The Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee has announced 130 nominations in 26 categories for the 37th annual Jeff Awards for excellence in Chicago-area theater. The roster of nominees includes numerous previous winners who are distinguished theater veterans and members of the GLBT community, among them actor/author Tom Mula, choreographer/director Marc Robin, director/musical director/ cute couple L. Walter Stearns and Eugene Dizon, director Jason Loewith, translator Curt Columbus and actors Greg Vinkler and Guy Adkins.
But come awards night on Nov. 7, the show to beat and the man to beat are Wicked and its director Joe Mantello. In a very smart use of the Jeff Committee rules, the producers of Wicked set up an Illinois corporation, based in Chicago, as the legal producing entity of the Chicago company of Wicked, which opened in mid-July and quickly settled in for a long run at the Ford Center/Oriental Theater in The Loop. The legal basis in Chicago made the big Broadway show eligible for Jeff Award consideration.
Now, there is speculation that the Jeff Committee ruled the show ineligible for consideration in such categories as new work or costume design or scenic design, since the Chicago production replicates exactly the New York original. But the performances and the overall production were ruled in contention. So it is that Wicked in nominated in the Production—Musical and Director—Musical ( Montello ) categories. Also, stars Ana Gasteyer ( Elphaba ) and Kate Reinders ( Glinda ) received Actress—Musical nominations, while local fave Rondi Reed was nominated as Supporting Actress—Musical for her work as Madame Morrible. Indeed, Reed could prove one of the evening's big winners as she's also nominated for her work as the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.
The nominees for Production—Play are: A Delicate Balance ( by gay icon Edward Albee ) , Remy Bumppo Theatre; Kabuki Lady Macbeth, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre; The Pain and the Itch, Steppenwolf; Seven Guitars, Congo Square Theatre Company; and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ( also by Albee ) , Court Theatre.
Nominees for Production—Musical are Beauty and the Beast, Marriott Theatre; The Full Monty, Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place; She Loves Me, Theatre at the Center; Sunset Boulevard, Marriott Theatre; Sweeney Todd, Porchlight Music Theatre Chicago; and Wicked.
The public is invited to this year's Jeff Awards gala at the Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place, Monday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. The program will be co-directed by Gary Griffin ( immediately before his Broadway debut as director of the lesbian-shaded musical, The Color Purple ) and Michael Halberstam. They promise scenes from nominated productions, probably surprise celebrity presenters and perhaps the liveliest Jeff Awards show in many years. The black-tie evening includes a pre-show lobby reception and a post-show dinner at the Mity Nice Grill in Water Tower Place. Tickets are $65. The evening is expected to be sold out, so book now if you wish to attend: ( 708 ) 788-6072 or visit the Jeff Web site: www.jeffawards.org .