Arena Stage claimed seven trophies for four shows at Monday night’s Helen Hayes Awards at the Anthem, where the prizes for Washington-area theater were liberally spread out.


The Arena Stage revival of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes,” with Soara-Joye Ross and Corbin Bleu, took four awards at the Helen Hayes Awards on Monday night at the Anthem. (Maria Baranova)

Arena’s revival of the Cole Porter musical “Anything Goes” took four awards, including wins for Corbin Bleu’s silky lead performance and for Parker Esse’s choreography. Yet the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s revival of Lerner and Loewe’s “Camelot” emerged at the end of the night to nab top honors as outstanding musical.

“I felt ‘Camelot’ was for a moment,” director Alan Paul said of the uplifting show about a troubled kingdom, “and I’m glad you did, too.”

That was on the Hayes side of a ledger that groups Washington-area professional theater productions into camps labeled “Hayes” (shows with mostly Equity casts, which typically means productions by larger companies) and “Helen” (shows with mostly non-Equity casts). “Fly by Night,” a folk-pop musical set during the 1965 Northeast blackout, cruised to four “Helen” awards, claiming the outstanding-musical nod and a win for Kathryn Chase Bryer’s direction.

But no show really dominated the night. The top “Helen” play was Constellation Theatre Company’s staging of Sarah Ruhl’s “Melancholy Play: A Contemporary Farce” (director Nick Martin also won). The top “Hayes” play was the production of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s violent newsroom crisis drama “Gloria” at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, which also notched two wins, with director Kip Fagan tying with Eric Rosen for the Paula Vogel drama “Indecent” at Arena.


Caroline Wolfson and Farrell Parker in 1st Stage’s “Fly by Night.” (Teresa Castracane)

Maria Rizzo was as big a winner as anyone, snaring the award for supporting actress in a Hayes musical in “Anything Goes” and for her leading turn as Roxie Hart in the Keegan Theatre’s Helen-categorized revival of “Chicago.” Rizzo’s lead win was a tie with Debora Crabbe of the musical version of “As You Like It,” also at Keegan (ties are commonplace at the Hayes Awards). Natsu Onoda Power also won twice, for script adaptation and set design (with co-winner Danny Carr’s projections) in “The Lathe of Heaven” from Spooky Action Theatre and Georgetown University.

“Lathe” was one of several winners from last winter’s citywide Women’s Voices Theatre Festival. That list included Erika Rose, named outstanding lead actress in a play (Hayes) for Caleen Sinnette Jennings’s solo show “Queens Girl in Africa” at Mosaic Theatre Company. In a rarity, since the awards recognize work that came and went in the previous calendar year, Rose can be seen now in a new staging of “Queens Girl in Africa” through June 23 at Baltimore’s Everyman Theatre.

Long dubbed “the drama prom,” the typically high-spirited gala ceremony was hosted by actor-director Rick Hammerly and actress Felicia Curry. They presided over a largely efficient event, with the train of awards slowing only toward the end of its nearly three hours.

In previously announced awards, Ally Theatre Company was named outstanding emerging troupe, and the annual Hayes Tribute — which has increasingly focused on local artists instead of out-of-town celebs — was bestowed on Jennifer L. Nelson, a longtime writer-director-performer who began her career in 1972 with Arena’s outreach organization, Living Stage. For more than a decade, Nelson headed the now-defunct African Continuum Theater Company, at the time D.C.’s only professional black troupe. She won a 1997 Hayes award for her script “Torn From the Headlines,” and her 2017 staging of “The Gospel at Colonus” was a hit for WSC Avant Bard.

Nelson’s largely inspired acceptance speech included a lament about how seldom she was hired to direct around town. “I’m a really good director,” she said, going “off the cuff,” as she put it, to be frank. “Think of diversifying the entire field.” The theme was repeated in speech after speech crediting someone for thinking outside the box and giving an unknown a break.


The Ford’s Theatre production of “The Wiz.” (Carol Rosegg)

In another rarity — a sad one — the in-memoriam segment remembering artists who died in the past year included one of the evening’s winners. Darius Smith, who was named for his musical direction of “The Wiz” at Ford’s Theatre, died this winter at 36. Nova Y. Payton sang a soaring Smith song, “The Explosion,” during the memorial video montage.

“Thank you, Darius,” Hasani Allen said, beginning his acceptance as outstanding supporting actor in a Hayes musical for “The Wiz.” “Thank you, Darius Smith.”

The big-ticket visiting productions last year were current Tony nominees for best musical “Beetlejuice” and “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations,” but neither was nominated for the “visiting” award. (“Hamilton,” touring at the Kennedy Center last summer, sportingly declined to participate.) The victor was The Second City’s “She the People” at Woolly Mammoth, while Ephraim Sykes of “Ain’t Too Proud” earned the outstanding-performer (visiting production) nod.

The Helen Hayes Awards are administered by Theatre Washington and determined by more than three dozen judges. The judges are grouped on panels that are subdivided into Helen and Hayes camps and further divided by musicals and plays; new works get their own panel of judges. In 2018, 208 professional productions were eligible in 47 competitive categories.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Erika Rose won the award for outstanding leading actress in the Helen category. She won that award in the Hayes category; Regina Aquino won in the Helen category.

The full list of 2019 Helen Hayes Awards:

James MacArthur Award for outstanding supporting actor in a play — Helen

Ryan Tumulty, “Flood City,” Theater Alliance

James MacArthur Award for outstanding supporting actor in a play — Hayes

Kim Sullivan, “Familiar,” Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

Outstanding supporting actress in a musical — Helen

Caroline Wolfson, “Fly by Night,” 1st Stage

Outstanding supporting actress in a musical — Hayes

Maria Rizzo, “Anything Goes,” Arena Stage

Outstanding supporting actor in a musical — Helen

DeCarlo Raspberry, “Disney’s The Little Mermaid,” Toby’s Dinner Theatre

Outstanding supporting actor in a musical — Hayes

Hasani Allen, “The Wiz,” Ford’s Theatre

Outstanding sound design — Helen

Roc Lee, “The Lathe of Heaven,” Spooky Action Theater and Georgetown University

Outstanding sound design — Hayes

Ken Travis, “Camelot,” Shakespeare Theatre Company

Outstanding costume design — Helen

Erik Teague, “The Trial,” Synetic Theater

Outstanding costume design — Hayes

Kara Harmon, “The Wiz,” Ford’s Theatre

Alejo Vietti, “Anything Goes,” Arena Stage

Outstanding musical direction — Helen

Britt Bonney, “Girlfriend,” Signature Theatre

Jake Null, “Chicago,” Keegan Theatre

Outstanding musical direction — Hayes

Darius Smith, “The Wiz,” Ford’s Theatre

Outstanding choreography in a musical — Helen

Rachel Leigh Dolan, “Chicago,” Keegan Theatre

Outstanding choreography in a musical — Hayes

Parker Esse, “Anything Goes,” Arena Stage

Outstanding choreography in a play — Helen

Irina Tsikurishvili, “Sleepy Hollow,” Synetic Theater

Outstanding choreography in a play — Hayes

Stephanie Paul, “The Wolves,” Studio Theatre

Outstanding supporting actress in a play — Helen

Mary Myers, “45 Plays for 45 Presidents,” NextStop Theatre Company

Tuyet Thi Pham, “The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs,” Spooky Action Theater

Outstanding supporting actress in a play — Hayes

Cheryl Lynn Bruce, “Familiar,” Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

Outstanding ensemble in a musical — Helen

“Fly by Night,” 1st Stage

Outstanding ensemble in a musical — Hayes

“The Scottsboro Boys,” Signature Theatre

Outstanding production — theater for young audiences

“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” Imagination Stage

Outstanding original play or musical adaptation

Natsu Onoda Power, “The Lathe of Heaven,” Spooky Action Theater and Georgetown University

Charles MacArthur Award for outstanding original new play or musical

Heather Raffo, “Noura,” Shakespeare Theatre Company

Outstanding visiting production

The Second City’s “She the People,” Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

Outstanding performer — visiting production

Ephraim Sykes, “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations,” Kennedy Center

Outstanding ensemble in a play — Helen

“The Frederick Douglass Project,” Solas Nua

Outstanding ensemble in a play — Hayes

“The Wolves,” Studio Theatre

Outstanding direction in a play — Helen

Nick Martin, “Melancholy Play: A Contemporary Farce,” Constellation Theatre Company

Outstanding direction in a play — Hayes

Kip Fagan, “Gloria,” Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

Eric Rosen, “Indecent,” Arena Stage

Outstanding direction in a musical — Helen

Kathryn Chase Bryer, “Fly by Night,” 1st Stage

Outstanding direction in a musical — Hayes

Tina Landau, “Dave,” Arena Stage

Outstanding lead actor in a musical — Helen

Jimmy Mavrikes, “Girlfriend,” Signature Theatre

Outstanding lead actor in a musical — Hayes

Corbin Bleu, “Anything Goes,” Arena Stage

Outstanding lead actress in a play — Helen

Regina Aquino, “The Events,” Theater Alliance

Outstanding lead actress in a play — Hayes

Erika Rose, “Queens Girl in Africa,” Mosaic Theater Company

Outstanding lighting design — Helen

Brian S. Allard, “Titus Andronicus,” Synetic Theater

Outstanding lighting design — Hayes

Robert Wierzel, “Camelot,” Shakespeare Theatre Company

Outstanding set design — Helen

Natsu Onoda Power (set designer), Danny Carr (projection designer), “The Lathe of Heaven,” Spooky Action Theater and Georgetown University

Outstanding set design — Hayes

Emily Lotz, “The Princess & The Pauper: A Bollywood Tale,” Imagination Stage

Robert Prosky Award for outstanding lead actor in a play — Helen

Josh Adams, “The Events,” Theater Alliance

Matthew R. Wilson, “Swimming With Whales,” 1st Stage

Robert Prosky Award for outstanding lead actor in a play — Hayes

Eugene Lee, “Two Trains Running,” Arena Stage

Outstanding lead actress in a musical — Helen

Debora Crabbe, “As You Like It,” Keegan Theatre

Maria Rizzo, “Chicago,” Keegan Theatre

Outstanding lead actress in a musical — Hayes

Natascia Diaz, “Passion,” Signature Theatre

Outstanding production in a musical — Helen

“Fly by Night,” 1st Stage

Outstanding production in a musical — Hayes

“Camelot,” Shakespeare Theatre Company

Outstanding production in a play — Helen

“Melancholy Play: A Contemporary Farce,” Constellation Theatre Company

Outstanding production in a play — Hayes

“Gloria,” Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company