Chita Rivera Wins Distinguished Performance Award
By: Patrick Christiano
The 81st Annual Drama League Awards were announced at the Marriott Marquis Times Square in a star-studded luncheon ceremony hosted by Hand to God’s Stephen Boyer. Broadway Legend, the incomparable Chita Rivera, was presented with the Distinguished Perfor
mance of the Year Award by last year’s winner Neil Patrick Harris for her role as the aging and very wealthy Claire Zachanassian, who returns to her hometown after years away amassing a fortune, to garin revenge on a childhood lover that spurned her.
The Kander & Ebb musical, "The Visit, with a book by Terrence McNally is nominated for 5 Tony Awards, and this same team had collaborated on the Tony winning musical "The Kiss of the Spider Woman," winning a Tony for Chita as well. Under John Doyle’s magical direction "The Visit" is captivating, even haunting theater.
Chita triumphed at the Drama League over a stellar list of around 50 outstanding performances with impressive turns by such stars as Kristin Chenoweth in "On the Twentieth Century," Helen Mirren in "The Audience," Tyne Daly in "It Shoulda Been You," Lin-Manuel Mirandra in his own nominated musical "Hamilton," and many more including past winners Cherry Jones, Rosemary Harris, Glenn Close and more. The Drama League Distinguished Performance Award can only be won once so past winners, although they may be nominated this season for their outstanding work, cannot win again.
Zachary Quinto presented production awards. The winners were as follows: Distinguished Production of a Musical, An American in Paris; Distinguished Play, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time; Distinguished Revival of a Musical, The King and I; Distinguished Revival of a Play, You Can’t Take It With You.
In addition to the competitive categories, Tony®, and Oscar® Award winner Joel Grey was honored with the Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theater Award; WNET was honored with the Unique Contribution to the Theater Award for their vital work in bringing New York theater to viewers across America; and Tony®, Drama Desk®, Olivier Award winner and Oscar® nominee Stephen Daldry was honored with the Founders Award for Excellence in Directing.
First awarded in 1922 and formalized in 1935, The Drama League Awards are the oldest theatrical honors in America. They are the only major theatergoer awards chosen by audience members – specifically, by the thousands of Drama League members nationwide who attend Broadway and Off-Broadway productions.
The first Drama League Award was presented to Katharine Cornell in 1935. Since then, the Distinguished Performance Award has been accorded to a roster of theatre legends such as Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Lane, Audra McDonald, Liam Neeson, Hugh Jackman, Patti LuPone, Glenn Close, Rosemary Harris Liev Schreiber, Sir John Gielgud, Harvey Fierstein, Cherry Jones, Alec Guinness, James Earl Jones, Julie Harris, Helen Hayes, Jeremy Irons, Mary-Louise Parker, Sir Ian McKellen, Bernadette Peters, and Christopher Plummer.
The Awards Ceremony and Luncheon included a nominee’scocktail reception, luncheon, and awards presentation held at the Marriott Marquis Times Square in the Broadway Ballroom at 1535 Broadway on Friday, May 15, 2015.
Drama League Board President Jano Herbosch was joined by Bonnie Comley as Co-Chair. Official sponsors for the 81st Annual Drama League Awards included Delta Air Lines, the Official Airline of The Drama League; MAC Cosmetics, the Official Makeup Partner of The Drama League; National Life Group; and GenSpring Family Offices.
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Photography: Barry Gordin