The big news at the Henrys on Monday, July 7, was that John Ashton, known for rambling jokes about each winner and routine insults to the critic-voters, wasn’t hosting. Instead, the Buntporters -- Erin Rollman, Erik Edborg and Brian Colonna -- were there to, as they explained, "hip things up," which they did with low-key humor.
Ashton was very present, however, at some points trundling on with a walker, using seven or eight pairs of glasses to read cue cards -- all in reference to his seniority and the Buntporters’ relative youth. When he did manage to throw in a comment on the decisions of "critics whose odd opinions we’ve been ridiculing for the past year," he got thrown off the stage.
But he returned later in the evening to accept his award for lifetime achievement, presented by actress Pam Clifton, who assured us that Ashton has two enormous testicles, adding parenthetically that her ex-husband, one-time Westword writer Alan Dumas (who died a few years ago) had three. (Ashton, too, was a Westword staffer.)
High points of the evening, held at the Littleton Town Hall Arts Center:
Erik Edborg in a glamorous black-and-silver gown, his already six-foot frame balanced on shoes so high they’d have made Carrie Bradshaw seasick, singing "I Am What I Am" from La Cage Aux Folles.
Rhonda Brown and Emily Paton Davies vying with each other as they presented an award -- Rhonda reminding us that she’s a previous winner, and Emily noting that so is she. But her winning role involved total nudity, Rhonda pointed out proudly; hers, too, said Emily. They gazed at each other and suddenly moved into a passionate clinch.
Donna Debreceni leaping irrepressibly about the stage when she received her special achievement award for musical direction from the Avenue Theatre’s Bob Wells -- who had already taken time to explain that a debreceni is a small sausage in Hungarian. "Oh, this is so cool," she crooned, holding her award. "And it’s blue."
Megan Van De Hey accepting her award as supporting actress in a musical by thanking Wells for "always being moist." Her thanks to her husband, Joel Sutcliffe, nominated as outstanding actor in a musical, gave no hint of his relative dampness.
(Word was the newly-minted Henry statuettes themselves, fresh from the sculptor’s hands, were still pretty moist; winners were advised to handle them like newborn babies.)
Wendy Ishii giving a gracious acceptance speech when Fort Collins’s Bas Bleu received a regional theatre special achievement award.
The Boulder’s Dinner Theatre Troupe displaying amazing energy and precision on a number from The Will Rogers Follies called "Our Favorite Son," and the cast of the Town Hall’s Company pouring their energy into Sondheim’s "Side By Side."
The Phamaly crew performing Urinetown’s "Run, Freedom, Run," which calls for a young girl to toss her crutch away triumphantly and then, after a few breathless seconds, to fall to the floor. Jenna Bainbridge fell, the rest of the cast fell with her, and a wheel rolled off Regan Linton’s wheelchair. As the performers laughed, writhed and helped each other up, we remembered everything we love about this amazingly talented troupe.
And Lucy Roucis, who has Parkinson’s, hollering "I always move like this" when one of the other cast members uttered this pitying scripted line: "Look at her." Lucy, a warm and wonderful performer who has been with Phamaly for several years and who speaks of her illness with ironic humor, will have brain surgery on July 28.
(It’s worth noting that despite all the praise for Phamaly, no one had provided a ramp up onto the stage for them.)
Another plus: The Denver Center Theatre Company, which had chosen not to participate last year due to objections to one of the rules, was represented by artistic director Kent Thompson and his associate Bruce Sevy, and the two picked up their share of awards.
Some comments served as reminders of the life of an actor, and the amount of work and planning that goes into the shows we see. Costumer Nicole Harrison, who won an award for La Cage Aux Folles, spoke of carrying yard and yards of black and white fabric through the New York subway system with the help of her mother; Tom Borrillo noted that most of the sets actors work on "are nicer than the apartments where we live."
Receiving the choreography award for Phamaly’s Urinetown, Debbie Stark told us how hard the cast worked: They came with "new dancing shoes and new wheelchairs and canes," she said. "They tweaked their hearing devices and also adjusted their meds. And" -- she added, beaming at the performers in the audience -- "Look what you did!"
Speaking of moisture, there were lots of wet eyes. "Leave it to the gay man to cry," said Michael Gold, holding his supporting actor in a musical award. He ran into the audience to kiss the man for whom the awards are named -- longtime impresario Henry Lowenstein, seated in the front row. His acting career began with Henry, Gold explained, back in the old Bonfils days.
I’ve had my doubts about the Henrys in the past -- and I still have a few -- but the awards really do work as a way of bringing together the theater crowd and showcasing the wealth of acting, directing, and technical talent in Denver, the uniqueness and energy of some of our companies, and the healthy and growing synergies between big, medium and little.
Click here to view a slide show from the event. Find a list of winners below.-- Juliet Wittman
Outstanding Actor in a Play Gene Gillette, Curious Theatre Company, “The Lieutenant of Inishmore”
Outstanding Actress in a Play Jeanne Paulsen, Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Doubt”
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Michael E. Gold, Arvada Center, "La Cage aux Folles "
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Juliet Villa, PHAMALY, “Urinetown, the Musical”
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play Mike Hartman, Denver Center Theatre Company, “Plainsong”
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play Barbra Andrews, Paragon Theatre Company, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical Marcus Waterman, Arvada Center, “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical Megan Van de Hey, Town Hall Arts Center, “Company”
Outstanding Sound Design Craig Breitenbach, Denver Center Theatre Company, “Plainsong”
Outstanding Lighting Design Stephen D. Mazzeno, PHAMALY, “Urinetown, the Musical”
Outstanding Costume Design Nicole Harrison, Arvada Center, “La Cage aux Folles”
Outstanding Scenic Design David Lafont, Paragon Theatre Company, “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
Outstanding Choreography Debbie Stark and Cindy Bray, PHAMALY, "Urinetown, the Musical"
Outstanding Ensemble Performance Denver Center Theatre Company, “Lydia”
Outstanding New Play “Lydia”, Octavio Solis, Denver Center Theatre Company
Outstanding Production of a Play Denver Center Theatre Company, “Lydia”
Outstanding Production of a Musical Arvada Center, “La Cage aux Folles”
Outstanding Direction of a Play Warren Sherrill, Paragon Theatre Company, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
Outstanding Direction of a Musical Steve Wilson, PHAMALY, "Urinetown, the Musical"
Outstanding Season for a Theatre Company Denver Center Theatre Company
Special Achievement in Musical Direction Donna Debreceni
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Special Achievement in Children's Theatre Buntport
Special Schievement in Theatre Technology and Engineering El Armstrong
Outstanding Regional Theatre Bas Bleu Theatre Company, Fort Collins, Colorado
Lifetime Achievement John Ashton