'The Color Purple,' 'Waiting For Godot' Win Big at L.A.'s Ovation Awards

La Toya London Hugo Armstrong Ovation Awards - P 2012

La Toya London Hugo Armstrong Ovation Awards - P 2012

The annual awards, honoring Los Angeles theater community, picked 36 winners out of 400 submitted stage productions in the last year.

Three stage productions took home the lion’s share of trophies at the 2012 Ovation Awards honoring performing arts in the greater Los Angeles area Monday night. The 23rd annual event, held at downtown L.A.’s historic Los Angeles Theatre, was hosted by actress Jane Kaczmarek and playwright/actor Herbert Siguenza of the performance group Culture Clash. The awards, produced by the L.A. Stage Alliance, saw 400 productions competing in 36 categories.

The Centre Theater Group’s staging of Waiting for Godot won awards for best production of a play in a large theater, acting ensemble, lead actor Alan Mandell, featured actor Hugo Armstrong and video designer Brian Gale. The production ran last spring at the Mark Taper Forum.

The bold move of doing the Broadway musical The Color Purple in a 64-seat house won six awards for the Celebration Theatre: for best production of a musical in an intimate theater, musical acting ensemble, choreographer Janet Roston, music director Gregory Nabours, director Michael Matthews and featured actress La Toya London. Roston dedicated her award to her mother who had passed away over the weekend: “I know she’s out there kvelling right now.”

And The Convert, playwright Danai Gurira’s drama about colonialism in South Africa, which the Center Theatre Group produced at Culver City’s Kirk Douglas Theatre, picked up six awards: for director of a play Emily Mann, lead actress Pascale Armand, featured actress Zainab Jah, lighting designer (large theater) Lap Chi Chu, scenic designer Daniel Ostling and costume designer Paul Tazewell.

The stage of the grand 2,000-seat movie palace, built in the '30s and used mostly for special events and filming these days, was beautifully lit by a collection of antique and vintage floor lamps, chandeliers and other ceiling fixtures. Except for one noticeable bump in the road (a Siguenza routine -- cape, mask and all -- that attempted to draw laughs out of creating parallels between Phantom of the Opera and the state of the L.A. theater world), the night played out as a heartfelt, enthusiastic and often funny celebration of the L.A. performing arts community. “It’s a fantastic, well-orchestrated excuse to be together and acknowledge each other,” said Waiting for Godot’s Armstrong.

One lively bit was the exchange between co-presenters, actress/playwright Charlene Woodward and Mark Roberts. When she introduced him as the creator of CBS' Mike & Molly, he quipped, "Which means I’m rich."

“I didn’t say that,” she responded.

“I’m just throwing that out,” pressed Roberts, before planting a stagey kiss on her. "When he fumbled for his notecards, he later blurted: “How much is a teleprompter? I could have brought one from the office.”

California State Assembly speaker John A. Perez also presented and commended California voters for passing Proposition 30 which would spare public schools from further budget cuts. “Society depends not just on finding the next Steve Jobs but the next Arthur Miller,” he said. Other presenters included Michele Lee, Criminal MindsKirsten Vangsness, Castle’s Seamus Dever, the Geffen Playhouse’s Allison Rawlings, Glenne Headly and Christine Lakin.

Winners also included Center Theatre Group for best season, Musical Theatre West’s Forbidden Broadway: Greatest Hits, Volume 2 for best production of a musical in a large theater and The Antaeus Company’s Peace in Our Time for best production of a play in an intimate theater.

Said L.A. Stage Alliance CEO Terence McFarland, “Tonight’s recipients reflect the diverse and rich landscape of greater Los Angeles theatre. The Ovation Awards are a celebration of excellence and one way that L.A. Stage Alliance shines a light on the fantastic work of our L.A. theatre artists.” The Ovation awards are the only peer-judged awards for theater in Los Angeles; 240 voters, vetted by the nonprofit, take part.