Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In Praise of the Sidekick

The last day or so, I've been thinking about a coincidence. The same weekend during which I was invited to perform one of the most famous sidekick roles in American Musical Theatre, Beatrice Arthur died. As I previously wrote, before Arthur was a TV star, she originated memorable roles in two iconic musicals, Fiddler on the Roof and Mame. In the latter, she won the Tony Award, and created what may be the finest sidekick ever to show up on Broadway.

The sidekick has a glorious history in the American Musical Theatre, and I've been lucky enough to play a couple. At Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre, for example, I played sidekick "Jeff" to leading man "Tommy" in Brigadoon, one of the chestnuts of the canon. (In those older shows, the leading man rarely had any laughs, so the sidekick got them.) I have a deep respect for the sidekick, and Bea Arthur's performance as Vera Charles in Mame was one of the true greats.

I think the mark of a great sidekick role comes during the moments when both the leading player and the best friend (the sidekick seems always to be a BFF) are onstage and interacting together. The clip below proves the point. During one of the Tony Award shows which Angela Lansbury hosted, she reunited with Bea Arthur to recreate their showstopping duet from Mame.

Tonight, in fact just a few moments ago, the lights of Broadway's marquees were dimmed for a minute, to commemorate Beatrice Arthur. That honor is reserved for those who have made a distinct, lasting contribution to the American Theatre. In Arthur's case, that contribution included the creation of one of the most memorable sidekicks ever:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Happy Dancing

I admit to being sidelined a bit by the death of Beatrice Arthur, about which I previously rambled. It made the past weekend a sorrowful one, but I also received a call which cheered me up considerably. Warner Crocker, artistic director of Wayside Theatre in Virginia (and author of a blog which mixes the theatrical with the technical, as Warner is both a stage director and a techno-geek), surprised the heck out of me by calling me regarding his upcoming musical.

I worked out at Wayside several years ago, playing a dullard in the Agatha Christie whodunit, Black Coffee. I don't have a high opinion of my work on that production, about which I have already written. But for now, who cares? I'm thrilled to have been asked back to Wayside, a regional theatre inhabited by folks who really, honestly care about the theatre. Like pretty much all the regionals in the country, they have been blindsided by the economic downturn, but they soldier on, continuing to create theatre against great odds.

I'll be writing much more about Wayside in the coming months. In mid-May, I'll journey out to Middletown, VA, to dream an impossible dream. I'll be playing Don Quixote's sidekick Sancho Panza in Wayside's production of Man of La Mancha.
Let the Tilting at Windmills begin.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Beatrice Arthur


Arthur spent thirty years on stage before achieving unlikely television stardom at age 50. She had been glimpsed, and remembered onstage by All in the Family creator Norman Lear, who created a guest starring role with her in mind. Edith had a cold (or broke her foot, or something, who remembers?) and her cousin Maude moved in to run the Bunker household for a week. The episode pitted the left-wing feminist Maude against the right-wing bigot Archie, and magic was made. After the episode aired, the honchos at CBS suggested that this highly skilled, but highly unknown (at least in Hollywood) actress be given her own show, and Maude was born. A pilot episode was written and shot as an episode of All in the Family, in which the Bunkers travel to upscale Westchester County, New York, to attend the wedding of Cousin Maude's daughter. Jean Stapleton and Carroll O'Connor appeared in only a couple of scenes in the episode, which took place primarily in the home of limousine liberal Maude Findlay. She was acerbic, caustic, sarcastic, and hilarious (this episode introduced Maude's catchphrase, "God'll get you for that"). Her household included her fourth husband Walter, her divorced daughter Carol, and her often absent grandson Phillip.

A few adjustments were made when the show went to series, the biggest of which was the replacement of actress Marcia Rodd, who played Carol in the pilot, with younger, less caustic Adrienne Barbeau. In its early episodes, the show added stage actress Esther Rolle to the cast to play the maid Florida. Maude was an immediate hit, and its first season set the stage for the controversial subject matter which would become its legacy. The script for the two-part abortion story was read into the congressional record, even as the nation was deeply divided on the issue (Roe vs. Wade was decided a year after Maude's abortion episode aired). While the show tackled social issues such as alcoholism, racism, menopause and the like, it provided a showcase for Arthur's dynamic comic timing. After repeated nominations, she won her first Emmy for the show in 1977; that year's season included an unusual episode in which Arthur was the only performer to appear (we witnessed Maude's session with a psychiatrist, who remained off-camera and mute for the full half-hour). It was the sitcom version of a One Man Show; Arthur herself called it a "tour de force." The series suffered diminished ratings in its later years, and Arthur herself decided the show should not continue beyond its 77-78 season.

I was in the audience during a taping of Maude once, and was impressed that the ensemble treated the show as a theatrical production, running the entire episode without stops or retakes. The stage chops of Arthur and her costars were on clear display.

After Maude, Arthur briefly returned to Broadway in the Woody Allen flop, The Floating Lightbulb; the experience did not diminish her love of performing onstage. In her early years, she had been a regular presence on New York stages, and made a splash in the 1954 off-Broadway production of Threepenny Opera starring German star Lotte Lenya, a production which boasted a cast which would soon achieve major recognition: Charlotte Rae, Jo Sullivan (Mrs. Frank Loesser), John Astin, and Paul Dooley.

In the early 60s, Arthur created the role of Yente the Matchmaker in the long running smash Fiddler on the Roof. By then she had married and divorced her first husband, and married director Gene Saks, a union which would last 28 years (I wrote about Saks and his career when he died). The 1966 production of Mame was directed by Saks, who was in the unenviable position of telling his wife that she did not get the leading role in his play. She did, however, snag the supporting role of drunken stage actress Vera Charles, which provided Arthur with a Tony Award. Arthur recreated the role in the disastrous film version starring Lucille Ball in 1974 (I wrote about that trainwreck here).

After her major success with Maude in the 1970s, Arthur returned to series television briefly in 1983, headlining the sitcom Amanda's, the adaptation of the British series Fawlty Towers. What worked for John Clease did not for Bea Arthur, and the show lasted only 13 weeks. Two years later, she debuted in her second hit series, The Golden Girls. Though the role of Dorothy was written specifically for Arthur, she was reluctant to commit to another series. Her friend and Maude cohort Rue McClanahan, who was to costar in the new series, was enlisted to convince Arthur that the show had something new to say about middle-aged women (Go here for my appreciation of McClanahan, which I wrote when she died). The pilot episode (which included a gay houseboy who did not return when the show went to series) provided plenty of evidence that the four feisty actresses could form a dynamic ensemble.

Arthur won her second Emmy Award for The Golden Girls (she garnered additional nominations in 1978, for a guest appearance on Laugh-In, and in 2000, for a guest shot on Malcolm in the Middle). She has continued to maintain a presence on television, appearing as Larry David's mother on Curb Your Enthusiasm, as well as providing a notorious (but riotous) performance in 2005, on a Comedy Central roast of Pamela Anderson (in her trademark deadpan, she read from Anderson's autobiography). She created and toured a one-woman retrospective of her career, which reached Broadway in 2002 and garnered a Tony nomination (she lost the award to Elaine Stritch's one-woman show, which may have been payback for this fun story: while Arthur was always the first choice to play Dorothy on The Golden Girls, she hesitated long enough that auditions were held to cast the role elsewhere. Stritch was called in, and, by her own account, blew the audition by adding some foul-mouthed ad-libs. Can you imagine Elaine Stritch as Dorothy Zbornak? I think I can).

Bea Arthur can be credited for creating four, count 'em FOUR iconic roles: Dorothy Zbornak, Maude Findlay, Vera Charles, and Yente the Matchmaker. Her comic timing was impeccable; I'm sure the phone book would be a scream if she read it aloud. That timing is apparent in the clip below, as is her ability to bring life to an old standard. There is also a nice bit of acting going on here. Bea Arthur once told an interviewer of the three influences in her work: "Sid Caesar taught me the outrageous; Lee Strasberg taught me what I call reality; and Lotte Lenya taught me economy."

All three influences are apparent in this Golden Girls clip, which takes place in a bar to which Dorothy has been dragged against her will:

Beatrice Arthur died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. She was 86.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Dance Party: We Should Be Together

I confess that I was never a big fan of Shirley Temple movies; they are a bit too sugary for my taste. And a peek at the very early ones, when she was six and younger, reveals that, bless her heart, she can barely carry a tune. But she must be admired for helping the country get through the Great Depression. She single-handedly saved Fox Studios from bankruptcy, and was the top box office draw four years during the 1930s.

She costarred with everybody from Cary Grant to Buddy Ebsen (right), from Carole Lombard to John Wayne, from Ronald Reagan to Henry Fonda. I personally enjoyed her repartee with Arthur Treacher (left), who usually played the veddy propah English butler who became enchanted with our little gal.

Temple created a sensation with her intricate dance routines with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, who appeared in several films with her, and advised her behind the scenes in many more. (Scenes in which the two held hands were sometimes censored in the segregated Deep South.)

Temple had the classic Stage Mother on set with her at all times, holding total control over her wardrobe and other matters, insuring, for example, that there were exactly 56 ringlets in her hair for each take. Several rumors regarding her early career have varying degrees of truth. It's often said that she auditioned for Hal Roach's Our Gang series of shorts, which later became The Little Rascals, but her mother prevented her daughter's participation unless she was given special star billing. (Temple herself has written that she never auditioned for the series, though she appears in at least one episode, at the age of about three.) The role of "Dorothy" in The Wizard of Oz was not, in fact, written with her in mind; Judy Garland was always the first choice. Studio honchos worried about Garland's ability to carry the film, and attempted to borrow Temple from Fox for the role. It was only after that attempt failed that Garland finally secured the role which made her a star. It's said that the role of Bonnie Blue Butler in Gone With the Wind was written specifically for Temple, but she was too old to play it by the time filming began. (Temple's age fluctuated during the years in which she was a star; she did not learn her actual age until she reached her teens, as her birth certificate had been altered to lengthen her childhood.)

In her adult years, Temple retired from show biz, and eventually lost election to the House of Representatives in 1967 (she ran on a platform supporting the American presence in Vietnam); she later served as a delegate to the United Nations. Her diplomatic career included stints as ambassador to Ghana and to Czechoslovakia under the Nixon administration.

Temple won two non-competitive Oscars during her career, and her films gave comfort to millions during the Great Depression. FDR famously remarked that, "as long as America has Shirley Temple, we will be all right." I'm thinking we need someone like that right now, with the economic situation getting downright scary. Or maybe we've already found our own Shirley Temple, to cheer us up and remind us that our dreams needn't be dashed by the desperate times surrounding us:
I have a hunch Susan Boyle does not tap, so please enjoy this week's Dance Party, a celebration of Shirley Temple, who turned 81 years old this week. At least, she thinks she turned 81 years old this week...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Strangers on a Train

I spent close to eight hours on the train today, traveling to and from Manhattan for an audition for which I should not have bothered. The ride reinforced my long-held disdain for the strangers with whom I am forced to travel. The guy across the aisle (his name was Ari. No, he did not introduce himself, I heard him announce it every time he answered his Blackberry, which was every few minutes) was in intense discussions with Doug and Linda regarding the advisability of initiating impeachment proceedings against a judge. Ari was also adamant that everything in the new brochure have an online site, so all the bloggers can link to it. (This blogger won't be doing so.) Also, Ari was pretty desperate to get the videographer to the office on Monday or Wednesday to tape the next online newsletter in time for it to be transferred to the DVD being sent out to all the Religious Press. Oh, and Ari was concerned that those DVDs have high quality but be very cheap.

I had no interest in Ari's conversations, but could not drown them out, even with Sam Harris wailing in my headphones. This guy did an excellent job of holding everyone around him hostage to his phone calls. That is, until the woman seated ahead of me took over. She was a young woman of color, surely no older than 22, who was shouting at her children through her cellphone. She screamed at her son, and then her daughter, to go to school. (This argument took place around 10:30 AM). I very much wanted to tap this woman on the shoulder and tell her that her parenting skills were never going to improve while she did it via cellphone. Also, I really wanted to know why a woman in her early 20s had two SCHOOL AGE CHILDREN.

Then the guy seated behind me started to bark.
I don't mean he was barking orders into his Blackberry.
I mean he was BARKING. Like a DOG.

Is it any wonder my New York audition tanked?

Theatre Droppings: Whistling Dixie, Fiddling Gospel, and Chopping Cherry Trees

"Everything in this world comes to an end."

So says one of the supporting characters in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. The upper-class world of the Russian gentry is collapsing, and its inhabitants have no idea how to cope. I drove up to Everyman Theatre in Baltimore the other night, and was treated to a terrific production of Chekhov's final play. The design elements of the show were superb, and I am sure it's the strongest sound design I have ever heard at Everyman. The performances are swell, and in particular, Deborah Hazlett, Carl Schurr, Wil Love, Clinton Brandhagen, and Megan Anderson gave dynamic life to their roles. Mysteriously, all five actors are friends of mine, proving yet again that old adage: my friends are always the best things in their shows.

I caught a couple more theatrical treats last week as well. I've already whined about missing out on Fords Theatre's current musical, The Civil War, because I refuse to pay their ridiculous service charges accompanying their tickets. But Fords is also providing two one-act plays during the day, to entertain and enlighten the hundreds of tourists who flow through the building. Those performances are free, and I popped over to catch The Road From Appomattox. It seems that, right after Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate army at Appomattox, he met face-to-face with the Union's general, Ulysses S. Grant. The meeting was personal and private; though it is mentioned in contemporary histories of the time, no one was within earshot when the two generals met. Playwright Richard Helleson has provided an engaging dialogue between the two military men, who attempt to end the hostilities with grace for both sides. All this is quite interesting, but the real reason I went to see the show was two-fold: I wanted to catch a glimpse of the renovations which have kept Fords closed for almost two years, and the two actors in the piece are my friends Steve Carpenter and John Dow.

As for the renovations to the theatre, thank god those rickety cane chairs are gone. The most noticeable change in the theatre, apart from the seats, is in the brand new lobby, which is roomy and accessible; the previous lobby was gloomy and cramped. And as for the show itself, both cast members are worth seeing. Steve is an old grad-school chum of mine with whom I have appeared onstage many times (we played brothers in The Importance of Being Earnest, among other projects), and who has directed me in two of my favorite performances. In one of those shows, Thief River, Steve's current costar John Dow actually played me, twenty years from now. Never mind, it's too hard to explain. In addition, I've worked with John at Olney Theatre, the Smithsonian, and in readings at the Washington Stage Guild. I count both the guys as friends, and, what are the odds, they both give terrific performances.

Wayside Theatre in Middletown, VA, has also undergone a renovation since my previous visits, and, like Fords, the most obvious improvements were The Chairs. I drove out to see their current revival of Harry Chapin's Cotton Patch Gospel, and had a grand time. I have two friends in the cast and, go figure, they both give the best performances in the show. Larry Dahlke, with whom I appeared in Black Coffee at Wayside several years ago, is very impressive as he plays the fiddle and sings at the same time. These are two skills which are not harmonious, singing and fiddling, but Larry somehow accomplishes the feat. (Larry, by the way, has a fun little blog, and is responsible for my silly Friday Dance Party entries here in these pages: Larry invented the idea.)
My buddy Ray Ficca is the main character in Cotton Patch Gospel, narrating this version of the life of Jesus, transplanted to rural Georgia and accompanied by bluegrass music. It's an interesting take on the gospel, where Herod and Pilate become state governors, and Judas becomes a good ol' boy named "Jud." There are a couple of conspicuous absences in the story, namely, Mary Magdalene and anybody Jewish. I grew up in Atlanta, and can attest to the fact that, in rural Georgia, nobody every heard of a prostitute or a Hebrew. (Or if they did, they didn't talk about it.)

Ray did a fantastic job with the text, and, as always, the physicality he gives to his performance is quite exciting. This production will be transferring to Totem Pole Playhouse in Pennsylvania next month.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Making the Rounds

It's still a couple more weeks before I return to the safety of the Deep South, that is, North Carolina, land of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the gourmet cooking of my stepmother. In the meantime, I continue to live the glamorous life of the unemployed actor looking for employment.

It was such fun to attend the annual Helen Hayes Awards last week (I've already droned on and on about them), but there are usually a few uncomfortable moments during such events. Two actors approach each other after a long absence, and hugs ensue. Inevitably, talk turns to current projects, which, if one is unemployed, leaves one feeling a bit inadequate.
But it ain't for lack of trying on this actor's part. The local DC audition cycle continues, and I've joined in. A week or so ago, I attended the EPA (that's a general audition required by the actors' union) at Studio Theatre for their production of The Solid Gold Cadillac, to be presented next season. It's a George S. Kaufman comedy about corporate America, and has wicked relevance to today. I haven't auditioned at Studio in a while, but the caster there, Serge Seiden, who is also directing this particular piece, is a gentle gent with a nice attitude toward actors. We had a nice time catching up a bit, and the encounter reminded me that most of the casting folks in this city actually like actors. (That is not always the case in NY or LA.) The caster at Round House Theatre, my next stop, is also an old acquaintance, and I enjoyed our chat immensely. At both these auditions, I presented a brief comic moment from Steve Martin's play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile. It's a piece that's been in my repertoire a while, all about paintings of Jesus and naked messengers. Leave it to Steve...

In addition to the above general auditions, I was called in to the local children's theatre troop for a new adaptation of Peter and the Wolf. Remember that? I had an old 78 recording that I played incessantly as a kid. The director for this show happened to be a guy who choreographed the fighting in the production of Henry V at The Shakespeare Theatre Company in which I appeared a long while ago. We fought our battles with staffs, perched on 6 inch high boots which allowed us to tower over our opponents (we still lost the battles. We were French, after all...) Anyway, this audition went splendidly, and I received a callback for four roles in the show. Unfortunately, the date set for these additional auditions is after my return to North Carolina, so, after some uncomfortable soul-searching, I had to decline them. I have some hopes that additional callbacks will be scheduled, and I will do my best to attend those. It is never easy to turn down a callback, particularly with so little on my horizon, theatrically, but the audition sits squarely during my first weekend back in NC, during which I will be seeing the newest show at NC Stage, and the newest show at Flat Rock Playhouse, and attending a mini-family reunion.
I need the work, but an actor has to have a Life as well...
But there is still some hunting to be done. I'm heading to Manhattan for an audition tomorrow for a small theatre near Syracuse. It's a glamorous life...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tharon Musser


She was called the "Dean of American Lighting," and for over forty years, her lighting designs transformed Broadway stages. Six years after earning her MFA from Yale, she made her Broadway debut with the original production of a little play called Long Day's Journey Into Night. She quickly established herself as a versatile lighting designer, moving easily between straight plays and musicals, classical works and contemporary pieces. She was the designer of choice for Hal Prince, Michael Bennett, and Neil Simon, designing over 150 productions for those and other artists. Her first Tony came for her work on the landmark musical Follies, where her lights helped blur the past and present among the debris of a decrepit vaudeville theatre. Her design for A Chorus Line also won a Tony, and was the first use of a computerized lighting board, rendering the manual "piano board" obsolete. Her design for A Chorus Line was recreated for the recent Broadway revival. Her third Tony was awarded for the original production of Dreamgirls, in which she contributed to the non-stop, cinematic feel of the show.

Her expertise was on display in a wide variety of styles, including original productions written by Ionesco (The Chairs), Pinter (The Birthday Party). Albee (A Delicate Balance), and Coward (Tonight at 8:30). Her designs graced the original productions of the musicals Flora the Red Menace, Once Upon a Mattress, Applause, Mack and Mabel, The Wiz, 42nd Street, A Little Night Music, and Mame, as well as the first productions of such plays as The Lion in Winter, Same Time Next Year, Whose Life is it Anyway? and Children of a Lesser God. She was at home with revivals of classics such as Peer Gynt, A Touch of the Poet, The Imaginary Invalid, and Candide.

In the mid-1990s, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, but continued to work for several more years, delivering her final Broadway design for The Lonesome West in 1999. Musser died this week at the age of 84.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Dance Party: All Aboard for Broadway

Joel Grey turned 77 this week, so how could I not include him in this week's Dance Party? Well, it was either Grey or David Cassidy, who also had a birthday this week. Want to feel old? Former teen idol Cassidy turned (get this) 59 on Sunday. yikes. I decided against dredging up one of those old clips from The Partridge Family, with everybody lip-syncing and Susan Dey pretending to play the synthesizer and Shirley Jones looking wildly out-of-place.

Instead, it's gotta be Joel Grey. I've already written a bit about Grey (a bit?), including seeing him on screen in his career-making role as the Emcee in Cabaret. But I've resisted the temptation to use one of those clips, and instead chosen a little-known one. After Grey's success in Cabaret, he headlined a couple of musicals which were not big hits. His 1975 flop Goodtime Charley attempted to musicalize (get this) the story of Joan of Arc, as seen through the eyes of the dauphin of France who later becomes Charles VII. Maybe this would have made an effective opera, but as a musical comedy, not so much. How could a show recover from an opening number sung by the warrior King Henry V and Queen Isabella of Bavaria? That show must have been a hoot to sit through: I mean, Ann Reinking as Joan of Arc?? Wow.

I actually saw Grey's later disaster, The Grand Tour, about which I have written here.

But years before those mistakes, Grey had a minor hit with his follow-up to Cabaret, George M! He played George M. Cohan, which was a good fit for his singing and dancing skills, but Grey has never been a particularly warm presence onstage, and the show was pretty chilly. (I have to say that I have seen Grey once more onstage, in a summer stock production of 1776, in which he was very effective as John Adams, who was, after all, a chilly fellow himself.) And George M. Cohan was not a particularly nice guy to play; he was an arrogant egomaniac who trashed two marriages and, as a producer, attempted to block the formation of the stage actors union back in the 1920s. (Can you tell I played the sucker? Well, I played him into the ground, back in 1983, and can confirm that tap-dancing is not my strongest suit.) Anyway, in 1970, a truncated version of George M! was broadcast on ABC; unfortunately, there has never been a video of that show released, so the clip below is a bit fuzzy. But it's fun, especially when you notice the actors playing Grey's sister, mother and father. Surely you recognize them, right?

By the way, whoever first loaded this clip onto YouTube obviously had no sense of comic timing. Otherwise he would have included the tag line. After this number, the producer watching the Cohans perform (the guy with the cigar) takes a beat and says, "I'll take the girl."

Drama Prom

The 25th Annual Helen Hayes Awards were held on Monday. It's commonly called the "Drama Prom" or "the city's biggest cast party," but I think of them as the Hayzies. (If you sit there long enough, you get a bit hazy, believe me.) The last time I attended, two years ago, the ceremony swept by in about two hours; this year, the awards stretched well beyond that time, though the show itself, moment by moment, did not seem to drag. The length of the show can be blamed on the handful of ties; five or six awards had to be awarded in duplicate, requiring duplicate acceptance speeches, etc. In addition, the Hayzies have not yet figured out how to manage those particular awards which bring dozens of people onstage at the same time. And this year, in addition to the large casts winning the "best ensemble" awards, all the local artistic directors (about 70 of them) were dragged onstage to be applauded by those of us in the audience who would like to be hired by them. A bit surreal, I think.

As far as the recipients, I really can't complain too much, since I certainly did not see everything that was nominated. It looked like Signature's Les Miz was the big winner (I wrote about seeing the show here), as I believe they won every acting category for which they were nominated except one: Leading Actor in a Musical. That award went, inexplicably, to David Margulies, who gave a charming but forgettable performance in The Happy Time. When the Hayes nominations came out, I lamented that Michael Minarik (above), who played the pivotal role in The Happy Time, was overlooked; from the gents who WERE nominated, I would have liked to see one of the guys from Kiss of the Spider Woman (above) win out. Ah, well...

I was pleased that Arena Stage's Next to Normal won several high-profile awards. None of the nominees from the show were in attendance, as they were all in previews for its Broadway opening on Wednesday (the New York reviews have been raves, and it now looks like Next to Normal is the show to beat at Tony Time...sorry, Billy Elliott...) I loved the show when it was here, though I wrote that I was disappointed when star Alice Ripley did not play the noon matinee I attended. She won a Hayzie, as did the kid playing her son, Aaron Tveit (this guy won the award over sentimental favorite Robert Prosky, who was nominated for The Price, and has since passed away. But Prosky's death had no chance to play a part in the voting: the numerical way in which the awards are determined means that all the scores for The Price, for example, were in place by the time the show closed, and could not be influenced by later occurrences like an actor's death.)

Though I was anxious to get to the afterparty, I still enjoyed the HH Awards Show itself. The musical interludes were nutty parody songs, delivered by a handful of local stalwarts, including that clown Rick Hammerly, who hammed it up effectively.
I suppose the moment which meant the most to me was the appearance of Ann Norton from the Washington Stage Guild, who has faced a mountain of sorrow in the past year, in addition to medical issues, but who strode onstage to present several awards with no hint of her recent history. The HH folks rightly gave Ann the honor of announcing the Best Actor in a Play award, including the reminder that the award will from now on be named in honor of the late Robert Prosky, a long-time DC presence. Ann is a lady (well, she'd call herself a broad) who could have justifiably Given Up about four tragedies ago, but has refused to do so. I'm very proud to call her my friend.

Whether they admit it or not, everybody goes to the HH Awards just to get into the reception afterward, a huge affair with buffet tables full of food and long lines at the open bar. It's great fun to roam the various banquet rooms provided for the event, and bump into folks you haven't seen all year. Of course, in such a huge crowd, there are those you miss, and I was disappointed not to encounter Floyd King, one of the evening's winners and an old buddy from The Shakespeare Theatre Company. Floyd actually took me to the first two HH Awards ceremonies I ever attended back in the 90s; perhaps some tongues wagged about that behind our backs...but then, that's also one of the joys of the Drama Prom: The Dish. It's all in good-natured fun, and never gets in the way of the familial feeling the event always celebrates.

This year I closed the place down, and felt the effects the next day too, but who cares? I own a tuxedo (actually own several, but that's another story) so I might as well break it out once a year:

(Thanks, Clinton, for this proof of the good time had by all.)