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Drama Desks Move Into Golden Globe Territory

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The Drama Desk Awards moved to a new venue for this year's ceremony which were held on Mon., May 23. After more than a decade at the La Guardia High School for the Performing Arts, the event has moved to the Hammerstein Ballroom for a sit-down gala dinner affair similar to the Golden Globes. In another similarity to the GGs, the DDs will be broadcast in a 90-minute special on the Ovation network on June 4, with several repeat showings. The Desks have often been compared to the Globes in other respects, since they are generally given out before the Tonys and are seen as a precursor for the better-known Broadway-only prizes--the Desks include Off- and Off-Off Broadway in all of their multiple categories. (Full disclosure: I'm a member of the DD and a former president.)

The DDs this year were a much looser affair than the Tonys generally are, just as the Globes are more informal than the Oscars. Perhaps it was because of the free champagne and the skimpy meal. "That was dinner?" quipped presenter Colin Quinn. "A little plate of pasta? Really, Ovation?" Host Harvey Fierstein set the right, partyish tone at the opening when he toasted all of the acting nominees who were gathered on stage. More than a few of them had champagne flutes and toasted back.

For the first time in several years, there were musical numbers from four of the nominated shows including Laura Benanti's showstopping "Model Behavior" from "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown"; "Her Name is Melissa" from "The Kid"; a satire of infomericals from "Newsical the Musical: Full Spin Ahead"; and two Beatles songs from "Rain," the tribute to the Fab Four. There were sound issues with some of the numbers but Benanti cheerfully overcame them. In her song which simulates a series of frantic phone messages her character, a ditsy model, leaves over the course of several hours, Benanti was required to move from mike to mike. When she came across a dead one, she quickly leapt to another and gave the audience a thumbs-up sign when it worked.

The only memorable scripting flub occured when "Project Runway" winner Christian Siriano was presenting the design awards and mistakenly identified Shakespeare's play as "The Mechanic of Venice." Didn't they study the classics in fashion school? Apart from the occasional similar glitch, the awards went fairly smoothly, but did tend to run more than a trifle long. The ceremony started late and ran almost till midnight, there were some confusion about seating, and the meal was less than generous. But the nominees and winners seemed like they were enjoying themselves and appreciated the effort to honor all of the New York theatre community's spectactular season. 

I know that I had a good time and so did the people around me. I was sitting next to Mark Rylance (nominated for "Jerusalem") and his wife, and though he lost to Bobby Cannavale for "The Motherf**ker with the Hat" in a surprising upset, Rylance was very gregarious, friendly, and in good humor throughout the evening. I'm looking forward to the Ovation special to see how they present the ceremony. When I was president, we were on NY-1 and we were live, so we had to keep it short.  

Photo: Drama Desk winners Sutton Foster and Bobby Cannavale. Credit: Getty Images

--David Sheward

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