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November 24, 2002

Valley theater profile rises at tonight's Ovation Awards

From: San Bernardino Sun, CA - 24 Nov 2002

By Evan Henerson
Staff Writer

How impressive a season was 2001-02 for stage in the Valley?

If tonight's Ovation Awards honoring L.A. theater is your barometer, the stereotypically "less cultured' part of L.A. didn't do half bad.

Three of the top five nominated productions originated at Valley-based theater. The other two, the Center Theatre Group-produced revivals of "Into the Woods' and "Flower Drum Song,' are now playing on Broadway.

Take CTG's 27 total nominations out of the equation, and you have Burbank's Colony Theatre setting the pace with 15 total nominations (among three productions), followed by neighboring NoHo-based companies Deaf West (11) and the Road Theatre Company (8) posting equally strong numbers.

"We share a wall with Deaf West,' says Road artistic board member Marci Hill, who is nominated for costume design for the Road's production of "Napoli Milionaria.' "They're the most nominated musical, and we're the most nominated play. We think it's awesome.'

"Big River,' the sign language musical produced by Deaf West in October 2001, has been restaged at CTG's Mark Taper Forum and has New York aspirations. "Big River,' the top-nominated production (11) is followed in a four-way tie by "Flower Drum Song,' "Into the Woods,' "Napoli Milionaria' and the Colony's "Side Show,' each with eight nominations.

Between 140 and 150 of the 200 members of the Theatre League Alliance of Los Angeles (Theatre LA) nominate voting representatives for the Ovations. This year, Theatre LA also added 60 at-large voters: mostly playwrights, directors and designers, according to Lee Wochner, Theatre LA president and CEO.

To a certain extent, the nominations reflect the new voters, says Wochner.

"It's a very diverse and eclectic pool of nominees,' says Wochner, "I've seen the emergence of a lot of new work, which I'm very excited about.'

In a nod to theater patrons, the Ovations will be honoring those Theatre LA voters and survey respondents who make L.A. theater-going a habit, including one woman who voted on a record 165 productions.

"It's always interesting to me -- the shows that are nominated that I have not only missed but that I've never heard of,' says Colony Producing Director Barbara Beckley. "That's really what L.A. theater is about. The Ovation voters get to obscure shows in out-of-the-way places, and that enables the theater community to recognize miracles.'

The 13th Annual Ovation Awards will be presented at 5 p.m. today at the Orpheum Theatre, 842 S. Broadway, Los Angeles. Alfred Molina hosts. Information: (213) 365-3500.

Copyright © 2002 San Bernardino County Sun