Thoughts on the Jeff Awards

Benson, Mahler, Stevenson and McCabe (preview) in Buddy-The Buddy Holly Story, an American Blues theater revival. (Michael Brosilow photos)
Benson, Mahler, Stevenson and McCabe (preview) in Buddy-The Buddy Holly Story, an American Blues theater revival. (Michael Brosilow photos)

Some very fine performances and productions were honored at the 50th anniversary of the Jeff Awards Oct. 22 at Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace.

As an example, American Blues Theater’s “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story”  received the most awards:  Production – Musical -Midsize, Director Lili-Anne Brown, Principal Performer in a Musical Zachary Stevenson, Music Director Michael Mahler,and Ensemble – Musical or Revue.

But think about it.  When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences name the Oscar winners each year, movie goers who haven’t seen the award-winning shows still can catch them on DVD, Netflix and other film distributes.

There are arguably many people who would still like to see the American Blues Theater’s production.

View From the Bridge cast at Goodman Theatre (Liz Lauren photo)
View From the Bridge cast at Goodman Theatre (Liz Lauren photo)

Or now that the creative re-staging of Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” at Goodman Theatre won the Jeff in the Production – Play (Large Theatre) category and Ian van Hove took the Director award, folks might like to see why.

BTW Goodman also took home a few other awards: Ensemble-Play for “The Wolves” and New Work for Ellen Fairey’s “Support Group for Men.”

Goodman and three other theater companies were honored for their longevity (more than 50 years). Goodman Theatre was the oldest dating to 1925. The others were Drury Lane Productions, 1949 Court Theatre, 1955 and The Second City 1959.

Speaking of Court Theatre, audiences who saw “The Belle of Amherst” should know that the Jeff Award for Solo Performance went to Kate Fry or who saw “Five Guys Named Moe” should know that Performer in a Revue went to Lorenzo Rush, Jr.

Stephen ‘Blue’ Allen (far left) watches as Lorenzo Rush Jr. (l), Darriean Ford, James Earl Jones II, Eric A. Lewis and Kelvin Roston Jr. dance in ‘Five Guys Named Moe’ at Court Theatre. (Michael Brosilow photo)
Stephen ‘Blue’ Allen (far left) watches as Lorenzo Rush Jr. (l), Darriean Ford, James Earl Jones II, Eric A. Lewis and Kelvin Roston Jr. dance in ‘Five Guys Named Moe’ at Court Theatre. (Michael Brosilow photo)

However,  the award for Performer in a Principal Role in a Musical went to Jason Grimm, the multi-character performer in Marriott Theatre’s “Murder for Two.”

Fortunately for all the excellent performers taking on roles in Chicago area theaters, there are multi-categories and even divided categories.

Best actor now has a different category. Instead of dividing the award into best male and best female, the Jeffs merely gave out two awards for best actor. Tara Mallen in Rivendell Theatre Ensemble’s “The Cake” and Caroline Neff in Victory Garden Theatre’s “Lettie won Performer in a Principal Role in a Play.

Chicago set designer Kevin Depinet has recreated Sam Phillips’s original Sun Records studio in Memphis – where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins played together their first and only time. Liz Lauren photo
Chicago set designer Kevin Depinet has recreated Sam Phillips’s original Sun Records studio in Memphis – where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins played together their first and only time. Liz Lauren photo

Similarly the awards for Performer in a Supporting Role in a Musical went to two artists: Matt Crowle for Drury Lane Productions’ “South Pacific” and Gavin Rohrer for Paramount Theatre’s “Million Dollar Quartet.”

Likewise, awards for Performer in a Supporting Role in a Play went to Matt DeCaro for Drury Lane Productions’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and to Keith Kupferer for Rivendell Theatre Ensemble’s “Cal in Camo.”

Founder and Artistic Director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater Barbara Gaines and Founder and CEO of the Black Ensemble Theater Jackie Taylor co-hosted the ceremonial evening.

The Jeff Awards committees have recognized and honored Chicago area productions and artists since 1968. Members have diverse theater backgrounds ranging from directors, actors. designers and playwrights to theater professors, producers, agents and theater goers.

Maybe Chicago’s theater community can come up with a way to offer and promote cd’s of excellent shows after they have closed. Just a thought.

For the complete list of the 2018 award recipients visit Jeff Awards.

Jodie Jacobs

Related: Four Chicago theatres receive special Jeff recognition

 

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