All it took for "In the Heights" to become a hit in Washington was for "Hamilton" to become a hit in New York.
Lin-Manuel Miranda's 2008 Tony-winning musical was finally produced here not once but twice last year, and both stagings cleaned up as the Helen Hayes Award nominations were announced Monday evening. The Olney Theatre Center-Round House Theatre co-production (presented at the Olney) picked up 10 nominations, tops in the "Hayes" category for shows with mostly Equity actors in the cast. Signature Theatre's "A Little Night Music" followed close behind, with nine nominations for the revival of Stephen Sondheim's bittersweet musical.
GALA Hispanic Theatre's Spanish-language "In the Heights" commanded the "Helen" categories, for shows with mainly non-Equity casts. (The awards split several seasons ago to increase the odds of comparing apples to apples; it loosely follows the long-standing Equity and non-Equity separation in Chicago's Jeff Awards.) GALA's "Heights" hauled in 18 nominations; Constellation Theatre's "The Wild Party" was next among Helen contenders, with 11 nods.
The Hayes Awards cover 210 eligible productions that opened during 2017; all those shows are closed now, though audiences wanting one more crack at "In the Heights" can see the Kennedy Center's concert staging next month. Forty judges are divided among five panels focusing on musicals or plays, Helen or Hayes categories, and new works.
Among Hayes plays, the Shakespeare Theatre Company's "Twelfth Night" — which took advantage of the spacious Harman Hall to create a bustling airport departure lounge — racked up nine nominations. "Or," the Liz Duffy Adams comedy about Restoration playwright Aphra Behn, earned seven nominations, including one for each cast member in that Round House show: Holly Twyford, Gregory Linington and Erin Weaver.
Linington was also nominated as lead actor in Ford's Theatre's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," though Twyford was not named for her leading turn as Edward Albee's acidic Martha. The versatile Twyford did pick up a nomination for lead actress in a musical for "A Little Night Music," and Kevin McAllister earned two nominations as leading actor in a musical, for "Ragtime" at Ford's and "Annie" at the Olney.
The National Theatre's pre-Broadway tryout of Tina Fey's "Mean Girls" musical last fall was eligible only in the limited "visiting" category, where supporting performers Grey Henson (playing Damian) and Kate Rockwell (as the vapid Karen Smith) picked up acting nominations.
Theatre Alliance, the stylistically adventurous troupe based in the Anacostia Playhouse, typically fares well in the Helen categories, and its "Still Life With Rocket" earned eight nominations, with "Mnemonic" garnering six.
The awards, administered by the local service organization Theatre Washington and now in their 34th year, will be presented May 14. The location for the event has not yet been announced.