It’s time for the Eighth 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 33 shows, (and my team of ‘cohorts’ covered another 11) 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. Since last 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 at a small venue – Community Theatre Division: Mike Mellot takes the award this year for his completely authentic looking living room, dining room and snowy front porch area which he designed for Mud Creek Players’ holiday production – In-Laws, Outlaws and Other People (That Should Be Shot). The extreme detail in every corner of his set design and decoration was indeed impressive!

Most Impressive Set Design at a large venue – Community Theatre Division: David Robertson’s splendid sets designs for Mary Poppins – the Broadway Musical at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre really cover a lot of ground. During the course of the production we are taken to the Banks’ home interior, the exterior on Cherry Tree Lane, the park, the rooftops, Mr. Banks’ bank, the letter shop, and upstairs to the children’s room. I probably missed one or two – but each of the locales are quite nicely done and very supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! It’s an extraordinary display of Robertson’s talents.

In the category – Most Impressive Costume Design – Community Theatre Division: Aaron Wardwell produces the exceptional period costumes for Summer Stock Stage’s The Secret Garden. The youth theatre group’s show requires dozens of outfits for the large cast and Mr. Wardwell does an amazing job supplying them and creating a total look that works wonderfully.

In the category – Most Impressive Newcomer – Community Theatre Division: We have two winners actually – from the same show. Strictly speaking, sixth graders Sydney Pinchouck and Ben Kistner may not truly be considered “newcomers”, but their fine work singing, dancing and portraying the Banks children, Jane and Michael, in Civic Theatre’s production of Mary Poppins – the Broadway Musical is likely the biggest stage jobs they have taken on so far. It is always great to see talented young people do a remarkable job – but these two had gigantic roles to carry out, and they did themselves, and their families, proud! 

from left: Sydney Pinchouck (Jane Banks), Alex Smith (Neleus) and Ben Kistner (Michael Banks) in a scene from Civic Theatre’s production of “Mary Poppins – the Broadway Musical”.

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Supporting Role in a Drama– Community Theatre Division: Marni Lemons does very impressive work in her light-hearted role for Civic Theatre’s Sense and Sensibility. From the review: “(Ms.) Lemons is absolutely wonderful in her turn as the good-natured busybody and friend to the young women – Mrs. Jennings”. She really covered all bases in the part and was a delight every time she came onstage as Mrs. Jennings.

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Supporting Role in a Drama – Community Theatre Division: Earl Campbell is brilliant as the psychologically flawed small-time crook – Teach, in Carmel Community Players’ offering of American Buffalo. From the review: “Teach is a hair-triggered fury in the hands of Campbell. His quick-paced outlay of the man’s self-centered nature, often with comic nonsensical results, is a strong feature of the show.”

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Supporting Role in a Comedy– Community Theatre Division: Dave Bolander is not new to the central Indiana area but we have not seen a great deal of him on local stages, until this year. One of his appearances was in a variety of roles in the Mark Twain play – Is He Dead?, which was presented by Carmel Community Players. From the review: “Dave Bolander lights up the stage with a brilliant quintet of varied characters – full of subtle touches and nuance.” He really found a lot of ways to enrich each character – and I was impressed.

(from left) Matt Hartzburg, Kelly Keller, Adam Powell, and Dave Bolander in a scene from CCP’s production of “Is He Dead?”

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Supporting Role in a Comedy – Community Theatre Division: She won the Encore Award in a similar category and I must agree: Sabrina Duprey gives an award winning performance as Nora Morton in Belfry Theatre’s Brighton Beach Memoirs. From my review: “Sixteen year old…Nora struggles with conflicts of what she wants to do with her life versus what everyone else thinks will be best to do, and Sabrina Duprey, makes clear the girl’s emotions and desires with a striking turn.”

(from left) Sabrina Duprey as Nora Morton and Kimberly Droz as her sister Laurie in a scene from The Belfry Theatre’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs”.

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Lead Role in a Comedy – Community Theatre Division: Cathedral High School’s Jackson Lindner plays Eugene Jerome in Belfry Theatre’s Brighton Beach Memoirs as if the role was written for him. “Lindner plays the part of Eugene Jerome and absolutely owns the role. He finds all the many levels of his character – a put-upon, blamed for everything, puberty laden, baseball crazy, girl discovering youth – who writes down everything he observes as his family goes through an especially rough period of multiple crises. Lindner’s performance is loaded with energy and emotion, just what is needed as this Simon central character.”

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Lead Role in a Drama – Community Theatre Division: In a second winning performance, Dave Bolander created a strikingly original Prospero in Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission’s offering of The Tempest at Federal Hill Park. “His marvelous interpretation of the wizard is one of the best I can remember seeing – charging his role with emotional nuance that many players miss in the part. Bolander’s range of stage skills is impressive, especially with regard to Prospero’s many traits, and he creates the magician as a benevolent master of dark arts.”

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Lead Role in a Non Musical – Community Theatre Division: In a fully developed turn as Emily Webb, Lexi Odle gives a moving performance in Belfry Theatre’s Our Town. “Ms. Odle has the correct countenance for her role and presents an understanding of every step of her character’s stream of life – an admirable job of acting for this young performer.”  I was very impressed by her ability to transform through the age differences of the role, and on into the sadness of her character’s death.

from left: Mrs. Webb (Jan Borcherding) and her daughter Emily (Lexi Odle) discuss matters in a scene from “Our Town” at The Belfry Theatre.

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Lead Role in a Musical – Community Theatre Division: This award has to go to Devan Mathias, who was so very perfect as Mary Poppins in Civic Theatre’s Mary Poppins – the Broadway Musical. The fact that she was reprising the part showed her great love for it, and indeed she was charming in the spotlight. “Though this is a return to the role by Ms. Mathias, she brings a freshness to each of her scenes. Her lovely voice enhances the familiar songs and she gives her dance turns an arresting quality.”

Devan Mathias in the title role in Civic Theatre’s production of “Mary Poppins – the Broadway Musical”.

In the category – Most Impressive Direction of a Non Musical – Community Theatre Division: We have a tie in this division: I could not separate the efforts of two wonderful local directors: Lori Raffel, who directed Carmel Community Players’ American Buffalo, and Nancy Lafferty who directed Our Town for The Belfry Theatre.

American Buffalo: “(The) characters work through themes of friendship, loyalty and especially business and opportunity, although they are, in fact, failures at these four aspects of successful living….Ms. Raffel expertly directs with a razor sharp touch, with special attention to pacing and tempo – matching Mamet’s quick and harsh wordings.” 

Our Town: Thornton Wilder… “offered his work in what is called a metatheatrical style, whereby the play is presented by a self-aware stage manager, who speaks directly to the audience about the staging and ideas of the story. It works very well and Ms. Lafferty has remained faithful to Wilder’s ideals of a bare stage, scant set pieces and props, and the feeling that a group of people is presenting the story as a show….Ms. Lafferty has crafted a thoroughly lovely production of this enduring play, employing a cast of 20 players who fill the stage with spot-on performances.” 

In the category – Most Impressive Direction of a Musical – Community Theatre Division: Anne Beck made Mary Poppins – the Broadway Musical a “won’t wanna miss it” event. With the advantage of two reprising lead players, she takes the show to the top of the charts. Her pleasing choreography is a major feature in the show and features an impressive trio of high end dance routines – Jolly Holiday, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, and Step in Time, utilizing every ounce of her performers’ skills.

In the category – Most Impressive Production of a Comedy – Community Theatre Division: An original play by Christine Kruze, Circumstantial Holidays, produced by Approxima Productions with Carmel Theatre Company, was a wonderful find in the dense Indianapolis area holiday theatre schedule. Starring stalwart Indy actors Carrie Ann Schlatter, Joshua C. Ramsey, Clay Mabbitt, and Matt Anderson, the play examined 21st centruy dating, among other topics. “…it shows four very diverse approaches to relationships – each character having their own distinct beliefs and styles for getting what they seek. I also like that Ms. Kruze has offered a plausible, yet unusual, set of circumstances to examine those differing beliefs. The play involves at least 5 different romantic couplings, which makes for an interesting 90 minutes.” Well done! 

In the category – Most Impressive Production of a Drama – Community Theatre Division: “The Belfry Theatre’s Our Town is a superior community theatre production. It’s main goal – presenting a true version of Wilder’s extraordinary old play, layered with its humor, its meaningful visions of humanity and an inspiring philosophy of living – is well met and exceedingly so.”

In the category – Most Impressive Production of a Musical – Community Theatre Division: Of course, this year it has to be Mary Poppins – the Broadway Musical. It has everything you’d hope a family show would have – a familiar story and characters, an eye-popping set of stage designs, and talented performers doing great work in their songs and their dances.

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 saw two remarkable shows at Summer Stock Stage this year: Urinetown, from co-directors Emily Ristine Holloway and Charles Goad and The Secret Garden directed by Ms. Holloway. Both were extraordinary in their scope, their production values and their excellent casts. Summer Stock Stage is such a wonderful theatre ‘camp’ for the area’s young actors, I will definitely plan to attend next year’s shows. 

In the category – Most Impressive Musical Ensemble – Community Theatre Division: The four gentlemen who revisited their roles in Carmel Community Players’ production of Forever Plaid provided a close harmony performance that was top-notch and exquisite. Howard Baetzhold (Smudge), Rich Phipps (Frankie), Syd Loomis (Jinx), and Darrin Gowan (Sparky) are to be congratulated on their outstanding effort. 

from left: Howard Baetzhold (Smudge), Rich Phipps (Frankie), Syd Loomis (Jinx), and Darrin Gowan (Sparky) cavort during a musical number in Carmel Community Players’ production of “Forever Plaid”.

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 at very reasonable ticket prices.

Now, if you like you can read about the 2018 Mitty Awards in the Professional Theatre Division. Just click here: 2018 Mitty Awards Professional Theatre Division

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