The American Repertory Theater took the most honors at Monday’s 32d annual Elliot Norton Awards for the best in local theater.
The ART was named a winner four times by the Boston Theater Critics Association in ceremonies at the Wheelock Family Theatre.
Company One Theatre’s “The Flick,” co-presented by Suffolk University, about the employees of a fading Central Massachusetts movie house, and Wheelock’s “Hairspray,” about a 1960s TV dance show, earned the most awards for an individual production, with three each. The fringe Zeitgeist Stage Company took three awards for two of its productions, “Punk Rock” and “The Normal Heart.” Huntington Theatre Company also garnered three awards that cited three different productions.
Speakeasy Stage Company won two Norton awards for its show “Tribes,” and its founder and producing artistic director, Paul Daigneault, was given the 2014 Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence.
One theme for the night was Boston’s momentum as not just a theater town but an arts town. “This year feels so fresh to me. I believe we are at a turning point for the arts in this city,” said master of ceremonies Joyce Kulhawik.
As if to prove her right, Mayor Martin J. Walsh took the podium to once again declare his commitment to making Boston a top arts city — he’d spent part of the day interviewing a candidate for his administration’s new arts czar, he said — and thanked the theater community for doing its part.
Lowell native and Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis, who began her theater career in Boston, was awarded the 2014 Elliot Norton Lifetime Achievement Award, and recited from a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca about the human impact of the arts. She was introduced by her cousin, former Governor Michael Dukakis, whose perhaps underappreciated funny side came out when he talked about their family’s reaction to her decision to study drama: “What the hell was this all about?”
Speaking of politics, the ART’s historical drama “All the Way” was named outstanding production by a large resident theater, and Bryan Cranston, the star of television’s “Breaking Bad,” was named outstanding actor for his performance as President Johnson. The show eventually went on to Broadway, and Cranston has since been nominated for a Tony Award.
“Tribes,” about a deaf young man coming to terms with his family, was named outstanding production by a midsize theater, while “The Flick” won for small theaters and Zeitgeist’s “Punk Rock,” about an act of school violence, won for fringe theaters. Zeitgeist founder and producing artistic director David J. Miller noted the difficulty of producing a play about youth violence just weeks after the Boston Marathon bombings, and said postshow talk-backs every night helped both cast and audience.
Huntington Theatre Company’s “The Jungle Book” was named outstanding musical by a large theater.
The show’s highlights, though, were nonaward moments both serious and silly. There were emotional tributes to area theater veterans who died recently, given by colleagues and friends: Julie Harris (by Jeff Zinn), Jeremy Geidt (by Robert Brustein) and Nicholas Martin (by Michael Maso).
And there were exuberant, show-stopping musical performances by the three nominees for outstanding musical production by a midsize, small, or fringe theater: Stoneham Theatre’s “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” the Gold Dust Orphans’ “It’s a Horrible Life” and Wheelock’s “Hairspray,” which won.
The Baxter Theatre Centre’s “Mies Julie,” presented by ArtsEmerson, was named outstanding visiting production. The Baxter center is in Capetown.
Andrea Syglowski of the Huntington’s “Venus in Fur” was named outstanding actress in a large theater and gave one of the more emotional thank-you speeches. “This time last year I was graduating from Juilliard,” she said. “I got my Equity card on this show.”
Jeremiah Kissel of New Repertory Theatre’s “Imagining Madoff” and Erica Spyres of “Tribes” won the midsize-theater acting categories.
Alex Pollock won outstanding actor at a small or fringe theater for three separate performances: “This Is Our Youth” at Gloucester Stage Company, “Windowmen” at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, and “The Flick.” Resembling the characters he played, he seemed to feel more emotions than he could quite articulate: “God, I’m a mess up here.” Crowd favorite Maureen Adduci was named outstanding actress at a small or fringe theater for Zeitgeist’s “The Normal Heart.”
In musicals, Francis Jue was named outstanding actor for “Miss Saigon” at the North Shore Music Theatre, while Aimee Doherty was named outstanding actress for her performances in “On the Town” at the Lyric Stage Company and “Hairspray.”
Awards for outstanding ensemble acting went to the Huntington’s “The Seagull,” which Martin planned to direct but had to drop out, and Wheelock’s “Hairspray.”
Gisli Örn Gardarsson was named outstanding director at a large theater for “The Heart of Robin Hood” at the ART. Ilyse Robbins won in the midsize category for “Thoroughly Modern Millie” at Stoneham Theatre. In the small or fringe category, Miller won for directing “Punk Rock” and “The Normal Heart,” both at Zeitgeist.
Design-team awards went to “The Heart of Robin Hood” and “The Flick.”
“Windowmen,” written by veteran local actor Steven Barkhimer, was named outstanding new script.
The awards are given in honor of Norton, a renowned theater critic in Boston, who retired in 1982 and died in 2003 at 100. The association includes 10 Boston critics, including the Globe’s Don Aucoin.Joel Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: An earlier version of this story miscounted the number of awards won by Zeitgeist Stage Company.