'Next to Normal,' "Invisible Hand' Top Honors By Connecticut Critics

 Composer Kisten Childs, Paulette Haupt, Preston Whiteway, Amanda Ritchie

Composer Kisten Childs, Paulette Haupt, Preston Whiteway, Amanda Ritchie

Westport Country Playhouse’s ‘The Invisible Hand” and TheaterWorks’ ‘Next to Normal’ took top honors at the Connecticut Critics Circle Awards Monday night for best play and musical production of the 2016-’17 season.

The event, which honors the work from the state’s professional theaters, was held at Sacred Heart University’s Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts. Three-time Tony Award-nominee Terrence Mann was master of ceremonies. Performing was Bobby Conte Thornton, star of Broadway’s “A Bronx Tale.”

Awards for outstanding actors in a musical went to Christiane Noll (“Next to Normal”) and Zach Schanne (“West Side Story,” Summer Theatre of New Canaan).

 Vanessa Butler (right) and sister Rachelle who few in from Wisconsin.

Vanessa Butler (right) and sister Rachelle who few in from Wisconsin.

Awards for outstanding actors in a play went to Eric Bryant (“The Invisible Hand”) and Vanessa R. Butler (“Queens for a Year,” Hartford Stage).

Top directing awards went to Rob Ruggiero (“Next to Normal”) and David Kennedy (“The Invisible Hand”).

Outstanding ensemble award went to Long Wharf Theatre production of Steve Martin’s “Meteor Shower;” debut award, Maya Keleher (“Next to Normal”); solo award, Jon Peterson (“He Wrote Good Songs” at Seven Angels Theatre); and choreography, Doug Shankman (“West Side Story,” Summer Theatre of New Canaan). 

Paulette Haupt, who is ending her 40-year run this summer as artistic director of the National Music Theater Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, received the Tom Killen Award for lifetime service to the theater from the center’s founder George White and Obie-winning composer Kirsten Childs, one of the artists who benefited from the conference.

 Director John Tillinger, Anne Keefe, Paxton Whitehead

Director John Tillinger, Anne Keefe, Paxton Whitehead

Receiving special awards were actor Paxton Whitehead from director John Dillinger and actor-writer-gay youth advocate James Lecesne, from director Michael Wilson.

Outstanding featured actors in a musical went to Rhett Guter for Goodspeed Musicals’ “Bye Bye Birdie” and Kate Simone (“Gypsy,” Music Theatre of Connecticut.

 Keir Dullea and Mia Dillon

Keir Dullea and Mia Dillon

Outstanding featured actors in a play honors went to Mia Dillon (“Cloud 9” at Hartford Stage) and Cleavant Derricks (“The Piano Lesson,” Hartford Stage).

Design awards went to Jane Shaw for sound (“The Comedy of Errors,” Hartford Stage), Darko Tresnjak for sets (“The Comedy of Errors”), Fabio Toblini (costumes, “The Comedy of Errors”) and John Lasiter for lighting, (“Next to Normal”).

 Jerry Adler, Frank Rizzo

Jerry Adler, Frank Rizzo

Among the presenters were actor-director-producer Jerry Adler, former Goodspeed Musicals exec Michael Price, Broadway producer Pat Addiss, broadway.com editor-in-chief Paul Wontorek, SiriusXM Broadway radio host Julie James and Tony Award-winning designer Michael Yeargan

 Karen Ziemba,Michael Price

Karen Ziemba,Michael Price

 Anne Keefe, Michael Wilson

Anne Keefe, Michael Wilson