FROM VAUDEVILLE TO TODAY’S TOP BROADWAY HITS, THE 2011 THEATRE MUSEUM AWARDS GALA HONORED A SPECTRUM OF
Running the gamut from vaudeville and musical theatre classics, to today’s top Broadway shows, with a touch of “old blue eyes” thrown in for good measure, the 2011 Theatre Museum Awards paid tribute to a wide range of the performing arts.
Photography: Barry Gordin
The evening was directed by renown showman Tony Walton, the only costumer/set designer to have won an Oscar, Emmy and Tony, the 2011 Theatre Museum Awards for Excellence.
Founded in 2003, The Theatre Museum is New York’s first and only chartered, non-profit museum dedicated to the history of theatre. It is a museum-at-large — presenting exhibitions on a myriad of subjects in collaboration with other cultural institutions. The Museum’s community outreach includes teaching children how to write, direct and stage live theatre, as well as the annual Theatre Museum Awards for Excellence ceremony. Its primary mission is to preserve, protect and perpetuate the legacy of theatre through innovative programming.
Receiving The Theatre Museum’s prestigious Career Achievement Award was legendary Broadway lyricist Sheldon Harnick. In collaboration with composer Jerry Bock, Harnick created the music for such memorable shows as Fiddler on the Roof, Fiorello!, She Loves Me, The Apple Tree and The Rothchilds. His numerous honors include three Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize.
Harnick began his career in the 1950s by penning songs both on and off Broadway for such musical reviews as The Boston Beguine and Merry Little Minuet. He teamed with Bock in 1956 for The Body Beautiful and the duo never looked back. Some of Harnick’s other efforts include Rex with Richard Rodgers, A Wonderful Life with Joe Raposo, A Christmas Carol with Michel Legrand, The Phantom Tollbooth with Arnold Black and co-librettist Norton Juster, and the operas Cyrano, Coyote Tales and Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines. In addition, he has translated The Merry Widow for Beverly Sills, Carmen, Ravel’s The Enchanted Child, and Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale.
Prolific producer Bonnie Comley was honored with The Theatre Museum’s Service to the Theatre Award and accepted her honor with a wonderful heartfelt speech asking everyone to please take their children to the theatre. Among her current productions on Broadway are The Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, and War Horse. Other Broadway credits include Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Come Fly Away, Enron, Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, Legally Blonde, Superior Donuts, as well as the Broadway revivals of American Buffalo, Sunday in the Park with George, Cyrano de Bergerac, Fiddler on the Roof, and Gypsy. In London’s West End, Ms. Comley produced the Olivier nominated Thoroughly Modern Millie, Ragtime and Lobby Hero. She won a Tony Award for producing Jay Johnson: The Two and Only.
Vice President of Stellar Productions, Int’l Inc., and wife of theatre producer Stewart F. Lane, Comley has been awarded the Paul Newman Award from Arts Horizons, the Actors Fund Medal of Honor, and the Distinguished Producer Award from The Drama League. Her film efforts include producing Of Horse and Man, narrated by Glenn Close, Show Business: The Road to Broadway, Brooklyn Rules, Cyrano de Bergerac, starring Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner, Company, and Sondheim: The Birthday Concert for PBS’ Great Performances.
His lifelong love of vaudeville and his dedication to keeping its memory alive makes Frank Cullen the perfect recipient for The Theatre Museum’s Theatre History Preservation Award.
Along with Donald McNeilly, Cullen founded The American Vaudeville Museum in 1982. Here, he was able to display the showbiz memorabilia he had collected since the age of 10. In 2008, the collection was transferred to the University of Arizona in Tucson, where it is available to view at Special Collections. Using McNeilly’s website www.vaudeville.org as a springboard, the two men produced 40 issues of the AVM quarterly "Vaudeville Times” from 1998-2008.
When Routledge Press wanted to create an authoritative book on the subject, it seemed only natural that Cullen and McNeilly would be involved. The two large-format volumes, Vaudeville, Old & New: an Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America, were published in 2007. Cullen served as lead researcher and writer.
Cullen and McNeilly also collaborated on Murder at the Tremont Theatre: The First Porridge Sisters Mystery (2010) and Murder at The Old Howard (due 2011), the first two of a projected series of five historically accurate showbiz whodunits set in Boston during the vaudeville era.
The Frank Sinatra School of the Arts will receive The Theatre Museum’s Theatre Arts Education Award.
Established in 2001 by world-famous entertainer Tony Bennett as a way to honor the memory of his friend and colleague Frank Sinatra, the Queens-based high school offers a specialized program in the arts as well as a full academic curriculum.
Currently 590 students — selected from among New York City’s 8th and 9th graders — are undertaking the school’s rigorous academic curriculum and pre-conservatory studio education. Selection is determined through a competitive audition and academic records evaluation. Students pursue an arts study program in instrumental music, vocal music, fine arts, drama or dance.
The school is committed to community service through the arts — allowing students in both an individual capacity and in groups to complete arts-related projects in facilities such as hospitals, day care centers, senior citizen homes and homeless shelters. Partnerships have also been formed with such groups as the Metropolitan Opera, Battery Dance Company, Museum of Modern Art, Queens Museum, American Theatre Wing, and Times Square Group, allowing students to participate in internships, apprenticeships, mentorships and other programs and projects.
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