The recipients of the 2008 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards will be announced on Sunday evening. A record number of votes were cast this year, with close to 3,000 people indicating their preferences in 12 publicly voted categories. CityBeat has sponsored this annual recognition of theatrical performances and productions for 12 years. (See the 2008 nominees here.)
CEAs were first presented in 1997, when the outstanding production was Keith Glover's jazz-inspired In Walks Ed at the Cincinnati Playhouse. (It wasn't until 2005 that the CEAs cited musicals and plays separately.) Another Playhouse production won in 1998, Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, with Cincinnati native and Broadway regular Pam Myers as Mrs. Lovett, Sweeney's pie-baking accomplice. Myers was inducted into the CEA Hall of Fame in 1999.
Another Playhouse show by Keith Glover, the bluesy and mythic Thunder Knocking on the Door, was 1999's best premiere and best production. In 2000 the Playhouse won with Margaret Edson's 1998 Pulitzer Prize winner Wit, featuring CEA Hall of Fame actress Dale Hodges as a lit professor battling ovarian cancer.
In the CEA's fifth year, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati (ETC) converted two hits into CEAs.
The Playhouse was back in 2003 with Carson Kreitzer's The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer recognized as outstanding premiere and production. Honored by the American Theatre Critics Association, Kreitzer's play about the atomic scientist was included in The Best Plays Theater Yearbook 2003-2004. The 2004 CEA went to the Playhouse's magical staging of Mary Zimmerman's myth-inspired Metamorphoses.
In 2005, Cincinnati Shakespeare's production of Edward Albee's acerbic classic Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? earned several awards with an outstanding acting ensemble. The outstanding premiere was ETC's regional debut of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize play I Am My Own Wife. For the first time, an outstanding musical was separately recognized, a revival of the 1947 classic Brigadoon at UC's College-Conservatory of Music.
The Playhouse swept premiere, play and musical in 2006. Sarah Ruhl's magical drama The Clean House, the season's best play and premiere, became one of the most produced plays on American theaters over the next two seasons. And the season's outstanding musical, Stephen Sondheim's Company, went on to win a 2007 Tony Award as the Broadway season's outstanding revival.
In 2007 it was first-time wins for two smaller theaters: Edward Albee's searing drama The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? at New Stage Collective was 2007's outstanding play, while Know Theatre's production of Michael John LaChiusa's See What I Wanna See (in only its second production anywhere) was named outstanding musical.
Just imagine what the future holds for Greater Cincinnati theatergoers.
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