Mitty Awards - 2014
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.

In the category – Most Impressive Set Design – Professional Theatre Division : I saw a lot of very impressive work in this aspect of stagecraft. I believe my absolute favorite however would be the impressive home and garden set (with pool) designed for Other Desert Cities at IRT. From my review: “Anne Sheffield’s amazingly beautiful and complete set design works to give us the feeling we are voyeurs, watching the neighbors through glass walls, albeit with advanced audio spying equipment. The look and feel of the set faithfully denotes the wealth of these Wyeths. And I believe this is the first time I have seen a show anywhere with a swimming pool so realistically suggested onstage.” This was a set you could shoot a film on – it was totally appointed and tastefully finished.

In the category – Most Impressive Costume Design – Professional Theatre Division : Here I have to give out two awards, to the designers for IRT’s The Game’s Afoot and ATI’s A Year with Frog and Toad for two very different reasons. “Afoot”‘s designer, Tracy Dorman, provided an exquisite array of period costumes for the cast of upper-crust characters. They appeared to be luxurious, colorful and timely. “Frog and Toad”‘s whimsical costumes meet a different challenge – providing the impression of a clothed animal world. This is done delightfully by costume designer Margaret Ozemet whose colorful touches of hats and wraps and shoes fill the bill impressively.

In the category – Most Impressive Newcomer – Professional Theatre Division: I saw this young man at IRT just the other day and felt he was very impressive. Though not strictly a “newcomer” in terms of experience, I think The Velveteen Rabbit is our winner Mitchell Wray’s first foray onto the IRT stage and that qualifies him in my eyes. He did a splendidly seamless job in his role as Young Steve and should be on his way to a long association with theatre not just in Indiana, but in the USA. He seems to have what it takes.

Older Steve (Andrew Martin), Velveteen Rabbit (Tyler Ostrander), Young Steve (Mitchell Wray) and Rocking Horse (Adam O. Crowe) in "The Velveteen Rabbit" at IRT

Older Steve (Andrew Martin), Velveteen Rabbit (Tyler Ostrander), Young Steve (Mitchell Wray) and Rocking Horse (Adam O. Crowe) in “The Velveteen Rabbit” at IRT

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Smaller Role – Professional Theatre Division: I have to deal with another tie in this category – ATI’s My Fair Lady included a fine performance by Paul Hansen as Colonel Pickering. It was “simply wonderful, with nuanced flourishes which make him the perfect sidekick for (Henry) Higgins.” Matching that effort was Eddie Curry as Pastor E.L. Gunderson in Beef and Boards’ A Mighty Fortress is Our Basement. Curry’s innate comic timing and stage-presence made his performance one to remember and to learn from.

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Smaller Role – Professional Theatre Division: I have worked with this category’s talented winner on several occasions and I thought I would know her if I saw her onstage. I did not! It was a treat to see Suzanne Stark fill her two roles in Beef and Board’s Mary Poppins – Mrs. Corry, the Talking Shop owner, and the intimidating nanny Miss Andrew, which completely had me fooled. Ms. Stark “uses power and proficiency to illuminate her Miss Andrew (“The Holy Terror”) and to be the cause for quite a startling scene with the children.”

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Larger Role in a Non-musical – Professional Theatre Division: In IRT’s The Game’s Afoot, there are so many delightful characterizations, yet I found one that was my most impressive for the year. Jennifer Johansen handles all the many facets of despicable critic Daria Chase with such polish and panache, one might think the role was written just for her. Ms. Johansen seems to genuinely relish the extent of contemptibility she is asked to portray – it simply had to be greatly appreciated.

David Alan Anderson in "The Mountaintop" by Katori Hall-photo by Michael Brosilow

David Alan Anderson in “The Mountaintop” by Katori Hall-photo by Michael Brosilow

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Larger Role in a Non-musical – Professional Theatre Division: This was perhaps the easiest choice for me to make in this year’s set of awards. David Alan Anderson as Dr. Martin Luther King in IRT’s The Mountaintop was an awesome experience to watch. From my review: “Mr. Anderson’s portrayal of…King is fully realized – he is bombastic, self-assured, a leader – at the same time, he is restrained, uncertain, even fearful and questioning. He is the real man, not the iconic presence we ordinarily think of, but flawed, unsure, tired and lonesome. Anderson’s understanding of this complex side of the man comes through with a sense of wholeness. This is a complete and rounded depiction.” Most impressive!

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Larger Role in a Musical – Professional Theatre Division: We will have to settle for an unprecedented third tie in this category – two leading ladies in Beef and Boards productions impressed me very much with their portrayals and their vocal quality. Grace Anne Field was lovely as Laurie in Oklahoma. Her “People Will Say We’re in Love’ duet with Curly (played by Eric Morris) was rich and smooth. Laurie goes through many changes of emotion in this show and Ms. Field was impressive in her rendition. Likewise, Cara Statham Serber’s Mary Poppins in the like-named show was a whirl of fun and fantastic performance. She made the role her own – in the face of our insistent familiarity with Julie Andrew’s turn. These were two very talented ladies doing two iconic roles with precision and polish.

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Larger Role in a Musical – Professional Theatre Division: “As Higgins, although (he) did remind me of Rex Harrison in several short passages, he made the role his own with new interpretations and subtleties. Both performers are very fine actors as well as accomplished singers and together they present a delightful pairing.” That was my review of Doug Trapp, who win this award for his performance in the role of Henry Higgins in ATI’s impressive production of My Fair Lady.

In the category – Most Impressive Musical Performance – Professional Theatre Division: This award simply has to go to a lady I saw quite recently in A Beef and Boards Christmas at B&B. Of her I wrote: “Featured performer Kendra Lynn Lucas has a dynamic voice which she employs in a varied set of soloes and lead vocals. Her powerful and breathtaking rendition of “O Holy Night” absolutely brought the house down and resulted in a rare mid-show standing ovation. It was well deserved – she is a sensational performer and I hope she is invited back to B&B.” She was sensational in all of her appearances in the show!

In the category – Most Impressive Direction – Professional Theatre Division: I had little difficulty in deciding that I was most impressed by James Still’s direction of Other Desert Cities. This was a highly intelligent and engaging presentation of a remarkable play. Tempos, emotions and characterizations all fall into place with masterful precision in this splendid production. Given the set, the cast and the direction, it made for a powerful experience.

In the category – Most Impressive Comedy Production – Professional Theatre Division: Here I have to go with the amazing ensemble piece, IRT’s production of Aaron Posner’s Who am I this Time? (and other conundrums of love) directed by Janet Allen – “a marvelous play derived from several short stories in Kurt Vonnegut’s collection, “Welcome to the Monkey House”. Superbly directed by Janet Allen, the show’s style is a refreshingly different method of onstage story conveyance, which none-the-less borrows from numerous other play styles I have seen, but which blends these styles together so as to effectively raise the bar of theatric storytelling, at least in my experience!” It was such a fun evening watching the impressive acting and story-telling abilities of the cast. I would have liked to have seen it twice.

In the category – Most Impressive Dramatic Production – Professional Theatre Division: The winner here is IRT’s The Mountaintop by Katori Hall, directed by Courtney Sale. I carried this shows impressions with me for a while. It was unique in it’s story and in it’s portrayal of one of the great iconic figures of my time. Solid acting, a simple set, characters we felt we knew, and such a twisted conclusion – this show was a big treat.

Special categories allow for awards areas I would not normally give awards in. This year I have two special categories:

In the category – Most Impressive Ensemble – Professional Division: The amazing quartet of young performers who brought us Forever Plaid at Actors Theatre of Indiana. From my review: “ATI’s Plaids are Kurt Semmler (Smudge), Steve Griest (Frankie), Will Hutcheson (Jinx) and Tim Hunt (Sparky). These four amazingly talented young men sing the show’s 30 song set with remarkable close harmony, with choreography straight from the 50’s doo-wop era, and with unbelievably sustained energy! Each member shines in their solos and coordinates perfectly in the ensemble pieces. Showing fine acting skills as well as their singing talents – these four men present a dynamic 90 minute romp, filled with the many songs, a few short sketches and some lively banter. Their presentation is so keenly polished throughout the show, it is stunning to realize these four performers got together for the first time less than 2 months ago.”

In the category – Most Impressive One Man Show – Professional Division: Kevin Burke appeared for an extended engagement at Theatre on the Square in Defending the Caveman. From my review: “His even delivery, his impeccable comic timing, his knowledge of how to work an audience so that we did not miss out on any of the fun he is purveying, made this a wonderful evening to share with my wife (you can be sure we nudged each other several times as Burke clearly identified the gaps between how men and women operate in this world)…His having performed the show for ten years comes through in every statement and every knowing expression. The standing ovation he received was undoubtedly well-deserved.”

Well, 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 well performed.

If you haven’t yet seen the awards in the Community Theatre Division, you will find them here:

Enjoy your holidays!