NAACP Theatre Awards continues the tradition of saluting Black Theatre
August Wilson's "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" and a comedy on race and family, "Barbecue" each take home multiple trophies
The day of celebration began with a nod to those who play critical roles behind the scenes in every production. Hosted by comedian and actor Michael Colyar, the Technical awards were handed out for Best Choreography, Lighting, Costumes, Sound, and Music Direction for productions in both intimate 99 seat theatres as well as larger theatres.
Mr. Colyar's exuberance set the tone for an exhilarating evening of celebration that extended onto the Red Carpet. The crowd was emphatically upbeat as both those who were new to the Awards, as well as the veterans, experienced the media frenzy while chatting with colleagues or taking selfies with someone they idolized. Nominees Wallace Demarria, Lillias White, Karimah Westbrook, Ben Guillory, Jason Dirden, Malika Blessing and the Barbecue cast graced the carpet alongside stage, television and screen veterans Clarke Peters, Margaret Avery, Francis Fisher, Isaiah Washington, Chandra Wilson, Renee Lawless, Hawthorne James, Angela Robinson, James Pickens, Jr. and Obba Babatundé. The anticipated red-carpet arrival of Lifetime Achievement honoree, Jenifer Lewis did not disappoint. Accompanied by her family as well as singer, actress and constant social media companion Brandy Norwood, Ms. Lewis took command of the carpet as all cameras and microphones gave her their undivided attention.
After greeting the press, guests and VIPs were treated to a special cocktail social hour featuring Duncan Taylor spirits poured by lads in Scottish kilts. Dinner was served with a side of laughter as the hilarious Comedian Raj Sharma took control as emcee during the dinner portion of the night. As the honorees, nominees and guests dined on gourmet meals prepared by the Biltmore chefs, they were delightfully entertained by the smooth jazz sounds of The Eclectic Cats along with Billboard charting Harpist Mariea Antoinette who brought a new flavor of jazz to an approving audience.
The Eclectic Cats also accompanied Sybil Harris in her dynamic musical tribute to the iconic Billie Holiday as well as actor/musician Darius McCrary on his soon to be released single "The Last of the Mohicans". Rising Star, actor and singer Brandon D. Berry, assisted on keys by the band's Music Director, Casey McCoy, honed his Broadway chops with his rendition of "Music of the Night" from Phantom of the Opera which left the crowd breathless.
The dynamic Wendy Raquel Robinson graced the stage for her third year as host and kept the energy high as she enthusiastically greeted the audience and opened the awards show.
EMMY winner Kim Estes was the first presenter for the evening, awarding Best Supporting Female Local to Kacie Rogers for "No Place to be Somebody" and for Supporting Female Equity to Patrena Murrayfor "Father Comes Home from the Wars Parts 1, 2, and 3"
Chandra Wilson who plays Dr. Miranda Bailey on "Grey's Anatomy's" presented the NAACP Trailblazer Theatre Award to multi-Tony Award and NAACP Image Award winning actress Anika Noni Rose. Currently, Anika can be seen on the hit BET drama "The Quad," where she plays college president Dr. Eva Fletcher. Anika, a powerhouse actress on stage, big and little screen, most notably gave voice to the first Disney African American princess, Princess Tiana. Her thoughtful acceptance speech reminded the Awards audience that "So often we are not seen, so it is so important for us—when we see each other—to take a moment; to stop; to put a hand out; to say… 'I see you.'" She spoke the true reason the NAACP Theatre and Image Awards exist – to say that We see you. We see your gift. We see your art and we applaud you. Disney's Head of Effects Animation for Frozen, Moana and The Princess & the Frog, Marlon West, was on hand to present Ms. Rose with a beautiful portrait of Princess Tiana signed by the Disney team that helped to breathe life into the character.
Multi-talented singer and actress, Jenifer Lewis, known as the "Mother of Black Hollywood," and co-starring in the successful ABC sitcom "Black-ish" was presented the NAACP Lifetime Achievement Theatre Award by actress and singer Brandy Norwood. Always entertaining, Jenifer jokingly spoke of her rivalry with fellow thespian and long-time friend, Loretta Devine's battle over her well owned moniker "Mother of Black Hollywood." Brandy introduced Jenifer as "fearless" and Ms. Lewis echoed that by quoting President Roosevelt's famous speech – "…You have nothing to fear but fear itself." Ms. Lewis says her life, in this season, is 25% acting and 75% resisting as she is focusing more of her attention on empowering young women in this season. Humbled and moved to be recognized by the NAACP, she spoke on the fact that her dreams had sustained her as proved by her 40-year career, adding "I gave up many times in my career, but I didn't quit."
Coming off the enormously successful box office numbers for Black Panther, there was a sentiment that we - those in the community of black actors – are being seen. Los Angeles City Council President and co-chair of the NAACP Theatre Awards Herb Wesson emphasized that "It is alright to celebrate ourselves." He also reminded the crowd that the NAACP has always done so.
The reprisal of August Wilson's "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" was one of the big winners that night, taking home trophies for Best Director, Phylicia Rashad, Best Lead Female, Lillias White and Best Sound, Dan Moses Schrier. "Barbecue" a family and racial identity comedy also took away three awards: Best Ensemble Cast, Best Costumes, Kara Harmon and Best Playwright, Robert O'Hara.
R&B sensation Ledisi closed the evening bringing the sold-out audience to its feet singing her latest single "All the Way". Dressed like an angel, Ledisi wrapped the crowd in her sultry and melodic trademark voice and took everyone on a musical magic carpet ride that ended with all on their feet in rejoice.
"The enchanting night was filled with great response to our new dinner format plus our winners and nominees had the time of their lives hearing inspiring, empowering stories from our honorees and our legendary actors who were in attendance,"
View here for full list of winners: http://bit.ly/
For more information about the 27th Annual NAACP Theater Awards, visit: www.naacptheatreawards.com or contact Lisa Humphrey, Premier Concepts at 310.293.4154, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the NAACP Theatre Awards
The NAACP Theatre Awards is presented by the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP Branch in partnership with the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, Jr. The mission of the Theatre Awards is to entertain, educate, inspire the community and create diversity in the arts and entertainment industry. Ron Hasson is Branch President and Tia Boyd is the Executive Producer for the NAACP Theatre Awards Show. The prestigious star-studded gala is produced for the purpose of honoring thespians among the best in the field of entertainment. www.naacptheatreawards.com