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EQUITY JEFF NOMINATIONS SET UP AN IMPOSSIBLE CONTEST OF EXCELLENCE IN CHICAGO THEATER

August 21, 2015 at 7:34 PM

Original Article: http://entertainment.suntimes.com/music/equity-jeff-nominations-set-impossible-contest-excellence-chicago-theater/

Scan the list of the season's just-announced Jeff Awards nominations — honoring excellence in Equity productions that opened between Aug. 1, 2014 and July 31, 2015 – and there can be only one conclusion. It is this: In Chicago, a city whose theaters continue to create one astonishing work after another — of every genre, and on every scale — any sense of a "contest" should begin and end with the nominations list.

In nearly every category — whether a play or a musical on a grand or a "midsize" scale, whether a new work or an adaptation, whether a classic play or a musical, whether a singular performance or a clockwork ensemble — the only word to be affixed to nearly every nominee is "exceptional."

For example, home in on the productions of plays by midsize theaters: Forced to choose, would I have rather experienced the day-long Greek tragedy marathon, "All Our Tragic," by The Hypocrites, or embarked on the epic South Pole journey to Antarctica captured in Irish Theatre's "The White Road." An impossible choice to make.

And then, in the category of grand-scale musicals: Would I have traded the chance to see Paramount Theatre's opera house-worthy production of "Les Miserables" (and, for the record, that Aurora-based marvel, which had Jeff eligibility for the first time this season, led the overall tally with 16 nominations for several different productions), for the chance to see Drury Lane's "Billy Elliot" (the best edition of that show in memory), or the glorious "King and I" revival staged at Marriott? All three were phenomenal.

Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte stars as The King and Heidi Kettenring portrays Anna in "The King and I" at The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. | Mark Campbel
Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte stars as The King and Heidi Kettenring portrays Anna in "The King and I" at The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. | Mark Campbel

In any case, the choices will be made and the winners will be announced at the Jeffs ceremony to be held Oct. 5 at Drury Lane Oakbrook, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. Emceeing the festivities will be actresses Cheryl Lynn Bruce and E. Faye Butler. The evening will include performances featuring cast members from nominated musicals and revues, with video segments from nominated plays. The festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. with pre-show appetizers and cash bar, followed by the ceremony and a lavish buffet reception immediately afterward. Advance-purchase tickets, which include the ceremony and pre- and post-show parties, are $55-$75. The evening is black tie-optional and the public is invited to attend. For tickets, visit www.jeffawards.org.