So – in my previous post I listed my choices for Most Impressive Theatre Awards in the Community Theatre Division. Here are my choices for the Professional Theatre Division for 2015. (Note: I define a Professional Theatre as one which is contracted with Actors Equity)
In the category – Most Impressive Set Design – Professional Theatre Division : This award simply has to go to Indiana Repertory Theatre’s designers for their amazing Good People set. From the review: “One of the stars of the show has to be the inventive multi-faced set, splendidly designed by Jo Winiarski, made up of 4 revolving triangular structures (called periactoids) that handled the five varied stage settings in a quite remarkable and expedient way.” This design allowed for such breezy scene changes, I was glad to be in a balcony seat that night to better see how it all worked. So, congrats to designer Jo Winiarski.
In the category – Most Impressive Costume Design – Professional Theatre Division : There were so many wonderfully designed shows this year. I honestly could have picked at least one from each of the theatres. But I believe the most impressive of the bunch was the work done by Tracy Dorman for IRT’s The Great Gatsby. The colorful, 1920’s period clothing certainly helped to set the mood for this famous story. From Gatsby’s immaculate white outfit, to Daisy’s soft toned shifts and gowns to the brassier clothes of the ‘underclass’ characters, it was a delight to the senses.
In the category – Most Impressive Newcomer – Professional Theatre Division: I saw two young actors who impressed – one a young man, Grayson Molin, who played Jonas in IRT’s UpperStage offering, The Giver. The other was a young lady who made her debut at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre in their The Addams Family. Samantha Russell took on the role of Wednesday in that musical comedy. Both these talented high school students did amazing work, Grayson as a futuristic boy who must learn to handle the most important role in his society and Samantha as the coming-of-age daughter of the kooky, spooky Addams couple. I have hopes of seeing both of them again soon as they progress through their roles locally.
In the category – Most Impressive Performer in a Smaller Role in a Non-Musical – Professional Theatre Division: I was struck by Ryan Artzberger’s portrayal of the gas station owner George, whose reaction to his losses filled the final scenes of IRT’s The Great Gatsby. As I wrote: “Ryan Artzberger drips of piteousness” in his depiction of a most put upon human being.
In the category – Most Impressive Performers in a Smaller Role in a Musical – Professional Theatre Division: In Actors Theatre of Indiana’s The Fantasticks, I found two winners for this category. “In a brilliant contortion of gender, Cynthia Collins and Judy Fitzgerald take the roles of the lovers’ fathers – Hucklebee and Bellomy, respectively. In that twisted circumstance, these two stage pros add a layer of comedy to the proceedings, and as always, they offer up polished skills with their humorous characterizations and their song and dance.”
In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Larger Role in a Non-musical – Professional Theatre Division: Constance Macy is very good in any role she plays, but I was impressed by how she handled the role of Margie (with a hard ‘g’) in IRT’s Good People. ” IRT favorite Constance Macy delivers a remarkable, spot-on performance as Margie. Her character’s journey of hope mixed with desperation is fully rendered as Ms. Macy finds all the levels necessary to project Margie’s many struggles.” And she does this fine work impressively, without ever employing banalities or clichés of character.
In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Larger Role in a Non-musical – Professional Theatre Division: I was very impressed by the way Jay Gatsby was portrayed in the IRT production of Fitzgerald’s classic novel, The Great Gatsby. “Matt Schwader makes the role of Jay Gatsby his own with a vulnerable quality that somehow rings truer than the movie Gatsbys I have seen or the one that existed for me in my readings of the book. Schwader seems to understand that the native Dakotan is a bit out of his element in his current status and that all his climbs and accumulations have been for one, perhaps misguided, purpose – to win Daisy.”
In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Larger Role in a Musical – Professional Theatre Division: Laura Sportiello was a nice surprise in the main female role in ATI’s The Fantasticks. As I said in my review: “Ms Sportiello is truly lovely in her endearing portrayal of the romantic young Luisa. Her clear and perfect vocal skills are unfailing in her renditions of Luisa’s many songs and she acts the part with such a sweet and dreamy quality that one cannot help but fall under her spell.”
David Schmittou plays Man in the Chair in Beef and Boards’ “The Drowsy Chaperone”
In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Larger Role in a Musical – Professional Theatre Division: I’ve seen this actor in quite a few roles at Beef and Boards, but I don’t think I have ever seen David Schmittou have more fun on stage than he did in B&B’s The Drowsy Chaperone. “Schmittou… is absolutely perfect as Man in the Chair, our guide for a rather unique stage premise as he shares his infatuation for a recording of a 1920’s musical with us. Schmittou’s uncanny choices for his character’s nebbish and unsure persona are completely wonderful and entertaining. It all seems entirely “in the moment”, which only certifies Schmittou’s consummate stage talents.”
In the category – Most Impressive Musical Performance – Professional Theatre Division: Without question, in a repeat win, from A Beef and Boards Christmas – “Kendra Lynn Lucas, who knocked us out last year with her vocal gifts, returns to knock us out again. Her powerful” O Holy Night” is one of the highlights of the show!” And that highlight was merely one of her fantastic musical performances.
In the category – Most Impressive Direction of a Non-musical – Professional Theatre Division: The Hound of the Baskervilles was an impressive offering by IRT this past year. I have enjoyed the work in it’s director – Paul Amster in recent years with IRT’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Game’s Afoot. “As Mr. Amster has proven before, his director’s eye sees all things onstage. Every detail of his production seems to be assembled with great care and aplomb.” This was a wonderful production that was a feast for the senses.
In the category – Most Impressive Direction of a Musical – Professional Theatre Division: I love when I attend a show that is familiar and come away with genuinely new impressions of it. The Fantasticks was just such a show, as directed for ATI by Bill Jenkins (with Musical Direction by Brent Marty) “… this edition is everything any theatre lover could hope for in such a familiar piece. Director Jenkins has set up his talented cast with the perfect interpretation of this classically simple “boy meets/loves/loses/reconnects with girl” story.”
In the category – Most Impressive Comedy Production – Professional Theatre Division: Nothing could possibly have beaten this year’s most impressive comedy – Actors Theatre of Indiana’s The 39 Steps. “…under the brilliantly open-minded direction of Richard J. Roberts, with an uber-talented quartet of actors, this outrageous spoof of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film of the same name is a high-energy, hold-no-bars sensation!”
Hillary Clemens and Matt Schwader star as Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby in IRT’s production of “The Great Gatsby”
In the category – Most Impressive Dramatic Production – Professional Theatre Division: Indiana Repertory Theatre’s The Great Gatsby takes the prize this year. I absolutely loved it! From the review: “IRT’s staging of the script is an ambitious, glittery, and well cast event, which I am certain would please even the most enthusiastic of Fitzgerald aficionados” and “One goes to an IRT production with a certain expectation of quality and that was surely met here – with an outstanding and captivating production, both in interpretation of the classic source work and in innovative stagecraft that presented the multifaceted story with authority.”
In the category – Most Impressive Musical Production – Professional Theatre Division: So much great musical theatre gets done at this level – I was stuck between two offerings and so we have a tie – ATI’s The Fantasticks and Beef & Boards’ The Drowsy Chaperone. Both were superior examples of the wonderful theatre experiences available in Central Indiana. As I said in my reviews: “The Fantasticks is the first of this theatre season’s “don’t miss” productions. The sweet, simple story, it’s portrayal by the amazing cast, and the beautiful voices providing soaring versions of the familiar score – makes for a delightfully perfect evening at the theatre. Or is it perfectly delightful? Either will do…”
and “I am so happy to have seen this much anticipated production (of The Drowsy Chaperone) – I was totally taken in by the very unique qualities of the book and by the highly talented cast. If you are unfamiliar with this show, be sure to give it a chance on your entertainment calendar. I think you will be very pleased that you did!”
Special categories allow for awards areas I would not normally give awards in. This year I have
two three special categories:
In the category – Most Impressive Ensemble – Professional Division: This was probably the hardest working group I saw all year – the 4 cast members: Logan Moore, Lisa Ermel, Don Farrell and Ian McCabe were a blur of stage action from beginning to end. From the review for The 39 Steps: “I can only imagine the controlled mayhem backstage as they accomplish full costume and wig changes in astonishing speeds. It all makes for a very enjoyably fun presentation, full of comic lines and comic bits: the cast was rewarded with lots of applause after scenes and even one rare sustained applause after a particularly clever and well-done bit of comic business. The full house’s standing ovation at the end was more than justified and I am sure it was gratifying to the hard-working actors. This is an actor’s script and they make the most of it.”
The Beef and Boards Christmas Orchestra – 2015
In the category – Most Impressive Orchestra – Professional Division: The Beef and Boards Christmas Orchestra certainly deserves a special tribute. They are simply the best sounding orchestra of all. Led by Kristy Templet with outstanding piano work by Terry Woods, this 7 member powerhouse backs the dozens of Christmas numbers performed in A Beef and Boards Christmas, as well as knock out a handful of featured numbers by themselves. Outstanding! (And very impressive!)
Hold on! I just had to stop the presses for a late addition:
In the category – Most Impressive Onstage Energy – Professional Division: the quartet of performers in ATI’s production of The Andrews Brothers knock it out of the park in terms of energy spent in their wonderful show. Michael Dotson, Don Farrell and Jay Emrich team up with the lovely Mary Jayne Waddell in this funny musical journey to the ’40s. The second act especially is filled with musical number after musical number as the men must dress up as the Andrews Sisters so that the troops won’t be disappointed. The action is nonstop and as I wrote in my review: “Their tremendous talents are obvious as they whip through song after terrific song – non stop and with a perfect exuberance. The program lists 25 memorable wartime songs, which the cast of 4 share as solos, duets, trios and quartets.”
So, that’s it for another year. If you have read this far, I thank you, and I encourage you to continue to go out and see wonderful shows and performances in both professional and community theatres in the Greater Indianapolis area! We are very lucky to live in an area where the theatrical arts are so valued and well performed.