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Ovations bestowed to great and to small

A big remounting of 'Miss Saigon' and a little-theater run of 'Killer Joe' receive four awards apiece.

November 16, 2005|Lynne Heffley | Times Staff Writer

Something old and something blue (and grisly) were the surprise favorites Monday at the 2005 Ovation Awards, which honor excellence in Southern California theater.

Taking home four awards each were Fullerton Civic Light Opera's original staging of the perennial blockbuster "Miss Saigon" and Lost Angels Theatre Company's small-theater production of "Killer Joe," Tracy Letts' brutal comedy.

Fullerton's "Miss Saigon" won the best musical in a large theater award, as well as honors for Jan Duncan's direction, lead actor Franc-Anton Harwart and lead actress Kristine Remigio. "Killer Joe" won best play in a small theater and also was recognized for direction by Scott Cummins, ensemble performance and for Lindsay Jones' sound design.

With 24 nominations, Center Theatre Group, encompassing the Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum and Kirk Douglas Theatre, led the pack when the nominees were announced in September. In the end, CTG took only five awards, including best world premiere play for Jon Robin Baitz's "The Paris Letter" and best play in a larger theater for Edward Albee's "The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia?"

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday November 17, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 45 words Type of Material: Correction
Ovation Awards -- An article in Wednesday's Calendar section about the Ovation Awards for excellence in Southern California theater listed Jan Duncan and Jon Lawrence Rivera as having won the award for best direction of a musical. Duncan was the sole winner of that award.

Best lead actor in a play went to Chris Butler in the Fountain Theatre's production of Dael Orlandersmith's "Yellowman" and to Robert Mandan in Harold Pinter's "The Caretaker" at the Zephyr Theatre.

"Yellowman's" Deidrie Henry took best lead actress in a play.

For CTG's recently retired founding artistic director, Gordon Davidson, the night was bittersweet. In presenting a tribute to playwright August Wilson, who died last month, Davidson fought tears as he spoke of "a great friend, a great writer and a great human being."

The Ovations, sponsored by the LA Stage Alliance, are peer-judged. This year, 230 voters chose winners from 79 shows in 29 categories. The ceremony was held at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.

Last year's Ovations sparked a small controversy over voting practices that resulted in Performance Riverside's production of "1776" taking top honors, with just 11 members casting votes. That show played only nine regular performances, plus three school-group matinees, but won the most awards -- five -- including best musical in a larger theater. This year, the awards cast a wide net in recognizing work in theaters of all sizes. Best world premiere musical went to Rick Batalla and Henry Phillips' "Blake ... Da Musical!," a Grove Theater Center production that played in a small theater. The award for best direction of a musical went to Jon Lawrence Rivera for "Songs for a New World" at the larger Rubicon Theatre in Ventura.

Previous Ovation winner "Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," which returned from New York for a run at the Ahmanson Theatre, was recognized as best touring production. The Deaf West Theatre musical had its start in a small North Hollywood theater, then went on to a production at the Mark Taper Forum in 2002 before moving to Broadway the following year.

Julia Sweeney's one-woman show "Letting Go of God" won the Ray Stricklyn Memorial Award for a solo performance.

Non-competitive awards went to veteran director David Galligan (Career Achievement); Shakespeare Festival/LA (Community Outreach) and playwright-actor Luis Alfaro (the James A. Doolittle Award for Leadership in the Theater). Alfaro brought the house down with a dynamic performance of his poem "Telling the Story in the Time It Takes to Get There."

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