“The Color Purple”also wins three awards
The 18th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards brought out the best and brightest of the Black entertainment community on June 30 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood and standing tall at the end was the Pasadena Playhouse-produced “Ray Charles Live! A New Musical.”
The musical won four awards: best ensemble cast for an Equity production, music director (Rahn Coleman), sound (Carl Casella) and playwright (Suzan Lori-Parks).
Taking home three awards was “The Color Purple,” which was performed at the Ahmanson Theatre. The musical version of Alice Walker’s book and its subsequent film won for lead female (Jeanette Bayardelle), supporting male (Rufus Bonds, Jr.) and costumes (Paul Tazewell), all in the Equity category.
This year’s theme was “Salute to Black Theatre” which celebrated the evolution of how Blacks were portrayed in theatre “from unrealistic, stereotypical caricatures to a more balanced, honest reflection of the Black experience as a whole.”
The Pasadena Playhouse, winner for the year’s best producer, saw another production honored as “A Matter of Honor” won for lead male (Cedric Sanders) in the Equity category.
Actress Kimberly Elise and comedian/actor Anthony Anderson hosted this year’s show, with presenters including actresses Wendy Raquel Robinson, actor Henry Simmons (“NYPD Blue,” “Shark”) and original “Dreamgirls” Loretta Devine and Sheryl Lee Ralph.
For the first time in event history, the NAACP held a Theatre Awards Festival leading up to the ceremony, which was from June 27-29.
Both the show and festival were sponsored the Beverly Hills/Hollywood chapter of the NAACP as well as Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti and Councilman Bernard Parks.
Leading the list of special honorees was music director Harold Wheeler with their lifetime achievement award. Wheeler, who was the first Black conductor of an Academy Awards (2003, 2006) and has served as musical director of several Broadway plays, currently serves as musical director for the ABC show “Dancing with the Stars.”
Wheeler was honored with a tribute that featured R&B legend Stephanie Mills and actors Della Reese, Jason Alexander and Freda Payne.
Also honored were writer-director David E. Talbert (Trailblazer Award), actress Vivica A. Fox (Spirit Award) and American Idol for its “Idol Gives Back” episode (Community Service)
NAACP President-elect Benjamin T. Jealous was presented with the President’s Award.