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Five By Tenn, Olly’s Prison win big

The Elliot Norton envelope please
By CAROLYN CLAY  |  May 24, 2006

Five by Tenn

The Boston Theater Critics Association put on its annual Elliot Norton Awards fandango Monday night, intended to honor the best on local stages as well as the memory of their namesake, dean of American theater critics Elliot Norton, who clocked 48 years on the Boston aisle. Tony-winning composer of Falsettos and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee William Finn was guest of honor and proved not only melodious (in a medley from the Huntington Theatre Company production of Falsettos) but also witty. And he showed himself to be a hometown boy, bringing on stage his Natick High School drama teacher, Gerry Dyer, who had directed him at 17 in Ionesco’s Exit the King. (“That’s how pretentious we were,” Finn said.) The other pooh-bah of the evening was Lyric Stage Company artistic director Spiro Veloudos, a player on the local scene for 32 years and this year’s winner of the Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence.

For the first time, nominees had been previously announced for each award, so you at least knew who might win. Here’s who did. The outstanding productions by visiting, large, mid-size, small, and fringe companies respectively were Monty Python’s Spamalot presented by Broadway Across America/Boston; American Repertory Theatre’s harrowing Olly’s Prison; SpeakEasy Stage Company’s gauzy Tennessee Williams compilation, Five by Tenn; the Publick Theatre’s alfresco Arcadia; and Alarm Clock Theatre Company’s Found magazine–inspired P.S. Page Me Later. Overture Productions’ concert staging of On the Twentieth Century was named Outstanding Musical.

Thespian honors in the large-company division went to ART’s Karen MacDonald for work on Olly’s Prison and No Exit, and to Bill Camp for Olly’s Prison. In the category of small or mid-size companies, Allyn Burrows was recognized for Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s The Homecoming, Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s King Lear, and SpeakEasy’s Five by Tenn, and Sandra Shipley picked up her second Norton Award for Gloucester Stage Company’s Long Day’s Journey into Night. Tony Award winner Jefferson Mays got the best-solo-performance nod for Broadway import I Am My Own Wife (and he actually showed up, despite no prior knowledge he’d beat Billy Crystal). Directors who won awards were Brian McEleney for Trinity Repertory Company’s Hamlet and Scott Edmiston for Five by Tenn. The winner of the “Norty” for outstanding design was Janie E. Howland for work on various area stages. And Boston Conservatory picked up a special citation for its excellent musical-theater training program.

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