Los Angeles Times
November 10 , 1999
Running Smoke Rings
Two shows in smaller theaters were smokin' at the annual Ovation Awards ceremony Monday.
"Reefer Madness!," a tongue-in-cheek adaptation of the famous anti-marijuana propaganda movie, won five awards--more than any other show--including best musical in a small theater. And its fans were easily the rowdiest at the ceremony, held at La Mirada Theatre.
entire cast trooped onstage to accept an ensemble award, accompanied by
earsplitting cheers, Harry S. Murphy--who plays the show's stern narrator,
used the same grim tone that he employs in the show to thank "anyone
who ever inhaled."
in the sub-100-seat arena, Fountain Theatre's revival of Tennessee Williams'
"Summer and Smoke," took three Ovations. It was named best play
in a small theater, and it garnered the best actress trophy for Tracy
Middendorf, who faced the most star-studded field of the evening: Linda
Lavin, Phyllis Frelich, Annette Bening and Ruby Dee. In thanking Cameron
Dye, her co-star and "my partner on and off stage," Middendorf
referred to "our new life that was conceived during 'Summer and Smoke'
" -- yes, she's pregnant.
Playhouse production in which Lavin starred, Donald Margulies' "Collected
Stories," was named best play in a large theater but won no other
musical in a large theater, a revival of "West Side Story" by
Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities upset such better-known competition
as the touring "Cabaret" and the Tony-winning "Fosse"--but
likewise triumphed only once.
After accepting the award for "West Side Story" from Carol Channing, South Bay impresario James Blackman quipped that he wanted "to apologize to God for praying at the last second that I would win so I could meet Carol Channing. I didn't know he was listening. I should have asked for world peace or something."
"Fosse," the revue that was seen at the Ahmanson Theatre prior to Broadway, snagged lighting and sound design and choreography awards to tie "Summer and Smoke" for the second most awards to a single show. Center Theatre Group, which hosted the L.A. run of "Fosse," won only two other awards for its shows at the Mark Taper Forum and Ahmanson Theatre, but its total of five was still more than that for any other company except for the "Reefer Madness!" team.
sponsored by Theatre LA, lacked a traditional emcee--the previously announced
Jason Alexander withdrew from the hosting duties in late October, and
last-minute appeals to other celebrities were unsuccessful. Sharon Lawrence
and Alfred Molina welcomed the crowd before serving as the first presenters,
and Bening delivered closing remarks after serving as the last presenter.
absence of a host monologue hardly eliminated all the laughs. Some of
the outsize personalities who presented awards, such as Channing and Charles
Nelson Reilly, provided comedy. Musical performances were introduced by
Brian Beacock, dressed in drag as the vivacious Carol Ann Knippel, who
runs the fictitious Melody Barn Dinner Theatre in the recently closed
revue "Howard Crabtree's When Pigs Fly."
performances were more polished than many of those at previous Ovations
shows, because the selections were all from currently running shows: "Reefer
Madness!," "It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues," "The
Servant of Two Masters" and "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."
In past years, the musical numbers were frequently from nominated shows
that had closed months earlier.
company of "Cabaret," which had nine nominations--more than
any other production--won no awards.
eligibility season was from Sept. 1, 1998, to Aug. 31, 1999. Nearly 300
productions were registered for the competition, which is judged by representatives
from the theaters and producers who belong to Theatre LA.
"West Side Story," Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities at
the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center
Actor/Musical: Bob Simon, "Richard O'Brien's Rocky Horror Show"
Design/Smaller: Dick Magnanti, "Reefer Madness!"
Copyright 1999 Los Angeles Times