NEW YORK — Stephen Sondheim, Neil Simon, Terrence McNally and Ann Reinking made it a pretty starry night at the 38th annual induction into the Theater Hall of Fame, and those were just some of the inductors and fans. (Website)
Leading the list of the eight actual inductees was actor Nathan Lane. Joining him in the class of 2008 (the year of their election) were composer Marvin Hamlisch, playwright Alan Ayckbourn, producer Emanuel Azenberg, actor Richard Easton, director-choreographer Patricia Birch, orchestrator Jonathan Tunick and, posthumously, actor Roscoe Lee Browne….
Former New York Times theater critic Frank Rich, now a commentator on politics and culture, inducted composer Hamlisch. Rich mentioned several of Hamlisch’s other shows, but he focused on the iconic “A Chorus Line,” which he said we tend to take for granted,
“it’s such a Broadway brand, such a seamless creation at the heart of it is Hamlisch’s music. Timeless.”
In response, Hamlisch, who works with several symphonies as principal pops conductor and in movies, called himself
“a die-hard fan of theater” and concluded, “for a composer, having your name in a theater named Gershwin is truly awe-inspiring.”
The ceremony complete, everyone adjourned to the Friars Club for convivial dining and reminiscence.
The Hall of Fame event is produced each year with grace and dispatch by Terry Hodge Taylor. Inductees are selected by ballot by members of the Hall and the nation-wide membership of the American Theatre Critics Association. The minimum requirement for the 63 names that appeared on the 2008 ballot was at least five major theater credits over 25 or more years.
Looking at all the names inscribed on the walls and perhaps at the audience as well, Lane said,
“all of these people were survivors — they didn’t fear critics or mercury poisoning.”
That got a laugh, but it’s also true. The theater is an impossible business that survives against all odds, thanks to the talents of every kind who won’t let it die.