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    Posted June 7, 2006

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Urinetown Makes Big Splash at 22nd Helen Hayes Awards

By Gregory Gorton and Lynn McCune

As that great American philosopher, sage and author, Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) once said, "Oh the places you'll go!," for many of Washington's theatre community gathered for the 2006 Helen Hayes Awards, it would seem a majority of their ticket destinations were stamped, URINETOWN.

The awards presentation, on April 17, 2006 at The Warner Theatre, was an exciting and entertaining event hosted by Broadway veteran, Brad Oscar. Mr. Oscar was assisted throughout the night by Kristi Ambrosetti and Vanessa Vaughn.

The evening opened with a montage of photographs featuring Miss Hayes in her various roles. Her image was prominent throughout the show, a reminder not only of her individual achievements, but also as a symbol of the growth, influence and popularity of Washington theatre.

Mr. Oscar, who recently appeared in DAMN YANKEES at Washington's Arena Stage, quipped that he had "a lot in common with Helen Hayes: both worked on Broadway and in DC, and both were up for the same roles." He went on to say, "An actor can really make a nice living in DC. After all, there are so many restaurants."

Throughout the presentation, Mr. Oscar and the orchestra, under the musical direction of Glenn Pearson, performed several parodies of songs such as Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? and You Gotta Have Heart, among others. Last year's emcee, E. Faye Butler, sang A Kiss to Build a Dream On, which was the showstopper of the night.

It was a night that produced many nominations, which in turn resulted in four ties, a record for the Helen Hayes Awards.

Why so many nominees? A source at the Awards said, "If five nominees cannot be clearly identified statistically due to a tie, and the tie cannot be broken with any of the statistically accepted tiebreaking methods, then the number of nominees increases commensurately."

While achieving the Herculean task of bringing in the show under two hours, it was still a night devoted to the importance and prominence of these awards to all of the nominees and recipients, and to the Washington theatre community as well.

Accepting his second Helen Hayes Award as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Resident Play for Studio Theatre's staging of TAKE ME OUT, Rick Foucheux commented that, "We are currently in a golden age of theatre here in Washington, and we are all blessed to be a part of it."

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Non-Resident production was Stephanie J. Block for her performance as Elphaba in WICKED at the Kennedy Center. Outstanding Lead Actress in a Resident Play was Eunice Wong for THE INTELLIGENT DESIGN OF JENNY CHOW at Studio Theatre. Outstanding Supporting Actor and Actress for Resident productions were Bruce R. Nelson, THE VIOLET HOUR, Rep Stages, and Franca Barchiesi, THE CLEAN HOUSE, Woolly Mammoth Theatre.

But the night clearly belonged to Signature Theatre and its production of URINETOWN. The show received multiple nominations and when the final results were tallied, it was the recipient of eight awards, including Outstanding Resident Musical production.

Other URINETOWN awardees are: Stephen F. Schmidt, Outstanding Supporting Actor; Jenna Sokolowski, Outstanding Supporting Actress, and Equity Membership Candidate Erin Driscoll, who shared Outstanding Lead Actress Award with Meg Gillentine for Arena Stage's revival of DAMN YANKEES.

The Shakespeare Theatre and Studio Theatre each received four awards, including an Outstanding Lead Actor nod to Patrick Page for OTHELLO at the Shakespeare Theatre. Studio Theatre tied with The Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company for Outstanding Resident Play, for TAKE ME OUT and THE CLEAN HOUSE, respectively. This was one of three awards garnered by Woolly Mammoth.

The Outstanding Non-Resident Production was presented to The National Theatre for its staging of I AM MY OWN WIFE, which also produced an Outstanding Lead Actor award for Jefferson Mays.

For a complete list of Helen Hayes Award recipients, visit

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