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Ovation Awards ceremony feels like raucous pep rally

January 12, 2010 |  1:16 pm

Ovation "I want to preface this by saying I'm piss-pot drunk," said French Stewart as he took the stage last night as a presenter at the Ovation Awards ceremony. 

The "3rd Rock from the Sun" actor -- and regular on the Los Angeles stage -- launched into a rambling and humorous speech about his preference for L.A. theater over New York theater, using terms that are not printable here.

Stewart wasn't the only one who had had too much to drink last night.

The awards show, which took place at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, was meant to honor the best in L.A. theater for the 2008-09 season. More often than not, however, it felt like a high school pep rally, with the hooch flowing freely and attendees throwing decorum to the wind.

Members of the Troubador Theatre Company were arguably the loudest contingent of the evening, shouting their approval whenever one of their productions was mentioned as a nominee. 

When Troubador members went on stage to accept the award for best season, a female member reached into her brassiere, pulled out the silicone-like padding and threw it into the audience -- which roared its approval.

Another memorable moment came when Sarah Cornell accepted an award for her performance in "The Producers" at Musical Theatre West. The Amazonian actress, who towered over everyone else on stage, sported a PG-13 evening gown that was strongly reminiscent of the infamous frock that Jennifer Lopez wore to the 2000 Grammy Awards.

The audience alternately laughed at and applauded her audacious display of cleavage.

One of the evening's recurring jokes -- perhaps unintentionally -- was a series of silhouetted performance art that accompanied the reading of each award category. Working behind a screen, dancers took the form of the Ovation trophy and other shapes. The audience giggled loudly every time the silhouettes appeared, much to the bewilderment of the presenters who could not see what was transpiring behind them. 

The evening had its sober moments. Chris Pine, the "Star Trek" actor who was nominated for "Farragut North," put in a brief on-stage appearance to introduce people from the Geffen Playhouse. Pine stuck to his notes and barely cracked a smile. Attendees warmly applauded him anyway.

Terence McFarland, the executive director of the L.A. Stage Alliance that organizes the Ovations, spoke about the financial difficulties that so many small theater companies are facing.

But those were isolated moments in an evening of revelry.

Perhaps the biggest laugh of the evening came when one winner set his statuette down only to have the trophy fall off the base. The audience roared. An assistant quickly rushed out with a replacement award. 

After the ceremony concluded, attendees woozily made their way out of the auditorium to the sound of empty beer and champagne bottles clinking at their feet. 

-- David Ng

Photo: An Ovation Award trophy. Credit: Patrick Downs / Los Angeles Times

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Chris Pine, Allison Janney among 2008-09 Ovation Award nominees


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