‘Lear’ dominates Hayes nominations


Synetic Theater’s “King Lear”stormed through the Helen Hayes Awards nominations Monday night, racking up 15 nods and continuing the annual Washington-area professional theater honors’ fascination with the movement-oriented troupe. (Graeme B. Shaw)

Synetic Theater’s “King Lear” stormed through the Helen Hayes Awards nominations Monday night, racking up 15 nods and continuing the annual Washington-area professional theater honors’ fascination with the movement-oriented troupe.

The Hayes judges turned a cold shoulder, though, to the Kennedy Center’s revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies.” The musical, which transferred to Broadway last summer and continues in Los Angeles in May, only managed four nominations. Out of luck: director Eric Schaeffer, choreographer Warren Carlyle and star Bernadette Peters.

The judging process for the Hayes Awards, in their 28th year, declares all local work to be equal — large and small, cutting edge and kids’ stuff. The most nominated musical this season, tied with Schaeffer’s “Hairspray” at Signature Theatre (where he is artistic director), is “A Year with Frog and Toad” from Glen Echo’s Adventure Theatre. The show, aimed at audiences 4 and over, pulled in nine nods.

The juggernaut, though, was “Lear,” the only show to score nominations in all four technical categories (set, lights, costumes, sound). Synetic went silent years ahead of “The Artist,” and Monday night’s haul adds to the troupe’s successes with action-packed, wordless adaptations of Shakespeare. The “Lear” cast put a virtual stranglehold on the performance awards, landing a whopping seven nominations in four categories, plus a nod in the ensemble slot. (Memo to the rest of the actors in greater Washington: stop talking.)

Other shows that did well in the announcement at the National Theatre’s Helen Hayes Gallery:

●The Folger Theatre’s “Cyrano,” with seven nominations, including outstanding resident play (the best picture equivalent) and outstanding new play. (Michael Hollinger and director Aaron Posner adapted Edmund Rostand’s original, “Cyrano de Bergerac.”)

●Three plays with six nominations each: Woolly Mammoth’s faith-in-crisis drama “A Bright New Boise,” Arena Stage’s production of Lynn Nottage’s 2009 Pulitzer-winning “Ruined,” and the wise Alan Bennett comedy “The Habit of Art” at the Studio Theatre.

●Seven nominations for the musical “Pop!” (about Andy Warhol’s shooting) at Studio’s 2ndStage, and six for “Liberty Smith,” a family friendly historical musical at Ford’s Theatre.

Non-resident productions, tours and shows originating out of town, are considered separately, with major local troupes increasingly taking part in the presenting business. Kennedy Center imports dominated, as usual: The Broadway tour of “Billy Elliot” led out-of-towners with six nominations, followed by five for the Sydney Theatre Company production of “Uncle Vanya” featuring the nominated Cate Blanchett.

But they’ll be challenged by shows that alighted at Woolly Mammoth (“The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”), Arena (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, “Equivocation”), Theater J (“Return to Haifa”) and the Shakespeare Theatre Company (”Fela!”).

Winners are to be announced during a gala ceremony April 23 at the Warner Theatre.

Nelson has been writing about theater and other arts – but mostly theater – for the Post since 1999.
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