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The Jeff Committee--some of whose members would like to get their annual Equity awards program back on television, as it was years ago--put on a glittering 40th anniversary event last night that was definitely tube-worthy. Probably not the whole two-and-half-hour, three-dozen-award gala (held, as one jokester put it, “at the epicenter of Chicago theater, the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie), but some pared-down version that would let a broader audience share the incredible energy and talent on display when the theater community performs on its biggest night of its year in an auditorium filled with its peers. The evening included unforgettable turns by John Cudia, John Steven Crowley, and mega-talent E. Faye Butler. Who wouldn’t want to watch?
Chicago Shakespeare Theatre landed the most awards: five. Chicago Dramatists and the Marriott Theatre were next with four each. Awards for best production (in various categories) went to Chicago Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, Marriott’s Les Miserables, Northlight’s Ella, Chicago Dramatists’ A Steady Rain, and--in one of numerous poignant moments--Bailiwick’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Bailiwick artistic director David Zak, accepting, noted that Jeffs for musicals bookend the years that Bailiwick spent in the Belmont Avenue digs they're giving up. “We’ll be back,” he said. So will the Jeffs--maybe, eventually, if union and other issues can be worked out, on some new-media TV platform. Meanwhile, video of the presentations (but not the performances) will be up later this week at www.jeffawards.org.