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A Broadway director’s unexpected date with Tony

It took Marcia Milgrom Dodge 30 years of working the regional theater circuit to become a Broadway director. With the exception of a few off-Broadway gigs, her talent rarely registered on the radar of the New York theater community. But when her acclaimed Kennedy Center production of “Ragtime” transferred to the Neil Simon Theater last November, Dodge achieved her dream of directing and choreographing for the Broadway stage, and she was set to enjoy the recognition and accolades associated with such an accomplishment.

By January, though — less than two months after opening night — “Ragtime” played its final performance. Dodge, an in-demand director at professional theaters across the country resumed her standard slate of projects away from the glare of the Great White Way.

Then awards season started. The Kennedy Center production of “Ragtime” was nominated for six Helen Hayes awards honoring regional excellence in Washington, D.C., this April. Dodge won for best director and “Ragtime” won for best resident musical. And that was just the beginning.

Although conventional wisdom in the theater district holds that shows generally need to be on the boards to be considered frontrunners for the Tony Awards, voters remembered “Ragtime.” In May, the show received six nominations, including best revival of a musical. Dodge, herself a Tony voter, was in Los Angeles directing a regional production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” when she received word of her 2010 nomination for best director of a musical.

Whether or not Dodge brings home the trophy on Sunday night, she is already deep into production for her next high-profile project, the 141st edition of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus.

“It’s huge,” said Dodge. “I mean, I could say, ‘Could we have an aerialist shot out of a cannon, land on an elephant, and have confetti canons explode,’ and they’d probably say ‘yes.’”

The tour is set to launch in January 2011.

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