Dancing broke out onstage at the after party. DJ WhySham didn’t stop ’til midnight. Applause, cheers and passionate, heartfelt, exuberant speeches even picked up momentum as the three-hour-plus show continued. This was the vibe at the 40th ANNIVERSARY ELLIOT NORTON AWARDS held at the Huntington Theatre on Monday night May 8, 2023, also proclaimed– in honor of the Huntington’s managing director– MICHAEL MASO DAY by Boston Arts and Culture Chief Kara Elliot-Ortega on behalf of Mayor Wu! I am still reeling.
As president of the The Boston Theater Critics Association, I was proud to emcee as we handed out 35 Elliot Norton Awards honoring outstanding achievement culled from 137 nominations which included actors, directors, writers, choreographers, designers, and musicians. It was the first time the balcony had to be opened at the Huntington to accommodate a theater community who gathered for the first time in three years since the pandemic decimated the performing arts.
There was a thrill in the air and everyone felt it. The breadth and caliber of the work served up this season was a testament to a theater community which has revitalized itself around narratives written, helmed, and performed by the most diverse and collaborative theater community ever. The global majority was center stage as marginalized communities, unsung heroes, classics re-mounted, and new voices raised yielded fresh work and heightened perspective. Cases in point: K-I-S-S-I-N-G which dominated the evening with 8 awards, was a co-production between the Front Porch Arts Collective which received 13 awards in all, and The Huntington which received 10. Outstanding musical “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ” was a co-production of The Front Porch Arts Collective, Nora @ Central Square Theater, and Greater Boston Stage Company.
Beloved veteran performer Bobbie Steinbach was awarded the coveted Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence, and held us with her trademark humor and heart. Meanwhile, at the beginning of her career, 9 year-old Sky Vaux Fuller performed a number from her nominated musical “Matilda”– capping it off with a cartwheel!
For some performers it was a homecoming: Outstanding Leading Performer Anthony T Goss for “Seven Guitars” talked of growing up in Roxbury. Cast members on the road with Outstanding Visiting musical INTO THE WOODS sent a video acceptance noting their local roots and Emerson College education. Lenelle Moïse, who wrote this year’s Outstanding New Script for “K-I-S-S-I-N-G,” praised the impact of her Cambridge public school art teachers. And underscoring the importance of supporting emerging artists, the BTCA gave its annual Arts Education Award to Magic Circle Theater at Tufts University, New England’s oldest theater by and for children.
The final award of the evening, appropriately, went to THE INHERITANCE for OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE, drawn from a field of ten nominees who together encompassed the extraordinary ensemble which our Boston theater community has become. What a night!
Below are more photos by Deborah J. Karson Photography that help capture the evening. Here is a link to the nominees and awardees at the Boston Theater Critics Association’s 40th Anniversary Elliot Norton Awards