The Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, Philly's version of the Tony Awards, break out in two weeks, 7-9 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5, at the Bok Building, 800 Mifflin St. And Leigh Goldenberg, director of Theatre Philadelphia, which administers the awards, wants you to know: You're invited.
"It's not just for the theater community," Goldenberg says. "They're for anyone and everyone who loves theater, or anyone who's just interested in our local theater scene."
As we've discussed here previously, this year's Barrymores are different, and not just in moving south from Center City. After complaints that the 2017 awards lacked diversity, both the awards and those recommending and judging them were revamped. Acting awards have been made gender-inclusive. Instead of awards for best actor in a leading role and for best actress in a leading role, for example, there will be two awards for best performance in a musical, two for best performance in a play, two for best supporting performance, and so on. The idea is to open the awards up to different combinations of male, female, and gender-nonconforming winners.
The ranks of the 70-plus Barrymore recommenders were made more female and diverse, and the 14 judges have a couple of more women in their ranks. It had an effect: This year's nominees are also more diverse.
"We moved to the Bok so we could have the whole celebration in one place, including before and after parties," Goldenberg says. A pre-show bash will drop at Irwin's on the roof, and the post-show party will be in the east and west gym areas. "We're shooting for a shorter show this year," Goldenberg says, "trying to bring it in under two hours."
Steve Pacek directs the whole show, and Elaina Di Monaco is associate director. The opening number, always fun, will feature actor/singer/composer Robi Hager (Basic Witches) and actor/chanteuse Alex Keiper, plus a musical medley featuring performers from the nominees for overall outstanding production of a musical — Izzy Castaldi (Fun Home), Pacek (Something Wicked), Jamar Williams (Passing Strange), and Daniel J. Watts ("Lights Out": Nat King Cole). That should be special; it's been a fine year for musicals. The onstage presenters are diverse, indeed: Jose Aviles, Lucas Fendlay, Doug Greene, Allison Heishman, Javier Mojica, Kasual Owens-Fields, Gina Pisasale, Kate Raines, Tom Shotkin, Rob Tucker, and Stephanie Walters.
Keiper has another role: She is the night's volunteer nominee coordinator. In the four categories with two winners, she'll keep traffic graceful and family-like. (I mean, which one gets the award first? "You go"; "No, you go.") Keiper will keep it moving.