The awards, recognizing the best work from 185 eligible productions presented in 2019, are grouped into two categories — Helen or Hayes — depending on the number of union actors in the production. The nominations were selected by 40 volunteer judges on five panels.
Olney Theater Center earned the most Hayes nominations, with 27 honoring seven different productions, including two that will compete for outstanding musical. 1st Stage came in second with 18 in both the Helen and Hayes categories. “The Royale,” a co-production between Olney and 1st Stage, runs through Feb. 23 at 1st Stage in Tysons, marking a rare opportunity for audiences to see a nominated production.
“Every year we see shifts to different institutions in terms of getting the most. It’s an indicator of a really great season,” said Amy Austin, president and chief executive of TheatreWashington, the organization behind the annual prizes. “With Olney it was across seven productions. It shows consistency of work and that they were choosing work that appealed to people.”
Competing for top musical in the Hayes category are “Cabaret” and “Once” at Olney; “A Chorus Line” at Signature; “Into the Woods” at Ford’s; and “Newsies” at Arena Stage. Two Round House Theatre productions — “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” and “School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play” will square off in the Hayes category for top play. The other nominees are “The Brothers Size,” at 1st Stage; “Doubt, a Parable” at Studio Theatre; “Nell Gwynn” at Folger Theater; and “Oil” at Olney.
Joining Constellation’s “Little Shop” in the Helen category for best musical are “A Christmas Story,” at Toby’s Dinner Theatre; “Daddy Long Legs” at Monumental Theatre Company; “Fame, the Musical” at GALA Hispanic Theatre; and “Legally Blonde” at Keegan Theatre. The Helen nominees for best play include two at Theater Alliance — “Blood at the Root” and “Klytmnestra: A Epic Slam Poem” — as well as “Agnes of God” at Factory 449; “Cyrano de Bergerac” at Synetic Theater; and “Topdog/Underdog” at Avant Bard Theatre.
Several artists will compete against themselves. Kenny Neal received four nominations, two in the Helen category and two in the Hayes, for outstanding sound design. Walter “Bobby” McCoy received two Helen nominations for musical direction in “Legally Blonde” and “Little Shop,” and Milagros Ponce de Leon was nominated twice in the Hayes category for set design for “Into the Woods” at Ford’s and (with Clint Allen) for “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical” at Olney.
Tracy Lynn Olivera earned two nominations in the Hayes supporting actress in a musical category for her performances in “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical” at Olney and “Assassins” at Signature, while Molly Rumberger received two Helen nominations for supporting actress in a musical for her work in “Be More Chill” at Monumental Theatre Company and “Disenchanted” at Creative Cauldron.
“They are just extraordinary, hard-working artists, independent and quite good at what they do,” Austin said.
Two theaters earned their first nominations: Anacostia Playhouse for “Black Nativity” and We Happy Few Productions for “Lovers’ Vows.”
For a full list of nominees, visit theatrewashington.org.