Mitty Awards 2017

It’s time for the Seventh 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 34 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. This year I have included the professional dance company Dance Kaleidoscope in that division.

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

In the category – Most Impressive Set Design for a small venue – Community Theatre Division: Calder the Musical, which had it’s world premiere as a full-length production in the versatile IndyFringe Theatre space, featured a very innovative set design for the small venue. The many settings for the story were presented as projections on a huge back screen. These backgrounds were “impressively illuminated by Laura Hildreth’s delightful illustrations as rendered in Ben Dobler’s impressive projections.” Hildreth and Dobler worked together to somehow produce backgrounds that had motion and included the sea, a circus, and an art studio, among others. It was very innovative and impressive.

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A scene in “Calder, the Musical” is illuminated by the talents of Laura Hildreth (Illustrator) and Ben Dobler (Projections).

In the category – Most Impressive Set Design for a large venue – Community Theatre Division: Ryan Koharchik wins here for his grand designs for the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre stage at the Carmel Performing Arts Center. Koharchik’s work in the production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat provided “great function and an undeniable “wow” factor.”

In the category – Most Impressive Costume Design – Community Theatre Division: Agape Performing Arts Center presented a youth theatre production of Les Miserables that featured a cast of 69 young actors and actress ranging in age from 4th graders to high school seniors. I do not have one name to give this award to, but I very much doubt that costuming the show was a one person undertaking and I believe the group of volunteers who accomplished covering all these kids, in a very authentic variety of costumes, did quite an impressive job, indeed!

In the category – Most Impressive Newcomer – Community Theatre Division: First time stage actor, Antoine Demmings, held his own and did an admirable job keeping even with his two more experienced cast-mates (sketch-savvy actresses Frankie Bolda and Kelsey VanVoorst) in the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) at The Studio Theatre in Carmel. Let’s hope we see more of this gentleman on stage in perhaps a more structured role.

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Supporting Role in a Comedy – Community Theatre Division: Westfield Playhouse’s production of The Sunshine Boys features an outstanding portrayal by Scott Prill as Ben Silverman, nephew of one of the central characters in the Neil Simon play. From the review of the show: “Mr. Prill brings excellent energy and a sense of credibility to his portrayal of Silverman. The east coast accent he lightly employs seems accurate and even. His emotions, running from caring to mild frustration to exasperation and hopefulness are all fully on the mark.”

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Supporting Role in a Drama – Community Theatre Division: In First Folio Productions’ and Catalyst Repertory’s production of Richard III at the IndyFringe Basile Theatre, Carey Shea did a memorable job with the dual roles of Richard’s brother Clarence and his opponent Richmond. “Both are offered with confident, spot-on depictions” by this very accomplished Shakespearian actor.

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical – Community Theatre Division: I was impressed very much by Joel Flynn in his role as town “trouble-maker” Tommy Djilas in the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s The Music Man.  Presented as a featured dancer in the ensemble, Flynn showed some very noteworthy skills.

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From left: Parrish Williams (as Leonard Ganz), Carrie Schlatter (Claire Ganz) and Clay Mabbit (Ken Gorman) in Civic’s “Rumors”.

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Supporting Role in a Comedy – Community Theatre Division: Carrie Schlatter, who took the role of Claire Ganz in the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre production of Rumors, has “comedy chops” that always make me laugh. Ms. Schlatter’s ability to deliver a punchline with deadpan alacrity is a skill worth honoring. In Rumors she led the way comically with her dry, down to earth portrayal of the elegant Ms. Ganz.

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Supporting Role in a Drama – Community Theatre Division: Allison Clark Reddick gave a first class performance in First Folio Productions’ and Catalyst Repertory’s production of Richard III at the IndyFringe Basile Theatre. Ms. Reddick offered “a stirring performance as the widow of Richard’s brother – Queen Elizabeth. Her sorrow at the tragedies in her character’s life is immense yet varied enough to be compelling and genuine.”

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical – Community Theatre Division: In the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre production of Annie, Amanda Boldt, turned in a successfully full portrayal of Daddy Warbucks’ faithful secretary, Grace Farrell. Her display of singing, dancing and acting skills made us anxious to see her onstage again in her next production.

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Lead Role in a Comedy – Community Theatre Division: Ben Asaykwee provided a quality comic turn as a likeably villainous Maurice Garin in the Zack & Zach production of The Great Bike Race, revived at Theatre on the Square. The zany tale is full of physical and visual nonsense and Asaykwee made the most of his opportunities.

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Matt Anderson as Richard in First Folio and Catalyst Repertory’s production of “Richard III”.

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Lead Role in a Drama – Community Theatre Division: In what I would call the performance of the year in Indianapolis area community theatre, Matt Anderson is thoroughly masterful as Richard in the First Folio/Catalyst Repertory production of Richard III. From my review: “He truly becomes the fated scoundrel in what is a very physical and methodical portrayal. Anderson leaves no doubt that this is a damaged man, his extreme awkwardness only amplifying (Richard’s) focused desire to achieve the throne. Richard’s words drip with desire and hatefulness, and his body reveals the pain of his being. The supporting cast has a great advantage by being able to react to the seething performance Anderson renders.”

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Lead Role in a Musical – Community Theatre Division: Without a doubt, Jacob Butler was a pleasant surprise in his Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre debut, as Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. His performance in the show was superb and impressive. From the review: “Butler plays Joseph with a simple and honest approach. He uses his high quality vocal skills to great advantage, yet never tips away from his straightforward performance choices.” His turn here was a centerpiece in a very wonderful show.

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Lead Role in a Non Musical – Community Theatre Division: Frankie Bolda played winning rider Henri Cornet in the Zack & Zach production of The Great Bike Race at Theatre on the Square. Her cute, innocent, ‘forces of good’ persona was well played and fun to watch throughout.

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Lead Role in a Musical – Community Theatre Division: Mikayla Reed Koharchik brought an impressive turn in her role as Marion (the librarian) in Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s The Music Man. “Ms. Koharchik offers a definitive version of the reluctant miss, using her beautiful and powerful vocal talents to maximum effect. Her Marion is gracefully aware of what is happening to her as (Harold) Hill first confronts her with his charms, then finds he cannot do without her.”

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Mikayla Reed Koharchik played Marion Paroo in Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of “The Music Man”

In the category – Most Impressive Choreography of a Musical – Community Theatre Division: Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre is so lucky to have the talented services of Anne Nicole Beck for her creative choreographic ideas. The impressive collection of dances that she imagined and taught for Civic’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat were endlessly fascinating.

In the category – Most Impressive Direction of a Non Musical – Community Theatre Division: Glenn Dobbs has a fine reputation for his understanding of the Bard’s works. His direction of First Folio/Catalyst Repertory’s Richard III proves it. He once again put together an amazing cast and led them through a process that resulted in one of the strongest set of performances this year in community theatre. From the review: “…everything that has been pieced together for the production emphatically meets the goal of conveying this complicated story to the minds of the audience in an understandable and potent way.”

In the category – Most Impressive Direction of a Musical – Community Theatre Division: With his work in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s Executive Artistic Director, Michael J. Lasley, took the reins for this oft produced favorite and made it seem like I had never seen it before with a dazzling display of technical aspects, wonderful performances and innovative ideas. “…under Mr. Lasley’s inventive guidance, this production…simply sparkles and shines, with great performances, imaginative staging, and immense production values regarding set, lighting, costumes, orchestration and choreography. Those technical aspects are an important feature in this edition.”

In the category – Most Impressive Production of a Non Musical – Community Theatre Division: Without question, the First Folio/Catalyst Repertory production of Richard III was the most impressive piece of community theatre of the year. Given the performances by the well directed cast, especially this year’s Best Actor winner Matt Anderson, the show was a completely stunning event. I wish everyone could have seen it.

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Kevin Caraher (Lord Hastings), Matthew Socey (King Edward IV), and Allison Clark Reddick (Queen Elizabeth) in First Folio and Catalyst Repertory’s production of “Richard III” .

In the category – Most Impressive Production of a Musical – Community Theatre Division: So many wonderful musicals to choose from…but I have to say the best of the best was The Music Man. This rousing production by the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre was memorable, exciting and deliciously romantic. Every aspect of top-notch theatre including the direction, the performers, the sets, the costumes and especially “the fine Broadway level orchestra, under the baton of Trevor Fanning” was of high quality and very impressive!  

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 Youth Production– Community Theatre Division: I was highly impressed by Agape Performing Arts Company’s first class production of the difficult Les Miserables. From my review: “You would be mistaken to assume that this was some charming little effort, with cute kids attempting adult roles. On the contrary, Director Dr. Kathy Phipps has managed to instill her young charges with a gravitas of dignity and emotion that runs through the presentation. Led by a bevy of top-notch turns by the lead actors and actresses, this offering ranks high on stage essentials such as focus, interpretation and integration. It can be said it is among the very best of shows I have seen from any youth theatre company.”

In the category – Most Impressive Original Production– Community Theatre Division: Local talents Tom Alvarez and Dustin Klein combined efforts to produce a wonderfully rich musical stage production entitled Calder, the Musical. Based on the life of sculptor and mobile originator Alexander Calder, the show was presented first as an IndyFringe show before being expanded into a full two act production which opened on January 27, 2017 at the IndyFringe Basille Theatre. The show featured an “original score…brim-full with emotional and spirited songs and compositions.” The music was written by Mr. Klein, while Mr. Alvarez handled the book and lyrics. This opening was a noteworthy event in the Indianapolis theatre year and I was especially impressed by the two gentlemen who worked so hard, not only to create the piece, but also to strive in the theatre loving community to get commitments toward it’s production.

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 2017 Mitty Awards in the Professional Theatre Division. Just click 2017 Most Impressive Theatre Awards – Part 2

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