The Lucille Lortel Awards saluting the best of off-Broadway were handed out in a range of categories on Sunday. Some were akin to those at the Tony Awards such as Best Play (“The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”) and Best Musical (“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”). “Jackson,” which was a smash hit at the Public Theater, had only a short-lived rialto run last fall but could still reap a Best Musical bid when Tony nominations are announced Tuesday.
“Deity” won Best Sound Design while “Jackson” also claimed the Best Scenic Design prize. Other multiple prize winners included the tuner “Peter and the Starcatcher” (Best Actor – Christian Borle; Best Choreographer – Steven Hoggett) and “The Coward” (Best Featured Actress – Kristen Schaal; Best Costume Design). Laurie Metcalf won Best Actress for “The Other Place.”
“Other Desert Cities,” one of the co-leaders for most bids with five, won only Best Featured Actor (Thomas Sadoski) while the other — “Night” — was shut out. “Cities” by Jon Robin Baitz was performed in the off-Broadway theater at Lincoln Center but will be remounted in the fall in a Broadway house.
Rather than separate musical and play performances as do the Tonys, the Lortels lump them together. Most of this year’s nominees appeared in plays rather than musicals. The Lortels also do this with the various design and craft kudos. Joe Mantello, who is a likely Tony nominee for Best Play Actor for the revival of “The Normal Heart,” had two helming bids for “Other Desert Cities” and “The Other Place.”
While the Tonys have dropped their catch-all award for special theatrical event, the Lortels continue to salute such efforts. The top Solo Show was “Mike Birbiglia’s My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend” while “Gatz,” which was staged at the Public Theater, was named Best Alternative Theater Experience and won John Collins the Best Director award.
The Lortels also lauded Lynne Meadow, long-time leader of Manhattan Theater Club for her lifetime of achievement and legal eagle Gary Glaser for his service to the off-Broadway community. The ceremony at Gotham’s Skirball Center was co-hosted by Zach Braff and Samantha Bee.
These kudos are presented by the Off-Broadway League, a collection of producers who stage shows in smaller venues than those on Broadway. A successful off-Broadway run can lead to a transfer to Broadway and a chance to contend at the Tony Awards. The Lucille Lortel Awards — named for the renowned actress turned producer — do what the Drama Desk Awards used to — celebrate the best of off-Broadway.
While the Tony Awards, which date to 1947, salute Broadway, the Drama Desk kudos were begun in 1955 to honor the rest of the New York theater world. And for the first 14 years they did just that with winners coming exclusively from the burgeoning off-Broadway scene. However, beginning with the 15th festivities in 1968, those appearing on Broadway became eligible for consideration and since then these awards have tilted towards those also competing at the Tonys, leaving the off-Broadway performers in the wings until the Lortels came along.