Los Angeles theater "to stick to our own personality." His enthusiasm for L.A. theater was seconded by Kathleen Chalfant, who was named best actress in a play for "Wit." Although she lives in New York, where she received immense acclaim for her off-Broadway performance of "Wit," "Los Angeles audiences were the best we ever played to," she said.

The relatively unknown Dominic Hoffman was named best actor in a play for his self-written solo "Uncle Jacques' Symphony," which also won a writing award as best world premiere. It was produced at the small Stages in Hollywood.

Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner, accepting a previously announced award for leadership in theater, said the company became involved in theater as "a natural evolution" from the live entertainment at Disney theme parks. "Our goal was not a monetary goal," he said. However, with the success of "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King," "we've come out of it with an economic platform that seems to be working."

Actor Ray Stricklyn accepted a previously announced lifetime achievement award with this advice to young actors: "You'll be up and you'll be down. Remember that neither place is permanent."

Award presenters included such big names as Kevin Spacey, Linda Hamilton and Patrick Stewart. Each presenter related a memory from L.A. theater, the funniest of which was Megan Mullally's story of how an errant costume plunged her briefly into inadvertent top-lessness during a performance of "You Never Know," at the Pasadena Playhouse.

The awards are sponsored by Theatre L.A. This year, 320 shows registered for Ovation consideration. Center Theatre Group received more awards than any other producer or presenter, taking five for shows at the Mark Taper Forum and two for shows at the Ahmanson. There were 120 voters, representing Theatre L.A. members or serving as at-large voters appointed by Theatre L.A.

The winners:

Play/Larger: "Metamorphoses," Mark Taper Forum

Play/Smaller: "A Streetcar Named Desire," Deaf West Theatre

Musical/Larger: "Dreamgirls," Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center

Musical/Smaller: "Oliver!" Deaf West Theatre

Writing of a World Premiere: Dominic Hoffman, "Uncle Jacques' Symphony"

New Translation/Adaptation: Bob Daniels, Linda Bove and Phyllis Frelich, "A Streetcar Named Desire"

Director/Musical: Jeff Calhoun, "Oliver!"

Director/Play: Mary Zimmerman, "Metamorphoses"

Leading Actor/Play: Dominic Hoffman, "Uncle Jacques' Symphony"

Leading Actress/Play: Kathleen Chalfant, "Wit"

Leading Actor/Musical: Douglas Sills, "The Scarlet Pimpernel"

Leading Actress/Musical: Kecia Lewis, "Dreamgirls"

Featured Actor/Play: Joe Hart, "The Angels of Lemnos"

Featured Actress/Play: Kathryn Joosten, "Ladies of the Corridor"

Featured Actor/Musical: Billy Porter, "Dreamgirls"

Featured Actress/Musical: Tonya L. Dixon, "Dreamgirls"

Ensemble Performance: Cast of "Forbidden Broadway Y2K/LA"

Set Design/Larger: David Gallo, "Jitney"

Set Design/Smaller: Thomas Buderwitz, "Against the Glass"

Costume Design/Larger: William Dudley, "Amadeus"

Costume Design/Smaller: Alvin Colt, "Forbidden Broadway Y2K/LA"

Lighting Design/Larger: T.J. Gerckens, "Metamorphoses"

Lighting Design/Smaller: David Flad, "The Angels of Lemnos"

Sound Design/Larger: Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman, "Metamorphoses"

Sound Design/Smaller: Jef Bek and Eric Snodgrass, "Nosferatu"

Choreography: Brian Paul Mendoza, "Oliver!"

Career Achievement Award: Ray Stricklyn

James A. Doolittle Award for Leadership in Theater: Michael D. Eisner and Walt Disney Co.

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