Drama Desks kick off theater award season

Just the way that January and February are considered the awards season for films, May and June are seen as the awards season for U.S. theater. On April 27, the nominees for this year’s Drama Desk Awards were announced at the famous cabaret club, Feinstein’s/54 Below.

The Drama Desk Awards, which are presented annually, honor outstanding achievements by professional theater creators on Broadway, off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway. Just like the Golden Globes, these awards are voted on by the press—critics, journalists, editors and publishers covering theater.

Almost immediately after the opening of the last show of the season, the Drama Desk Awards kick off the competition with various theatrical recognitions, which result in the catharsis known as the Tony Awards—the highest theatrical honor.

This season’s most celebrated nominee is the grandiose production of the classic Hello, Dolly!, which leads the parade with an impressive 10 nominations, including Outstanding Revival of a Musical and Outstanding Actress in a Musical for the one and only Bette Midler.

Original musicals Anastasia and Come from Away have nine nominations each, including Outstanding Musical for both.

Celebrated and critically appraised off-Broadway shows include the revival of Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape, which has eight nominations. The Atlantic Theater Company’s production of The Band’s Visit and Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street each have seven nominations.

The contenders for Outstanding Play include A Life by Adam Bock, Roundabout Theatre Company’s If I Forget by Steven Levenson, Indecent by Paula Vogel, Lincoln Center’s Oslo by J. T. Rogers and, finally, Sweat by Lynn Nottage, which is the frontrunner. Sweat, a play about blue-collar workers in Pennsylvania, was produced by the Public Theater before a successful transfer to Broadway.

One of the most prominent contenders this season is Manhattan Theatre’s revival of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes, which is nominated for Outstanding Revival of a Play.

This production has attracted attention for its unorthodox casting—the leading ladies Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon alternate their roles every night. Both were nominated for Best Actress and Best Featured Actress in a Play, respectively.

The most exciting category this season is for the Best Actress in a Musical. Besides Midler, the competitors include Christy Altomare for Anastasia, Sutton Foster for an off-Broadway revival of Sweet Charity, Laura Osnes for Bandstand, as well as two-time Tony award winners Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole for War Paint—an original musical about the cosmetic industry.

The awards ceremony, hosted this year by Michael Urie from Buyer & Cellar, will take place on June 4 at New York’s Town Hall. With so much competition this year, the Drama Desk Awards promise to be worthy of attention.