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‘Madness!’ Rules the Awarding of Drama Critics Circle Honors

TIMES THEATER WRITER

The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle succumbed to “Reefer Madness!” Monday, awarding the little musical seven of the circle’s annual awards--more than twice the number won by any other show.

“Reefer” won in seven of the eight categories for which it was nominated. It lost only in the writing competition, in which its libretto was nominated--although the music and lyrics by the same two writers, Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney, did win in the category for outstanding score.

Among the honors bestowed on the tongue-in-cheek treatment of the war against drugs was one of the two plaques for outstanding production. The other winner was also a show from the sub-100-seat arena--Interact Theatre’s production of Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard.”

“Reefer Madness!” co-creator Studney, accepting the production award, thanked the original writers of the “really bad screenplay. We ripped them off for everything they were worth.”

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The musical satire also won the highest number of the peer-judged Ovation Awards last fall, taking home five. The “Reefer” company is becoming known in local theater circles for the earsplitting cheers it raises at every mention of its name during awards ceremonies. Reacting to the noise while accepting his award, “Reefer” director Andy Fickman told the rest of the crowd at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel: “I apologize for them.”

The runner-up in the overall LADCC award total was “When Pigs Fly,” another lighthearted musical, which garnered three honors. “The Cherry Orchard,” South Coast Repertory’s “The Philanderer,” Cast Theatre’s “Bitter Women” and Center Theatre Group’s presentation of the ballet “Cinderella” each won two awards.

“The Philanderer” marks David Emmes’ first LADCC award for best director; he was nominated in 1990 for an SCR production of George Bernard Shaw’s “You Never Can Tell.” Douglas Weston garnered the second “Philanderer” honor, for his lead performance. The circle also recognized Matt Walker for best director in “Twelfth Dog Night,” originally presented at the Grove Theater Center in Garden Grove.

The ceremony was emceed by Jane Morris, who was the understudy for the previously scheduled emcee, Maripat Donovan, in Donovan’s solo “Late Nite Catechism.” Donovan was fogbound in Denver, the crowd was told.

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Dressed in a traditional nun’s habit, Morris offered a stream of tart reactions to the proceedings and kept coming up with new ways of misstating the title of “Reefer Madness!” such as “Heroin Follies” and “Mainline Express.”

The winners:

* Production: “The Cherry Orchard,” Interact Theatre; “Reefer Madness!,” Hudson Backstage Theatre

* Direction: David Emmes, “The Philanderer”; Andy Fickman, “Reefer Madness!”; Matt Walker, “Twelfth Dog Night”

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* Writing: Laural Meade, “Harry Thaw Hates Everybody”

* Musical Score: Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney, “Reefer Madness!”

* Lead Performance: Pedro Balmaceda, “Orphans”; Christian Campbell, “Reefer Madness!”; Julia Campbell, “Bitter Women”; Carolee Carmello, “Bells Are Ringing”; Valerie Dillman, “Lulu”; Maripat Donovan, “Late Nite Catechism”; Tracy Middendorf, “Summer and Smoke”; Douglas Weston, “The Philanderer”

* Featured Performance: Jim J. Bullock, “When Pigs Fly”; Francois Giroday, “The Cherry Orchard”; Blake Hammond, “When Pigs Fly”; Sara Zinsser, “Bitter Women”

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* Scenic Design: Roy Christopher, “Light Up the Sky”; Victoria Profitt, “The Swan”

* Lighting Design: David Flad, “The Angels of Lemnos”; Kris Sandheinrich, “Broadway”

* Costume Design: Howard Crabtree, “When Pigs Fly”

* Sound Design: Jon Gottlieb and Phillip G. Allen, “Cinderella”; Chet Towle, “Reefer Madness!”

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* Choreography: Matthew Bourne, “Cinderella”; Michael Goorjian, “Reefer Madness!”

* Musical Direction: Nathan Wang and David Manning, “Reefer Madness!”; Dan Wheetman, “It Ain’t Nothin’ but the Blues”

* Ted Schmitt Award: Paul Mullin, “The Louis Slotin Sonata”

* Ron Link Award: Ron Sossi

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* Margaret Harford Award: Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum

* Polly Warfield Award: Pacific Resident Theatre

* Bob Z Award: Victoria Profitt

* Angstrom Award: Michael Gilliam

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* Natalie Schafer Award: Audrey Rapoport


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