'Matilda,' 'Vanya' Take NY Drama Critics Honors


Echoing their status as Tony frontrunners, the Roald Dahl musical adaptation and playwright Christopher Durang's contemporary Chekhov riff won the venerable organization's top awards by a wide margin.

NEW YORK -- The New York Drama Critics Circle has chosen to honor Christopher Durang's Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike as best play of the season, with Matilda taking the award for best musical.

Both shows are currently playing on Broadway and are frontrunners in their respective categories for Tony Award recognition.

Durang's bittersweet contemporary comedy, which uses Chekhovian themes and characters to reflect on aging, regret, resignation and acceptance, was nominated for six Tonys earlier this week, including best play. The NYDCC play award carries a cash prize of $2,500, courtesy of a grant from the Lucille Lortel Foundation.

A London import originated by the Royal Shakespeare Company, Matilda is an imaginative adaptation (by playwright Dennis Kelly and composer-lyricist Tim Minchin) of the Roald Dahl children's novel about a five-year-old genius at odds with her proudly anti-intellectual parents and the headmistress from hell. That show scored 12 Tony nominations, including best musical.

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While both those winners were elected by a wide margin, other plays that figured strongly in voting for the NYDCC's 78th annual awards included Annie Baker's The Flick, Richard Greenberg's The Assembled Parties, and Ayad Akhtar's Pulitzer Prize winner Disgraced

Musicals considered on the heels of Matilda included David Byrne and Fatboy Slim's dance-club Imelda Marcos fantasia Here Lies Love, and Dave Malloy's Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, an electro folk-pop reworking of a chapter from War and Peace, staged as Russian dinner theater. Both those shows are immersive spectacles that step away from the traditional musical model in innovative ways.

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Due to lack of a consensus on outstanding candidates, the NYDCC voted not to give an award for best foreign play this year.

The group awarded special citations to the consistently adventurous Off Broadway company Soho Rep; to New York City Center's long-running Encores! series, which presents semi-staged concert versions of vintage musicals; and to scenic designer John Lee Beatty, who has had a remarkably productive season. His work on Broadway alone has graced four productions in the past year: An Enemy of the People, The Nance, The Big Knife and Orphans. Beatty won his first Tony in 1980 for Talley's Folly, but despite 14 subsequent nominations, he has not won since. The designer is nominated this year for his 1930s sets for Douglas Carter Beane's The Nance, starring Nathan Lane.

The NYDCC awards will be presented on May 13 at a private cocktail reception at cabaret venue 54 Below, hosted by actors Peter Bartlett and Harriet Harris, both appearing on Broadway in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. Full details of this year's awards voting can be found at http://www.dramacritics.org/dc_thisyears.html