By Thomas Brennan

This year, the Elliot Norton Award show “went on” but it was a decidedly different event from years past. The annual awards ceremony, at which the best of Boston’s theater offerings is recognized, was broadcast online by the Boston Theatre Critics Association on May 11, th

The nominations ranged from Boston productions from April 1st 2019 to March 2020. 

There were fears over how the show would go on with the current quarantine and need for social distancing, but the curtain still rose. The show was concise yet still heartfelt and enthused in its celebration of the efforts and accomplishments of Boston’s theater community. There were ever present ASL translators throughout the award show, ensuring those who are deaf could still also enjoy the event. The ceremony lasted just under an hour. The presenters – the members of the Boston Theater Critics Association, whose votes determined the award recipients – all streamed from their homes. Despite the distance and this year’s difference in production, the event stood as a resounding unification of the community, as well as a celebration of Boston’s artists, the productions of the past year, and the indomitable spirit of theatre in harsh times.

Clips from this year’s productions added to this year’s awards ceremony.

The ceremony displayed clips from various productions, highlighting the great work and love put into various plays. Actors from “Caroline, or Change” opened with a powerful song, followed by powerful and uproariously entertaining clips from productions such as “Moby Dick,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Pacific Overtures,” and “Parade.” Each clip showed off some of the greatest performances of the season while complementing the masterful production work that has gone on over the last year. 

The ceremony’s penultimate event was an especially whimsical and merry original song about the theatre surviving under social distancing, performed by various members of the New England acting community. Each of the performers did so from home, some in more subdued settings, others that were more dramatic. There’s nothing quite like seeing a man dressed as King George sing alongside a girl trying her best to play Xbox.

“Nortons” president Joyce Kulhawik.

As Joyce Kulhawik, the President of the Boston Theatre Critics Association, put it best, “I actually find myself very inspired by the opportunity for reinventing everything- and I can’t wait to see what this incredibly creative community comes up with.”

The final note on the remarkable ceremony was a collection of poignant and loving testimonies from those who had worked alongside Johnny Lee Davenport. The stories and descriptions of this extraordinary actor and the work he’d given to his art were beyond heartwarming. He lived for 70 years, bringing great joy, kindness, professionalism and his indisputable talent to every production he was a part of. The entire community mourns his loss, but there’s no doubt he’ll stand as inspiration to all those pursuing the New England stage.

Below and the list of nominees and Winners for the ceremony. (Winners in each nomination category are marked with a * .)

Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence 

Johnny Lee Davenport

Special Citation 

“Shear Madness” which opened in Boston and just ended its 40-year run as one of the longest-running non-musical plays in the world

The 2020 Elliot Norton Award nominees 

Outstanding Musical Production 

*“Parade,” Moonbox Productions 

“Moby-Dick,” American Repertory Theater  

“Sunset Boulevard,” North Shore Music Theatre 

“Caroline, or Change,” Moonbox Productions  

“Pacific Overtures,” Lyric Stage Company of Boston 

Outstanding Production, Large Theater 

*“The Purists,” Huntington Theatre Company  

“Sweat,” Huntington Theatre Company  

“Detroit Red,” ArtsEmerson 

Outstanding Production, Midsize Theater 

“Pass Over,” SpeakEasy Stage Company and The Front Porch Arts Collective 

“The Children,” SpeakEasy Stage Company  

*“Cloud 9,” The Nora  

“Cambodian Rock Band,” Merrimack Repertory Theatre  

“Vanity Fair,” Underground Railway Theater 

Outstanding Production, Small or Fringe Company 

“The Return,” Israeli Stage  

*“The Stone,” Arlekin Players Theatre 

 “The Ebonic Woman,” Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans 

“The Seagull,” Arlekin Players Theatre 

“The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart,” Apollinaire Theatre Company

Outstanding Solo Performance

Billy Meleady, “the smuggler,” Boston Playwrights’ Theatre

Outstanding Direction, Large Theater

*Rachel Chavkin, “Moby-Dick,” American Repertory Theater 

Billy Porter,” “The Purists,” Huntington Theatre Company 

Kimberly Senior, “Sweat,” Huntington Theatre Company 

Lee Sunday Evans, “Detroit Red,” ArtsEmerson; 

Kevin P. Hill, “Sunset Boulevard,” North Shore Music Theatre

Outstanding Direction, Midsize Theater 

*Lee Mikeska Gardner, “Cloud 9,” The Nora 

Benny Sato Ambush, “black odyssey boston,” Underground Railway Theater and The Front Porch Arts Collective 

David R. Gammons, “Vanity Fair,” Underground Railway Theater 

Marti Lyons, “Cambodian Rock Band,” Merrimack Repertory Theatre 

Eric Tucker, “The Crucible,” The Nora in association with Bedlam 

Outstanding Direction, Small or Fringe Theater 

Jason Modica, “Parade,” Moonbox Productions 

Danielle Fauteux Jacques, “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart,” Apollinaire Theatre Company 

*Igor Golyak, “The Stone,” Arlekin Players Theatre 

Igor Golyak, “The Seagull,” Arlekin Players Theatre 

Guy Ben-Aharon, “The Return,” Israeli Stage

Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actor 

*Aaron Patterson, “Parade,” Moonbox Productions 

Nicholas Rodriguez, “Sunset Boulevard,” North Shore Music Theatre 

Rashed Alnuaimi, “Oliver!,” New Repertory Theatre 

Tom Nelis, “Moby-Dick,” American Repertory Theater 

Peter Mill, “The Rocky Horror Show,” Moonbox Productions 

Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actress 

Yewande Odetoyinbo, “Caroline, or Change,” Moonbox Productions 

Alice Ripley, “Sunset Boulevard,” North Shore Music Theatre 

*Katrina Z Pavao, “Little Shop of Horrors,” Lyric Stage Company of Boston 

Haley K. Clay, “Parade,” Moonbox Productions 

Outstanding Actor, Large Theater 

Will LeBow, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” Huntington Theatre Company 

Morocco Omari, “The Purists,” Huntington Theatre Company 

*Eric Berryman, “Detroit Red,” ArtsEmerson

Outstanding Actor, Midsize Theater 

Nathan Malin, “Admissions,” SpeakEasy Stage Company 

*Kadahj Bennett, “Pass Over,” SpeakEasy Stage Company and The Front Porch Arts Collective

Hubens “Bobby” Cius, “Pipeline,” The Nora and WAM Theatre 

Brandon G. Green, “black odyssey boston,” Underground Railway Theater and The Front Porch Arts Collective

Albert Park, “Cambodian Rock Band,” Merrimack Repertory Theatre 

Outstanding Actor, Small or Fringe Theater 

*Nael Nacer, “The Return,” Israeli Stage 

Brooks Reeves, “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart,” Apollinaire Theatre Company

Alexander Pobutsky, “Hir,” Apollinaire Theatre Company 

Seamus G. Doyle, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” Apollinaire Theatre Company 

Minh-Anh Day, “Wolf Play,” Company One Theatre

Outstanding Actress, Large Theater

*Analisa Velez, “The Purists,” Huntington Theatre Company 

Izzie Steele, “The Purists,” Huntington Theatre Company 

Nora Eschenheimer, “Cymbeline,” Commonwealth Shakespeare Company 

Jennifer Regan, “Sweat,” Huntington Theatre Company 

Tyla Abercrumbie, “Sweat,” Huntington Theatre Company 

Outstanding Actress, Midsize Theater 

Cheryl McMahon, “Admissions,” SpeakEasy Stage Company 

*Paula Plum, “The Children,” SpeakEasy Stage Company 

Ireon Roach, “School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play,” SpeakEasy Stage Company 

Karen MacDonald, “The Children,” SpeakEasy Stage Company 

Debra Wise, “Vanity Fair,” Underground Railway Theater 

Outstanding Actress, Small or Fringe Theater 

*Darya Denisova, “The Stone,” Arlekin Players Theatre 

Anne Gottlieb, “The Seagull,” Arlekin Players Theatre 

Lily Kaufman, “Cry It Out,” Apollinaire Theatre Company 

Becca A. Lewis, “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart,” Apollinaire Theatre Company

Philana Mia, “The Return,” Israeli Stage 

Outstanding Ensemble, Large Theater 

“Moby-Dick,” American Repertory Theater 

“The Purists,” Huntington Theatre Company 

*“Sweat,” Huntington Theatre Company 

“Quixote Nuevo,” Huntington Theatre Company 

“Sunset Boulevard,” North Shore Music Theatre

Outstanding Ensemble, Midsize Theater

“School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play,” SpeakEasy Stage Company

 “Cloud 9,” The Nora  

“Choir Boy,” SpeakEasy Stage Company 

*“black odyssey boston,” Underground Railway Theater and The Front Porch Arts Collective “Pipeline,” The Nora and WAM Theatre

Outstanding Ensemble, Small or Fringe Theater 

“The Ebonic Woman,” Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans 

“Parade,” Moonbox Productions 

“The Seagull,” Arlekin Players Theatre 

*“The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart,” Apollinaire Theatre Company 

“The Stone,” Arlekin Players Theatre

Outstanding New Script 

“The Purists” by Dan McCabe, Huntington Theatre Company 

“Moby-Dick” by Dave Malloy, American Repertory Theater 

“Wolf Play” by Hansol Jung, Company One Theatre 

“The Ebonic Woman” by Ryan Landry, Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans 

*“Detroit Red” by Will Power, ArtsEmerson

Outstanding Design, Large Theater 

*“Moby-Dick,” American Repertory Theater Scenic design by Mimi Lien; costume design by Brenda Abbandandolo; lighting design by Bradley King; sound design by Hidenori Nakajo; puppet design by Eric F. Avery; wig, hair and make-up design by Rachel Padula-Shufelt 

“Sunset Boulevard,” North Shore Music Theatre Scenic design by Kyle Dixon; costume design by Anthony Powell and Kelly Baker; lighting design by Jose Santiago; wig and hair design by Rachel Padula-Shufelt 

“Detroit Red,” ArtsEmerson Scenic and costume design by Adam Rigg; lighting design by Alan C. Edwards; sound design by Justin Ellington; projection design by Ari Herzig

“Sweat,” Huntington Theatre Company Scenic design by Cameron Anderson; costume design by Junghyun Georgia Lee; lighting design by D.M. Wood; sound design by Pornchanok Kanchanabanca 

“Quixote Nuevo,” Huntington Theatre Company Scenic design by Takeshi Kata; costume design by Rachel Anne Healy; lighting design by Brian J. Lilienthal; sound design by David R. Molina

Outstanding Design, Midsize Theater 

*“Vanity Fair,” Underground Railway Theater Scenic design by David R. Gammons; costume design by Leslie Held; lighting design by Jeff Adelberg; sound design by David Wilson; properties coordinated by Ciara McAloon

 “black odyssey boston,” Underground Railway Theater and The Front Porch Arts Collective Scenic design by Jon Savage; costume design by Nadine Grant; lighting design by Aja M. Jackson; sound design by Dewey Dellay; property design by Elizabeth Rocha 

“Cloud 9,” The Nora Scenic design by Allison Olivia Choat; costume design by Elizabeth Rocha; lighting design by Whitney Brady-Guzmán; sound design by David Bryan Jackson; property design by Stef Tivan 

“Pass Over,” SpeakEasy Stage Company and The Front Porch Arts Collective Scenic design by Baron E. Pugh; costume design by Chelsea Kerl; lighting design by Kathy A. Perkins; sound design by Anna Drummond 

“The Cake,” Lyric Stage Company of Boston Scenic design by Matt Whiton; costume design by Charles Schoonmaker; lighting design by Aja M. Jackson; sound design by Arshan Gailus; props artisan Lauren Corcuera

Outstanding Design, Small or Fringe Theater 

“Parade,” Moonbox Productions Scenic design by Lindsay Genevieve Fuori; costume design by Chelsea Kerl; lighting design by Steve Shack; sound design by Elizabeth Cahill; hair and wig design by Peter Mill 

*“The Seagull,” Arlekin Players Theatre Scenic design by Nikolay Simonov; costume design by Nastya Bugaeva; lighting design by Jeff Adelberg 

“The Stone,” Arlekin Players Theatre Stage design by David R. Gammons; costume design by Nastya Bugaeva; lighting design by Jeff Adelberg; videos designed by Vladimir Gusev

“Vietgone,” Company One Theatre Scenic and projection design by Izmir Ickbal; costume design by Debra Kim Sivigny; lighting design by Jennifer Fok; sound design by Aubrey Dube; properties by Kelly Smith 

“The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart,” Apollinaire Theatre Company Set/lighting design by Danielle Fauteux Jacques; costume design by Elizabeth Rocha; sound design by David Reiffel

Outstanding Musical Direction 

*Catherine Stornetta, “Parade,” Moonbox Productions 

David Freeman Coleman, “Choir Boy,” SpeakEasy Stage Company 

Dan Rodriguez, “Caroline, or Change,” Moonbox Productions 

Milton Granger, “Sunset Boulevard,” North Shore Music Theatre 

Or Matias, “Moby-Dick,” American Repertory Theater

Outstanding Choreography 

Yewande Odetoyinbo and Ruka White, “Choir Boy,” SpeakEasy Stage Company 

Kira Troilo, “Parade,” Moonbox Productions 

*Ilyse Robbins, “Swan Lake in Blue,” Greater Boston Stage Company 

Outstanding Visiting Production, Non-Musical

“Indecent,” Huntington Theatre Company

Outstanding Visiting Production, Musical

“American Utopia,” Ambassador Theatre Group

Outstanding Visiting Musical Performance

Ben Levi Ross, “Dear Evan Hansen,” Broadway In Boston

Outstanding Visiting Musical Ensemble

“Six,” American Repertory Theater (Adrianna Hicks, Andrea Macasaet, Abby Mueller, Brittney Mack, Courtney Mack and Anna Uzele)

 

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