So – in my previous post I listed my choices for Most Impressive Theatre Awards in the Community Theatre Division. Now, my choices for the Professional Theatre Division for 2016: (Please note that I define a Professional Theatre as one which is contracted with Actors Equity)

In the category – Most Impressive Set Design – Professional Theatre Division : The award this year goes to William Goodblood for his ultra-adaptable set design in IRT’s The Three Musketeers. Granted, it is an advantage to have the grand mechanical possibilities which are available on the OneAmerica Stage, but Goodblood’s design was fashioned to be quickly rearranged into many various locations so that the galloping action of the story did not have to be put on hold at any point. Truly, this added to the enjoyment of the show.

In the category – Most Impressive Costume Design – Professional Theatre Division :  I could give this award to Jill Kelly Howe for sheer number of costumes in her handling of the costumes for A Beef and Boards Christmas. The 16 members of the cast each average at least 5 or 6 (or 8) changes of costumes during the course of the holiday revue. But not only are there lots of costumes, they are all extremely flashy and/or festive. Such a monumental task deserves recognition. I was impressed!

In the category – Most Impressive Newcomer – Professional Theatre Division: There were a number of talented high-schoolers who hit the boards this year but in ATI’s Sweeney Todd, “Elizabeth Hutson (was) striking as Todd’s daughter Johanna. She is gifted with a beautiful voice and adept stage presence.” I will expect to see more performances by this accomplished young lady!

In the category – Most Impressive Performer in a Supporting Role in a Musical – Professional Theatre Division: From Beef and Boards’ fine production of Into the Woods, I feel that Jaddy Ciucci wins here for her sassy portrayal of Little Red Ridinghood. From the review: “Ms. Ciucci nearly steals the show in her early scenes as her bouncy, physical portrayal and sharp delivery add a  comic aspect to the familiar miss.”


Little Red Ridinghood (Jaddy Ciucci) meets up with the Wolf (Timothy Ford) in B&Bs “Into the Woods”

In the category – Most Impressive Performer in a Supporting Role in a Comedy – Professional Theatre Division: From Beef and Boards’ comic farce Run for Your Wife, Sean Blake “is over-the-top of the top with his Bobby Franklyn. This obviously sexually liberated gent is in turn campy, naughty, rim shot comedic and glamorous. It is a wild combination and Blake seems to be having the best time of all the cast in his rendering of this dynamic character.”

In the category – Most Impressive Performer in a Supporting Role in a Drama – Professional Theatre Division: From IRT’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”: Robert Neal is on the mark as an alleged victim’s father. “…Neal is large and ugly and easy to dislike as the villainous Bob Ewell, which is pleasing (as well).”

Mayella and Bob Ewell

Mayella Ewell (Katherine Sheldon) and Bob Ewell (Robert Neal) in the IRT’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird.

In the category – Most Impressive Performer in a Lead Role in a Non-musical – Professional Theatre Division: This is not the first time I have been impressed by the talents of Ryan Artzberger. A Mitty winner for his role in last year’s The Great Gatsby, Artzberger has been playing Ebenezer Scrooge for the past 3 or 4 years, I believe. I have been struck by the originality of his choices for this iconic character from literature. With his talents, he has found a Scrooge diverse from what we have come to expect and it is very impressive.

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Lead Role in a Musical – Professional Theatre Division: Cynthia Collins’ Sally Bowles is as fresh a recreation of what is a familiar character as I have seen in Indianapolis theatre. Ms. Collins seemed to take a road less traveled at every opportunity and thus made her character’s journey a stirring experience for her audience. I wrote this: “Totally convincing as the lively, party-loving, and impetuous young singer, Ms. Collins shows a fine understanding of her character’s hopes and fears – while lifting the show with her freshly innovative and dramatic renditions of “Maybe This Time” and “Cabaret”.”

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Lead Role in a Musical – Professional Theatre Division: I have seen this actor in quite a few roles now. He is a mainstay at Actors Theatre of Indiana, which he co-founded. Don Farrell’s performances always show a great deal of preparation – meaning he does not rely on his talents alone. I feel that Farrell’s Sweeney Todd incorporated all the talent, preparation and love of his craft that he could muster. From my review: “The title role belongs to the talented Don Farrell, whose theatrical strengths are magnified in his portrayal. (I sat there musing – this is the same guy who last month was endearing us with his lovely portrayal of Toad in “Frog and Toad”?) Farrell is a fierce and strongly voiced Sweeney Todd, bent on revenge – torn apart by his losses – unmindful of anything but his quest for total destruction of his enemies and the safety of his daughter. There is a magnitude of emotion and dismay in this depiction, balanced only by the book’s more frivolous moments, which Farrell uses well to move his righteous wickedness forward. It is a totally wonderful, brilliant and accomplished turn by one of the most versatile actors is our region.”

Sweeney entrance color

Don Farrell as the title character in ATI’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”.

In the category – Most Impressive Musical Performance – Professional Theatre Division: I have to say – you must be pretty impressive to topple Kendra Lynn Lucas from this category – but they did it. The tremendous ensemble from ATI’s Million Dollar Quartet left nothing to be desired in a performance that rocked the rafters.  Jeremy Sevelovitz as Carl Perkins, Brandon Alstott as Johnny Cash, Taylor Gray as Jerry Lee Lewis, Adam Tron as Elvis Presley, and Betsy Norton as Presley’s girl Dyanne, backed by – on bass: Roy Presley as Jay; and on drums: Nathan Shew as Fluke brought the audience out of their seats. “Million Dollar Quartet is an accomplishment! To call this show energetic would be a severe understatement – to say it is powerfully lively and spirited again lands short of the mark – only by describing it as a kick-ass, red-blooded, high-powered ball of fire would I be closing in on the fact of the matter.”


The entire cast in performance – from left foreground: Jeremy Sevelovit as Carl Perkins, Brandon Alstott as Johnny Cash, Taylor Gray as Jerry Lee Lewis, Adam Tron as Elvis Presley, Betsy Norton as Dyanne, back – on bass: Roy Presley as Jay, on drums: Nathan Shew as Fluke, and in the booth: Don Farrell as Sam Phillips.

In the category – Most Impressive Direction of a Non-musical – Professional Theatre Division: Janet Allen’s revisions in IRT’s A Christmas Carol might have been slight, but I noticed them and I believe she gave new life and meaning to what has become (in it’s 25 years in Indy) a beautifully moving annual celebration of the holiday season. “The result of her choices, which includes female ghosts, feels like a whole new experience – in fact it is an energizing and uplifting tonic, beneficial to the holiday’s soul.”

In the category – Most Impressive Direction of a Musical – Professional Theatre Division: From the review of ATI’s Sweeney Todd: “Nothing about (the show) feels the least bit diminished under director Richard J Roberts’ skillful handling of the cast and the story-telling in Studio Theatre’s compact 200 seat setting. The demanding score is presented with rousing intensity…” This was a large story, put on in a “reduced” space – and it worked unfailingly!

In the category – Most Impressive Comedy Production – Professional Theatre Division: The winner is IRT’s The Mystery of Irma Vep. From the review: “IRT’s UpperStage production of Ludlam’s most famous and durable play, skillfully directed by James Still and peopled by the onstage creations of Rob Johansen and Marcus Truschinski, is faithful to this absurd and twisted vision. It is at once a classic story of the troubled rich, a horror-filled tale of dread, a spoofish exploration of theatre convention, a lark, a creepy film noir, goofy, slapsticky, over-the-top, quick-changing, emotionally charged and above all, unique. Tour de force performances by both Mssrs. Johansen and Truschinski are certainly at the top of the theatrical wealth that is presented here. The two veteran actors lay into their multi-roled assignments with relish – resulting in full energy, totally committed high jinx on both their parts. You can readily see the inventiveness that came out of their rehearsals, which they seem to carry into their live performances with great enjoyment and satisfaction.


Rob Johansen (back) as Nicodemus Underwood and Marcus Truschinski as Lord Edgar Hillcrest in IRT’s “The Mystery of Irma Vep”

In the category – Most Impressive Dramatic Production – Professional Theatre Division: Indiana Repertory Theatre’s A Christmas Carol takes the prize this year. From the review: “If you have seen the show in recent years, you may recall the snow-filled stage, the huge golden frame, perhaps even the surprising and refreshing characterizations that Ryan Artzberger brings to his portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge. All these familiar pieces are in place, but Ms. Allen has lovingly brought a more melodic and descriptive sensitivity to the story-telling.”

In the category – Most Impressive Musical Production – Professional Theatre Division: As always, there are so many splendid shows to choose from in this category. But the show that really impressed me the most was ATI’s Sweeney Todd. Filled with high grade performances, wonderful characterizations and solid story-telling, only to be augmented by the wonderful vocal talents of the cast – I just loved it! “Finally, I must note how extraordinarily well the entire cast worked together in rendering this extremely complicated score. The layers of composition which are performed in this musical masterpiece are daunting, but directors Roberts and Tavianini, and their cast, have treated it with the respect it deserves. The result is more than merely impressive, it is a triumph!”

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

In the category – Most Impressive Orchestra – Professional Division: The musicians that were joined together for Beef and Boards’ Into the Woods certainly deserve special mention. From the review: “I particularly want to give high marks to the B&B orchestra – a band of five led by Terry Woods. Sondheim is some of the most difficult music to produce and this group of fine musicians never missed a note or beat in their complex accompaniments. The additional scoring necessary to play most of the orchestra sounds on two electric pianos was especially well done, I thought.”

So, that’s it for 2016. 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 so lucky to live in an area where the theatrical arts are valued and well performed.

And if you have not already – you can read about this year’s Mitty Awards for Community Theatre productions here.