It was neither Paris nor springtime, but it must have felt that way to the producers and creative artists behind writer-director David Lee's ebullient revised version of the Cole Porter classic Can-Can. The Pasadena Playhouse production of the musical led the winners at the Los Angeles Ovation Awards, which were presented on November 12 at the Orpheum Theatre.
For the second year in a row, actor Neil Patrick Harris was the amusing and amiable host, cracking jokes about the writer's strike and making good-natured jabs at sundry targets, such as actor Jason Alexander. Among the presenters were Kate Burton, Gil Cates, Garry Marshall, Stefanie Powers, Sheldon Epps, Yeardley Smith, and Heroes star Adrian Pasar (whose world-premiere musical Atlanta bows at the Geffen Playhouse later this month).
The Geffen's presentation of Hershey Felder in George Gershwin Alone tied Can-Can's total awards tally of four. Can-Can took home trophies for Lee (direction of a musical); Roy Christopher (set designer for a large theatre); Michelle Duffy (leading musical actress), and David Engel (featured musical actor). Meanwhile, Gershwin wins were for musical in a large theatre, Michael Gillian's lighting for a large theatre, Jon Gottlieb's sound design for a large theatre, and Felder for lead actor in a musical.
Other notable winners were Theatre@Boston Court's world premiere musical Paradise Lost: Shadow and Wings, Damon Cho's Film Chinos for world premiere play; August Wilson's Jitney for play in an intimate theatre; The Marvelous Wonderettes for musical in an intimate theatre; the Deaf West-Center Theatre Group co-production of Sleeping Beauty Wakes at the Kirk Douglas Theatre for world premiere musical, and Stephen Temperley's Souvenir for play in a large theatre. The Ahmanson Theatre netted the touring musical prize for its SRO L.A. premiere run of Jersey Boys.
Among several actors receiving performance honors were Alan Mandell in the Colony Theatre's Trying, Judy Kaye in Souvenir, and Vicki Lewis in Blank Theatre's world-premiere of Michael John LaChiusa's musical Hotel C'est L'Amour.
The James A. Doolittle Leadership Award was presented to the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles for its heroic efforts to aid local companies plagued by real-estate woes during recent years, helping in relocating theatres in rental facilities or possibly constructing permanent homes. An impassioned Michele Lee sang the praises of the Actors Fund, then presented the Community Outreach Award to this distinguished 125-year-old organization. And Center Theatre Group's artist director Michael Ritchie paid tribute to actress Annette Bening, who won the group's Career Achievement Award.