2013 was a bountiful year for theater within the Dallas-Fort Worth area. So much so that it became completely overwhelming for myself and my staff of critics in trying to catch and review every single production being mounted all over the metroplex. From the big theater companies to the small intimate companies, there was something for everyone’s artistic palette this season. We had regional and world premieres that were brought to life on the stage boards. We had several local playwrights and composers creating their own works for the DFW public to view & admire.
I have said this many a time and still stand by this statement: the wealth of talent and the quality of theater that the Dallas-Fort Worth area has revivals that of any other major “theater” town. We know there is New York and Broadway. Chicago & Washington are also known as major theater towns. Well folks, so is the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. No other city in Texas has as many theater companies, theater critics, publications geared toward DFW Theater, and the vast diversity as we do. Regardless if it is equity or non-equity, theater is theater. The amount of hours and dedication that goes into mounting a play or musical does not differ simply because one has an equity card and the other does not. Both arenas have produced superb shows, but alas both have also produced some clunkers. But the talent, both in front and behind the curtain just astounds me, my staff, and the audiences. The DFW theater community is a FORCE to be reckoned with!
I get emails all the time from people living in other Texas cities (as well as outside of the Lone Star state) asking, “Do you publish THE COLUMN in….”and you insert a city here. Another question I get all the time is, “Do you know if there is a publication like THE COLUMN here in…” We’ve been asked many times if we can review outside of the DFW area, as well as outside of Texas. That may be changing soon this year!
THE COLUMN was the first “internet” publication that completely focused on DFW Theater when it popped into the scene over 20 years ago. It started with one critic (me) and a membership of 26 close friends. Today it has the largest staff than any other publication. With close to 30 critics on its staff who possess such diverse backgrounds and education. THE COLUMN also has a membership of close to 30,000 subscribers worldwide, and each day continuing to grow and grow. That’s not counting how many go to the website to read view it or how any times our reviews are posted on face book, twitter, and other social media.
But even with such a large staff, we could not review every show. We just could not keep up with the demand anymore. No publication can today. This season THE COLUMN’s staff of critics saw theater ALL OVER the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Even if my critics were not assigned a show to review, they still attended those productions. We did not just focus on Dallas area theater or just the professional companies. THE COLUMN went all around the DFW area, reviewing and observing theater all over the map! My goal this past season was for my staff to really expand and review shows everywhere. And they did!
So now the curtain has come down on the 2013 season. The last four months my entire staff and I gathered up all our playbills, re-read our reviews, looked back at our notes, and reflected on what we saw on stage in 2013. What productions truly did stand out in quality? Which performances still stick to our minds like glue? Which work from directors, designers, etc. made us stand back and admire with great respect on what they achieved?
We all poured hours of research and lots of soul searching on making our selections this year. Because we as a staff want to honor and celebrate ALL theater companies in our DFW artistic family. The choices were SO tough and very, very hard to make. But here they are! Sit back and read as THE COLUMN staff of theater critics announce their picks on what they considered was the BEST IN DALLAS-FORT WORTH THEATER FOR 2013.
-John Garcia, Senior Chief Theater Critic/ Editor / Founder, THE COLUMN.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Each Associate Theater Critic was allowed to pick and choose on what they considered was the best in what they either reviewed or saw. There was no “format” or “list” of guidelines, specific list of award titles, etc. I felt to make it fair and balanced was to leave it up to them on what they decided to pick. Each critic could list as many or as few. It was left to their own decisions. Thus, that is why you will see a wide range of diversity here.
SENIOR CHIEF THEATER CRITIC/EDITOR
I decided to do something different this year in making my picks for BEST PRODUCTON OF THE YEAR. Instead of picking several, I decided to approach it with a different method and frame of thought. I would pick just ONE for Equity and ONE for Non-Equity. This created a huge dilemma for me and forced me to really think outside of the box. So I fashioned my own set of rules on what I consider the word “BEST” means when it comes to theater. Which shows that with the mere mention of the title I can immediately recall the entire show within my cranium? Those shows that touched my heart, moved me emotionally with its artistry, but also made my reviewing of those shows so much fun. Where a cascade of thoughts flooded my brain and I tried to get them down on paper as fast as possible. I really took a very detailed look at the directing this time. Was the subtext there within the blocking and staging? Did it have purpose, reason, and connect with the characters
and the writing. Was the casting choices that the director made correct in bringing the material to life? What shows outdid themselves in direction, talent, design, and the creation of a production that stood above the rest? I picked one show, but then a day later changed my mind. Over and over again. I weighed the pros and cons of each show I saw this past season. I did not want to drop the ball or make the wrong decision here like Tony Romo. BAM! Insert rim shot here. I made a pro football reference in a theater article! How’s that for diversity? But I digress.
So, after much inner battles within myself, here are my selections for BEST SHOW OF THE YEAR:
FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center). Even with the research I did before I walked into the theater to review this show did I have a full grasp of what it will be. This intimate musical by Kim Rosenstock, Will Connolly, and Michael Mitnick was the most powerful, emotionally gripping musical I have observed this season. Bill Fennelly’s direction was extraordinary. The blocking and staging was like a master class being taught before your eyes. To take a cast of 6, minimal sets, a book that races back and forth in time, all set to a fresh, bold, dynamic, & exciting score-well talk about pressure! But he succeeded in ways that mystified me all evening long. And those performances! This was the only musical this year where I could not stop the tears from flowing. The work of this cast was sensational and the subtext bled within their craft as actors. It baffles me that the Dallas Theater Center has not won the Tony Award for Best Regional Theater. Since Kevin Moriarty took over as Artistic Director, this theater company has taken a musical to Broadway (Lysistrata Jones) and one off-Broadway (Giant)-both earning critical raves by the New York critics. FLY BY NIGHT if it makes to New York, I predict it will again earn heaps of critical praise. Dallas Theater Center’s FLY BY NIGHT showed us all what magnificent magic can be achieved in the art of theater.
IN THE HEIGHTS (Artes de la Rosa Theater). When I saw the national tour of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical about Latinos living Washington Heights in New York, I was enthralled and savored every moment of this musical. So when the rights were released for theater companies to mount this Tony Award winning musical, I thought to myself, “Oh dear. I smell major trouble here”. Because the fact is there aren’t that many Latino actors in the DFW area. Plus to stay true to the potpourri score of Cuban, rap, pop, and soul and bring it to full vocal artistry, that’s another major issue I saw facing local theater companies. Director Adam Adolfo faced these challenges head on and brought to the stage a sublime production. The choreography of hip hop, jazz, popping & locking, and other elements of today’s genre of dance was executed with great finesse by this cast. The staging and direction never fell off its tracks as the evening went on. It was a very smart move by Adolfo in casting the role of “Benny” with a Caucasian actor (normally it is played by an African-American actor). This casting switch added much rich & new subtext to the score and book involving the romance and racism involving this character. The stage was overflowing with resplendent performances, from the ensemble to the principals. And here’s the ironic part-I was not the one on my staff to actually review it. I simply went to go observe it at the invitation of the director. But what impressed me the most was that Adolfo was able to find an armful of Latino actors to bring this musical to life. When I saw this musical way back in May, I posted on Artes de la Rosa’s face book page that this was one of the best musicals of the year that I had seen so far. Now I feel it was indeed the Best Non-equity musical of the 2013 season.
BEST NATIONAL TOURS OF 2013:
ANYTHING GOES (Winspear Opera House)
BOOK OF MORMON (Winspear Opera House)
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (Dallas Summer Musicals)]
FLASHDANCE: THE MUSICAL (Dallas Summer Musicals)
PRISCILLA: QUEEN OF THE DESERT (Dallas Summer Musicals)
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCES OF THE YEAR:
As an actor myself when I review a show or sit there as an audience member I focus very intensely on the performances.
If it’s a comedy, was the timing, pace, & delivery spot on. Did the actor dissect each line, each word to find the hidden gems of comedy within the script, book, score, & lyrics. Anyone can say the punch line. It’s those very few who can discover the laughs before, during, and after the punch line that “get it” when it comes to comedy. Not many have that craft. And you can’t teach it. You’re born with it. Comedy is facial expressions, body movement, and that rare gift of how to create the perfect pause, beat, vocal inflection to hit the comedy right on the head, resulting in prolonged laughter from the audience. Oh, and if the show calls for ad-libs, it’s only those actors who have that very special technique to match the ad-lib to the moment that stand out in my book. Comedy is VERY hard to pull off. When it comes to comedy, I watch those actors like a doctor in an ICU unit, operating and dissecting their work to see if they understand the art of comedy.
For dramatic performances, it’s all about subtext. What is the motive or reasoning for an actor to choose that emotion for that specific scene or line. It is those actors who seep the subtext so clearly that we as the audience immediately “get it”. There is the chemistry with their co-actors. There are those actors who may be great, but simply ignore the others on stage, and not reacting, feeling, or listening to their fellow performers. I get such great pleasure when I see an actor in a dramatic piece (be it play or musical) that is always in the moment and in character.
As for musicals-well, it’s all the above-plus the execution of singing and dancing. I can tell in seconds which actors rely way too much on body mics. It shows. Major strike in my book! Are the vocals crisp, pristine, clear, and robust. Do they belt to the back of the theater? Is the vibrato under control? And my biggest pet peeve, do they sustain the note to the cut off of the music! Do they excavate within the lyrics. Do they have a sturdy grasp on what the composer & lyricist is trying to say within their music?
All these factors go into my choosing the best work done by actors on stages across the DFW metroplex. There was a lot of good work done by many. But to stand out from the hundreds of wonderful performances from so many, to make me not forget their work even almost a year later, well that takes that very rare, unique, and superior performer. I took all the above and then began the lengthy task of reviewing, editing, adding, deleting, and then rethinking my choices over & over again. But finally came to a conclusion. And they are…….
BEST PERFORMANCES OF THE YEAR:
Whitney Bashor as “Daphne”, FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Kim Borge as “Doralee Rhodes”, 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL (Garland Summer Musicals)
Jordan Brodess as “Teddy”, BLACK TIE (Watertower Theatre)
Marcia Carroll as “Mimi”, BLACK TIE (Watertower Theatre)
David Coffee as “Mr. McClam”, FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Damon Daunno as “Harold McClam”, FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Nate Davis as “Willard”, FOOTLOOSE (Artisan Center Theater)
Peter DiCesare as “Dr. Kitchell”, BELLS ARE RINGING (ICT Mainstage-Las Colinas)
Justin Duncan as “Dayne Westmoreland”, YELLOW (Uptown Players)
Ethan Dunn as “Malcolm MacGregor”, THE FULL MONTY (Runway Theatre)
Chris Edwards as “Ethan Girard”, THE FULL MONTY (Runway Theatre)
Doug Fowler as “Robert” in PROOF (Onstage in Bedford)
Andrew Friedrich as “Clifford Anderson”, DEATHTRAP (Onstage in Bedford)
Stan Graner as “Curtis”, BLACK TIE (Watertower Theatre)
Mary Gilbreath Grim as “Ella Peterson”, BELLS ARE RINGING (ICT Mainstage-Las Colinas)
Gina Gwozdz as “Wendy Jo”, FOOTLOOSE (Artisan Center Theater)
Jonathan Hardin as “Freddie”, CHESS (Ohlook Performing Arts)
Mike Hathaway as “Sidney Bruhl”, DEATHTRAP (Onstage in Bedford)
Carl DeForrest Hendin as “Cosmo Brown”, SINGIN IN THE RAIN (Garland Summer Musicals)
Gregory Hullet as “Franklin Hart, Jr.”, 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL (Garland Summer Musicals)
Deborah Jones as “Sister Timothea Parker”, YELLOW (Uptown Players)
Andrew Kasten as “Mr. Webb”, OUR TOWN (ICT Mainstage-Las Colinas)
Stacia Malone as “Calliope”, XANADU (Watertower Theatre)
Morgan Mabry Mason as “Judy Bernly”, 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL (Garland Summer Musicals)
Michael McCormick as “Crabbie”, FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Kristin McCullough as “Kate Westmoreland”, YELLOW (Uptown Players)
Liz Mikel as “Melpomene”, XANADU (Watertower Theatre)
Ken Orman as “Stage Manager”, OUR TOWN (ICT Mainstage-Las Colinas)
Pilar Ortiz as “Abuela Claudia”, IN THE HEIGHTS (Artes de la Rosa Theatre)\
Jeff Plunk as “Bobby Westmoreland”, YELLOW (Uptown Players)
Lorens Portalatin as “Nina”, IN THE HEIGHTS (Artes de la Rosa Theatre)
Cameron Potts as “Dennis”, ALL SHOOK UP (Music Theatre of Denton)
Matt Ransdell Jr. as “Usnavi”, IN THE HEIGHTS (Artes de la Rosa Theatre)
Sheila D. Rose as “Jeanette Burmeister”, THE FULL MONTY (Runway Theatre)
Joshua Sherman as “Benny”, IN THE HEIGHTS (Artes de la Rosa Theatre)
Asa Somers as “Narrator”, FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Kristin Stokes as “Miriam”, FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Michael Sylvester as “Ren”, FOOTLOOSE (Artisan Center Theater)
BEST DIRECTION OF THE YEAR:
Adam Adolfo, IN THE HEIGHTS (Artes de la Rosa Theater)
Bruce R. Coleman, OUR TOWN (ICT Mainstage-Las Colinas)
Coy Covington, SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD (Uptown Players)
Bill Fennelly, FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Michael Serrecchia, BELLS ARE RINGING (ICT Mainstage-Las Colinas)
Del Shores, YELLOW (Uptown Players)
Buff Shurr, 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL (Garland Summer Musicals)
BEST MUSICAL DIRECTION OF THE YEAR:
Jeff Crouse, KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMAN (Uptown Players)
Scott Eckert, 9 T 5: THE MUSICAL (Garland Summer Musicals)
Mark Mullino, XANADU (Watertower Theatre) & SINGIN IN THE RAIN (Garland Summer Musicals)
Zak Sandler, FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Adam C. Wright, BELLS ARE RINGING (ICT Mainstage-Las Colinas)
BEST CHOREOGRAPHY OF THE YEAR:
Jacob Brent, XANADU (Watertower Theatre)\
Elise Lavallee, Michael Sylvester & Maegan Marie Stewart, IN THE HEIGHTS (Artes de la Rosa Theater)
Kelly McCain, 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL (Garland Summer Musicals)
Tiffany Mullins, WHITE CHRISTMAS: THE MUSICAL (Plaza Theatre Company)
Vicki Squires, KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMAN (Uptown Players)
Michael Sylvester, FOOTLOOSE: THE MUSICAL (Artisan Center Theater)
BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF THE YEAR:
Kevin Brown and Alan McAngus, YELLOW (Uptown Players)
Paul Fiorella, BELLS ARE RINGING (ICT Mainstage-Las Colinas)
Vaughn Hardman, DEATHTRAP (Onstage in Bedford)
Dana Laffrey, FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Bob Lavallee, BLACK TIE (Watertower Theatre) & XANADU (Watertower Theatre)
Sarah Salazar, IN THE HEIGHTS (Artes de la Rosa Theater)
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF THE YEAR:
Jason Foster, KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMAN (Uptown Players)
Sam Nance, BELLS ARE RINGING (ICT Mainstage-Las Colinas)
Aaron Sanchez, IN THE HEIGHTS (Artes de la Rosa Theatre)
Dan Schodel, XANADU (Watertower Theatre)
Paul Roben, FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF THE YEAR:
Tina Barrus, WHITE CHRISTMAS: THE MUSICAL (Plaza Theatre Company)
Suzi Cranford, OUR TOWN (ICT Mainstage-Las Colinas)
Lyle Huchton, CAT IN THE HAT & MUSICAL ADVENTURES OF FLAT STANLEY (Dallas Children’s Theater)
Michael Robinson, BELLS ARE RINGING (ICT Mainstage-Las Colinas)
Paloma H. Young, FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
BEST VOCAL PERFORMANCES OF THE YEAR:
JaceSon Barrus, WHITE CHIRSTMAS: THE MUSICAL (Plaza Theatre Company)
Daron Cockrell, WHITE CHRISTMAS: THE MUSICAL (Plaza Theatre Company)
David Coffee, FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Matt Ransdell, Jr., IN THE HEIGHTS (Artes de la Rosa Theatre)
Asa Somers, FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
BEST ENSEMBLE OF THE YEAR:
The cast of IN THE HEIGHTS (Artes de la Rosa Theatre)- Kevin Acosta, Michael Alonzo, Austin Ray Beck, Jeremy Coca, Jordan Ghanbari, Benicka Janae Grant, Gina Gwozdz, Courtney Harris, Aigner Mathis, Darren McElroy, Addie Morales, Mark Quach, Rebekah Ruiz, Meagan Marie Stewart, Michael Sylvester, Rashad Turley
BEST TAP NUMBER IN A MUSICAL PRODUCTION:
“I love a Piano”, the cast of WHITE CHRISTMAS: THE MUSICAL (Plaza Theatre Company)
BEST VOCAL ENSEMBLE:
Feleceia Benton, Jonathan Bragg, John Campione, Peter DiCesare, Danielle Estes, Walter Lee, Laura Lites, Sara Shelby-Martin for SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD (Uptown Players)
H. Bart McGeehon, Multimedia Design for SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD (Uptown Players)
Ashton McWhirter, Sound Design for XANADU (Watertower Theatre)
Zachary Williamson, Sound Design for FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
ASSISTANT EDITOR IN CHIEF
ASSOCIATE THEATER CRITIC
MARY L. CLARK'S
BEST PLAYS OF 2013:
THE CHAIRS – Kitchen Dog Theater
THE GRAPES OF WRATH – WaterTower Theatre
FLY BY NIGHT – Dallas Theater Center
FLY – Dallas Theater Center
ASSASSINS – Theatre Three
PLAYING WITH FIRE (AFTER FRANKENSTEIN) – L.I.P. Service and 3 Cords Theatre
DETROIT – Kitchen Dog Theater
A RAISIN IN THE SUN – Dallas Theater Center
BEST MUSICALS OF 2013:
FELA! – Dallas Summer Musicals
SPAMALOT – Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
BEST PERFORMANCES OF THE YEAR:
Lee Trull –Edmund – King Lear – Dallas Theater Center. Trull’s character’s intent was clearly defined and his acting was powerful enough to make him one of the only in the production to have a meaningful progression to his demise.
Lydia Mackay – Linda Waterman – Fiction – Amphibian Stage Productions. Mackay held court on natural delivery and you instantly knew who her character was. Mackay’s body language, movement and courage let the audience see her own vulnerability through Linda’s eyes.
Chris Rodenbaugh – Hamlet – Fun House Theatre and Film. Rodenbaugh took hold of the many layers of the Danish prince and made the role his own. With a beautiful speaking voice and well-defined speech, his monologues and soliloquy were powerful and nicely done.
Raphael Parry –Old Man – Kitchen Dog Theater. This tour de force role could only work with the stark openness and vulnerability Parry allowed himself to reveal. A physically demanding role, he left it all onstage each performance.
Rhonda Boutté – Old Woman – Kitchen Dog Theater. Keeping up with her fellow actor every step of the way, Boutté instinctively knows the power of simple reaction, and her comedic timing is sheer perfection.
Joleen Wilkinson – Gracie – Pluto is Listening – Pluto Productions (Out of the Loop Festival). Wilkinson had a chemistry onstage that was spellbindingly real and natural. Her performance in a role that went back and forth in time, spanning several years, was clear and her interactions well-defined and truthful.
Nick Lewis –Benjamin McCoy – Pluto is Listening – Pluto Productions (Out of the Loop Festival). An easy to watch actor, Lewis worked simply and realistically with his fellow actor, allowing the audience to deeply feel his character’s emotions and held them quietly in his hand.
Steven Pounders – Jim Casy – The Grapes of Wrath (WTT). Pounders wore this character like a glove with his easy body language, strong, unhurried manner and voice. With a demeanor that moved between self-assurance and self-abhorrence, Pounders still made this flawed character both likeable and to be admired.
Rick Powers –Coach Powers – All the Great Books (abridged) – Greater Lewisville Community Theatre. One of a trio of talented comedic actors, Powers’ Coach deftly alternated between comedic second banana and leading the play’s “plot”, all with PE whistle and dry wit.
David Coffee –Mr. McClam - Fly By Night – Dallas Theater Center. Coffee played this unassuming, loving man with subtle charm and wisdom. His character’s joy shone above the layers of sadness and pain in such an easy way that the audience instantly fell in love with him.
Asa Somers –Narrator – Fly By Night – Dallas Theater Center. Somers has stage charisma for days, and his ability to control the scenes with body language and voice make him one impressive actor.
Montgomery Sutton – Doug – Gruesome Playground Injuries – Second Thought Theatre. Playing from 8 years old to 38, Sutton reached into his own past or imagined an age he’s yet to reach with pinpoint accuracy. His eyes alone reflected each age and Sutton’s performance was a master lesson in character arc development.
Patrick Richwood – Cook – Fly – Dallas Theater Center. A consummate comedic actor, Richwood took a small scene and stopped the show! Blending easily into the ensemble of pirates, he made the musical all that much better.
Bradley Dean -Hook – Fly – Dallas Theater Center. Urban roughness meets comedic buffoonery – Dean played both sides of this well-known character with aplomb and a touch of sexiness – odd for a character haunted by a crocodile!
Isabela Moner –Wendy – Fly – Dallas Theater Center. At only eleven-years-old when the musical opened, Moner handled the lead role like a consummate professional. Her level of acting & singing was impressive. She showed a natural reality and shifted from deep emotion to comedy easily.
Nick Moore – John Wilkes Booth – Assassins – ONSTAGE in Bedford. A consummate actor, Moore picked up on and used Booth’s apparent flair and flamboyance to great advantage. His was one of the few characters I wish had more onstage time.
Malcolm Payne, Jr. – Harpo – The Color Purple – Denton Community Theatre. Playing all of Harpo’s insecurities and frustrations, Payne had nicely place comedic timing and a magnificent voice that served him well during his duets.
Amber Renae – Nettie– The Color Purple – Denton Community Theatre. Spanning thirty years, Renae beautifully transformed her character from a young girl full of life aspirations to an older woman, now full of wisdom and grace. Her quiet presence onstage was the essence and heart of the musical.
Michael Alonzo –Balthasar The Balladeer – Romeo & Juliet – Artes de la Rosa. His stage presence, his spectacular tenor voice made Alonzo the play’s heartthrob, but his role as the narrator lent the important ominous flavor to the play.
Courtney Harris– Juliet – Romeo & Juliet – Artes de la Rosa. Harris beautifully played all of Juliet’s emotions and showed the character’s realistic transition into womanhood.
Paul Taylor –Charles Guiteau – Assassins – Theatre Three. Playing this assassin between layers of comedy and menacing creepiness, Taylor shifted into this bi-polar character with eerie ease.
Stephanie Dunnam –Winnie – Happy Days – Wingspan Theatre Company. Dunnam’s interpretation was astounding in delivery, and her continual rousing of the character’s positive nature only made her sinking into despair all the more powerful.
Georgia Clinton –Maxine – Death Tax – Amphibian Stage Productions. Not since the character in the play Wit has an actress delivered such a powerful performance while in bed! Clinton’s voice, eyes, body posture and movement all added to her role as a woman both hated and pitied.
Jason Leyva – The Creature – Playing with Fire (after Frankenstein) – L.I.P. Service and 3 Cords Theatre. Uncredited in the playbill, Leyva astounding interpretation of Frankenstein’s creature was simply breathtaking. The complexity and harsh use of his voice was daunting, and his role’s physicality was equally as strenuous. But it was Leyva’s deeply heartbreaking emotions that transformed the audience’s feeling for this character.
Tina Parker –Mary – Detroit – Kitchen Dog Theater. Raw emotion poured out of Parker’s body and mouth – a stellar performance of a woman whose very world has been pulled out from under.
Jenny Ledel –Sharon – Detroit – Kitchen Dog Theater. Playing this shape-shifting character, Ledel layered her performance on unattacted emotions for one who floats through life on a whim.
Ptosha Storey –Ruth Younger – A Raisin in the Sun – Dallas Theater Center. Storey played Ruth with quiet intensity and a reverence for her family and her beliefs.
Liz Mikel – Lena Younger – A Raisin in the Sun – Dallas Theater Center. A performance that should be deemed a classic. Mikel embodied Lena with the wisdom of the ages and a powerful love and defense of her family.
Chamblee Ferguson – Russ – Clybourne Park – Dallas Theater Center. A tour de force performance, Ferguson played the anguished father and husband with bleeding, raw emotion.
Shane Strawbridge – Shirley – Too Many Cooks – Circle Theatre. One of the area’s best comedic actors, Strawbridge played only a bit milder role here. His collaboration with David H.M. Lambert as akin to famous comedy duos of the past.
David H.M. Lambert – Alfonse Feghetti – Too Many Cooks – Circle Theatre. Lambert surprised me with his comedic ability as I’ve known him in more stoic roles. His work with Strawbridge was sublime comedy gold.
Eric Dobbins –Frank Plunkett – Too Many Cooks – Circle Theatre. A master of physical comedy, his pratfalls, turns, sight gags and impeccable timing make him, again and again, a true pleasure to watch and wonderfully entertaining.
Randy Pearlman-Irving Bubbalowe – Too Many Cooks – Circle Theatre. Pearlman had subtle comedic mannerisms, gestures and a frantic nature he reflected hilariously. The physicality of the role was immense and Pearlman’s ability to keep up with the task was simply astounding.
Tim Brawner -Knight of the Round Table/Male Ensemble – Spamalot- Greater Lewisville Community Theatre. Brawner had exuberant stage presence, marvelous dance ability and let his comedic freak flag fly! A joy to watch perform.
Derek Whitener –Historian/Not Dead Fred/Herbert/Minstrel – Spamalot- Greater Lewisville Community Theatre. This busy actor separated his four characters beautifully, and the more-than-flamboyant Herbert was hilariously played within the comedy lines without going into pure stereotype (though the last weekend, I believe anything went!).
Van Quattro –Lennie – Of Mice and Men – Theatre Arlington. Played with a pure innocence only a man such as Lennie could have, Quattro performed him with dignity and never a moment of stupidity or ignorance. Lennie’s level of understanding was clearly defined and respected.
Elias Taylorson –George – Of Mice and men – Theatre Arlington. Taylorson’s George was a straight-forward man, and he played him with simple honesty and a trust in his and Lennie’s future. A good contrast to Quattro’s Lennie, the role showed a more subtle performance by Taylorson
BEST DIRECTION OF THE YEAR:
Bruce R. Coleman – Director – Assassins – Theatre Three. Coleman tackled this complex, difficult musical & made it accessible for the audience. Clear direction of intent, precise definition of the characters and an emotional understanding of the musical’s purpose set this production as one of the year’s best.
Becca Johnson-Spinos – Director – Circus Tracks – Outcry Theatre (Our of the Loop Festival). Guiding a most unusual, colorful, imaginative, thought-provoking and enjoyable theatre journey, all in one hour, Johnson-Spinos set a high level of artistic vision, physical staging and visceral performance style.
Kelsey Ervi – Director– Ask Questions Later – Rite of Passage Theatre Company. In a powerful and disturbing work, Ervi guided her three actors with a firm hand and solid intent. The candor of her direction and her interpretation of the play’s message.
Joel Ferrell – Director– Gruesome Playground Injuries – Second Thought Theatre. In a play about self-destruction, Ferrell kept the storyline strongly in focus, examining the relationship between two characters spanning thirty years clearly and with little extraneous emotion.
Jeffrey Seller – Director– Fly – Dallas Theater Center. Flying children, huge, rolling bamboo set pieces, big music and a big story – all seemed easily handled by Seller in his first time directing.
Adam Adolfo– Director – Romeo & Juliet – Artes de la Rosa. Adolfo’s staging was naturalistic, moving actors easily and quickly, and set changes without blackouts and fades. Actors played characters with a more realistic air than most Shakespeare productions I’ve seen.
Tim Johnson – Director-– Detroit – Kitchen Dog Theater. Completely natural in feel, the audience simply knew these people. The most realistic depiction of an urban neighborhood in upheaval. Johnson brought his actors to their very best .
BEST MUSICAL DIRECTION OF THE YEAR:
Kurt Crowley – Music Director – Fly – Dallas Theater Center. A huge part of this musical, the beat of drums set the emotional tone – and the big sound came from musicians who were stuffed under the apron of the stage!
Sonny Franks – Music Director – The Grapes of Wrath- Watertower Theatre. Leading a small band playing guitars, mandolin, banjo, fiddle and bass, the music came directly from the time period and became another character in the play.
BEST CHOREOGRAPHY OF THE YEAR:
Austin Ray Beck and Rebekah Ruiz – Choreography – Romeo & Juliet – Artes de la Rosa. While not highly difficult dance moves, Beck and Ruiz created work that made each dancer shine and every dance look spectacular. Precision over flash was the order of the day and it was well worth the effort.
Brandon Harvey –Choreographer – Spamalot – Greater Lewisville Community Theatre. GLCT’s stage is small – I mean small – and Harvey’s ability to get eighteen+ singers/dancers to move in unision, in precision and look like they knew what they were doing is a huge accomplishment. The numbers were complex but easy enough for the inexperienced to look good.
BEST DESIGNERS OF THE YEAR:
Jeffrey Schmidt –Set Design – Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo – Theatre Three. Though difficult to interpret, Schmidt’s set was heavy on symbolism and forced the viewer into a war-torn world gone completely cockeyed and mad.
Russell Parkman –Set Design – Penelope – Undermain Theatre. Set at the bottom of an empty swimming pool, Parkman’s design placed the audience directly into their claustrophobic dwelling.
Seth Reiser – Lighting Design – King Lear – Dallas Theater Center. If only for the storm scene in Lear, Reiser’s jaw-dropping spectacle of light had to be witnessed to truly know the wonder of his design.
Broken Chord – Sound Design/Original Music – King Lear – Dallas Theater Center. Going beyond traditional instrumentation, Broken Chord delved into more industrial and Aboriginal discordant sounds as a jarring compliment to Lear’s disintegration.
Bob Lavallee- Set Design – Fiction – Amphibian Stage Productions. Unlike some of his past works of bold color and stark lines, this design used natural wood and open, organic space to fulfill the playwright’s need for memory and identity to set precedence.
Scott Osborne – Set Design – The Chairs – Kitchen Dog Theater. A dingy-dark whirlwind of doors and windows, Osborne firmly set the oddity of Ionesco’s work and the home of its two characters. Genius staging came solely because of Osborne’s work.
Chris Pickart – Set Design – The Grapes of Wrath – WaterTower Theatre. Simple in its complexity, the stage area was opened wide with panels of gapping, broken slats that represented the hopes and lives of the characters who took shelter within its walls.
Leann Ellis – Lighting Design – The Grapes of Wrath – WaterTower Theatre. Subtle yet powerful, Ellis’ design flowed from dim lighting through the settling fog to the stark white of LEDs to convey the heat.
Dane Laffrey – Set Design – Fly By Night – Dallas Theater Center. Literally spanning the height, width and breadth of the Kalita Humphrey stage, the set design held secret passageways, entrances, spiral staircase and an open, urban setting for this story of hope, new beginnings, love and the power of light.
Bob Lavallee – Set Design – Gruesome Playground Injuries – Second Thought Theatre. Set in a small space and staged in the round, the symbolic pile-up of medical furniture and devices set the tone for the play the moment one entered the room. Simple but inventive utilization of duel mirrors reflected the audience and the character back to us, and the connection we all share.
Chris Robinson –Video Design – Assassins – ONSTAGE in Bedford. I appreciated Robinson’s vision to support the musical’s theme. Still images interspersed with video effectively set the tone for each scene.
John Arnone – Set Design – Profanity – Undermain Theatre. Simple in design, the set visually indicated the theme of the play brilliantly.
Clare Floyd DeVries – Set Design – Detroit – Kitchen Dog Theater. DeVries built the backyards of my neighborhood period. Made natural by the use of real grass and realistic outdoor walls and patios, the audience became guests at the characters’ backyard parties.
Bob Lavalle – Set Design – A Raisin in the Sun AND Clybourne Park- Dallas Theater Center. This man simply does not sleep!! His living room area set for both plays, and the detail to the other rooms and hallways we only see glimpses of was intense in detail and realism. The audience was made to feel at home in A Raisin in the Sun, and then unwelcome at Clybourne Park. Its intermission transformation was an amazing and entertaining choreography of set change.
Karen Parry –Costume Design – A Raisin in the Sun- Dallas Theater Center. Parry got each character just right. The outdated clothing of Mama Lena to the modern and slightly daring pieces of a new decade for Beneatha, each reflected the time period, the class and the income of this loving family.
Beowulf Boritt –Set Design – A Christmas Carol – Dallas Theater Center. Filling the entire staging and audience area, the massive set clearly reflected both the encroaching industrial age and the hardships of the lower working class. A more visually striking definition of Dickens’ message could not be made.
Broken Chord – Sound Design – A Christmas Carol – Dallas Theater Center. Banging metal, clanging pipes, whistles and bells and industrial noise reverberated through the theatre, making the audience one with the factory and its inhabitants. The feeling of being surrounded by the play’s environment was heightened by Broken Chord’s design.
ASSOCIATE THEATER CRITIC
TRADITIONAL AWARD PICKS:
BEST PLAY: RED (Dallas Theater Center)
BEST MUSICAL: SPAMALOT (Greater Lewisville Community Theatre)
BEST OVERALL PRODUCTION OF 2013: FLY (Dallas Theater Center)
Clay White for SPAMALOT (Greater Lewisville Community Theatre)
BEST COMEDIC PERFORMANCE:
Gregg Gerardi as Sir Lancelot in SPAMALOT (Greater Lewisville Community Theatre)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Bob Hess as Bart Henley in SO HELP ME GOD! (Theatre Three)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Stephanie Felton as The Lady of the Lake in SPAMALOT (GLCT)
BEST FEATURED ACTOR:
Derek Whitener as Herbert/Historian/Lead Minstrel in SPAMALOT (GLCT)
BEST VOCAL PERFORMANCE:
Kerry Conte as Winifred Banks in MARY POPPINS (National Tour)
BEST VOCAL DUET:
Gregory Hullet & Stephanie Felton, "The Song that Goes Like This", SPAMALOT (GLCT)
BEST LEADING MAN:
J. Anthony Crane as Oscar Madison in THE ODD COUPLE (Dallas Theater Center)
BEST LEADING LADY:
Nicole Weber as Kerren Happuch-Lane in SO HELP ME GOD! (Theatre Three)
BEST COSTUME DESIGN:
Bruce Richard Coleman for SO HELP ME GOD! (Theatre Three)
BEST SCENIC DESIGN:
Tim Mackabee for THE ODD COUPLE (Dallas Theater Center)
BEST SOUND DESIGN:
Darron L. West for PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (National Tour)
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN:
Tyler Micoleau for THE ODD COUPLE (Dallas Theater Center) \
Steven Hoggett for PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (National Tour)
UNCONVENTIONAL AWARD PICKS:
Most Innovative Production Design:
Director Joel Ferrel & Scenic Designer Bob Lavallee for Red (Dallas Theater Center)
Traditionally, Red has been presented in a traditional proscenium style setting where the audience is detached, viewing the action on the stage. Director Joel Ferrell had a different vision. In what could be considered a logistical gamble, Ferrell staged the entire production in the rehearsal hall of the Wyly Theater'a space never before used for a performance. Designer Bob Lavallee recreated Rothko's studio in this intimate space. The attention to detail was simply exquisite. From the canvas stretching table to Rothko's rolling paint cart, we weren't looking at mere set pieces, we were seeing fully functional tools that would be at home in any artist's studio.
Most Compelling Historical Figure:
Kieran Connolly as Mark Rothko in Red (Dallas Theater Center)
Without qualification, I can affirm that Connolly's Rothko was the most compelling character I have seen in many years. This show left a mark. Yes, the genius of Mark Rothko, the script by John Logan, and the innovative staging all had a part to play. But it was Connolly's delivery that made the mark. Few men possess the maturity, insight, and depth to pull off such a challenging role. Connolly proved to be one of those men.
Practically Perfect in Every Way as a Leading Lady:
Madeline Trumble as Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins (Natl Tour)
Trumble as Mary Poppins was picture perfect for the role. From her seemingly miraculous appearance in the Banks home to her magical departure at the show's end, Trumble was the impeccable representation of Mary Poppins. Every pose, movement, and gesture was picture perfect.
Best All Around Performer:
Con O’Shea-Creal as Bert in Mary Poppins (National Tour)
Hands down, Con O'Shea-Creal was the star of the night. As our guide, narrator, and Mary's constant support, O'Shea-Creal was perfect. He embodied his role, and loved every moment of it. From his acting, singing, and phenomenal dancing, O’Shea-Creal has it all.
Obsessive Compulsion to Detail Award:
Timothy R. Mackabee for The Odd Couple (Dallas Theater Center)
The Odd Couple has traditionally been done on a proscenium stage. Mackabee created a pseudo-theater in the round experience with an innovative thrust-configuration unlike anything I've seen before. This set was far more than a mere facade visible to the audience. Through Oscar's windows you could see across the alley into the neighboring apartment, complete with window dressing and furniture. Through doors the audience only briefly sees fully realized rooms, creating a greater sense of realism for both the audience and cast member. The capstone of the set is the extension of the room's crown molding that extends over the stage creating an invisible fourth-wall, giving the audience the very real sense that they are looking into this apartment from the outside.
Electrifying Chemistry Award:
Michael Mastro and J. Anthony Crane in The Odd Couple (Dallas Theater Center)
The chemistry between Mastro and Crane was unmistakable. Despite all the over the top comedy, annoyance, and suppressed rage, the audience knew that this relationship had a foundational friendship that would weather any storm. These two actors were marvelous together on stage.
Comic Genius Diva Award:
Julie Johnson as Lily Darnely in So Help Me God! (Theatre Three)
The very nature of her role demanded that she be larger than life and Johnson captured the essence of the diva fully. In the first act she bullied and manipulated everyone from the director to the author to the cast, twisting the production into her own image, much to the dismay of the fictional author, George Herrick, played by Joel Frapart. Where Johnson truly shone was not in her screaming rants and tirades but in her drunken and hung-over stupor in Act 2. Truly brilliant. Her entrance at the top of the act was the height of comedy, no words necessary.
Comic Genius Pirate Award:
John Sanders as Black Stache in Peter and the Starcatcher (National Tour)
Sanders was a grease-painted caricature of comedic piracy and exemplified near perfection in comic-timing and physical comedy. It was clear by crowd response throughout the night that he was the audience favorite. Slapstick comedy gold.
Most Impressive Use of Limited Space:
Joseph Cummings and Ken Davis for Spamalot (Greater Lewisville Community Theatre)
Scenic Designer Joseph Cummings worked his magic in this small venue to recreate the feast hall of Camelot, a daunting (and taunting) French castle, a magical lake, a plague-infested middle-age slum, and a very, ahem, expensive forest. Using solid design in limited space along with the power of suggestion was greatly aided with excellent lighting design by Ken Davis. These designers created convincing scenes that augmented and never distracted from the action on the stage. This is a challenging goal for any production, and all the more when you are competing for precious proscenium space with a large ensemble cast in a small venue!
The “How Did He Do That?!?” Award:
Brandon Harvey for Spamalot (Greater Lewisville Community Theatre)
Choreographer Brandon Harvey accomplished the impossible (as he did throughout the night) by having fast-paced, physically demanding numbers for a large ensemble with no collisions, at least as far as I could see. The laws of physics were not just defied, they were thoroughly sullied!
The Most Elaborate Coming Out of Closet Scene:
Gregg Gerardi’s His Name Is Lancelot in Spamalot (GLCT).
Amazing choreography, elaborate costuming by Costume Designer Stefanie Glenn, but best of all, Gerardi’s progression from denial to full Copacabana showgirl was a showstopper.
Premiere Most Likely to Hit it Big on Broadway:
Jeffrey Seller’s Fly (Dallas Theater Center)
Biggest Gamble and Best Payoff in Production Design:
Jeffrey Seller & Pichon Baldinu for the rigging in Fly (Dallas Theater Center)
ASSOCIATE THEATER CRITIC
BEST MUSICAL: 9 to 5: The Musical - Garland Summer Musicals
BEST PLAY: August: Osage County - Denton Community Theatre
BEST DIRECTOR: Mildred A Peveto for August Osage County - Denton Community Theatre
BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL: Morgan Mabry Mason as "Judy Bernly", 9 to 5: The Musical (Garland Summer Musicals)
BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY: Jeannene Abney as "Violet Weston", August: Osage County (Denton Community Theatre)
BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL: Evan Beggs as "Ren McCormack", Footloose the Musical (Grand Prairie Arts Council)
BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY: Eric Dobbins as "The Actor", The Woman in Black (Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Erin Hardy as "Rusty", Footloose the Musical (Grand Prairie Arts Council)
BEST CHOREOGRAPHY: Kara Bowman and Miranda Kilbride for Footloose the Musical (Grand Prairie Arts Council)
BEST SCENIC DESIGN: Mike Strecher for August Osage County (Denton Community Theatre)
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Rebecca Roberts for Kiss Me Kate (Artisan Center Theatre)
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN: Bryan S. Douglas for The Woman in Black (Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre)
ASSOCIATE THEATER CRITIC
RICHARD S. BLAKE'S
2013 was a banner year for live theatre in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and beyond. From new plays and musicals to contemporary standards and reinvented American masterpieces, I had the wonderful opportunity to enjoy them all. It was my pleasure to serve the Arts community again this year, and I look forward to an extraordinary 2014 with the chance again to be exposed to some of the richest and most diverse works of art anywhere in the country! Here are my picks for the “Best in DFW Theatre” for 2013:
BEST MUSICAL (TIE): WEST SIDE STORY (National Tour)
Starring Addison Reid Coe as Tony and MaryJoanna Grisso as Maria, This refreshed version of the well-known classic was a feast for the eyes and ears. The talent was spectacular, the production quality was off the charts and the overall experience was truly engaging. This was an evening of entertainment I was excited to have had the pleasure of experiencing and was the best example of true professional musical theatre I had seen in over 20 years!
BEST MUSICAL (TIE): HANK WILLIAMS: LOST HIGHWAY (Watertower Theatre)
A true collection of highly talented performers, exciting historical references and a contemporary presentation made this show my pick. The vocals and acting were unmatched and the staging was just exciting. An intriguing combination of a musical/revue/documentary, you were kept engaged, entertained and memorized throughout the entire performance!
Joe Sturgeon, RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER, THE MUSICAL (Wishing Star Productions)
Direction in this new musical was executed without flaw or distraction, and he managed to recreate magical television moments live on the Majestic stage. The musical was very stylized in its presentation, mimicking everything from the designs of the locations, costumes and even the characters. Every aspect of the show was done perfectly and was a pleasure to watch.
BEST DESIGNER: Bob Lavallee, XANADU (WaterTower Theatre)
The scenic design by Bob Lavallee was grand and worked splendidly within the unique WaterTower Mainstage space. With lighted panels that rotated, a raked stage with a circular ramp created for skating, a high catwalk above the stage where the band sat and the iconic Xanadu logo hung were just a few of the amazing elements that were perfectly designed for the show.
John Campione as Valentin, KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN (Uptown Players)
Playing a member of a resistance who is imprisoned in jail, Valentin found himself developing feelings for his homosexual cell mate even though he himself is heterosexual. John Campione’s portrayal was superb and drew you in every moment he was on stage. He chose unique character nuances that allowed for a very deep arc of his character that truly embraced the deep and confusing feelings of the story. He is one of the area’s most stunning young talents and it will be exciting to watch him shine again in more productions!
Ta'Rea Campbell as Deloris Van Cartier, SISTER ACT (National Tour)
This young woman was simply stunning in the leading role. Carrying this huge role on her shoulders, she captivated you every moment with her powerful vocals and stage presence. Her power vocally was only matched by her comedic timing and acting expertise. This powerhouse performer will definitely be leading many more shows in the future and I will be in line at every one to see them!
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Max Swarner as Henrik Egerman, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC (PFamily Arts)
Max Swarner took you on a ride of pure perfection in his portrayal of the anguished Henrick. His vocals, physical expressions and line delivery were superbly done and left you with a deep knowledge of the character. He took a role that can be overdone or lost in the story and made it shine! Full disclosure, I cast Mr. Swarner in a show after this performance and it was evident I had made the right choice in this young actor... once again knocked my socks off!
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Lee Jamison as Donna and Oolie, CITY OF ANGELS (Theatre Three)
Ms. Jamison is nothing less than a powerhouse singer! In her singing of “You Can Always Count on Me” I was just on the edge of my seat in admiration. Playing two different secretaries, diametrically opposed from each other, her vocal ability was matched in awesomeness only by her acting chops. She was a true pleasure to see on stage and made these roles her own with passion and gusto!
BEST ENSEMBLE: SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD (Uptown Players)
With no “real” storyline or plot as in most book musicals, this perfectly assembled ensemble took the production to superior heights. It has to be one of the strongest, most talented, powerful musical ensembles I've ever had the chance to see perform. Every song, by every cast member in solos, duets or company numbers was nothing less than pure theatre magic all night!
BEST MUSICAL: ALTAR BOYZ, (Theatre Arlington)
A musical about a Christian boy band lit the stage on fire with this high energy musical at Theatre Arlington. Featuring a superbly talented cast and expert design team, the show was a hit for all ages and “Rocked” Arlington to its’ core!
Michael Serrecchia, BELLS ARE RINGING, (ICT Mainstage-Las Colinas)
Mr. Serrecchia shows us again why he’s of DFW’s most sought after Director’s with this exciting production. His talent in Direction shined brighter than the spotlights in the theatre and was deserving of all the thunderous applause after each and every performance. Once again, Michael Serrecchia delivered a hit with Bells Are Ringing.
Aaron Adair as Robert Martin, THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, Sherman Community Players Mr. Adair brought a constantly high level of skill and energy to this production. Adair playfully and skillfully incorporates his big, white, toothy, commercial smile throughout the show, thereby allowing the audience to believe in his character. His tap dancing with George in “Cold Feet” and roller skating in “Accident Waiting to Happen” showed Adair’s athleticism on stage.
Nikki McDonald as Woman #1, EDGES, (PFamily Arts)
Ms. McDonald knocked your socks off in this exciting musical presented by PFamily Arts. As Jake McCready, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN wrote “Nikki McDonald, however, stands out as an all-around super star. She has the ability to belt her face off which in turn will melt your face off.” I couldn’t have said it any better!
BEST FEATURED ACTOR:
Ethan Dunn as Vernon’s Voices, THEY'RE PLAYING OUR SONG, (Onstage in Bedford)
With his vibrant, energetic and excellent vocals in a role with NO dialogue, Mr. Dunn added an element of true professionalism to a role that could have been overlooked. His presence on stage added outstanding depth to an already top notch production.
BEST FEATURED ACTRESS:
Lorens Portalatin as Apothecary/Dancer, ROMEO & JULIET, (Artes de la Rosa)
As one of DFW’s most exciting up-and-coming young actresses, Ms. Portalatin commanded the stage in the show, yet never when the focus wasn’t on her. It was a truly stunning performance and I’m sure we’ll see this rising star on some of the area’s largest stages very, very soon!
BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON, (Ohlook Performing Arts Center)
Campy, youthful, energetic, fun are just a few of the many ways to describe this wonderful production by Ohlook Performing Arts Center. They once again produced a show with great talent and exciting direction with this truly well-rounded ensemble cast. Every member had a shining moment in the show and you were always entertained!
Uptown Players’ production of YELLOW by Del Shores SWEPT MY CATEGORY!! I don’t think I’ve ever done this in a “Best Of” edition, but every performer, technical element, designer and member of the artistic and production teams assembled and presented a true “New American Drama” on the stage of the Kalita Humphreys Theater! It was a true pleasure to review the show AND see it again two more times during the run. It was a masterpiece on stage and everyone involved deserved the standing ovations they received!
BEST PLAY: YELLOW
BEST DIRECTION: Del Shores
BEST ACTOR: Jeff Plunk as Bobby Westmoreland
BEST ACTRESS: Kristin McCullough as Kate Westmoreland
BEST SUPPORING ACTOR: Justin Duncan as Dayne Westmoreland
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Zoe Kerr as Gracie Westmoreland
BEST FEATURED ACTOR: Grant Bower as Kendall Parker
BEST FEATURED ACTRESS: Deborah Jones as Sister Timothea Parker
PLAYS (NON EQUITY)
BEST PLAY: PROOF (ONSTAGE in Bedford)
This gripping play with stellar performers, outstanding designers and expert direction was an evening of drama not to be missed. You were awestruck by the amazing set, kept on the edge of your seat with the highly charged, emotional acting and truly entertained by a stellar example of true community theatre excellence!
Kelly Thomas MATT & BEN, (Echo Theatre)
Kelly Thomas’ direction of two female actors portraying male superstar actors was impeccable. This farce could have gone over the top, but excellent direction kept it right where it should have been. This was an “under the radar” hidden gem that if you got the chance to see it were thoroughly entertained.
Edgar Estrada MEN ON THE VERGE OF A HIS-PANIC BREAKDOWN, (Theatre New West)
Mr. Estrada is another shining example of DFW young talent to watch out for. With two opposing characters to portray he did it with the finesse and talent of a truly seasoned performer and led you on a truly spectacular journey throughout the evening. This young man is destined for stardom and it will be a pleasure to say “I saw him in...”!
Jessica Renee Russell as Kayleen, GRUESOME PLAYGROUND INJURIES (STT)
If you missed this talented young woman on stage, you missed excellence in action! Taking you through a myriad of ages, deep seated emotion and physical pain, Ms. Russell was simply amazing to watch. Every moment of her presence on stage was a true pleasure and I look forward to seeing her much more in the future!
ASSOCIATE THEATER CRITIC
BEST DRAMA: Our Town, ICT Mainstage-Las Colinas
BEST COMEDY: See How They Run, Plaza Theatre Company
BEST DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL: G. Aaron Siler, Man of La Mancha, Plaza Theatre Company
BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL: Joel Lagrone, Alonso Quijana/Miguel Cervantes in Man of La Mancha, Plaza Theatre Company
BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL: May Allen, Trav'lin', the New 1930s Harlem Musical, Jubilee Theatre
Best SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL: Shannon Loose, Aldonza/Dulcinea, Man of La Mancha, Plaza Theatre Company
Best SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL: Michael McMillian, Sancho Panza, Man of La Mancha, Plaza Theatre Company
BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY: Ken Orman, Stage Manager, Our Town, ICT Mainstage-Las Colinas
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A PLAY: Frida Espinosa-Müller, Nurse, Romeo and Julieta, Cara Mia Theatre Company
BEST COMEDIC ACTRESS: Joy Millard, See How They Run, Plaza Theatre Company
BEST COMEDIC SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Erica Maroney, See How They Run, Plaza Theatre Company
BEST ENSEMBLE: Our Town, ICT Mainstage-Las Colinas
BEST ADAPTATION: Romeo and Julieta, Cara Mia Theatre Company
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN: Nikki Deshea Smith, Trav'lin', the New 1930s Harlem Musical, Jubilee Theatre
BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS: Christopher Ash (Projection Designer), Trav'lin', the New 1930s Harlem Musical, Jubilee Theatre
BEST VOCAL PERFORMANCES:
- Trav'lin', performed by May Allen and Marvin Matthews, Trav'lin', the New 1930s Harlem Musical, Jubilee Theatre
- Basin Street Lover, performed by May Allen, Trav'lin', the New 1930s Harlem Musical; Jubilee Theatre
- The Impossible Dream, performed by Joel Lagrone, Man of La Mancha, Plaza Theatre Company
BEST AUDIENCE: Trav'lin', the New 1930s Harlem Musical, Jubilee Theatre
ASSOCIATE THEATER CRITIC
It was an interesting year in DFW theater, by which I mean, most everything I saw or reviewed this year was interesting, fun, thought-provoking, and worthy of awards. It’s clear that normal award shows focus on Best Actor, Best Director, etc., but I was looking for productions which stand out long after the show as great artistic events by ensembles and producing companies. I could have written much about many other shows I saw this year, but these are my top picks this year. What I remember as an viewer long after a show closes are the intangible things; how an ensemble worked and had fun together, how a theater made the whole space in and outside the stage part of the total experience, and the little magical moments, the Jewelry, that are easy to remember. My choices in awards are based on these.
BEST CHRISTMAS MUSICAL:
JUBILATION: THE MUSICAL, Jubilee Theater
We all see and enjoy and sit through the regular classical Christmas shows every year and hope to see something different, a new way, a new spirit, a new interpretation, or an exceptional performance. It may be required for theaters to give audiences what they want to see, but it’s hard to make A Christmas Carol new and interesting without a LOT of hard work! Jubilation is a new work by Tre Garrett and company, which combines a positive Christmas message and a wonderful little story with incredibly jazzy and interesting arrangements of old standards by Geno Young and an outstanding cast of singers. This was a totally enjoyable evening in the Christmas season.
BEST SOLO PERFORMANCE:
Ebony Marshall-Oliver in NEAT, Jubilee Theater
This sequel to Charlayne Woodard’s powerful Pretty Fire, which I reviewed last year as one of my favorites of the year, an autobiography of Woodard and her summers in the deep south when violent racism was still alive. In Neat, the story is about a special cousin of Charlayne who comes to New York to live with them. Ebony Marshall-Oliver playing all the characters as she tells the story like she’s around a camp fire continues to show me her power as an actor who can take the stage and command your all-encompassing attention for 2-hours. Her A Capella singing has a purity and sweetness combined with a deep, balsy resonance that allows you to listen to her stories and songs for hours. I think she would get my vote as Best Actress in both drama and musical this year, but that’s not my award purpose here.
Mark-Brian Sonna and MBS Productions
Mark-Brian is one of the 2-3 most courageous producers in the Metroplex. Never afraid to take an audience into the abyss, he consistently chooses risqué, avant-garde, and mind-challengly escapist shows to audiences who can let go of pre-conceived notions and go with the flow. This year I reviewed TRIUMPH OF LOVE, ADAM AND EVE IN THE GARDEN OF DELIGHTS, OR LOVE, and DANTE: INFERNO, which I consider to be a masterpiece of the small Cottage stage. It always astounds me how he creates so much atmosphere and story in such a tiny and non-technical place. Mark-Brian may well be to DFW stage what the Cohen Brothers are to film.
BEST FESTIVAL NEW PLAY:
Purgatorio by Ariel Dorfman at OUT OF THE LOOP FESTIVAL
This was my first exposure to the Festival and I probably could award them with something about courage and opportunity for playwrights and actors, but this award goes to this lovely little piece about two people, Man and Woman, aka Jason and Madea, who work out their major life failures while in Purgatory. It’s a psychologically powerful piece where you’re never quite sure who’s playing the manipulator and who’s being manipulated, but it’s a riveting story and Nathan Autrey directed Joey Folsom and Whitney Holotik in powerful performances where they had to continually change their persona while playing intense, devastating character flaws. Perfect play for the intimate setting!
MOST INTENSE DRAMA:
A STEADY RAIN, MainStage Irving- Las Colinas
In this little black-box theater, Shane Beeson (Joey) and Scott Nixon (Denny) played two Chicago cops in this piece by Keith Huff. Directed by Ashley H. White, these two actors played cops who were faced with the kinds of inside-PD corruption we’ve come to see in TV where the cop has to do the wrong thing for the right reasons. In A Steady Rain, we see two best friends since childhood descend into a maelstrom that consumes them both. It’s intense because they’re in a bad place in the opening scene and just keep getting worse, and yet, through this we see both struggle to retain their friendship and “love,” as only cop-partners can understand, and we see each reach for their last thread of humanity. It was powerfully directed, acted and a great vehicle for story-telling.
MOST UNUSUAL AND INTERESTING SETTING:
IN A FOREST, DARK AND DEEP, Second Thought Theatre
This piece by Neil LaBute is a dark & deep story about a brother and sister who discover things about themselves and each other that none of us would ever want. How they deal with it and still retain their relationship is the story. Regan Adair directed Heather Henry and Jeremy Schwartz in very powerful performances. BUT, this award is for most unusual and interesting setting, or what I learned to call Atmosphere. The Design Team and Adair created a set, which allowed us to see into the sides of a forest cottage from all sides, jammed with books and knick-knacks, in the midst of which the acting occurs. In fact the whole “cottage” was built on the stage so we could see it in 3-dimensions. Aaron Johansen used intense rays of light beams which created shadows above, around and inside the cottage, low-intensity lamps inside, and darkness from clouds and trees to set the ominous tones. John Flores used what I think might have been live internet radio on a table radio to fill the air space with a tone I can only describe as similar to Play Misty for Me, a melancholy movie with Clint Eastwood. It was the best example of ALL the technical elements coming together perfectly with the story and performances. This tale would not have the same impact without those atmospheric elements.
BEST PLAY BY NEW AND YOUTHFUL PLAYWRIGHT:
THE CATCH by Jordan E. Cooper, DVA Productions, Inc.
This piece by L.D. Bell High School student, Jordan E. Cooper, is a really powerful story about a teenager in Chicago dealing with life in the streets and deeply flawed, yet loving, parents. He was 15-years old at the time! His theme might have been “what is time? We all live on borrowed time and we must make the best of it, a relatively common theme.” But Cooper’s story put this into a very accessible form within a simple family dynamic and made it very personal, with smooth flowing lines and easy-to-follow character arcs. Without this knowledge, you would have thought it came from a much older and experienced playwright. Cooper is now Artist-In-Residence at Jubilee Theater where he’s doing great things as he becomes an Artist for the next generation.
BEST TREATMENT OF HISTORICALLY ACCURATE SUBJECT MATTER:
GABRIEL, Stage West
Stage West is a theater where I know I will consistently have a great experience, from dinner before the play through the play to the contemporary art hanging in the large lobby as I leave. Their production work is always top-notch. Their actors are always professional quality, even if they’re not pros, and their design and direction is always interesting in itself. In Gabriel, Jim Covault directed this Moira Buffini story about German occupation of the Channel Islands off the coast of Normandy during WWII. The atrocities there were often as bad as German occupation in the rest of Europe, but has been overshadowed by the horrible Jewish atrocities we know well. This was a fiction about true events between the occupying Germans and the largely English residents there. Read my Reviewto see the details, but I will say here that this production team created a very interesting story, which played like a Murder Mystery, that revealed this historical story, a nice combination of history and dramatic Art.
BEST PRODUCTION COMPANY: Contemporary Theatre of Dallas
There are theaters that critics come to know they’ll see a good show, regardless of what they produce. I have a few of those in mind throughout the Metroplex and would love to write about all of them here. There’s something about the producing company that brings in production teams and casts who seem to have all their ducks arranged so that all parts of the production from the lobby to the dressing rooms hit the mark for every show. This year CTD is my stand-out. I saw and reviewed ANGELS FALL, THE SUNSHINE BOYS, & DIVISION AVENUE. In fact, Division Avenue was actually a last-minute production they threw in at the end of the season, a challenge for any theater, and they pulled it off perfectly. All three of those shows met all the requirements that drove my award selections, productions that stand out long after the show as great artistic events by ensembles and producing companies.
ASSOCIATE THEATER CRITIC
BONNIE K. DAMAN'S
Clue: The Musical, Runway Theatre
Dustin Simington, Clue: The Musical, Runway Theatre
Caitlin Leblo, Bye, Bye, Birdie, Plaza Theatre Company
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The 2013 theatre season in the metroplex area was just incredible. We saw a lot of great shows while also seeing the DFW talent pool build to numbers that we have never seen before.. I’ve never been as proud of my local theatre community as I was this year. Below are my Best Of picks for this year’s. Good luck to everyone as we end this season and remember to keep making great art for all to enjoy.
BEST EQUITY MUSICAL OF THE YEAR: FLY (Dallas Theater Center)
BEST EQUITY PLAY OF THE YEAR: RED (The Dallas Theater Center)
BEST NON EQUITY PLAY OF THE YEAR: A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (Runway Theatre
BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL (Equity): Cheryl Dennison for THE MUSIC MAN (Lyric Stage)
BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY(Non Equity): Bruce R. Coleman for OUR TOWN (Mainstage Irving Las Colinas)
BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY (Equity): Jac Alder for OTHER DESERT CITIES (Theatre Three)
BEST LEAD ACTOR IN A MUSICAL: Ben Phillips as King Arthur in SPAMALOT (Greater Lewisville Community Theatre)
BEST LEAD ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL: Danielle Estes in SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD (Uptown Players)
BEST LEAD ACTOR IN A PLAY: Dennis Raveneau as W.E.B. Du Bois in KNOCK ME A KISS (Jubilee Theatre)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A PLAY: Scott Zenreich in THE BIBLE: THE COMPLETE WORD OF GOD ABRIDGED (Amphibian Stage Productions)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL: Stephanie Felton as Sue in BELLS ARE RINGING (Mainstage Irving Las Colinas)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A PLAY: Cindee Mayfield as Silda Gauman in OTHER DESERT CITIES (Theatre Three)
BEST SET DESIGN FOR A MUSICAL: Anna Louizos for FLY (Dallas Theater Center)
BEST SET DESIGN FOR A PLAY: Kevin Brown for YELLOW (Uptown Players)
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN FOR A PLAY: Nikki Deshae Smith for NEAT (Jubilee Theatre)
BEST SOUND DESIGN FOR A MUSICAL: Danica Bergeron for SPAMALOT (Greater Lewsiville Community Theatre)
BEST SOUND DESIGN FOR A PLAY: David Lanza for NEAT (Jubilee Theatre)
BEST CHOREOGRAPHEY: Ann Neiman for THE MUSIC MAN (Lyric Stage)
BEST EQUITY STAGE MANAGER: Maggie Hayden for NINE (Lyric Stage)
BEST NON EQUITY STAGE MANAGER: Stephanie Jackson for GREETINGS ( MAC Actors)
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BEST PLAY (Equity): The Odd Couple, Dallas Theater Center
BEST PLAY (Non Equity): Dear Ruth, Plaza Theatre Company
BEST DIRECTOR OF A PLAY: Taffy Geisel for Dear Ruth (Plaza Theater Company)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Billy Myers, The Civil War (Artisan Center Theater)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Rebecca Roberts as "Beth", Little Women (Artisan Center Theater)
BEST FEATURED PERFORMANCE: Katy Wood as "Mrs. Edith Wilkins", Dear Ruth (Plaza Theatre Company)
BEST DANCER: Michael Anthony Sylvester “In The Heights”, Artes de la Rosa
BEST NEW PLAY: Bill Sizemore PLAYING WITH FIRE (AFTER FRANKENSTEIN), L.I.P. Service
BEST SCENIC DESIGN: Michael McGarty for King Lear, (Dallas Theater Center)
BEST SOUND DESIGN: Bill Sizemore for Picnic (Stolen Shakespeare Guild)
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BEST ACTOR: J. Kyle Harris for Dante: Inferno (MBS Productions)
BEST ACTRESS: Whitney Latra Brown for The Awakening (The Fashion opera)
BEST DIRECTOR: Darnelle Sanders for The Awakening (The Fashion opera)
BEST CHOREOGRAPHER: Ann Reinking for Chicago (National Tour)
BEST MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Lauren Morgan for Spamalot (Stolen Shakespeare Guild)
BEST DESIGNER: Antonio Wingfield for The Awakening (The Fashion opera)
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I saw at least 28 shows in 2013! I had no idea I had seen that many. And that wasn’t but a very small portion of the theater events that happened this past year. It’s the first time I made an effort to actually count and of the ones I saw – and can remember! - the following struck me as truly outstanding in various ways:
I loved Fly By Night at the Dallas Theater Center. I liked the show, the way it was produced, and the performances. The music was well crafted and the whole show came together very well. I hope it has a chance to grow and expand and go on to other venues. Theater 3 did one of my favorite musicals, City of Angels, and Terry Dobson’s music direction of that jazzy, 40’s noir film tale made it angelic indeed. Also really enjoyable at the same theater was their production of Assassins, with Dobson tearing up the stage in a dirty old Santa suit, terrifying and funny at the same time. Marisa Diotalevi was no slouch herself, and when the final scene in the book depository started, I got chills. I also love the music of Jason Robert Brown and so I really enjoyed the glorious singing of the cast in Songs for a New World at Uptown Players. Just gorgeous!
Children of a Lesser God at Contemporary Theater of Dallas blew me away with mesmerizing performances by Marianne Galloway and Ashley Wood. Maybe the best acted play I saw. Detroit, at Kitchen Dog, was, for me, the most fascinating script I saw on stage all year. I know I was in it, but not ‘till the last scene, so I got to watch the story wind itself tighter and tighter, scene by scene at rehearsals Loved it! A chance to see a classic piece of Absurdist Theater very well done in the form of The Chairs, also at Kitchen Dog, was a great opportunity.
Division Avenue by Miki Bone at Contemporary Theater of Dallas and She Creatures by Sarah Saltwick at Nouveau 47 were both fascinating in totally different ways.
Tina Parker, Jeremy Schwartz, Jenny Ledel and Ira Steck, in Detroit at Kitchen Dog, were a tight-knit ensemble that worked together like the best SWAT team on any stage in Dallas.
Ashley Wood in Children of a Lesser God, James Crawford in Angels Fall at CTD and Raphael Perry in The Chairs gave, for me, the best male performances I saw.
Marianne Galloway in Children of a Lesser God, Tina Parker in Detroit and Rhonda Boutte in The Chairs.
Ryan Matthieu Smith did brilliant – in all senses of the word – costumes for The Lucky Chance for Echo Theater and I liked the creativity of the costumes for She Creatures at Nouveau 47 by the ensemble, yet.
Loved the set for Fly at the Wyly theater in DTC’s production, designed by Anna Louizos. Claire Floyd DeVries set for Detroit and Rodney Dobbs set for Angels Fall were also outstanding.
Susan Sargeant for Children of a Lesser God, Tim Johnson for The Chairs and Rene Moreno for everything he did!
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LAURIE LYNN LINDEMIER'S
BEST DRAMATIC SOPRANO:
Caroline Worra (Glory Denied)
Dean Anthony (Glory Denied)
BEST TRADITIONAL OPERA:
THE DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT, composer - Gaetano Donizetti; Librettists - J.F.A. Bayard and J.H. Vernoy De Saint Georges; Spoken dialogue and text -Dorothy Danner (Fort Worth Opera)
BEST CONTEMPORARY OPERA:
GLORY DENIED. Composed by Tom Cipullo, based on book by Tom Philpott (Fort Worth Opera)
BEST COMEDIC PLAY:
THE BIBLE: THE COMPLETE WORD OF GOD (ABRIDGED), Amphibian Stage Productions Featuring Luke Longacre, Brandon J. Murphy, and Scott Zenreich
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BEST MUSICAL: The Civil War presented by Artisan Center Theatre
Ambitiously staged and lovingly directed by Dennis Canright, The Civil War was a sprawling musical war poem that featured a joyously committed cast. Many voices loomed large over Civil War’s heavy tone and other voices were far from perfect in their singing. Those beautiful imperfections were of a piece that was fiercely committed to the verisimilitude of the times. Every fierce and painstaking detail that was given to the costumes, lighting, sound and set, combined with the stellar ensemble attributed to a startlingly clear and noble vision. I left the theatre with as rich a visual and aural experience as I’ve had from any stage, big or small, in quite some time.
BEST PLAY: My Name Is Rachel Corrie presented by Second Thought Theatre
Second Thought Theatre’s production ofMy Name is Rachel Corrie captivated me in a way that I was not expecting. A one-woman show edited from the diaries and emails of a 23-year-old college woman from Olympia Washington, …Rachel Corrie presented the inner-workings of one woman’s mind, leading up to the day that she was tragically killed by a bulldozer in Rafah, Egypt of the southern Gaza Strip while acting as a human shield, protesting against the demolition of Palestinian homes. I expected the play to be politically charged, but Rachel Corrie’s knowledge of world politics are not necessarily the forefront of this electric think piece, but instead… the politics of the soul. Through the steady direction of Clay Wheeler, the thoughtful editing by Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner’s selections from Ms. Corrie’s writing, and a powerhouse performance from Barret Nash, My Name is Rachel Corrie is a mature-minded glimpse of how a focused,
compassionate and daring individual came to be. My Name is Rachel Corriewas a polarizing viewing experience. It was easy to be inspired by her dogged sincerity to teach the principles of self-determination to the oppressed Palestinian citizens and just as haunting to know that she was fully self-aware that her own determination could get her killed. Leaving the theatre I wondered to myself what causes on this earth I would be willing to die for, and in the end… feeling very humbled when I admitted that I did not know the answer. My Name is Rachel Corrie was one of the best bites of humble pie I’ve ever been served.
The 11 BEST PERFORMANCES OF THE YEAR (in alphabetical order):
Marcia Carroll as Karen Nash in Contemporary Theatre of Dallas’ Plaza Suite
Carroll set the right tone by playing up the character’s desperately blind optimism that an evening alone with her husband might be just the romantic gesture to jump start their marriage anew. Ms. Nash communicated as much in the unspoken word with her world-weary body language as with her snarky verbal stabs, cutting into someone the way only a 24-year married woman can.
Ben Bryant as Preston and Natalie Howe as Dahlia in Churchmouse Production’s Hate Mail
The concept was simple. Preston, an unsatisfied customer, writes a letter to a manufacturing company requesting a refund for a broken snow globe. Dahlia, the assistant manager of the snow globe company writes back, “There are no refunds.” That was the starting point for an epic series of passionate back and forth correspondence between two characters as they developed a weird and zany narcissistic attraction to each other through their Ivy League educated writing skills. Suffice it to say, they didn’t only write to each other about snow globes. Actors Ben Bryant and Natalie Howe shared great chemistry with each other. This was no small feat when you consider that the characters were never allowed eye contact with each other, let alone physical contact. They did seamless work performing each letter as a stand-alone monologue, yet also allowed a fluidity and connection between them to be reflective of a conversation. The first act consistently
built upon each laugh so that by intermission you were left wondering how the creators and artists would top it. Luckily, the second act underplayed our expectations and went towards a deeper direction. By then you were already hooked, line and sinker, to the full vision of this original comic confection.
John S. Davies as Norman Thayer in PFamily Arts’ On Golden Pond
On Golden Pond was a lovely, elegiac character study of Norman Thayer. Norman was ready to die. His eightieth birthday is upon him and he has settled into a state of defeat about his withering condition. A sourpuss wit… his last and only functional device to aid in living out the rest of his days. John S. Davies embodied Norman with natural ease, speaking with a laconic charm that bit as much as it made you laugh and projected a cautious dread with each step of his deliberate and age appropriate walk.
Joel Lagrone as Cervantes and Don Quixote in Plaza Theatre Company’s Man of La Mancha
Lagrone gave a performance both quietly majestic and subtly whimsical. With his wide and impressive vocal range, he always sustained his vocal sweet spot that was music to everyone’s ears.
Morgan McClure as Pauline in Circle Theatre’s A Bright New Boise
McClure as Pauline, added more depth to her character than the playwright perhaps intended, but all of her added nuances as the no-nonsense boss work as she was both the plays main source of comedic relief and the unwavering mother hen to her misfit employees. She nailed a striking monologue at the play’s midpoint, the character expounding on her hard work ethic to turn the store around to a business of profitability.
Barrett Nash as Rachel Corrie in Second Thought Theatre’s My Name is Rachel Corrie
Nash gave a powerhouse performance in My Name is Rachel Corrie. I admit that I was nervous during the first minute of Nash’s delivery… thinking that I potentially walked into an ingratiating, no-holds barred Dadaist manifesto of a bright, young political mind as she yelled and bounced around a lot, talking about her wallpaper. I was quickly put to ease by Nash’s delivery as the cold open was deliberately “scattered”. Ms. Nash had a smoky, raspish allure to her voice that was always in control. In the hands of a lesser actress, many of the long political rants could have easily bored but Nash was dynamic and fluid in handling Rachel Corrie’s intense thought process. To say that her performance was fearless would be an understatement as her commanding delivery dared you to disengage.
Clyde Berry (Freddy Benson) & Camille Shaw (Christine Colgate) Plaza Theatre Company’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Berry played Freddy Benson, the cocky and brash young con man who’s always looking for the easy score. Berry handled his part with ease and grace as he inhabited strong control for the demanding physical comedy required of him. Freddy is also a smooth talker and Mr. Berry was consistently effortless conveying the character’s natural charm. Singing or acting, Ms. Shaw maintained an eloquence of physical grace and strong comedic timing that was every bit equal to Mr. Berry’s Freddy. It was important for Freddy and the audience to trust Ms. Colgate without question and Ms. Shaw conveyed just the right amount of naïve innocence without ever being overly saccharine. There is a sweet duet between Mr. Berry and Ms. Shaw, the Cole Porter homage “Nothing is Too Wonderful to Be True”. The chemistry between these two performers is essential and apparent. They are also responsible for the show’s best musical number “Love is My Legs”, a riotous
parody of any love ballad you’ve heard. It was pure, unadulterated joy and lunacy. Cinching the deal was how well Mr. Berry infused his performance with an improvisatory spirit that added an inspired logic to the goofiness all its own.
Jeff Swearingen as Jesse in Contemporary Theatre of Dallas’ Plaza Suite
The “Visitor from Hollywood” opening leaves little to the imagination as to what Jesse Kiplinger, a successful film producer, hopes to achieve as he eagerly awaits the arrival of his childhood sweetheart, Muriel Tate. What Swearingen achieved so effectively in this comic tryst, was allow the comedy to stem not from delaying getting Muriel into the bedroom, but his failure in hoping that the evening would be his escape from all things Hollywood. It is this detail that makes Jesse Kiplinger such an endearing presence in Swearingen’s hands, rather than a total sleaze so many other actors make the character out to be.
Chip Wood as Will in Circle Theatre’s A Bright New Boise
Will was impressively inhabited by Chip Wood. He was in every scene and his performance of a man deliberately taking in each moment as if it were under God’s ever-watchful good grace made A Bright New Boise a bona-fide success. This is not to take away from the collaged ensemble of intensely observed performances from the rest of the cast, all under the tightly-paced direction of Steven Pounders; however, the portrait of this man was so specific in its redemptive journey, that were not Mr. Wood’s demeanor so wisely understated, the story might have risked running off the rails.
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BEST MUSICAL: Footloose (Artisan Center Theater)
BEST PLAY: Pride and Prejudice (Stolen Shakespeare Guild)
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Lauren Morgan for Pride and Prejudice (Stolen Shakespeare Guild)
BEST ACTRESS: Samantha Chancellor as "Elizabeth Bennet", Pride and Prejudice (SSG)
BEST ACTOR: Shane Hurst as "Mr. Collins", Pride and Prejudice (SSG)
BEST DIRECTOR: Dennis Canright for The Civil War (Artisan Center Theater)
BEST SCENIC DESIGN: Dennis Canright for Footloose (Artisan Center Theater)
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BEST EQUITY PLAY OF THE YEAR: Clybourne Park- Dallas Theatre Center
BEST NON EQUITY PLAY OF THE YEAR: Daffodil Girls at Fun House Theatre and Film
BEST EQUITY MUSICALS OF THE YEAR:
Fly By Night at Dallas Theatre Center
All Shook Up at Granbury Theatre Company
BEST NON EQUITY MUSICAL OF THE YEAR: Altar Boyz (Theatre Arlington)
BEST CHOREOGRAPHY: Joel Ferrell for Fly By Night at Dallas Theatre Center
BEST ORCHESTRATIONS: Wicked at Dallas Summer Musicals
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN: Paul Toben for Fly By Night at Dallas Theatre Center
BEST SOUND DESIGN: John Flores for Clybourne Park at Dallas Theatre Center.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Julie Taymor for The Lion King National Tour at Dallas Summer Musicals
BEST EQUITY THEATERS: Dallas Theatre Center & Kitchen Dog Theater
BEST ACTOR IN AN EQUITY PLAY: Ben Williams as Lee Harvey Oswald in Oswald at Casa Mañana
BEST ACTRESS IN AN EQUITY PLAY: Sally Nystuen Vahle as Bev/Kathy in Clybourne Park at Dallas Theatre Center
BEST ACTOR IN A NON-EQUITY PLAY: Michael McCray as George Gibbs in Our Town at ICT Mainstage-Las Colinas
BEST ACTRESS IN A NON-EQUITY PLAY: Kennedy Waterman in Daffodil Girls at Fun House Theatre and Film
BEST ACTORS IN AN EQUITY MUSICAL:
- Max Swarner as "Chad" in All Shook Up (Granbury Theatre Company)
- Christopher J. Deaton as "The Balladeer" in Assassins (Theatre Three)
BEST ACTRESS IN AN EQUITY MUSICAL: Whitney Bashor as Daphne in Fly By Night at Dallas Theatre Center
BEST ACTOR IN A NON EQUITY MUSICAL: Matt Purvis as "Matthew" in Altar Boyz (Theatre Arlington)
BEST ACTRESS IN A NON EQUITY MUSICAL: Nikki McDonald as Woman 1 in Edges at PFAMILY ARTS
BEST COMEDIC PERFORMANCE: Chamblee Ferguson as Russ/Dan in Clybourne Park at Dallas Theatre Center
BEST SCENIC DESIGN: Bob Lavalle for his set in both Raisin in the Sun and Clybourne Park at Dallas Theatre Center
BEST MALE CHARACTER ACTOR: Bradley Dean as Captain Hook in Fly at Dallas Theatre Center
BEST ENSEMBLE: The cast of EDGES at PFAMILY ARTS
BEST DIRECTOR: Joel Ferrell for Clybourne Park at Dallas Theatre Center
BEST NATIONAL TOURS:
- Wicked at Dallas Summer Musicals
- The Book of Mormon at AT&T Performing Arts Center
BEST COLLEGE PERFORMANCES:
- Caroline Dubberly as Catherine in Proof at UNT
- Zack Zoda as Professor Callahan in Legally Blonde (Baylor University)
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First,“Songs for a New World” at Uptown Players was a beautiful production with the very best up-and-coming performers in DFW. Director Coy Covington put together the best cast possible for this interpretation. Beautiful music, directed by Kevin Gunter, and voices accompanied by brilliant set design & projected back drops made a fantastic production.
Second, a hit titled “Bells are Ringing” directed by Michael Serrecchia. The show featured a stellar cast lead by Mary Gilbreath Grim and Donald Fowler. However, every ensemble member was equally strong and supported the show amazingly well. With Adam C. Wright’s music direction the Bells are Ringing featured one perfectly crafted song after another. Paul Fiorella also continued the excellent set design tradition people expect from productions in Irving.
Other Notable: “Assassins” at Onstage in Bedford
When considering this category I realized that three of my four choices were from the Dallas Children’s Theater. This is surprising because I’m not usually one who loves theater created for young audiences. However, this demonstrates the incredibly high quality of the productions created at the Dallas Children’s Theater. My pick for Best Play Equity is “Goodnight Moon.” Every aspect of this production was exceptional, from Randel Wright’s set design to puppetry, B. Wolf’s music, and performances from Brian Hathaway, Deborah Brown, Karl Schaeffer, Douglass Burks, Steph Garrett, and Molly Welch.
Other Notables: “Enron” at Theatre Three and “Clybourne Park” at Dallas Theater Center
Three powerful performances dominated the Dallas actor field this year.
Steven Michael Walters pulled double duty in Dallas Theater Center’s productions of “Raisin in the Sun” and “Clybourne Park.” His dual roles of Karl Lindner and Steve were great juxtaposition and showed off Walters’ wonderful talent.
In another fast paced speech filled production Max Hartman was a no nonsense lawyer in David Mamet’s “Race” at Kitchen Dog Theatre. He navigated the tongue-twisting dialogue without problems and was able to garner sympathy from the audience even through the gruff exterior of his character.
Finally,in possibly the most complex role of the year, Chris Hury took on the part of Jeff Skilling in “Enron” at Theatre Three. Showing Skilling as the ambitious young man, climbing the ladder at “Enron,” the loving father, the ex-husband, and Skilling the convicted felon, Hury played Skilling flawlessly.
Other Notable: John Campione for “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” & “Kiss of the Spider Woman” at Uptown Players
First & foremost, Mary Gilbreath Grim was amazing as the meddlesome but sweet natured telephone operator Ella Peterson in Main Stage Irving – Las Colinas’ “Bells are Ringing”. Her performance was as near perfection as I saw this year. Her voice is strong and clear as she belted her way through one song after another. She wooed the audience with her sweet, innocent character then knocked them dead with a perfectly timed joke.
Jennifer Hamilton was the epitome of delusional Blanche Dubois in Runway Theatre’s “A Streetcar Named Desire.” She expertly presented the verbose monologues of the delusional character. Her southern belle accent never broke with no apparent cracks in her character for the whole two and a half hour performance.
Other Notables: Tracie Foster in “A Streetcar Named Desire” at Runway Theatre, Laura Lites and Sara Shelby-Martin in “Songs for A New World” at Uptown Players, and Laura Lites in “Titanic” at The J Players
BEST FEATURED ACTOR:
Peter DiCesare turned in a hilarious performance as Dr. Kitchell in “Bells are Ringing” at Main Stage Irving – Las Colinas. He kept the audience in stitches and with his eccentric character entertained with his great musical performances and dance.
BEST FEATURED ACTRESS:
Expertly fulfilling 3 roles & demonstrating her dynamic acting range, Deborah Brown in “Goodnight Moon” at the Dallas Children’s Theater was delightful. As the Old Lady Whispering Hush, the Dish, and Bear with the Chair, Brown went from a kindly nanny type to circus performer to singing and dancing but gruff animal with ease and charm.
BEST FEATURED ACTING DUO:
If you missed “Titanic” directed by Linda Leonard at The J in Dallas, you missed a triumph of hard work and community. Most enchanting in this was the work of Mark Hawkins and Andi Allen as Mr. and Mrs. Strauss. Their phenomenal characterization as an elderly German-American Jewish couple was spectacularly capped with the most heartbreakingly beautiful song of the year, “Still.”
BEST SCENIC DESIGN:
There were too many great set designs this year to pick just one. Dallas Children’s Theater’s “Goodnight Moon” with its storybook set, designed by Randel Wright, was perfectly whimsical. The wonderfully ethereal set designed by George Redford enhanced everything about “A Streetcar Named Desire at Runway Theatre.” At Dallas Theater Center, “Clybourne Park’s” box set was beautiful in its detail and allowed for an incredible dramatic change at intermission. Finally, “Songs for a New World” at Uptown Players had a simple but utilitarian set that, with a mere turn of the stage, worked into countless configurations of platforms and stairs
BEST AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION:
“The Mystery of Edwin Drood” is a madcap telling of Charles Dickens’ unfinished work. In a strange commedia-esque style, Rupert Holmes attempts to finish the story. William R. Park made the production at Pfamily Arts a rollicking success with a superb cast and amazing direction including incredible audience participation. Pre-show the cast welcomed the audience to the show intimately and in character. Since the solution to the mystery was never written, the audience has the opportunity to affect the end of the story by voting who they believe to be the murderer. “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” was possibly the most fun night of theatre I experienced all year.
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ASSASSINS (Theatre Three)
Director Bruce R. Coleman contributed his talents to ASSASSINS in multiple ways, not the least of which was the design and fabrication of one of the cleverest set pieces of 2013: the Presidential head and hand. Mix in Marisa Diotalevi’s impeccable comedic timing, Gregory Lush’s dauntless ferocity and Christopher J. Deaton’s angelic melodies, and what do you have? A hit. An arrow through the bullseye. A perfect shot. A big bang. You get the idea.
FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
This musical was proof that magic can exist inside a theater. It’s been eight months since I experienced that magic first hand, but the phrase “I trust stars” hasn’t left my vernacular. Many of my friends saw this gem three or four or more times, and my only regret is that I didn’t join them for a repeat performance. Congrats to Kevin Moriarty and the DTC team for championing what could be Broadway’s next big thing.
NINE (Lyric Stage)
I was not prepared for all the feels NINE gave me. Visually, I was struck by Ryan Mathieu Smith’s costume design; simple black and white has never seemed less simple, though his palettes – all 21 of them – were already a breathtaking bevy of beauties. Musically, Jay Dias conducted the loveliest orchestra ever to be assembled in Dallas, Texas USA. Staging the 34 female instrumentalists alongside the cast brought a depth to the piece that wouldn’t have been as impactful had they been hidden away in a pit. Emotionally, I was swept away by the characters and the story they told. Bar none, NINE was my favorite theater moment of 2013. I’m still waiting on that cast recording, by the way…
OF MICE AND MEN (Theatre Arlington)
Technically, OF MICE AND MEN was the strongest, most solid show I saw this year. The sets were huge and detailed and amazing, and the lighting and sound contributions were deftly blended into this warm, steady production of the Steinbeck classic. Elias Taylorson delivered the most patient, well-timed, professional portrayal of any character I saw in 2013. The chemistry and palpable affection between Mr. Taylorson’s character and Van Quattro’s character led OF MICE AND MEN directly to this list.
RE-DESIGNING WOMEN (Uptown Players)
Everyone needs a guilty pleasure, and Uptown Players delivered in spades with Jamie Morris’ hilarious parody of the 1980’s television show. Mr. Morris’ spot on portrayal of Julia Sugarbaker (the walk, the pursed lips, the tone of voice, the pronunciation of “Suzanne”), combined with the uncanny performances by the rest of the cast, sold me on seeing the production twice. A special shout out to Mikey Abrams for his total embodiment of one of the show’s most beloved characters, Bernice. Mr. Abrams’ grand entrance shouting “Black man, black man!” was the comedic moment of the year for me.
RX (Kitchen Dog Theater)
Kitchen Dog hosted the regional premier of Kate Fodor’s RX in the spring, and it was by far the wittiest, most charming play of 2013. I fell in love with the hilariously broken human specimens played by Tina Parker, Max Hartman and Martha Harms. The set was exceedingly clever, as was the music selected to play during scene changes. I look forward to seeing new productions of RX as its popularity rises, though KDT has set the bar extremely high.
Mikey Abrams as “Molina” in KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMAN (Uptown Players)
Janye Anderson as “Aida” in OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS (Frisco Community Theatre)
David Coffee as “Mr. McClam” in FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Catherine Carpenter Cox as “Luisa” in NINE (Lyric Stage)
Brittany Danielle as “Kira/Clio” in XANADU (Watertower Theatre)
Marisa Diotalevi as “Sara Jane Moore” in ASSASSINS (Theatre Three)
Peter DiCesare as “Dr. Kitchell” in BELLS ARE RINGING (MainStage Irving)
Terry Dobson as “Samuel Byck” in ASSASSINS (Theatre Three)
Martha Harms as “Allison Hardy” in RX (Kitchen Dog Theater)
Max Hartman as “Dr. Phil Gray” in RX (Kitchen Dog Theater)
Greg Hullett as “Franklin Hart” in 9 to 5 (Garland Summer Musicals)
Linda Leonard as “Aurora/Spider Woman” in KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMAN (Uptown Players)
Bryan Lewis as “Leon Czolgosz” in ASSASSINS (Theatre Three)
Gregory Lush as “John Wilkes Booth” in ASSASSINS (Theatre Three)
Janelle Lutz as “Claudia Nardi” in NINE (Lyric Stage)
Sara Shelby-Martin as “Sarraghina” in NINE (Lyric Stage)
Morgan Mabry Mason as “Catherine Hiatt” in THE LAST 5 YEARS (Denton Community Theatre)
Arianna Movassagh as “Jessica” in MADE IN HEAVEN (Uptown Players)
Tina Parker as “Meena Pierotti” in RX (Kitchen Dog Theater)
Van Quattro as “Lennie” in OF MICE AND MEN (Theatre Arlington)
Oscar Seung as “Trevor” in THROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (Artisan Center Theater)
Asa Sommers as “Narrator” in FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Kristin Stokes as “Miriam” in FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Elias Taylorson as “George” in OF MICE AND MEN (Theatre Arlington)
Lauren Urso as “Millie” in THROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (Artisan Center Theater)
Derek Whitener as “Historian/Not Dead Fred/Herbert/Minstrel” in SPAMALOT (Greater Lewisville Community Theatre)
UNFORGETTABLE VOCAL PERFORMANCES:
Morgan Mabry Mason for “Get Out and Stay Out” in 9 TO 5 (Garland Summer Musicals)
Christopher J. Deaton as “The Balladeer” in ASSASSINS (Theatre Three)
Simone Gundy, Sheran Keyton, Anthony Kirlew and Maurice Johnson for “The Crossing” in BIG RIVER: THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN (Casa Manana)
Lois Sonnier Hart, Mikey Abrams, John Campione, Sarah Elizabeth Smith for “Dear One” in KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMAN (Uptown Players)
Walter Lee for “Flying Home” in SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD (Uptown Players)
SPAMALOT (Greater Lewisville Community Theatre): Brooke Benefield, Jack Bledsoe, Timothy Brawner, Elisa Danielle, Lillian Andrea De Leon, Jamie Ecklund, Brendon Gallagher, Lynsey Hale, Jared Johnson, Monty Maisano
XANADU (Watertower Theatre): Jessi Little, Mallory Michaellann, Thomas Renner, Darius-Anthony Robinson
BEST LIVE ORCHESTRAS/BANDS:
ASSASINS, Vonda K. Bowling– Music Director (Theatre Three)
THE LAST 5 YEARS, Oscar Seung – Music Director (Denton Community Theatre)
NINE, Jay Dias – Music Director (Lyric Stage)
XANADU, Mark Mullino –Music Director (Watertower Theatre)
BEST SCENIC / PROPERTIES DESIGN:
Bruce R. Coleman, David Walsh for ASSASSINS (Theatre Three)
Colt Frank for BIG RIVER: THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN (Casa Manana)
Tony Curtis, Wendy Wester and Shelbie Mac for OF MICE AND MEN (Theatre Arlington)
Bryan Wofford for RX (Kitchen Dog Theater)
Randel Wright, Ana Klawitter & Jen Spillane for THE TRUE STORY OF THE 3 LITTLE PIGS! (Dallas Children’s Theater)
Bob Lavallee for XANADU (Watertower Theatre)
BEST COSTUME/HAIR/MAKE-UP DESIGN:
Ryan Matthieu Smith and Philip Plowman for NINE (Lyric Stage)
Suzi Cranford and Coy Covington for RE-DESIGNING WOMEN (Uptown Players)
ASSOCIATE THEATER CRITIC
For my first reviews of the year, I was privileged to see two fantastic shows, The Housekeeper (Onstage in Bedford) and Gruesome Playground Injuries (Sundown Collaborative Theatre). Both of these productions were spot on and I wondered whether the rest of the theater community would be able to live up to the bar these two productions set so high for 2013. I was not disappointed - the entire year I found myself in the audience for deeply artistic, wildly entertaining, and beautifully produced theater! The performances I saw were so terrific, I have found it impossible to select just one favorite for the year, so I have narrowed it down to my top five:
1. Children of a Lesser God (Contemporary Theatre of Dallas) - This production was outstanding from any perspective. The storyline was an audience pleaser, the acting was superb, the set design perfect, and the dedication of the entire cast and crew appropriate to this play with a powerful message. Marianne Galloway and Ashley Wood in the lead roles delivered line after line with perfection. Adding to the complexity of this production, many of the cast members had to use sign language throughout. Director, Susan Sargeant brought together the perfect cast and crew to make this play end with thunderous applause and a standing ovation.
2. Playing with Fire (After Frankenstein) (L.I.P. Service and 3 Cords Theatre) - Director, Bill Sizemore, has proven that he is selective in casting, creative in design, and meticulous in detail for each production in which he is involved. Playing with Fire was perhaps his best yet, with Jason Leyva delivering an extremely solid performance as The Creature and Nelson Wilson as Frankenstein. Wilson and Leyva spun a deeply moving tale of creation, demonstrating the importance of our actions on others, and providing an intimate look into the depth of the workings of the mind. Costuming by Judy Sizemore was brilliant and perfectly complemented the action.
3. A Lesson Before Dying (African American Repertory Theater) - A meaningful look into the realities of life as an African-American in 1940s Louisiana, this play had a fantastic cast and crew, directed by Regina Washington. The scenic design by Kenneth Verdugo was amazing in its use of every inch of the proscenium stage to depict numerous sets, each exactly what was needed for the action that would take place there. Solid performances by Irma Hall, Jermel Nakia, and Jason Williams evoked the intense emotions necessary to deliver the strong message this play contains.
4. Gruesome Playground Injuries (Sundown Collaborative Theatre) - As the only members of the cast, Travis Stuebing and Mikaela Krantz delivered deeply moving portrayals of two people whose lives intersected at various points from the age of eight to older adulthood. The simple set design worked well to place the focus on dialogue. On-stage costume changes were done with dignity and one could see the actors expressions transition from age to age as these costume changes occurred.
5. Stones in His Pockets (Stage West) - This production also included only two actors, Jackie Cabe and Patrick Bynane, who portrayed 15 characters. Cabe and Bynane's high energy and spot-on delivery of each of their characters made this evening wildly entertaining. The set design by Jim Covault was clean and simple, yet complex and full of meaning. Especially important were the many sets of footwear across the stage, representing the many characters Cabe and Bynane would portray.
2013 was a year for me to see very small casts. Although not all of them made my top five, others deserve mention. The Housekeeper (Onstage in Bedford) featured a duo in Kit Hussey and Deborah Dennard that worked extremely well together and created the sense of frivolity and new love the script demanded. Bad Dates (Greater Lewisville Community Theatre) featured a one-woman show in Sherry Etzel, whose non-stop delivery of a challenging depiction of a middle-aged single mother re-entering the dating arena was funny and endearing.
For delivering insight into the world of female comraderie, Hallelujah Girls (Richardson Theatre Centre) and Steel Magnolias (DVA Productions) were entertaining and meaningful. Both were set in the atmosphere of beauty salons and both delivered funny one-liners and deep insight interchangeably, depicting real life as it is when we share it with others. I have seen Steel Magnolias performed many times on stage and this production by DVA Productions, Inc. has been my favorite.
There were challenging performances from an artistic standpoint. The Taming of the Shrew (Stage West) although not included in my top five, definitely deserves a mention here. The entire cast did an outstanding job of maintaining several roles, sometimes having conversations with themselves, delivering this farce in a very entertaining way and reminiscent of the early Shakespearean traveling troupes.
The Foreigner (Granbury Theatre Company) contained strong performances by Andrew Looney, Robert Shores, and Andrew Livingston. These actors developed characters with fine detail in the nuances of each to create truly unique performances. The show, overall was entertaining and well-done.
Talking Pictures (Runway Theatre) was visually stunning in the set design and had strong performances from the youth in the cast, which made this play well worth seeing. The script, by Horton Foote, was designed to depict the realities of lift in the early 20th century, and the cast did a great job of portraying the sometimes dull existence of a group of people in a small town very well whether sitting in rocking chairs on the porch on a summer night or gathered in the living room to read.
Directors, Jodie and Sonny Barrus brought together a brilliant cast of actors and crew, including musical director, Duncan McMahon and choreographer, Brooke Wilson, to deliver a hugely entertaining, high-energy evening of nostalgic music and comedy in the Granbury Theatre Company production of All Shook Up.
Blithe Spirit (Theatre Coppell) also deserves mention as it delivered just what Noel Coward intended when he penned the play - an evening of entertainment to escape from the stresses of our lives. The cast worked well together to deliver a thoroughly entertaining evening, thanks to the direction of Wheelice Wilson, Jr.
Although I did not review these productions, I was able to see these performances and feel that they deserve mention. Civil War (Artisan Center Theater) - I saw both casts of this outstanding production. There were so many great voices, the set design was interesting and perfect for the story, and the costuming was superb. Picnic (Stolen Shakespeare Guild) - Bill Sizemore, as usual, brought together a cast with great chemistry. Lauren Morgan designed fantastic costuming and the set design by Sizemore was a very efficient use of a very small space.
Specific performers/crew worth mentioning:
Jason Leyva, Playing With Fire (After Frankenstein) (L.I.P. Service)
Kit Hussey, The Housekeeper (Onstage in Bedford)
Jackie Cabe and Patrick Bynane, Stones in his Pockets (Stage West)
Ashley Wood, Children of A Lesser God (Contemporary Theatre of Dallas)
Travis Stuebing, Gruesome Playground Injuries (Second Thought Theatre)
Marianne Galloway, Children of a Lesser God (Contemporary Theatre of Dallas)
Mikaela Krantz, Gruesome Playground Injuries (Second Thought Theatre)
Kenneisha Thompson, Steel Magnolias (DVA Productions, Inc)
Michele Rene, Steel Magnolias (DVA Productions, Inc)
BEST YOUNG ACTOR & ACTRESS:
Travis Nolen and Lauren Massing, Talking Pictures (Runway Theatre)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Matthew Laurence-Moore, Children of a Lesser God (CTD)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Evette Perry-Buchanan, Steel Magnolias (DVA Productions, Inc)
Sandy Edwards, Blithe Spirit (Theatre Coppell)
Bill Sizemore, Playing with Fire (L.I.P. Service) and Picnic (Stolen Shakespeare Guild)
Sheran Keyton, Steel Magnolias (DVA Productions, Inc)
Susan Sargeant, Children of a Lesser God (Contemporary Theatre of Dallas)
BEST SCENIC DESIGN:
Kenneth Verdugo, A Lesson Before Dying (African American Repertory Theater)
Jim Covault, Stones in his Pockets (Stage West)
Rodney Dobbs, Children of a Lesser God (Contemporary Theatre of Dallas)
Jeremy Ferman, Talking Pictures (Runway Theatre)
Charles Wallace, Bad Dates (Greater Lewisville Community Theatre)
Eve Roberts and Nate Davis, The Civil War (Artisan Center Theater)
BEST COSTUME DESIGN:
Judy Sizemore, Playing with Fire (L.I.P. Service)
Regina Washington, A Lesson Before Dying (African American Repertory Theater)
Rebecca Roberts, The Civil War (Artisan Center Theater)
Lauren Morgan, Picnic (Stolen Shakespeare Guild)
ASSOCIATE THEATER CRITIC
BEST DIRECTION OF THE YEAR:
Bill Fennelly - FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Rebecca McDonald - BOY GETS GIRL (Rover Dramawerks)
Ashley H. White - IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY (Rover Dramawerks)
Emily Scott Banks - WIT (Theatre Arlington)
BEST DESIGNERS OF THE YEAR:
Dane Laffrey (Scenic Design) - FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Paul Toben (Lighting Design) - FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Zachary Williamson (Sound Design) - FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Rebecca McDonald (Sound Design) - BOY GETS GIRL (Rover Dramawerks)
Cameron Hefty (Scenic Design) - BOY GETS GIRL (Rover Dramawerks)
Jesse Zarazaga (Scenic Design) - THE DREAMERS: A BLOODLINE (Cara Mia)
Linda Blase (Lighting Design) - THE DREAMERS: A BLOODLINE (Cara Mia)
Misty Baptiste (Costume Design) - ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID (Runway Theatre)
Webster Crocker (Scenic Design) - DIXIE SWIM CLUB (Sherman Community Players)
Bob Lavallee (Scenic Design) - WIT (Theatre Arlington)
John Iacovelli (Scenic Design) - PETER PAN (Bass Hall)
Michael Gilliam (Lighting Design) - PETER PAN (Bass Hall)
Patty Columbo (Choreography) - PETER PAN (Bass Hall)
BEST PERFORMANCES OF THE YEAR:
Asa Somers as "Narrator" - FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Damon Daunno as "Harold McClam" - FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
David Coffee as "Mr. McClam" - FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Michael McCormick as "Crabble" - FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Kristin Stokes as "Miriam" - FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
Joe Messina as "Dr. Hubert Bonney" - IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY (Rover
Ivan Jones as "Bill" - IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY (Rover Dramawerks)
Ben Lokey as "John Adams" - 1776 (Granbury Theatre Company)
Dena Dunn as "Charlie Collins" - ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID (Runway Theatre)
Walt Threlkeld as "Mercer Stevens" - BOY GETS GIRL (Rover Dramawerks)
Ben Westfried as "Les Kennkat"- BOY GETS GIRL (Rover Dramawerks)
Krista Scott as "Vivian Bearing, Ph.D." - WIT (Theatre Arlington)
Stormi Demerson as "Susie Monahan, R.N., B.S.N." - WIT (Theatre Arlington)
Jake McCready as "Igor" - YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (Ohlook Performing Arts)
Lacey Jane Dangerstone as "The Storyteller" - BLOODY, BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON (Ohlook Performing Arts)
Jon Morehouse as various roles - GREATER TUNA (Grand Prairie Arts Council)
Cathy Rigby as "Peter Pan" - PETER PAN (Bass Hall)
Sam Zeller as "Captain Hook/Mr. Darling" - PETER PAN (Bass Hall)
MOST RIVETING PERFORMANCE IN A SOLO MUSICAL NUMBER:
Brian Lawson as Edward Rutledge in 1776 (Granbury Theatre Company) - "Molasses to Rum"
David Coffee as "Mr. McClam" - FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
BEST DANCE ENSEMBLE: Indians - PETER PAN (Bass Hall)
BEST CAST: FLY BY NIGHT (Dallas Theater Center)
ASSOCIATE THEATER CRITIC
This year there was one production that so far out shone the rest of the stage productions that I find myself going back to that show in my list of 10 best. And what’s most interesting is that Kiss of the Spider Woman has never been one of my favorite shows, yet months later I still think about it. So here’s the list:
BEST MUSICAL: Kiss of the Spider Woman, Uptown Players. This musical rivaled the new York production and at times exceeded it.
BEST DIRECTOR: John Wilkerson, Nunsense, the Firehouse Theatre.Given the constraints of the immensely difficult space, he worked wonders with his staging.
BEST ACTRESS: Linda Leonard, Kiss of the Spider woman, Uptown Players. She was simply sublime. And yes, gasp, she rivaled Chita Rivera who is iconic in this role.
BEST ACTOR: Richard s. Blake, Art of Murder, Pocket Sandwich Theatre, Funny, funny, and then again, funny.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Stephanie Felton, Sister Robert Anne, Firehouse Theatre, she completely understood the zaniness of this character and the musical and delivered.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Cameron Potts, All Shook Up, Music Theatre of Denton. Every time he hit the stage he would steal the show, and in a good way.
BEST WORK DONE BY AN ENSEMBLE MEMBER: Ian Moore, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Uptown Players, this tiny role portrayed by Moore in this big musical was so well played that it still haunts me.
BEST CHOREOGRAPHY: Jana Edele, All shook Up, Music Theatre of Denton, her choreography was clever, interesting, and fit the show quite nicely.
BEST SET CARPENTER: Dennis Canright, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Uptown Players. The program never indicated who designed the set, but it’s construction was most impressive.
ASSOCIATE THEATER CRITIC
Tre Garrett for Raisin In The Sun, Dallas Theater Center
Adam Adolpho for In the Heights, Artes de la Rosa Theater
BEST CHOREOGRAPHY: Elise Lavallee, Michael Sylvester & Maegan Marie Stewart, IN THE HEIGHTS (Artes de la Rosa Theater)
BEST SET DESIGN: Joseph Cummings for Daffodil Girls (Fun House Theatre and Film)
BEST FEMALE PERFORMANCE: Liz Mikel in Raisin in the Sun (Dallas Theater Center)
BEST MALE PERFORMANCE: Clyde Berry in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Plaza Theatre Company)
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Tanya Paknejad for Daffodil Girls (Fun House Theatre and Film)