75th Annual Theatre World Award Honorees Announced. Nathan Lane Receives John Willis Lifetime Achievement Honor
By: Ellis Nassour
June 4, 2019: Well, there are Tony’s, the blacktie gala event to honor Broadway shows and creatives, but undoubtedly the awards most looked forward to are the TWAs – the Theatre World Awards, and not just because of the after party at the Copacabana. It’s one of the most anticipated events of end-of-theater season because of the joy of seeing established stars – most former TWA honorees, come to the stage and honoring in glowing and, more often than not, hilarious terms actors – young to older – standing out in their Broadway and Off Broadway debuts.
The 75th Theatre World Awards were Monday June 3rd held, courtesy of the Nederlander Organization at the Neil Simon Theatre, home to The Cher Show. Only having the host, author, playwright, witty raconteur, and theater bonvivant Peter Filichia in some of Bob Mackie’s outrageous costumes and coming up through the trap door would have made the event more memorable. [TWA president Dale Badway did the latter sans Mackie]. Filichia’s dry wit and knowledge of theater history, laced with catty observations, is another reminder why theater fans avidly look forward to the TWAs.
This year the 7th Annual John Willis Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre went to three-time Tony Award, OBIE, Olivier, and Emmy winner Nathan Lane (Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus) . The honor is “given to an individual whose lifetime achievements and personal generosity to the theater community merit special recognition and acknowledgement.”
He was wittly introduced with a speed-dial litany of titles of every show he’s done by his Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus co-stars, the ever-funny Kristine Neilsen and Jane White. Not unexpectedly, Lane did some stand-up: noting that after two earlier Lifetime honors this season he wondered if his doctor knows something he hasn’t told him. Lane received two sustained standing ovations, one entering, one exiting, and appeared quite moved. In a rare telling moment, Lane told of his Broadway debut opposite a very volatile George C. Scott in a revival of Present Laughter, which co-starred Kate Burton, Dana Ivey, and Christine Lahti.
The 11th Annual Dorothy Loudon Award went to Hampton Fluker, 28, who after years of regional and Off Broadway work, is making his Broadway debut in All My Sons, as George Deever, the brother of Ann and son of the business partner imprisoned for selling faulty aviation parts to the military. Veteran casting director and agent Lionel Larner, executive director of the Dorothy Loudon Foundation, presented, as well as regaling the audience with stories of Miss Loudon.
The recipient is chosen from recommendations from the Theatre World Awards Committee and by trustees of The Dorothy Loudon Foundation, of which veteran theatrical agent Lionel Larner is executive director. In addition to funding arts programs, the Foundation has supported the disadvantaged, AIDS research-related charities, and disaster-relief programs.
The beloved, late Tony-winning actress Dorothy Loudon won her TWA in 1963 when co-starring in and stealing the, sadly, short-lived Sol Berkowitz and James Lipton musical No Where to Go But Up, directed by Sidney Lumet. She went on to triumph in Noises Off, The Fig Leaves Are Falling (Tony nomination), Westside Waltz, Ballroom (Tony nomination),and Annie (Tony),made memorable by her outrageous Miss Hannigan that, though many have tried, has never been topped. She was also a Golden Globe winner for her outrageous appearances on The Gary Moore (variety) Show. Many of a certain age recall with glee her showstopping mini-production number entranceson Tony Awards telecasts.
The 2019 Theatre World Award honorees for Outstanding Broadway or Off-Broadway Debut Performance are Gbenga Akinnagbe (To Kill A Mockingbird), Tom Glynn-Carney (The Ferryman), Sophia Anne Caruso (Beetlejuice), Paddy Considine (The Ferryman), James Davis (Oklahoma!), Micaela Diamond, (The Cher Show), Bonnie Milligan (Head Over Heels), Simone Missick (Paradise Blue), Jeremy Pope (Choir Boy/Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations) [he went from the former into the latter only three days after the former closed], Colton Ryan (Girl from the North Country), Stephanie Styles (Kiss Me, Kate), and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag).
In what has become an often touching tradition, 12 previous winners serve as presenters, and often relive moments from past ceremonies and share rarely-heard tales. There’s no campaigning or even an iota of suspense since there are no nominations. Honorees are announced in advance.
Presenters include TWA alum Nicholas Barasch, Justin Bohon, Danielle Brooks, Geneva Carr, Charles Dale, a radiant and well-received Rosemary Harris, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Elaine Joyce, Rob McClure, and Ruthie Ann Miles.
There were performances by TWA alum Tony nominee Phillip Boykin (revivals of Porgy and Bess, Once on This Island, Sunday in the Park with George), who opened the show with his stunning bass singing “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific and a delightful Happy Birthday to the Awards; two-time Tony nominee, veteran actress, and vocalist extraordinaire Ernestine Jackson (revivals of Guys and Dolls, 1977 – nominated in the same category as Miss Loudon for Annie); and Raisin, 1974); and golden-voiced Linda Eder (Jekyll & Hyde), who about an hour before showtime was on her tractor at her horse ranch just outside New York City. She wanted to stay for the after party, “but I have to get back and feed my horses.”
The Awards were founded in 1945 by John Willis, the late editor-in-chief of Theatre World and Screen World., as an extension of the informal “interesting personality” awards given by Daniel Blum and Norman McDonald starting in 1944 over cocktails in Blum’s apartment. In 1969, they officially became the Theatre World Awards; and are the oldest awards given for Outstanding Broadway and Off-Broadway debut performances.
Stephen Nachamie was director, with music direction by Jono Mainelli.
The 75th The TWAs, “presented annually at the end of the theater season to recognize significant, reviewable, debut performances in a Broadway or Off-Broadway production,” are produced Annual by the TWA board of directors: Dale Badway (president), Tom Lynch (vice-president), Stephen Wilde (secretary), Ilene Zatkin-Butler (treasurer), and Michael Kostel.
Follow the Theatre World Awards on Facebook, on Twitter at @TWAwards, and at www.theatreworldawards.org.