By Sandi Durell


The 74th Theatre World Awards are the best feel-good for what ails anyone! And on June 4th at Circle in the Square Theatre, right on the sandy set of Once On This Island, the very witty host (and writer) Peter Filichia was the warm and welcoming light for the afternoon of the performers who have made significant debuts both on and off Broadway and about to receive their one and only TWA.

With audience members primed and ready, wearing colorful lais, the festive afternoon began with Once on This Island star Philip Boykin in a medley of songs, his booming resonance a treat for the ears.

Presenters mainly included former TWA winners and the event started with Marin Ireland (Reasons to be Pretty, 2009) presenting to Katy Sullivan (Cost of Living) who accepted with great emotion; to Johnny Flynn for his performance in Hangmen (accepted by Neil Pepe, Artistic Director at Atlantic Theater Company). Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple, 2016) presented to Noma Dumezweni (Harry Potter & The Cursed Child) who was thrilled, at the age of 48, to receive this prestigious award. Celia Keenan Bolger followed, presenting to Andrew Boyle (Harry Potter & The Cursed Child).

The distinguished Lionel Larner (deemed rescuer of the TWA Awards) introduced Glenda Jackson (who received standing ovations) and presented the Dorothy Loudon Award to Ben Edelman for his portrayal in Admissions. Ms. Jackson reminded actors not to take rejection as personal and that going out on stage is like a diving board all the time.

The small and mighty Baayork Lee (A Chorus Line, 1960) then presented to Jamie Brewer (Amy and the Orphans), followed by Ellen McLaughlin (playwright &1993 cast of Angels in America) who presented to James McArdle and to Denise Gough for their portrayals in Angels in America. Each accepting with truthful heart warming words.

Anita Gillette (1960 TWA winner) introduced Nicholas Barasch (She Loves Me, 2016) who performed a thrilling “River in the Rain” followed by Rodney Hicks (Come From Away) who presented to the young Hailey Kilgore (Once On This Island) who talked about how scary it is coming to Broadway and had words of wisdom for the young students in the audience … “be gracious, kind and humble.”

Wesley Taylor (Rock of Ages, 2009 & currently a plankton on Broadway!) had much to say about his buddy in SpongeBob SquarePants, Ethan Slater who has no social life other than as his character as SpongeBob, introducing him as the adorable little ginger. Ethan had praises galore for Tina Landau (director) and her genius and wacky, explosive leadership.

Presenter Daniel M. Durant (Spring Awakening, 2016) had much to say in sign language about how deaf talent is thriving in New York City, having met the next winner – Lauren Ridloff (Children of a Lesser God) in a film camp where she was teaching deaf children. She was also teaching Kenny Leon how to sign and he is responsible for giving Lauren her very first acting role.

Lea Salonga (Miss Saigon, 1991) presented to the current Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, Harry Hadden-Paton who thanked Bartlett Sher and Bernard Telsey for asking him to do the role.

Then it was back to Peter Filichia who introduced the MVP and producer Dale Badway (who might have another career looming in standup) who reminded the audience that TWA can be presented to anyone at any age, i.e, Tom Hanks who won in 2013 at the age of 56.

Dale proudly brought Bernadette Peters (who won in 1968 for George M!) to the podium who took the reins presenting to Charlie Stemp, appearing with her in Hello, Dolly! as Barnaby. She was then thrilled to present the John Willis Lifetime Achievement Award to Victor Garber (her current co-star) who told wonderful stories about meeting John Willis back in 1973 while appearing in Ghosts – a Roundabout production, when Roundabout was a theater in a basement under a supermarket. It was this production for which Mr. Garber received his TWA from Rosemary Harris.

The entire audience was invited to attend the post party at Copacabana’s rooftop.

In the annals of theater awards, the Theater World Awards are, by far, the warmest and fuzziest of them all. They deserve support from everyone-anyone who loves theater.

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Congratulations to all the 2018 Winners!


Photos: Genevieve Rafter Keddy