mitty-awards-2016

Well, it has been another fun and interesting year of local theatre. Community and professional theatre have both been impressive with their shows – in some cases, they were the best productions I have seen. But, now it is time for the SIXTH Annual Mitty Awards!

For those of you not familiar with the Mittys, this is something I have been doing since 2011 to celebrate the Most Impressive Theatre that I have witnessed in the past calendar year. This year, I attended 27 shows, so while I certainly did not get to every show in the area, I have a fair amount of shows to choose winners from. I split the awards into two divisions: Community Theatre and Professional Theatre, my definition of professional theatre being those which work under an Actors Equity contract.

So, here goes. Part 1 deals with community theatre shows and performances:

In the category – Most Impressive Set Design – Community Theatre Division: We start off with a tie: from First Folio’s production of Hamlet we honor Fred Margison’s design work for its beauty and its functional aspects. All the many scenes of the play moved well on his design and its form with it’s framed beams and angles suggested the strength of the ruling class.

Conversely, Jim LaMonte put a realistic perspective to work in his design for Spotlight Players’ Blues for an Alabama Sky. The wonderfully wide and deep stage at the Theatre at the Fort was fully utilized as LaMonte presented two apartments, a central hallway and a downstage sidewalk for this production. The details that were worked into the settings aided in the story-telling.

In the category – Most Impressive Costume Design – Community Theatre Division: Undoubtedly, the costumes for Civic Theatre’s Beauty and the Beast were the most impressive I have seen this past year. The show’s enchanted qualities certainly lended itself to some unusual costume pieces – including a clock, a teapot, a bureau and a candelabra. Adrienne Conces put her special creativity to work here and then upped it with an impressive set of character pieces to reflect townspeople, enchanted ensemble members and, of course, Belle’s spectacular gown.

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“Be My Guest” from Civic Theatre’s “Beauty and the Beast”

In the category – Most Impressive Newcomer – Community Theatre Division: Elissa Maudlin played the fragile Beth in Belfry Theatre’s Little Women  with a deft understanding of the girl. From my review: “Of special note to me is Ms. Maudlin, whom at the tender age of 15 does impressive work with a multi-faceted character. She is talented beyond her years and I look forward to seeing her progress in our theatre community.”

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Supporting Role in a Comedy – Community Theatre Division: Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project’s The Merry Wives of Windsor featured Rob Johansen as the jealousy ridden Ford. No one I see on stage locally has as good a time with a comic role as Mr. Johansen seems to have in any he does. Here, his joy translated to high frivolity and as Ford, he found every silly and fun nuance the character could have.

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Supporting Role in a Drama – Community Theatre Division: In Epilogue Players’ Dial M for Murder, as I wrote in my review: “Ken Ganza’s rendering of Inspector Hubbard is a thing to behold. Here again, an underplayed style is most effective and Ganza’s Scottish accent is right on the money. The character is written with an almost Columbo-like persona, and Ganza presents what is basically a master-class on playing a murder-mystery inspector.”

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Sarah M. Froehlke as Margot Wendice, Ken Ganza as Inpector Hubbard and Jay Hemphill as Tony Wendice star in Epilogue Players’ production of “Dial M for Murder”.

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical – Community Theatre Division: In The Belfry’s production of Little Women, Darrin Gowan  was “splendidly unsettled as the proper Professor Bhaer.” His unsureness through the changes that take place in his life were a well-crafted characterization which was a pleasure to see.

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Supporting Role in a Comedy – Community Theatre Division: Again, a tie! In The Merry Wives of Windsor, Shakespeare wrote parts for a two woman team of characters – Mistress Ford and Mistress Page – who delightfully scheme to put down the scoundrel Falstaff. Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project filled these roles quite adroitly with Amy Hayes as Mistress Ford and Claire Wilcher as Mistress Page. Presented as two giddy gal-pals, these ladies bring a heap of fun to working together in the classic roles.

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Supporting Role in a Drama – Community Theatre Division: Alicia Collins hits the mark as Delia in Spotlight Players’ Blues for an Alabama Sky. From my review: “Alicia Collins’ portrayal of Delia’s innocence and hopefulness is palpable and true. She is delightfully inexperienced and so hopeful in her ideals – and she steps into a delayed womanhood with grace and demure modesty.”

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Delia (Alicia Collins) shares her excitement with her neighbors, Angel (Gabrielle Patterson) and Guy (Phillip Armstrong) in Spotlight Players’ “Blues for an Alabama Sky”

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical – Community Theatre Division: One of the most memorable characters in Young Frankenstein, which was presented by Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre this year, is Frau Blücher (cue the distant horse whinnies). I felt that Vicki Cornelius Phipps did a masterful job with the role, “catching and delivering all the clever nuance of the mysterious Frau…”

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Lead Role in a Comedy – Community Theatre Division: My friend (and sometimes blogging cohort), Adam O. Crowe had a lot on his hands playing the role of Sir John Falstaff in Wisdom Tooth’s The Merry Wives of Windsor. But his comedic timing and delivery brought the old lech to life in fine form. In a whirlwind of action and funny bits, Mr. Crowe set old Falstaff on his shoulders and ran!

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Adam O. Crowe as Falstaff meets up with Carrie Schlatter as the sultry Mistress Quickly in Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor”.

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Lead Role in a Drama – Community Theatre Division: As the husband, Tony Wendice, in Epilogue Players’ Dial M for Murder, Jay Hemphill absolutely knocked it out of the park. From the review: “Jay Hemphill is flawless as Tony Wendice, the husband with murder on his mind. He is totally in tune with his character and presents a completely detailed portrayal. He is fast becoming one of the most highly regarded actors in our local theatre scene and this is for good reason.”

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Lead Role in a Non Musical – Community Theatre Division: Ann Marie Elliott was a perfect casting choice for the role of Cordelia in First Folio’s King Lear at this year’s Bardfest. Playing both Lear’s daughter and the Fool that Cordelia herself portrays, Ms. Elliott skillfully conveyed the gentle nature in both.

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Lead Role in a Musical – Community Theatre Division: Once more, a tie. One of the greatest “surprises” in our local avocational theatre scene is the high level of talent, in actors certainly, but especially in singers. Two ladies who were overwhelming in their musical talents are Anna Dewey, who sang the role of Jo in Belfry Theatre’s Little Women, and Virginia Vasquez whom I just saw as Belle in Civic Theatre’s Beauty and the Beast. From the reviews: “Anna Dewey is nothing short of phenomenal in her grand depiction of Jo. Her brilliant vocal talent is augmented by wonderful acting choices throughout the arc of the story. Ms. Dewey soars through intricate solo pieces – especially the impressive first act closer “Astonishing” and the second act’s tender “The Fire Within Me”. She is presently a senior musical theatre major at Belmont University, so we’ll hope to see much more of this skilled performer on this and other stages.” And this: “Virginia Vasquez is the perfect Belle. She plays the part with a thoughtful ease and her melodic voice is truly a marvel – one could listen to her sing for hours. But it is her talent for expressive interpretation that sets her apart, I think. Ms. Vasquez brings truthful emotion to the performance of her songs. Her rueful rendition of “Home”, and her hopeful “A Change in Me” are both great examples of this performer’s uncommon talents.  All told, I think her Belle may well be my favorite of all I have seen.”

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Belle (Virginia Vaquez) and Le Fou (Alex Smith) in a scene from Civic Theatre’s “Beauty and the Beast”

In the category – Most Impressive Direction of a Non Musical– Community Theatre Division: This year’s award winner repeats from last year. Jim LaMonte directed Spotlight Players’ Blues for an Alabama Sky, which is set in 1930’s Harlem at a time between the Harlem Renaissance and the Depression. It is an emotional story and LaMonte leads his players to an engrossing telling. “Of special note to me is Jim Lamonte’s excellent direction. He has his players on track emotionally,  with a truth in their characterizations. The actors’ pacing is right on the money and the story-telling is clear.”

In the category – Most Impressive Direction of a Musical– Community Theatre Division: I believe that Carlos Nepomuceno has a great understanding of humanity and of human frailties and emotion. His direction of CCP’s Next to Normal brought out the best in his actors and delivered an emotional and memorable show. From my review: “Carlos Nepomuceno has once again provided us with an entertaining musical that carries with it a heart-rending story of our frailties and challenges. He (and CCP) is to be congratulated on a presentation that is striking in both it’s wealth of talent and it’s universal message. This community theatre endeavor is much like any professional offering in town. It is a “must-see”.”

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The cast of “Next to Normal”: (from left) Daniel Hellman, Kyle Mottinger, Sharmaine Ruth, Georgeanna Teipen, Russell Watson and Bradley Kieper.

In the category – Most Impressive Production of a Non Musical – Community Theatre Division: Spotlight Players’ Blues for an Alabama Sky hit the mark for me. In terms of an emotional, interesting story it was so well done by the very well-directed actors and actresses. Although it was longish at 2 1/2 hours, I was totally engaged in the proceedings.

In the category – Most Impressive Production of a Musical – Community Theatre Division: Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of Beauty and the Beast was Broadway quality entertainment. Although B&B is now a very familiar story, I was thoroughly entertained and effected by the wonderful performances and the dynamic technical aspects. Great music, great talent and a wonderful visual quality brings this show to the fore. And let me add a nod to Musical Director Brent E. Marty for the impressive work he did here.

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

In the category – Most Impressive Fight Coordination – Community Theatre Division: From the review for First Folio’s Hamlet: “…vigorous fight choreography by Scott Russell is amazingly realistic with a spontaneous feel.” And as far as I know – nobody got hurt…

In the category – Most Impressive Set Change Crew: From the review for Belfry Theatre’s Little Women: “…in a show filled with set changes, this production employs a large, well-rehearsed crew of stagehands and an ingenious set designed by Kendell Roberts. The longest change is probably about 30 seconds or so – the quick, choreographed movement, aided by …. music as an accompaniment to it, is greatly appreciated by this “not a fan of long set changes” critic. Well done!”

That’s it for another year. Congratulations to all the winners! Once again, I certainly encourage my readers to continue to go out and see the outstanding memorable shows and performances in community theatres all around the Greater Indianapolis area! They have a lot to offer for a very reasonable ticket price.

Now, if you like you can read about the 2016 Mitty Awards in the Professional Theatre Division. Just click here.

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