'Madness' and 'Candide' are top Jeff Award winners

Director Penny Metropulos' stirring take on Alan Bennett's "The Madness of George III" and Mary Zimmerman's revisionist production of "Candide" at the Goodman Theatre shared top honors for large theaters at the 2011 Joseph Jefferson Awards, with the Remy Bumppo Theatre production of Edwards Albee's "The Goat or, Who is Sylvia?" and American Theater Company's retro, Chicago-style version of "The Original Grease" honored as the best shows of the year in Chicago's mid-size Equity theaters.

The much-coveted best-ensemble award at this year's Jeffs, Monday night at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oak Brook, also went to American Theater Company and the cast of Dan LeFranc's "The Big Meal," a play wherein the dining table becomes a metaphor for the passing of generations and one ordinary couple's influence on the lives that follow.

Harry Groener, the star of "The Madness of George III," emerged as the winner in the hotly contested category of actor in a principal role (play), despite formidable competition from Tracy Letts in the Steppenwolf Theatre's Broadway-bound production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" (which, remarkably, left the awards empty-handed) and John Mahoney, who starred in Northlight Theatre's "The Outgoing Tide." Bruce Graham's "Outgoing Tide" shared the award for new play with David Henry Hwang's "Chinglish," a Goodman Theatre premiere currently playing on Broadway. Hwang accepted the Jeff in person.

Honored actresses included Annabel Armour (for "The Goat") and Jessie Mueller for "She Loves Me" at Writers' Theatre in Glencoe. Barbara Robertson triumphed in the category of best solo performance for her tour de force performance in "The Detective's Wife," also at Writers' Theatre.

The dominant musical of the year was surely "Candide," with acting honors going to Geoff Packard and Larry Yando. Zimmerman scored an unusual "new adaptation" Jeff, given that this was an existing musical, albeit with a book that Zimmerman adapted from the original Voltaire text.

Second City also had a fun night, scoring three Jeff Awards for its e.t.c. revue, "Sky's the Limit (Weather Permitting)," even as the mainstage show went home empty handed.

A special Jeff was awarded Monday to Hedy Weiss, the longtime theater and dance critic at the Chicago Sun-Times. Kathryn V. Lamkey, the outgoing chairwoman of the Actors' Equity union, was honored for her years of service to Chicago theater and its actors.




"The Madness of George III" — Chicago Shakespeare Theater


"Edward Albee's The Goat or, Who is Sylvia?" — Remy Bumppo Theatre


"Candide" – Goodman Theatre


"The Original Grease" – American Theater Company


"Sky's the Limit (Weather Permitting)" – Second City e.t.c.