May 2021 should have brought us the 39th Elliot Norton Awards, but the COVID pandemic closed Boston theaters, so there was no season and no awards. This season, Boston has been able to enjoy live theater, but in deference to the pandemic, the Boston Theater Critics Association decided to forgo the traditional in-person event. Instead, the Norton awards were presented Monday evening in a virtual ceremony hosted at elliotnortonawards.com.
The top shows, with three awards each, were the Huntington Theatre Company’s “The Bluest Eye,” Gloucester Stage Company’s “Tiny Beautiful Things,” and SpeakEasy Stage Company’s “BLKS” and “People, Places & Things.” SpeakEasy garnered the most company awards, seven, followed by the Huntington with six and Gloucester Stage with four.
In the large theater division, “The Bluest Eye” won for outstanding production, outstanding director (Awoye Timpo), and outstanding ensemble. Outstanding actor went to John Douglas Thompson in Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s “The Tempest”; the outstanding actress was Shannon DeVido in the Huntington’s “Teenage Dick.” And the Huntington’s “Witch” took the award for outstanding design.
SpeakEasy swept the midsize theater division. “People, Places & Things” won for outstanding production, outstanding director (David R. Gammons), and outstanding actress (Marianna Bassham). “BLKS” received awards for outstanding actor (Sharmarke Yusuf), outstanding ensemble, and outstanding design.
In the small or fringe theater division, “Tiny Beautiful Things” won for outstanding production, outstanding director (Lyndsay Allyn Cox), and outstanding actress (Celeste Oliva). The outstanding actor was Malcolm Ingram in Gloucester Stage’s “Reparations.” Outstanding ensemble went to Apollinaire Theatre Company’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.”
Greater Boston Stage Company’s “All Is Calm” was the outstanding musical production. Moonbox Productions’ “Passing Strange” garnered the awards for outstanding musical direction (Julius LaFlamme) and outstanding musical performance by an actor (Anthony Pires Jr.). The outstanding musical performance by an actress was given by Whitney White in the American Repertory Theater’s “Macbeth in Stride.” And Jazelynn Goudy won the outstanding choreography award for her work in SpeakEasy’s “Once on This Island.”
Melinda Lopez and Joel Perez took the outstanding new script award for the Huntington’s “Black Beans Project.” The outstanding solo performance was given by Jasmine M. Rush in “Queens Girl in the World,” a co-production of The Nora at Central Square Theater, the Front Porch Arts Collective, and the Hangar Theatre Company.
Broadway In Boston’s “Hadestown” won for both outstanding visiting production and outstanding actor in a visiting production (Kevyn Morrow). The outstanding actress in a visiting production was Somi Kakoma in ArtsEmerson’s presentation of “Dreaming Zenzile.”
This year’s Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence was given to John Douglas Thompson, who in 2019 won an Elliot Norton Award as outstanding actor for his portrayal of Emile Griffith in the Huntington’s “Man in the Ring,” and who this year won again for his Prospero in Commonwealth Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”
Special Citations were awarded to Arlekin Players Theater & Zero Gravity (zero-G) Virtual Theater Lab artistic director Igor Golyak; to actress Darya Denisova, a 2020 outstanding actress Norton recipient; and to Barrington Stage Company’s outgoing artistic director, Julianne Boyd, who has been at the helm of the Berkshires theater for 27 years.