Carbonell Awards president Leslie J. Feldman announced Coconut Grove Playhouse producing artistic director Arnold Mittelman as the recipient of the 2006 George Abbott Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, at the Carbonell program's annual Nominee and Sponsors' gala reception at Barton G's restaurant on South Beach.
The announcement was made to an invited crowd of about 150 at the awards' annual private gala for nominees, sponsors, voting panel members and program officials, hosted by restaurateur Barton G. Weiss at South Beach's hottest hospitality address. Mittelman will be officially honored along with other award recipients at the the 30th annual award ceremonies on Monday, April 10 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
The ceremonies will be hosted by stage, film and TV star Florence Henderson. Joining her will be Gary Sandy, whose "WKRP In Cincinnati" TV highlight is flanked by over 70 Broadway, off-Broadway and national theater appearances (and the Oscar-nominated film "The Insider.") Also on hand will be Carbonell Award-winner and Tony Award nominee John Herrera, the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men's Chorus, and other performers to be announced. Nationally renowned band leader Peter Graves is music director.
Presenters include former Carbonell Award Best Actress Lucie Arnaz, star of the Grove's current "Sonia Flew," plus Broadway veteran Patricia Conolly of the Parker Playhouse's current "About Time," legendary theater impresario Zev Buffman and many more.
The Abbott Award, Feldman told the Barton G audience, is the 30-year-old Carbonell program's highest individual honor. Mittelman has been the Grove Playhouse's artistic mentor and producer for the last 21 of its 50 years as a live theater, sustaining and building its national and international recognition. Last autumn, Mittelman and the Grove board of directors partnered with the Broward Center for the Performing Arts to bring the Grove's entire regional theater season to Fort Lauderdale's Parker Playhouse. The Grove recently committed to extending the twin-city residency through 2007 and beyond.
The award is voted upon by former Abbott Award recipients, the current Carbonell board of directors, and members of the South Florida Critics Circle representing newspapers, magazines and other journalistic media from Miami through the Palm Beaches.
Previous recipients of the award, named after legendary Broadway director, playwright and producer George Abbott, span the hierarchy of South Florida culture from concert impresaria Judy Drucker, Florida Philharmonic Orchestra maestro James Judd, Miami Film Festival founder Nat Chediak, theater producer-actress Jan McArt, Miami City Ballet founder Toby Ansin and artistic director Edward Villella, to Miami Book Fair founder Mitchell Kaplan.
The April 10 award ceremony will include music from the Best Musical nominees in a special arrangement by the Peter Graves Orchestra. Guest Star Sandy will highlight Best Play nominees in a special "Critic's Notebook" dramatization. The Fort Lauderdale Gay Men's Chorus will bring the house down with a 75-voice finale, with orchestra, from the Elton John-Tim Rice musical "Aida." The year's artistic highlights will be covered further in song and parody by Henderson and South Florida's most divine divas.
This special anniversary edition traces the development of South Florida's theater community back to its beginnings while celebrating today's red-hot theatrical scene with 45 shows at 16 different theaters up for awards. The competition this year is more fierce than ever before since additional blockbusters were eligible thanks to an extended voting period that added four extra months of performances to accommodate a change from judging during the traditional theatrical season to a normal calendar year.
In addition to honoring shows at regional theaters, awards will also be made in the new stock/road show category and include awards for Hairpspray, Tuesdays with Morrie, Elaine Stritch in At Liberty, Chicago, The King and I, The Constant Wife and two separate productions of Anna in the Tropics.