By Randy Gener

NEW YORK CITY |  Katrina Lenk and Glenn Close will bring home top honors at this year’s Theatre World Awards, which will be held 6:30 pm Monday June 5, 2023 at the Imperial Theatre.

Lenk and Close will be joined by a troupe of real winners — 12 stars and actors who are being recognized for their memorable debuts during the 2016–2017 season.

What gives?  As everyone in the theater industry knows, the annual Theatre World Awards are distributed at the end of the theatre season to six actors and six actresses “for their significant, reviewable, debut performances in a Broadway or Off-Broadway production,” according to the pressies.

The key idea there is “debut.” Except for one (Josh Groban), these 12 honorees are not famous names. Because Broadway is Broadway — and most likely to attract bigger audience interest — two awards this year will go to established thespians.


Check the complete list below for a complete list of bonafide 2017 Theatre World Award honorees.  Awardees include Carlo Albán (SWEAT), Christy Altomare (ANASTASI), Denée Benton (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812) as well as Jon Jon Briones and Eva Noblezada (MISS SAIGON).

So where do Glenn Close and Katrina Link fit into the picture?  Lenz (INDECENT and THE BAND’S VISIT) will receive the 9th Annual Dorothy Loudon Award for Excellence in the Theater.  Close (SUNSET BOULEVARD) will receive the 5th Annual John Willis Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.

The Dorothy Loudon Award honors an Outstanding Performance in a Broadway or Off-Broadway production.  Dorothy Loudon, who had the unique talent of being able to make audiences laugh and cry, made her Broadway debut in NOWHERE TO GO BUT UP for which she received a Theatre World Award for her performance. She received a Tony® Award for her incomparable performance as Miss Hannigan in ANNIE, and went on to triumphs originating roles in NOISES OFF  and Michael Bennett’s BALLROOM.

The John Willis Award is given for lifetime achievement in the theatre to honor Willis, the man who created and maintained the Theatre World tradition for 66 years, encouraging new talent in an often challenging business. The John Willis Award is presented annually to an individual whose lifetime achievements and personal generosity to the theatre community merit special recognition and acknowledgement. Previous recipients of the John Willis Award include Bernadette Peters, Alan Alda, Christopher Plummer and Chita Rivera.

Enter the Composer

There are a couple of departures interestingly enough.  The Theatre World Awards are meant to recognize actors.  In a twist, one of this year’s winners is a composer.  Dave Molloy (NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812) will be honored with a Special Theatre World Award in recognition for his Broadway debut as composer, writer, lyricist, orchestrator, and actor.

Josh Groban and Denee Benton in NATASHA, PIERRE AND THE GREAT COMET

Plus, the Theatre World Awards threw its hat into the NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 ring. A total of four awards (Molloy included) will be heaped upon this Broadway musical. The ribbon on these gifts comes from the venue of this year’s awards: none other than the Imperial Theatre on Broadway where NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 plays nightly.

Did you say that you want to attend?  You can try.  The venue of the party is located at 249 West 45th Street.  So go ahead and Google Earth it.  Be sure to go undercover. Why? The ceremony is a private, invitation-only event followed by a party to celebrate the new honorees and welcome them to the Theatre World “family.”

Is it worth the bother?  Perhaps.  Last year, Bernadette Peters won the career award that will go to Close.  The person who presented the award to Peters was her first stage director: the great Lynne Meadow who leads the Manhattan Theatre Club.  Something similar will therefore happen this year. “In what has become a highly entertaining and often touching tradition,” the pressies continue, “12 previous winners serve as the presenters, and often relive moments from past ceremonies and share wonderful stories rarely heard at other theatrical awards.”

In any case:  Hosted annually by well-known theater journalist, Peter Filichia, the 73rd Annual Theatre World Awards ceremony is produced by Theatre World Awards, Inc. Board of Directors.

First presented in 1945, the prestigious Theatre World Awards, founded by John Willis, the editor-in-chief of both Theatre World and its companion volume, Screen World, are the oldest awards given for Outstanding Broadway and Off-Broadway Debut Performances. The Theatre World Awards, Inc. Board of Directors is headed by Dale Badway (president) with Tom Lynch (vice-president), Stephen Wilde (secretary), Tabitha Falcone (treasurer), and Michael Kostel.

2017 Theatre World Award Honorees

Outstanding Broadway or Off-Broadway Debut Performance during the 2016-2017 theatrical season

Carlo Albán, Sweat
Christy Altomare, Anastasia
Denée Benton, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Jon Jon Briones, Miss Saigon
Barrett Doss, Groundhog Day
Amber Gray, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Josh Groban, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Lucas Hedges, Yen
Raymond Lee, Vietgone
Eva Noblezada, Miss Saigon
Jeremy Secomb, Sweeney Todd
Cobie Smulders, Present Laughter

Dorothy Loudon Award for Excellence in the Theater Honoree

Outstanding Performance in a Broadway or Off-Broadway production
during the 2017-2017 theatrical season
Katrina Lenk, Indecent, The Band’s Visit

Max Gordon Moore, Adina Verson, Richard Topol, Katrina Lenk, and Tom Nelis in INDECENT

John Willis Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater Honoree
Glenn Close, Sunset Boulevard

Special Theatre World Honoree
In recognition for his Broadway debut as composer, writer, lyricist, orchestrator, actor
Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

The Theatre World Awards Board encourages theater lovers to “LIKE” the Theatre World Awards fan page on Facebook and follow on Twitter at @TWAwards. For additional information about the Theatre World Awards (including a list of past recipients), visit