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July 6th, 2004

Fierstein Positively “Wicked” at 49th Annual Drama Desk Awards

by John Wegorzewski and Edward Callaghan

As Drama Desk honors not only Broadway, but the best of off- Broadway and off-off-Broadway too, the awards evening also included three parties!

We gladly put on our best bib and tucker to catch the arrivals at Club Black for the VIP pre-show reception. At once we ran into Idina Minzel (the usually green “Bad Witch” in Wicked) with her husband the dynamic Taye Diggs, nominees Andre DeShields, Judy McLane and wherever there were flashbulbs, the amazing Tonya Pinkins.

Drama desk’s Director of Special Events Randie Levine Miller, a key organizer and the Drama Desk’s secret weapon, had thoughtfully arranged a herd of double decker buses to ensure that no one was lost on the trek from 56th and the river up to La Guardia High School. There, awaiting us in the enormous reception hall was a crush so great Theatermania’s Barbara and Scott Siegel noted, “you didn’t just rub shoulders with stars at this gathering, you shared each other’s DNA.”

With the incomparable Harvey Fierstein at the helm, the show took off like a rocket with the awards and jokes coming in rapid-fire succession. Harvey set the tone of irreverence at the top, warning musical director Billy Stritch to watch out or “Liza will rise up from the piano and smack you in the head.”

Funny/sweet moments included Wicked co-stars and co-nominees Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel arriving on-stage in bandages, slings and neck braces spoofing their alleged feud. Later, with the vote split, the award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical went to Donna Murphy for Wonderful Town, who delivered one of the longest acceptances in theater history, thanking everyone from her herbalist to her manicurist.

No surprise that Hugh Jackman trounced the competition with only one of his competitors Alfred Molina of Fiddler, still on the boards. Phylicia Rashad (Raisin in the Sun) and Viola Davis (Intimate Apparel) tied for Outstanding Actress. The two close friends were the essence of good showmanship, thrilled to be sharing the award.

Compass Restaurant kept the party moving ?ɬ´til early in the a.m. with a crowd that kept re-charging with arrivals like Boy George. By our reckoning the evening had now gone on for nine hours! Long, maybe, but exhilarating enough to make us reserve for next year.

Edward Callaghan
John Wegorzewski

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