It’s FINALLY here! A yearly tradition that my staff and I take great pride and joy creating for the Dallas-Fort Worth theater community. It’s our Annual issue of the BEST IN DFW THEATER for the 2016-17 season. THE COLUMN critics have been working on their selections for months. We picked from not only the shows we reviewed, but also the ones where we were simply just audience members. As Editor in Chief, I gave my staff full reign on whom and what they picked. We are VERY proud of our publication because we review theater from all over the DFW Metroplex. We review both Equity and Non-equity. Other publications might only review equity, or just Dallas, or just FT Worth, or just equity. NOT THE COLUMN. We review all, which means our picks are scattered all over the Metroplex. So enjoy and congrats to all who were selected!
JOHN GARCIA (Editor/ Senior Chief Critic/Founder)
Since the age of eight I have been an actor on the stage boards. I was exposed to summer stock by complete accident, and as they say I got bitten by the acting bug. Since then I have worked in summer stock, college, regional, equity and non-equity. I worked with Disney for two years. As an actor I have done over 420 productions. But sweet Dionysus have I seen my share of theater! And that was before I entered the arena of theater critiquing. As a theater critic with my own publication I have reviewed for close to 30 years now for local, regional, out of state, national tours and Broadway. So combine my history as an actor with my job as a theater critic, suffice to say I have seen A LOT and I mean A LOT of theater. Good and bad. Productions that reminded me why I love the art, emotion, and creation of theater. And then there are those productions that take every ounce of energy to stay awake and not collapse onto the floor out of sheer boredom.
It is no secret I have a severe addiction to musicals (both as an actor and a critic). I know it’s a sin in theater to favor just one and not both (i.e. Play and musical). Sue me.
This season I took more of a breather as a critic and passed along to my incredible staff of critics more to review. However, I attended quite a bit of shows just as an audience member.
Out of all that I have seen this season in the DFW area, what rose above the rest? What were the musicals, performances, designers, etc. that went beyond my expectations and requirements that I stand behind as an artist and a critic to say, “Yes, they actually achieved in raising the bar in artistic achievement.” I don’t take that last line lightly.
So after much deliberation, reflection, and arguing with myself, here are my selections of what was the BEST in theater within the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex for the 2016-17 season:
OUTSTANDING PRODUCTIONS OF THE YEAR:
HOOD: THE ROBIN HOOD MUSICAL ADVENTURE (Dallas Theater Center)
Several years ago Douglas Carter Beane and Lewis Flinn brought one of the best musicals to debut at the Dallas Theater Center. The regional premiere of Give It Up, which ended up on Broadway retitled Lysistrata Jones. Beane and Flinn returned this season to DTC and struck gold yet again with their creation of HOOD. Beane is one of my personal favorite book writers for musicals. Beane not only wrote the uproarious book for HOOD but also superbly directed it. Flinn composed a fantastic score that weaves into Beane’s book to create a dazzling tapestry of musical theater. HOOD’s cast of performers did it all- sing, dance, and act- with impeccable finesse and outstanding comedic chops. In an ocean of never ending jukebox musicals or using movies as a source, we have been parched for originality in the creation of the musical. Beane and Flinn thankfully quenched our thirst with DTC’s HOOD.
JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
That Webber classic about a dude who has an addiction to clothes and forced to share his tent with twelve jealous bros. There is talk of Webber dusting off the score yet again for a new Broadway revival. I myself have done this well-known hit four times, twice as the Pharaoh, and twice as Simeon. Saw the revival on Broadway, two national tours, including one with Sam Harris headlining. And countless local productions. The pop/rock-n-roll/country/techno score I always devour each time I listen to it. I was curious to see how Granbury Theatre Company would do with this war horse musical. GTC produced an unsurpassed interpretation of JOESPH that I have not seen in years. The sets so rich in detail, the costumes made of every fabric and color, pristine props, and lavish bold lighting design. Director Domanick Anton Hubbard and Choreographer Brittany Jenkins deserve a thunderous standing ovation on what they achieved on that stage and with the entire company, both on and off stage! The superlative cast almost caused a fire on stage because their talents were so sizzling hot. The production team and cast polished this musical so that it glistened and sparkled with new jokes, comedic bits, vocal interpretations, staging, and acting. That speaks volumes for a musical to do that, but GTC achieved here the impossible and won!
MEMPHIS (Greater Lewisville Community Theatre)
When I was invited to come see MEMPHIS I was leery of attending. Why? Well this is a musical that requires a large African American cast and the score is chockful of soul, R&B, and gospel. All set in the fifties. But to find the talent that can bring that heart pounding score to life in both voice and emotion? Director Larry Borero, Musical Director Kevin Sutton, and Choreographers Christina Kudlicki Hoth and Christian O’Nell Houston all took on this challenge and created a superb, peerless production. A slick band of pro musicians filled GLCT with that emotionally moving score composed by David Bryan. But what truly sold this production was the cast. I felt like Oprah wanting to shout, “Here’s the cast of MEMPHIS!” This company of phenomenal singers and actors took it to church in several numbers and literally lifted the hearts of the entire audience. Rare Orion and Rachel Poole in star making performances led one of the most astonishing casts that I had the great fortune to see. MEMPHIS was one of the best productions GLCT has produced in some time and well deserved!
SHREK (Granbury Theatre Company)
I reviewed the extremely enjoyable national tour when it came to Dallas Summer Musicals, as well as several local productions. But then Granbury Theatre Company sent a lady dragon with lush eyelashes to fly me to GTC to take another look at SHREK. This was the first production of SHREK where I laughed so hard and consistently all evening long. Under the comedic genius direction of Kyle Hoffman, he and his insanely talented cast and production team totally refurbished the lackluster book with a banquet of hilarious new comic lines, props, set pieces, costumes, and physical comedy. Major kudos must go to costume designer Drenda Lewis and her team. It was a plethora of never ending costumes full of color, pop, and pizzazz. This cast had me rushing to the bathroom at intermission because I was laughing so hard my kidney was going to explode. Brian Lawson (Shrek) and Jillian Grace Harrison (Fiona) balanced beautifully both the romance and outlandish comedy with equal success. But the scene stealer and star of the show was none other than Domanick Anton Hubbard as Donkey. He was a synthesis of Kevin Hart, RuPaul, and Eddie Murphy! This was a hilarious, wild musical comedy that proved you can find new ways to elevate a well-known and oft produced piece to new heights. And GTC did just that! It should be noted that this is first time in over 18 years that I chose two musicals from the same theater company.
OUTSTANDING NATIONAL TOURS OF THE YEAR:
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (Dallas Summer Musicals)
THE BODYGUARD (Dallas Summer Musicals)
FINDING NEVERLAND (AT&T Performing Arts Center)
FUN HOME (AT&T Performing Arts Center)
SOMETHING ROTTEN! (AT&T Performing Arts Center)
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCES OF THE YEAR:
I am a strong believer that the acting craft is something you are born with. Not taught. Sure you can sharpen and fine tool your acting with classes, workshops, etc. But the art of acting requires so much from a person. The ability to understand and bathe your character in subtext and organic reality. To be honest within your role and your fellow actors on stage. In comedy you fully comprehend what timing, pace, and delivery is and not just what is in the script. You dissect each line to wring out every drop of comedy. For musicals, you peel every lyric to the very core to ground your emotion and subtext. You possess a singing voice that has no need for a body mic, you have a muscular vibrato and can belt. Oh and there is the sustaining of the notes! Add stage presence, commanding the stage, and that dynamic unknown gift that makes you stand out and become memorable to the audience. I don’t mean stealing focus or trying to overpower a fellow actor. When actors go from role to role, show to show, and you see the exact same character over and over, I immediately shift my focus to the other actors on stage. Not trying to be rude with that observation. But come on, we’ve all had those same thoughts from to time to time when we are in the audience. But when I see an actor completely transform and create new characters from show to show, I am savoring every single moment because I can clearly see the gift of acting ebbing through them.
I take all the above to choose which actors within our BRILLIANT DFW acting pool gave one of the best performances of this year. There was so much great work this year, but these are the actors that just left it all on that stage. Here are those actors that indeed gave one of those outstanding performances of the 2016-17 season:
Andi Allen as “Berthe” in PIPPIN (The Firehouse Theatre)
Nick Bailey as “Robert/Robin Hood” in HOOD (Dallas Theater Center)
Matt Beutner as “Joseph” in JOSEPH..TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Chelsea Bridgman as “Grace O’Malley” in THE PIRATE QUEEN (Artisan Center Theater)
Aaron Brooks as “Zebulon/One More Angel soloist” in JOSEPH..TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Grant Bower as “Jesus of Nazareth” in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (Sherman Community Players)
William Carleton as “Pippin” in PIPPIN (The Firehouse Theatre)
Emma Colwell as “Ariel” in THE LITTLE MERMAID (Plaza Theatre Company)
Steve Golin as “Uncle Fester” in THE ADDAMS FAMILY (CORP Theatre)
Kourtney Leigh Harris as “Ursula” in THE LITTLE MERMAID (Plaza Theatre Company)
Jillian Grace Harrison as “Fiona” in SHREK (Granbury Theatre Company)
Tianta Harrison as “Alice Beineke” in THE ADDAMS FAMILY (CORP Theatre)
Damian Hill as “Gator” in MEMPHIS (Greater Lewisville Community Theatre)
Jamall Houston as “Delray” in MEMPHIS (Greater Lewisville Community Theatre)
Domanick Anton Hubbard as “Donkey” in SHREK (Granbury Theatre Company)
Cody Jenkins as “Dan/Baker/Canaan Days soloist” in JOSEPH..TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Caitlan Leblo as “Narrator” in JOSEPH..TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Cosette Lehmann as “Wednesday Addams” in THE ADDAMS FAMILY (CORP Theatre)
Brian Lawson as “Shrek” in SHREK (Granbury Theatre Company)
Aaron Lett as “Gomez Addams” in THE ADDAMS FAMILY (CORP Theatre)
Megan Liles as “Moticia Addams” in THE ADDAMS FAMILY (CORP Theatre)
Luke Longacre as “Little John / Prince John” in HOOD (Dallas Theater Center)
Rare Orion as “Huey” in MEMPHIS (Greater Lewisville Community Theatre)
Rachel Poole as “Felicia” in MEMPHIS (Greater Lewisville Community Theatre)
Dan Servetnick as “Charlemange” in PIPPIN (The Firehouse Theatre)
Morgana Shaw as “Bette Davis” in ALL ABOUT BETTE (Starlight Entertainment)
Thomas Schnaible as “Edna Turnblad” in HAIRSPRAY (Centerstge Youth Theatre)
Austin Scott as “Sheriff of Nottingham” in HOOD (Dallas Theater Center)
Max Swarner as “Tiernan” in THE PIRATE QUEEN (Artisan Center Theater)
Ian Taylor as "Wilbur Turnblad" in HAIRSPRAY (Centerstage Youth Theatre)
Amanda Williams Ware as “Narrator” in in JOSEPH..TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Emily Warwick as “Narrator” in JOSEPH..TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Griffin Wetzel as “Corny Collins” in HAIRSPRAY (Centerstge Youth Theatre)
Matt Victory as “Sebastian” in THE LITTLE MERMAID (Plaza Theatre Company)
OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE OF THE YEAR:
JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
PIPPIN (The Firehouse Theatre)
OUTSTANDING DANCERS OF THE YEAR:
Aaron Brooks, JOSEPH..TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Amanda Brooks, JOSEPH..TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Kristin Cox, JOSEPH..TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Joshua Emmanuel Mcrae Davs, JOSEPH..TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Rebecca Ford, JOSEPH..TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Dawson Graham, THE PIRATE QUEEN (Artisan Theater Center)
Rocco Hill, HAIRSPRAY (Centerstage Youth Theatre)
Kaitlyn Ann Howard, JOSEPH..TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Jordan Houston, JOSEPH..TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Cody Jenkins, JOSEPH..TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Jennie Jermaine, JOSEPH..TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Quintin Jones Jr., PIPPIN (The Firehouse Theatre)
Ben Larson, JOSEPH..TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Bethany Lorentzen, PIPPIN (The Firehouse Theatre)
Ryan C. Machen, PIPPIN (The Firehouse Theatre)
Jadie Phelps, JOSEPH..TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Larry Borero, MEMPHIS (GLCT)
Douglas Carter Beane, HOOD (Dallas Theater Center)
Kyle Hoffman, SHREK (Granbury Theatre Company)
Domanick Anton Hubbard, JOSEPH….TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Ryan Matthieu Smith, ALL ABOUT BETTE (Starlight Entertainment)
Derek Whitener, PIPPIN (The Firehouse Theatre)
Domanick Anton Hubbard, SHREK (Granbury Theatre Company)
Christina Kudlicki Hoth, PIPPIN (The Firehouse Theatre)
Brittany Jenkins, JOSEPH….TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Amy Jones, THE PIRATE QUEEN (Artisan Center Theater)
Joseph Pizzi and Robert Bianca, HOOD (Dallas Theater Center)
OUTSTANDING MUSICAL DIRECTION:
Fred Freeman, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (Sherman Community Theatre)
Brad Simmons, HOOD (Dallas Theater Center)
Kelly Schaaf, PIPPIN (The Firehouse Theatre)
Kevin Sutton, MEMPHIS (GLCT)
OUTSTANDING COSTUME DESIGN:
Victor Newman Brockwell, PIPPIN (The Firehouse Theatre)
Gregory Gale, HOOD (Dallas Theater Center)
Jill Hall, THE PIRATE QUEEN (Artisan Center Theater)
Drenda Lewis, SHREK (Granbury Theatre Company)
Ryan Matthieu Smith, ALL ABOUT BETTE (Starlight Entertainment)
Emily Warwick, JOSEPH…TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
OUTSTANDING SCENIC DESIGN:
John Lee Beatty, HOOD (Dallas Theater Center)
Kevin Brown, PIPPIN (The Firehouse Theatre)
Webster Crocker, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (Sherman Community Players)
Kerri Pavelick, JOSEPH..DREAMCOAT and SHREK (both at Granbury Theatre Company)
Wendy Seacy-Woode and Chad Etheridge, THE PIRATE QUEEN (Artisan Center Theater)
OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN:
Cameron Barrus, JOSEPH…TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Dan Hall, THE PIRATE QUEEN (Artisan Center Theater)
Philip Rosenberg, HOOD (Dallas Theater Center)
OUTSTANDING SOUND DESIGN:
Kyle Hoffman, JOSEPH…TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Granbury Theatre Company)
Riley Larson, PIPPIN (The Firehouse Theatre)
John Shivers, HOOD (Dallas Theater Center)
SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARDS:
Maia Bautista for make-up design, THE LITTLE MERMAID (Plaza Theatre Company)
Michelle Cawood, for Make-Up design THE ADDAMS FAMILY (CORP Theatre)
Rare Orion for outstanding vocals as “Huey” in MEMPHIS (GLCT)
Christine Wetzel for Wig Design, HAIRSPRAY (Centerstage Youth Theatre)
Centerstage Youth Theatre for outstanding achievement in children/teen Theater
JD Choate, Jake Kelly Harris, and Christian Loper for their scene stealing comedic work as the three little pigs (SHREK, Granbury Theatre Company)
The laugh out loud comedic and execution of the choreography as the Duloc dancers (SHREK, Granbury Theatre Company). This sugar coated over caffeinated performers consisted of Nicole Carrano, JD Coate, Jake Kelly Harris, Brittany Jenkins, Christian Loper, Molly Mae, Autumn McKee, and Gary Williams.
Henry Cawood- This youth performer continues to grow in his talents. He was utterly charming and jovial as “Flounder” in THE LITTLE MERMAID (Plaza Theatre Company), then later that season delivered a solid performance as “Pugsley Addams” in THE ADDAMS FAMILY (CORP Theatre). I saw Cawood in a previous production of ADDAMS FAMILY, and the kid was even funnier the second time around.
THE COLUMN STAFF OF ASSOCIATE THEATER CRITICS PICKS!
EDITOR’S NOTE: I have no template or guideline for my staff to make their selections. They are all given full and complete freedom on who they picked and how they awarded them. As you can see some critics had a lot more selections than some. As a volunteer staff, this hard working team can only review when they can fit it in their schedules. They were not restricted to pick from just what they reviewed, but also pick from the productions they attended as an audience member. BUT, as you can see this staff picked from ALL over the DFW area!
MILDRED AUSTIN (Associate Theatre Critic)
BEST NON-EQUITY MUSICAL FOR 2017:
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (Rockwall Summer Musicals)
Fiddler on the Roof is a musical with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein, set in the Pale of Settlement of Imperial Russia in 1905. It is based on Tevye and his Daughters (or Tevye the Dairyman) and other tales by Sholem Aleichem. The story centers on Tevye, the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his Jewish religious and cultural traditions as outside influences encroach upon the family's lives. He must cope both with the strong-willed actions of his three older daughters, who wish to marry for love – each one's choice of a husband moves further away from the customs of his faith – and with the edict of the Tsar that evicts the Jews from their village.
The original Broadway production of the show, which opened in 1964, had the first musical theatre run in history to surpass 3,000 performances. Fiddler held the record for the longest-running Broadway musical for almost 10 years until Grease surpassed its run. It remains Broadway's sixteenth longest-running show in history. The production was extraordinarily profitable and highly acclaimed. It won nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, score, book, direction and choreography. It spawned five Broadway revivals and a highly successful 1971 film adaptation, and the show has enjoyed enduring international popularity. It is also a very popular choice for school and community productions.
Although FIDDLER ON THE ROOF takes place at the turn of the 19th century in a small Jewish village in Russia, it proves its timeliness and appeal to modern day audiences once again in this production by the Rockwall Summer Musicals. Parents today can identify with Tevye as he deals with his five headstrong daughters, bemoans the loss of family traditions, and struggles to maintain his position of “The Papa”, in the village of Anatevka in 1905, where their lives are as precarious as the “perch of a fiddler on a roof.”
This is a thoroughly charming production of this time-honored show, first brought to Broadway in 1964. But perhaps a word here about Rockwall Summer Musicals is appropriate. It is quite unique in that it is a true joining of community theatre and educational theatre with the purpose of producing plays and conducting intergenerational theatrical workshops from May to August each year. “Our unique ‘mentoring’ instructional approach provides an educational experience that cannot be reproduced in the classroom. Pairing students with working artisans in our own community creates a learning experience that cannot be duplicated during the school year." Each summer, RSM produces two musicals and mounts them onstage at the Rockwall High School Performing Arts Complex at Utley Middle school in Rockwall, a simply jaw dropping educational theatre facility. And if FIDDLER is any kind of example (it was my first experience at RSM), and I feel rather certain it is, this concept is working theatre magic!
BEST ACTOR IN A NON-EQUITY MUSICAL FOR 2017:
Alidore Lafere as Tevya (Rockwall Summer Musicals production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF)
This is undoubtedly one of the most-loved and most-produced musicals in the history of musical theatre in this country. The central character, Tevya, is deftly portrayed in this production of Rockwall Summer Musicals by Lafere, who is big in stature, big in characterization and big in voice, though soft in heart, just as the role requires. His vocal stature is immense and he completely wraps his heart around the character of Tevya.
BEST ACTRESS IN A NON-EQUITY MUSICAL FOR 2017:
Rachel Poole as Felicia in MEMPHIS (Greater Lewisville Community Theatre)
Poole rode the waves of passion of her lover and was completely convincing when she was no longer able to endure the possible fallout from their emotional relationship. Her presence was engaging and her vocals undeniably capable, and she proved herself not only a powerful singer but also a believable actor.
BEST CHOREOGRAPHY IN A NON-EQUITY MUSICAL FOR 2017
Christina Kudlicki Hoth PIPPIN (Firehouse Theatre)
Hoth’s dance interpretation was reminiscent of Bob Fosse but was fresh and energetic and well-matched to the overall staging.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN FOR A NON-EQUITY MUSICAL FOR 2017
Kyle McKlaren DRACULA THE MUSICAL (Garland Civic Theatre)
As usual McKlaren chose dramatic, stunning costumes for his characters and they all worked beautifully. In particular Dracula’s multiple costumes were breath-taking and served to lift his character to the heights.
BEST DRAMATIC PRODUCTION EQUITY 2017:
LIFE SUCKS (Stage West, Ft. Worth)
Anton Chekov is quoted as having said, “Any fool can weather a crisis. It’s day to day living that wears us down.” Enter the characters of LIFE SUCKS. Day to day living has worn all of them down and now they find themselves at critical junctures in their lives. Sonia is young and full of the longing and angst of the young, while her father, the Professor, finds himself feeling the approach of age in his looks and the lamentations of his body. The others characters find themselves in the unfamiliar territory of middle age: muscles are sagging a little, gray hairs are beginning to appear, and their lives are not at the point they had anticipated and worked for all the previous years. Sonia reminds them of the ideals and plans of their youth, while her father makes their destination only too plain. Where they are headed has smacked them in the face. And they raise the “Life Sucks” flag from time to time as they face these realizations.
Posner labels the play as being “sort of adapted from Chekhov’s UNCLE VANYA. And it is, perhaps, more than just “sort of.” The characters are all here. More modern day, certainly, but the theme of “love and longing” remains as we watch the lengths to which we humans will go and the hoops we will jump through to find love and to get what we want and what we think we need: that which wears us down with its elusiveness while we overlook or even ignore the more simple ability to enjoy what we have. This production by the Stage West Theatre in Ft. Worth is a most enjoyable, funny, pathetic, sometimes even a bit sad look at us humans at our worst and sometimes our best. The nonchalant beginning of the show, becomes the easy, flowing underpinning of the characters and their interactions. The set is breathtaking. A beach house and outbuildings, complete with walkways, a bridge, hammock, boat, bicycle and real dirt. And, of course, the swing, which is used in so many tell-tale ways to suggest carefree, happy, bored, and restless—you name it! The actors relate to the audience in a most real, unprepossessing way, requiring I’m sure, some spur of the moment responses they all seem easily capable of. This is a cast of quite fine actors who live the roles they carry and provoke laughter and sighs of understanding from their audience. The lighting and music also add just the subtle, easy, lovely touch to the atmosphere in which the characters come to life.
BEST DIRECTOR EQUITY DRAMA 2017:
Emily Scott Banks for LIFE SUCKS (Stage West, Ft. Worth)
Banks truly brought this story to life that touched and engaged the audience. She balanced pathos and comedy and brought us all into the story that is old, but easily made new. She obviously nourished the beautiful ensemble work by her cast and her staging was easy and never awkward.
BEST ACTOR EQUITY DRAMA 2017
Mark Shum For LIFE SUCKS (Stage West, Ft. Worth)
Mark Shum as Vanya is the middle age man trying to fit into middle age. Shum expertly comes “unraveled” as the play progresses but you always like him, even when he tries murder and then suicide and succeeds at neither. He brings us to his side when he finally stands up for what he knows he wants and will protect at all costs. Shum created a character both pathetic and sympathetic and he drew the audience relentlessly along and finally snags us securely as his ally and champion his growing attempts to secure his understanding of himself.
BEST ACTRESS EQUITY DRAMA 2017
Cindee Mayfield for LIFE SUCKS (Stage West, Ft. Worth)
Mayfield as Babs is the sister of Vanya and the mother of Sonia’s dead mother. In this role, Mayfield is beautifully quiet spoken, almost a one person “chorus” who comments on the other characters, frequently explaining or questioning them. But there is always a twinkle in her eye and her voice and we see it and hear it in the audience. She carries us along amongst the others, commenting, observing, and distant but at other times close and involved. Her portrayal is beautifully easy but compelling.
BEST SET DESIGN EQUITY DRAMA 2017
N. Ryan McBride for LIFE SUCKS (Stage West, Ft. Worth)
As audience member you are not immediately taken with McBride’s set, but it doesn’t take long for your appreciation to grow until you realize this place is a REAL place, not a “set”. The sand is real. The boat is real. And that swing is real and it all melds into a real place that allows the actors to Inhabit and be comfortable in. The stage under McBride’s imagination becomes a lovely beach side inviting the characters and allowing us to enjoy and wonder about their world.
BEST ENSEMBLE EQUITY DRAMA 2017
LIFE SUCKS (Stage West, Ft. Worth)
These groups of actors become people to the audience as they bounce off each other in real, believable interactions and as the same time, they interact with the audience in an unrehearsed give and take. This only works because they are all, to a one, connected to each other beneath their words and through their inner selves.
BEST NON-EQUITY DRAMA 2017
POLOROID STORIES (Lakeside Community Theatre)
I always approach a theatrical performance expecting to be surprised. Surprised by the director’s interpretation and approach to the written script. Surprised in the way each actor breathes life into their character. Surprised by the set, the costumes, the music, in short, by everything I am about to experience. On this Saturday evening I was surprised by many things—all of them wonderful! Lakeside Community Theatre is almost hidden away in a non-descript building that sits rather far back from the main thoroughfare in The Colony, just north of Frisco. But inside, I suspect magic happens on a regular basis. On this evening, the magic came via their production of POLAROID STORIES, a play I was completely unfamiliar with. And the magic began before the show even started. Or, perhaps I should say, the show didn’t “start”, it evolved in front of us, beginning with a young man and woman who wandered in, sat on the floor in front of us and started selling jewelry they were putting together before our eyes. Displayed in front of them: a crude cardboard sign informing us the jewelry was $1.00. Folks on the front row, and elsewhere, purchased pieces from them. From there, the story unfolded in short vignettes in which the actors sometimes revealed themselves singly, while at other times they connected in disturbing encounters that pinched many of our bubbles of stereotypes. The cast worked in a beautiful ensemble, possibly the best I have seen in a while. It was a beautiful, touching surprise.
BEST DIRECTOR NON-EQUITY DRAMA 2017
ReAnna Bell for POLOROID STORIES (Lakeside Community Theatre)
Bell is listed in the program as “Director/Property Design” but I assume that the credit for pulling this beautiful story together falls to her. The scenes flowed lyrically and the production had energy, variety, and actors who put “acting” aside and moved and spoke the subtext pushing them beyond the words. It was very apropos that at the curtain call, the actors carried pictures of people helped (?) or needing help in their town. This was, then, truly COMMUNITY theatre educating its audiences to the needs that exist around us and challenging us to help. Bell deserves the credit for making this happen;
BEST ACTOR NON-EQUITY DRAMA 2017
Steve Robert Pounds POLOROID STORIES (Lakeside Community Theatre)
Robert Pounds as Narcissus was both funny and sad simultaneously. But he was the god who fell in love with himself and Mr. Pounds is excellent and absolutely spot on in his development of that character. There is absolutely no hint of “acting” in his line delivery or movement. He IS Narcissus
BEST ACTRESS NON-EQUITY DRAMA 2017
Ellen Bell POLOROID STORIES (Lakeside Community Theatre)
Bell as Persephone, is the wise old woman of the street who knows all the tricks and falls for none. But even she has a dark side and Ms. Bell so beautifully relates her story so that we see the soft underside of a crusty crone.
BEST SET DESIGN NON-EQUITY DRAMA 2017
Benjamin Keegan Arnold POLOROID STORIES (Lakeside Community Theatre)
The set. Looked a bit like GODSPELL but dirtier. But perfect for the setting of this play. I particularly liked the use of the cyclone fencing as it brought us to the alley way of many large cities, and it closed off actors on one side of it from those on the opposite side. The trash was the set decoration applicable to this dirty alleyway, and the platforms stacked about resembled pallets one might see discarded in such a place.
BEST ENSEMBLE NON-EQUITY DRAMA 2017
POLOROID STORIES (Lakeside Community Theatre)
BEST COMEDY PRODUCTION, NON-EQUITY 2017
THE SAVANNAH SIPPING SOCIETY (Richardson Civic Theatre)
BEST DIRECTOR COMEDY PRODUCTION, NON-EQUITY 2017
Leigh Wyatt Moore THE SAVANNAH SIPPING SOCIETY
BEST ACTOR NON-EQUITY COMEDY PRODUCTION 2017
Brian Lawson ARSENIC AND OLD LACE (Granbury Theatre Company)
Lawson is a show stealer for his portrayal of Teddy Brewster, the nephew who lives with his aunts and is quite convinced he is Teddy Roosevelt. His characterization never lags and his energy level never drops even when, without dialog, he enjoys some of his aunts’ cookies with tea. His “CHARGE” up the stairs is always so dynamic one really often forgets he isn’t Mr. Roosevelt!
BEST ACTRESS NON-EQUITY COMEDY 2017
Robyn Mead SAVANNAH SIPPING SOCIETY (Richardson Theatre Centre)
Mead creates a character that is larger than life but completely believable. She draws the audience in and we love her. Her energy on stage is unlimited. She is truly a “Southern Charm” with all the sass and endearing qualities that tag defines.
CHARLIE BOWLES (Associate Theatre Critic)
It was a good year for theater in 2017, but it may be a year that’s remembered more for social issues in theater than for any specific productions. But despite that, there were some good shows, and these were shows I both saw and could remember at the end of the year.
A Lost Leonardo at Amphibian Stage Productions was the show of the year for me, quite possibly the show of the last several years. Although I did not review it, I was awed by the quality of every aspect of this production. This one will sneak into most categories. But there are other shows that deserve some special mention this year. One seeming new development in DFW theater is the willingness by smaller production companies to go outside the area for directors and even design talent. This brings in fresh new ideas on how to use local stage spaces in unique ways and shows what is possible.
DRAMA – The Three Sisters (Stolen Shakespeare Guild)
A challenge for modern directors is to present classical plays to modern audiences, preserving original intent of the author at the time of the writing, while updating it for sensibilities of modern audiences. That’s especially true of Anton Chekhov, who wrote prior to the horrors of communism in Russia, but who is now perceived as a morose storyteller because of the later coloring of Russian life by communism. Chekhov filled his writing with humor at the same time he poked fun at and revealed the conflicts in Russian society. SSG took on this task with one of his more challenging plays, The Three Sisters. In typical fashion, SSG put the play into a classical setting, along with Lauren Morgan’s fantastic costume plots, but also put it into a mindset that a Texan audience could enjoy. And this may not have been a conscious attempt to modernize, but rather a result of modern thinking by cast and crew. One thing that made this possible was that the Director, Steven Young, made sure the play could breathe enough to allow the subtle comedy to appear. It’s not the slapstick comedy American audiences have come to define as true comedy, but the situations of the Russian family and all the extra people who lived on the estate were funny situations we can all recognize in our own families and friends.
COMEDY – Ripcord (Circle Theatre)
David Lindsay-Abaire’s sitcom about retirement home politics pits two aged titans against each other and this relatively unknown play snuck up on the audience. While the stakes for the combatants were critically important for the characters, the situations they created for themselves were inherently hilarious. This production was one of the funniest shows I saw all year. And this included several pieces of outstanding sight-gag scenes that not only went outside the box, but blew it up. The thought of two old ladies going skydiving is no longer new (even aging Presidents do it), but when you realize it was a just a trick to get one of them to feel terror in order to get them to surrender in the war, it made perfect sense. Director Robin Armstrong’s staging of these low-tech devices made it all the funnier. I like seeing shows in the little downstairs stage at Circle, but this was a gem for this year.
HISTORICAL TREATMENTS –
Fly Babies (Lunatic Theatre Company)
This historical fiction by local playwright, Rusty Harding, about the women air pilots of WWII was both acted and produced well. Directed by Leigh Wyatt Moore, the scenic designs represented the little army air field in Sweetwater Texas well, and it had the feel of many an airfield training facility I occupied during my own flight training days. Harding’s story related to the current cultural climate with challenging questions about how women, and black women especially, were treated, both then and now. It also was quite touching in the end with a button that brought the WWII characters together with the current day characters, kind of like a tribute to those who went before. The main theme was to keep the story of the WWII Women Air Corps pilots alive, along with the contributions they made to the war effort. This show did that well.
Talking Pictures (Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas)
This is a Horton Foote story directed by Amber Devlin. It was a great memory hook for me, because I spent time in Wharton, the small Texas town the story is based in, in my college years. It tells a story of poor folks, pretty much a universal condition in 1929, just prior to the Great Depression, and, coincidentally, just as American cinema was changing from silent movies to the talkies. The acting and design helped bring this story to a believable life with characters that were flawed and lovable. The story line, like most of Foote’s work, is slow and meandering and probably too slow for some, but Devlin allowed this pacing to help build the atmosphere of a decidedly slower life pace in 1920. Some of us in the audience could appreciate the time to consider life at a slower speed. One consequence of the cinema technology change was one of the themes that made this play relevant today. The people who worked to make silent films into an art form were suddenly out of work. People always suffer with technological change and this creates stories of people whose lives are in turmoil. Devlin made this story, which involved several simultaneous plot lines, to flow easily with the timing of the late 20’s. Great themes of racism, ageism, generational shifts, and religious bigotry raised questions of our own time. They’re universal themes and Devlin treated these with sensitivity and grace. What we learned is that the situations people are thrust into change, but their responses and struggles always stay the same.
A Moment in the Life of Willa Dee Arvis (MBS Productions)
Charles Ballinger directed this 2006 Mark-Brian Sonna story about an elderly deceased woman whose life was full and eventful until 1942 and then silent for the last 60-years of her life. The story explores the events leading up to that sudden change and suggests some answers. It is full of shocking revelations and surprising turns, as it steps back and forth in time to generate a speculative remembering of those events. Ballinger and Mark-Brian Sonna have a special talent in setting up this small, untheatrical space, designed for parties and meetings. Sets and technology are surprisingly simple, especially given audiences are always a few feet from the actors, yet the space feels like it supports the stories. And M-B S himself writes stories that take a unique perspective on theatrical presentation, even when subjects are historical, such as the recent Dante series. I really enjoyed the twists and turns in this show.
A Lost Leonardo (Amphibian Stage Productions)
David Davalos wrote this story about da Vinci after he had become famous, but while he was yet young, sexy and impetuous. This was before the iconic old genius we know as da Vinci. His struggles with his artistic muse cause him to throw off the muse and quit his art and, instead, sell technological designs to the evil Cesare Borgia, who was advised by the equally famous Machiavelli. In this new assignment, Leonardo discovers secrets of a former alchemist of the court that leads to all sorts of other-worldly discoveries, surprising, imaginative, and hilarious. This period is an unknown part of the historical record of da Vinci, allowing for imaginative treatments of the story, as we look back on a life’s work with amazement and remember that even the great iconic figures of history began as children and young adults, with all the insecurities and missteps we all encounter.
DRAMATIC ACTORS – A Lost Leonardo (Amphibian Stage Productions)
The cast included Matthew Amendt as Leonardo, Jim Jorgensen as Borgia, Jenna Anderson as Cecilia Bergamini, Isabella d’Este, and Lisabella di Tirisio, Patrick Bynane as both Gonzalo Napolitano and Machiavelli, Shawn Gann as Lodovico Sforza and Baldessare Castiglione, Walter Kmiec as Vitellozzo Vittelli, and Kelsey Milbourn as Lucrezia Borgia. This was such a tight-knit cast that I must give this category to the ensemble. Each played pivotal roles in the story, often more than one, and each fit their roles perfectly (great casting!). Those who had multiple roles gave each such a strong unique look and feel that it was hard to know the same actor played both. Timing and pacing was delightful to experience, and they invited the audience to jump into their journey without reservation. Well done, all!
MEMORABLE DESIGN: A Lost Leonardo (Amphibian Stage Productions)
This show had some of the best scenic design elements I’ve seen in small theater in years. Using a bare stage and a few important pieces of movable furniture and design props, some of which were hidden and revealed in surprising ways, they built a back wall consisting of a metal frame structure from floor to grid, movable, adjustable, covered in white materials that could be stripped away at dramatic times to reveal acting space, and yet heavy enough the actors could climb and act on the framework. This innovative creation of stage levels was unique in DFW. There was an ornithopter, the da Vinci flying machine, in the top of the framework and a rope-controllable scenic prop, a kite I believe, in the grid above the audience, like the chandelier of Phantom, which the actor could manipulate from the stage. One could imagine that the cold-steel coloring of this metal structure might limit the color plan and look out of place from da Vinci’s time, but in fact it felt appropriate to this story and the interspersing of those white silky sheets created a strong color contrast, on which lighting design could focus. For such a simple scenic design, it was amazingly detailed – much like the drawings of Leonardo himself.
RICHARD BUSWOLD (Associate Theatre Critic)
Musical (Non-Equity) - Without any reservation whatsoever, "Disaster" produced by ONSTAGE in Bedford.
After seeing it for the Column review and leaving the theatre with my sides hurting, my mouth dry and my eyes watering from laughing so much, I returned twice again, each time with a teenage daughter in tow just because I needed my theatre geek kids to see this production. It was almost flawless. Every actor's comedic timing was on point in every performance I saw. The script by Rudetsky and Plotnick with the inclusion of 32 pop songs from the 70s was just bloody brilliant. The fact that this show was kind of a world premiere of the updated script made it that much more special.
Play (Equity) - "The Christians" produced by Dallas Theater Center.
This was a show so skillfully written that it had the audience agreeing and disagreeing with both sides of the debate throughout the performance. It is a relatively short show but the message is powerful and timely. What to do when you have a major change of philosophy and then you publish that new belief. And how do you deal with the fallout in your work, friends and most importantly, your family. Simply staged with powerful performances from the actors, it was a theatre experience I will remember for years to come.
Play (Equity) - "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" - AT&T Broadway Series.
Inspirational, energizing and mind expanding. When you walk into the theater, the stage is a bare black and white grid. The floor, the walls and the ceiling are all comprised of a white grid on a black background. It originally appears blank and empty. However, there are dozens of trap doors and hidden cupboards that are there to produce whatever Christopher, the narrator and lead actor, needs at a moment’s notice to continue telling his story. The stage was almost a supporting character. Adam Langdom as Christopher brought such intensity, both emotionally and physically, to the role it will remain a benchmark in my head for the foreseeable future.
Best show – "The Tempest" - produced by Dallas Theater Center.
I am not sure where or how to classify this production because it was a musical but it was also Shakespeare's play. It was performed in an Equity house with Equity actors but it also had over 200 other performers who were not. So, I am just going to rate this as the BEST SHOW of 2017. This show tops my list for the simple reason that it got people not ordinarily involved in live theatre involved... and performing. And a community should bring the arts to the people and bring the arts out of people. The Dallas Theater Center, Ignite/Arts Dallas and the AT&T PAC joined with New York City-based The Public Theater’s Public Works to produce a wonderful experience that involved LOTS of people in Dallas from the mayor on down. The show featured people from different community groups and organizations. Public Works Dallas brought artists from DTC to several community centers and provided acting and performance classes to the underserved people of Dallas. The result was as much festival as it was theatre.
Actor in a musical (Non-Equity) – Jason Solis – "Disaster" (ONSTAGE in Bedford).
Jason Solis played the disco queen, Levora, in this production. His drag was so good and his characterization was so believably precise that I never thought for a minute that he was not a 1970s era disco queen the likes of Gloria Gaynor or Chaka Khan.
Actor in a musical (Non-Equity) Daniel Dean Miranda in Lakeside Community Theatre's "Cabaret"
My standout performance for an actor this year. His total range of emotions was purely believable and spot on perfect as the role of the Emcee. In the final scene with his makeup dripping and the stark terror and fear in his eyes moved me almost to tears. A truly memorable performance to be recognized.
Actress in a play (Equity) – Christian Clark - "The Christians" (DTC).
Christian Clark gave the most powerful performance in a cast full of powerful performances. She more than any other character in this show is truly torn by her love for her husband, Pastor Paul, and her belief of theology that suddenly has been uprooted with her husband’s change in viewpoint. Ms. Clark expertly showed us the torment that any of us would feel going through such a major crisis of faith versus fidelity.
Lighting Design, Musical (Non-Equity) - Jeri Tellez – "Cabaret" produced by Lakeside Community Theatre.
Taking such a small space and transforming it from small club to an apartment to a concentration camp, changing the mood by changing the lighting. It truly added to this show in ways other productions could not. It actually became an integral part of the show.
Set Design, Musical (Non-Equity) - Wendy Searcy - "Phantom" produced by Artisan Center Theatre.
To be completely honest, yes, I appeared at Artisan Theatre this year but not this particular production. That being said, her totally encompassing set for this theatre-in-the-round was a monstrously detailed recreation of Paris and the Opera House. She actually incorporated one section of the real audience and made them part of the Paris Opera House audience for certain scenes. Simply put, dramatic; fully functional and non-cumbersome and frikkin brilliant. There was no other show I saw or heard about that even comes close to inventiveness that was Mrs. Searcy's design. I can't say enough good things about this, her pinnacle of what was a full season of incredible work for Artisan Center Theatre. If Wendy Rene'e Searcy does not win the award this year, there is no justice.
I enjoy writing for THE COLUMN and I enjoy live theatre. This past season has shown me a great community of very talented folks most of whom are true amateurs. Most people might see that as an unkind comment but let me explain. "Amateur" is a French word with its root in 'amore'… love. an 'amateur' is a person who does something because they love to do it or more precisely, for the love of it. Most productions I see are full of people who are not getting paid to do what they are doing. They are doing it for the love of it, for the love of the theatre, and to me there is nothing more important than that.
GENEVIEVE CROFT (Associate Theatre Critic)
Best Shows of 2017:
Beautiful: The Carole King Story, Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Kinky Boots, Dallas Summer Musicals, Dallas
Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Beehive: The 60’s Musical, Jubilee Theatre, Fort Worth
The Buddy Holly Story, Artisan Center Theater, Hurst
Annie, Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Singin’ in the Rain, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne
Always…Patsy Cline, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne
Thomas Goetz, Buddy Holly, The Buddy Holly Story, Artisan Center Theater, Hurst
Matt Victory, Don Lockwood, Singin’ in the Rain, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne
G. Aaron Siler, Edna Turnblad, Hairspray, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne
Timothy Ware, Lola, Kinky Boots, Dallas Summer Musicals, Dallas
Curt Hansen, Charlie Price, Kinky Boots, Dallas Summer Musicals, Dallas
Brian Lawson, Emile de Beque, South Pacific, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury
Andrew Brewer, Gerry Goffin, Beautiful: The Carole King Story, Fort Worth
Sean Montgomery, Bob Wallace, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Gilgamesh Taggett, Oliver Warbucks, Annie, Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Sarah Bockel, Carole King, Beautiful: The Carole King Story, Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Susan Metzger, Patsy Cline, Always…Patsy Cline, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne
Amber Lanning, Ensign Nellie Forbush, South Pacific, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury
Haley Boswell, Laurey, Oklahoma!, Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players, Cleburne
Amanda Swickle, Annie, Annie, Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Erin Fish, Miss Hannigan, Annie, Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Best Supporting Actor:
Justus Peters, Will Parker, Oklahoma!, Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players, Cleburne
Conrad John Schuck, General Henry Waverly, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Jeff Meador, Luther Billis, South Pacific, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury
Jacob Heimer, Barry Mann, Beautiful: The Carole King Story, Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Best Supporting Actress:
Emily Bailey, Ado Annie Carnes, Oklahoma!, Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players, Cleburne
Bentleigh Nesbit, Bloody Mary, South Pacific, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury
Shauna Lewis, Louise Seger, Always…Patsy Cline, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne
Sarah Goeke, Cynthia Weil, Beautiful: The Carole King Story, Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Best Scenic Designer:
Derek McLane, Beautiful: The Carole King Story, Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Beowulf Boritt, Annie, Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Phil Groeschel and Kerri Pavelick, South Pacific, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury
David Rockwell, Kinky Boots, Dallas Summer Musicals, Dallas
Marc Bruni, Beautiful: The Carole King Story, Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Jerry Mitchell, Kinky Boots, Dallas Summer Musicals, Dallas
William (Billy) Earl Ray, Beehive: The 60’s Musical, Jubilee Theatre, Fort Worth
Jay Lewis, Always…Patsy Cline, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne
Best Costume Designer:
Tina Barrus, Always…Patsy Cline, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne
Carrie Robbins, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Gregg Barnes, Kinky Boots, Dallas Summer Musicals, Dallas
Beehive: The 60’s Musical: Kyndal Robertson, Jenna Meador, Ayanna Edwards, Devin Berg, Nikka Morton, Mattie Lillian Davis, Jubilee Theatre, Fort Worth
The Ensemble of Circus 1903, Dallas Summer Musicals, Dallas
JOEL GERARD (Associate Theatre Critic)
A Man of No Importance (Brick Road Theatre):
This was by far the best show I saw all year. The cast, costumes, lighting, props, and direction all coalesced into a tight production that really packed an emotional punch to the gut. I would have liked a few more set pieces to distinguish locations, but they really made the most of the limited space in the Cox Playhouse in Plano. And this may be the finest and most nuanced performance I've seen from B.J. Cleveland, who played the lead Alfie Byrne.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (AT&T Performing Arts Center):
A play about an autistic boy and his family was one of the most engrossing and visually outstanding shows that came to Dallas. It was the technical elements of the production that really made the audience feel and understand what the lead character was going through. The cube-shaped set with floor to ceiling LED lights was the real star. The sights and sounds drew us in to this story like no other show.
HOOD: The Robin Hood Musical Adventure (Dallas Theater Center):
An ambitious new musical with its world premiere here in Dallas, HOOD got as much right as it did wrong. A very talented cast brought to life this tale of Robin Hood with sword fighting, musical instruments, puppetry, multiple roles, and a story within a story, singing, and dancing. But that was also kind of the problem. It was over-stuffed and needed editing. But I applaud DTC for mounting this show that, with a little work, could be really special.
Peter and the Starcatcher (Firehouse Theatre):
Imagination and make-believe are very powerful tools, and this play makes us realize just how important they are. The story of Peter Pan told from before he got his name or got to Neverland is a fresh spin on an old tale. The set was sprinkled with wonderful knick-knacks and props. The actors gave it their all and turned in some physical and funny performances which the audience really seemed to enjoy. This wasn’t just a show for children; it was a lesson for adults too.
CHRIS HAUGE (Associate Theatre Critic)
Since I signed on as a critic for THE COLUMN I have had the honor of reviewing nine productions throughout the North Texas area. Getting to see them for free and a chance to take my wife, Alice on a date night was a major motivation for joining the staff (LOL), and along the way I have seen many talented actors. From Hands on a Hardbody to Bug I have marveled at the skill exhibited by people I hadn’t seen before. I attended one theatre I had worked with before (Circle Theatre in Fort Worth-Noises Off-1988 and Bach in Leipzig-2010-I have no close ties with the theatre but do admire the work they produce) so I have had been introduced to companies whose work I had not had the opportunity to see. It has been fun. This will be a short affair. With just nine shows swimming in the barrel (with one non-theatre addition) you can only fire so many times before you clear it of usable game. So, here we go!
BEST MUSICAL EVENT BUT NOT A MUSICAL-Tucker Blues Reunion Concert at South Dallas Cultural Center-February 18, 2017.
I wish all of you could have attended this event. It was a joyous regrouping of regulars from the now closed club Tucker Blues. The theatre was packed to bursting and the energy throughout the night was powerful. Featuring local jazz legends Andrew “Junior Boy” Jones, Kerri Lepai, Liz Mikel, Lucky Peterson, Sheran Keyton, and Tamara Trammell, the music ruled the crowd and at the end the entire house knew they had seen something special. It was a wonderful example of performers’ ability to move and inspire with their talent.
BEST MUSICAL-Bat Boy-The Musical-Outcry Theatre-Dallas-October 6, 2017.
For pure energy alone, this show ranks among the most memorable in my mind and heart. The script is marvelously improbable, the songs are catchy (in some cases, heart-breaking) and the cast gave it their all. This was my first introduction to this company and I will do my best to try to see more of their work. As said in their mission statement “…, Outcry Theatre focuses on developing stellar performances and exceptional storytelling.” This production achieved that and more.
BEST PLAY-Tie-Bug-Sundown Collaborative Theatre-Denton-November 3, 2017 and Application Pending-Circle Theatre- Fort Worth-October 21, 2017.
Obviously the last two shows I reviewed would still have the strongest impression on me but both plays impressed me by the level of commitment by the actors. Bug, a disturbing play showing the downward spiral of woman following the man she loves into the depths of paranoia, was buoyed by the brave performances of Meg Hargis and Denson Jones. These actors were totally one with their characters and made for a memorable, yet very disturbing, night of theatre.
Janelle Lutz in Circle’s Application pending proved to be a one-woman crowd and provided a merciless onslaught of laughs. The script was excellent, the production values were great and the whole underdog triumphing against all odds storyline gave the audience their money’s worth. Ms. Lutz’s commitment was mesmerizing to watch. I loved this show.
BEST ORIGINAL SCRIPT-Kaptain Kockadoo-Ochre House Theater-Dallas.
Okay, I only saw one original script produced, but it was a doozy. Playwright Carla Parker took her feelings about the Reformed Church of Latter Day Saints and the oppressive structure of polygamy and made a children’s television show about them. There is so much that could have gone wrong with this enterprise but Ms. Parker, as writer and director, avoided any problems. It was hard watching some of it but there were laughs and songs and downright hallucinogenic moments that kept the audience engaged. Thank you, Ms. Parker.
BEST ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE-Hands on a Hardbody-Runway Theatre-Grapevine.
It was my first show to review and still among my favorites. It’s hard to pick out just one person from the cast, so I will thank a talented group of people who sang and danced and made a play about people standing around a truck a story of courage, fortitude and friendship. I loved it.
(author’s note-I am going to point out several performances that left an impression on me in no particular order and with no differentiation between lead or supporting roles.)
Andy Stratton-Bat Boy in Bat Boy-The Musical by Outcry Theatre
I still marvel at Mr. Stratton’s energy and talent. The first twenty or thirty minutes of the show had him leaping about the set making animal noises and it made me wonder how he could last through the entire play. His transition from wild animal to cultured person was credible and his singing and acting talent made the bat boy touching and heart-breaking. It was a remarkable performance and I’m sure we will be hearing from him in the future
Janelle Lutz-Christine Evans in Application Pending-Circle Theatre.
I attend one-person shows with some trepidation. They sometimes turn into a presentation of how clever the actor is and the mob of characters they portray lack clarity or personality. I had nothing to worry about. Janelle Lutz is a consummate professional and ran through a list of characters that were all clearly delineated and alive with distinctive personalities. It was amazing to watch and outrageously funny.
Courtney Mitchell-Inez in Zorro-the Musical-Plaza Theatre-Cleburne.
Technically a supporting role, Ms. Mitchell’s Inez was central force holding the musical together. Talented and magnetic, she left a lasting impression on the audience. She successfully seduced Sargent Garcia onstage and all who attended the play-a truly powerful performance.
Alex Peters and Anna Pena-Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker-Bonnie and Clyde-the Musical-Denton Community Theatre.
These two actors carried the weight of a two and half hour show on their shoulders and did so with grace and talent. Mr. Peter’s charisma, which hides a bestial brutality, made Clyde Barrow a very likable character, but he never backed away from the darker places of the character and the audience still rooted for him. That’s the true sign of a talented actor. Ms. Pena provided the heart and soul of the musical and sang with beauty and grace. Both were wonderful to watch.
Marti Etheridge, Cassie Bann and Kory Parker- Annabelle Anne, Farrah Sue and Peanut-Kaptain Kockadoo-Ochre House Theater-Dallas.
Easily the best wives of any of the shows I saw. Caught in the polygamous trap of the Reformed Church of Latter Day Saints, these actors showed the despair, the desire for things to remain as they are and the hope for something better on their sleeves. Marti Etheridge played Annabelle Anne, the first wife, as a woman crumbling under the repression from her prophet/husband. Cassie Bann’s character, on the other hand, displays her obedience and longs to be the favorite wife. Only Kory Parker’s Peanut recognizes the truth of their situation and, in the end, acts. All three actors touched me with the honesty of their performances. Thank you.
BEST SET DESIGN-Kyle McClaran-And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little-Garland Civic Theatre.
This was the best set I had the opportunity to see this year. It was not only that it was meticulous in detail, it was the atmosphere it conveyed. This was a room that had been lived in for decades, witnessing all the trials of the sisters who lived there and now was nothing more than a well-appointed mausoleum. The set was a necessary supporting character in the play. Very well done.
BEST LIGHTING AND SOUND BOARD OPERATOR- Kyle Ward-Application Pending-Circle Theatre-Fort Worth.
No this isn’t for design work. This for the person who kept up with break-neck pace of the script and didn’t miss a beat. Kyle is to be commended for the work he accomplished. He was a very important factor in the quality of this show.
BEST PUPPETS- (This is broken into two categories.)
Best well-endowed demon puppet that squirted water on the audience through its nipples, best foul-mouthed Teddy bear and best skeleton demon with a beret-Alice in Slasherland-Lakeside Community Theatre-The Colony.
This was a wonderful mess of a play and the puppet work was fantastic. The afore mentioned demon with breasts was unlike anything I had seen before and was manipulated with skill. The can be said for all the work throughout the show. Kudos to Benjamin Keegan Arnold and Emily McClendon Leekha for the design work and Jackie Kiefer, Shane Morgan, Dustin Kinsella and Maranda Kinsella for the onstage puppet work. It made a fun show even better. Also, the cast did a music video break at the beginning of act II that forever changed the way I listen to “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.
Best Cat Puppet committing obscene acts with a Bunny puppet-Mr. Cat-Kaptain Kockadoo-Ochre House Theater-Dallas.
Talk about indelible images. It did upstage the on-going dialogue, but my wife and I didn’t care. We were too busy laughing. Clad in black and onstage, puppeteer Mitchell Parrack made Mr. Cat the center of our attention with a deep, menacing meow and dominating behavior. Mr. Parrack also provided the voice and action for a talking tree. The puppets, designed by Justin Locklear, were brought to magical and naughty life by a very gifted actor.
Well, that’s all I can think of (and still longer than I thought it would be). If I have missed someone, I do apologize. There is no intent to offend. “Best of…” lists are subjective and completely miss the magic that happens when creative people design and direct and actors take to the stage and produce something ephemeral yet memorable and entertaining. I salute all in the theatre community for your bravery and talent.
CHRIS JACKSON (Associate Theatre Critic)
When I think back over the shows I saw this past year, the performance that I keep coming back to is that of Sally Vahle in Miller, Mississippi. The depth and nuances of characterization were breathtaking. Alex Organ was also outstanding in a great cast and a wonderful production.
Hood was great fun, and the puppets by James Ortiz were brilliant and proved again that puppetry can be integrated into a production and enhance it, rather than be a distraction.
Hair was remarkable for its staging and use of space by director Kevin Moriarty, and scenic designer Jo Winiarski went beyond just transforming the Wyly space by creating a true environment that illuminated the story and gave it a base upon which to rest. Lighting designer Seth Reiser is also to be commended for being able to handle that enormity with alacrity and artistry.
Pippin at Firehouse Theater was outstanding, as was there Little Shop.
Brick Road Theater gave us a superb Cabaret with the ever-present Janelle Lutz as a remarkable Sally Bowles and a compellingly sinister Jeffery Tyler Adams as the MC.
Necessities by Blake Hackler at Second Thought, Cedar Springs or Big Scary Animals by Matt Lyle at Theatre Two and Haunted by Bruce Coleman for Our Productions were outstanding new works by local playwrights. Performances in The Necessities by Matthew Gray, Tex Patrello, Allison Pistorius and especially Christie Vela were uniformly strong. Mikey Abrams in Haunted was completely different from his wonderful characterization in La Cage for Uptown Players and Chad Cline’s scene-stealing work in Cedar Springs was great fun.
Bruce Coleman’s costumes helped to make Echo Theatre’s Brides of the Moon work, as did the set by Catherine Brandt.
Fun Home was perhaps the most moving and powerful piece I saw all year and Something Rotten the most consistently entertaining in the touring show category.
I am constantly pleasantly amazed by the depth of talent, not only among the acting and community, but also in the local designers. How wonderfully lucky we are to live here and have so much fine theater to see and take part in.
RACHEL ELIZABETH KHORIANDER (Associate Theatre Critic)
Hannah Corneau as Yitzhak, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (National Tour), AT&T Performing Arts Center
Euan Morton as Hedwig, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (National Tour), AT&T Performing Arts Center
Deron Wade as Player #2 (John Watson), Sherlock Holmes and the West End Horror, Rover Dramawerks
Katie Weekley as Jan Sanderson, I'll Be Back Before Midnight, Runway Theatre
Best Supporting Actor
Cody Bagshaw as Player #6 (Dr. Brownlow, Ellen Terry), Sherlock Holmes and the West End Horror, Rover Dramawerks
Paelor Cuihn as Player #4 (Bram Stoker), Sherlock Holmes and the West End Horror, Rover Dramawerks
Gary Eoff as Player #3 (George Bernard Shaw), Sherlock Holmes and the West End Horror, Rover Dramawerks
Neal Gregory as George Willowby, I'll Be Back Before Midnight, Runway Theatre
David Noel as Carter, Things My Mother Taught Me, Rover Dramawerks
Ivy Opdyke as Lydia, Things My Mother Taught Me, Rover Dramawerks
Best Scenic Design
Julian Crouch, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (National Tour), AT&T Performing Arts Center
Greg Phillips, I'll Be Back Before Midnight, Runway Theatre
Best Lighting Design
Kevin Adams, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (National Tour), AT&T Performing Arts Center
Benjamin Keegan Arnold, I'll Be Back Before Midnight, Runway Theatre
Best Costume Design
Arianne Phillips, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (National Tour), AT&T Performing Arts Center
Best Wigs & Makeup Design
Mike Potter, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (National Tour), AT&T Performing Arts Center
Best Projection/Video Design
Benjamin Pearcy for 59 Productions, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (National Tour), ATTPAC
Steve Roberts, Sherlock Holmes and the West End Horror, Rover Dramawerks
RYAN MAFFEI (Associate Theatre Critic)
Natalie Hope Johnson as Leaena in BLOOD FEAST (MBS Productions) gave a performance that was quite excellent.
Stefany Cambra gave a powerhouse performance in Boy Gets Girl (Resolute Theatre Productions, L.I.P. Service, and Proper Hijinx) which also had spectacular direction, set design (both Jason Leyva) and sound design (Daniel Bergeron). John Daniel Pszyk and Parker Fitzgerald also did superlative supporting work.
Denise Lee delivered award worthy work in Ruined (Echo Theatre).
ANGELA NEWBY (Associate Theatre Critic)
My Name is Asher Lev – Outcry Theater
The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (Abridged) – Amphibian Stage Productions
The Foreigner – Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre
Peter Pan – Rockwall Summer Musicals
Barbara Doudt – Peter Pan – Rockwall Summer Musicals
Becca Johnson-Spinos – My Name is Asher Lev – Outcry Theater
Alex Krus -- The Foreigner – Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre
Best Musical Director
Chris Widomski – Peter Pan – Rockwall Summer Musicals
Susanne Toler – Peter Pan – Rockwall Summer Musicals
Scott Graham & Steven Hoggett – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – AT&T Performing Arts Center
Best Scenic Design
Phyllis Johnson – Peter Pan – Rockwall Summer Musicals
Sean Urbantke – The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (Abridged) – Amphibian Stage Productions
Bunny Christie – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – AT&T Performing Arts Center
Sydnee Mowery -- The Foreigner – Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre
Best Costume Design
Maureen Cruz – Peter Pan – Rockwall Summer Musicals
Gabrielle Grafrath – My Name is Asher Lev – Outcry Theater
Brittney Mahan – The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (Abridged) – Amphibian Stage Productions
Hope Cox -- The Foreigner – Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre
Best Lighting Design
Charlotte Wester – Peter Pan – Rockwall Summer Musicals
Kenneth Farnsworth – The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (Abridged) – Amphibian Stage Productions
Paule Constable – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – AT&T Performing Arts Center
Bryan S. Douglas -- The Foreigner – Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre
Best Sound Design
David Lanza – The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (Abridged) – Amphibian Stage Productions
Ian Dickinson – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – AT&T Performing Arts Center
Alex Krus -- The Foreigner – Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre
Best Actor in a Play
Bryce Lederer – Asher Lev – My Name is Asher Lev – Outcry Theater
Aaron Fouhey – The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (Abridged) – Amphibian Stage Productions
Brandon Murphy – The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (Abridged) – Amphibian Stage Productions
Adam Langdon – Christopher Boone – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – AT&T Performing Arts Center
Scott Zenreich – The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (Abridged) – Amphibian Stage Productions
Kit Hussey – Froggy LeSueur -- The Foreigner – Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre
Best Supporting Actor in a Play
Eddie Lederer – The Men – My Name is Asher Lev – Outcry Theater
Allen Walker – Charlie Baker – The Foreigner – Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre
Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Kimberly Winnubst – The Women – My Name is Asher Lev – Outcry Theater
Jessica Taylor – Catherine Simms -- The Foreigner – Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre
Best Actor in a Musical
Matthew James Edwards – Captain Hook – Peter Pan – Rockwall Summer Musicals
Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Joseph Lee Burnam -- Smee – Peter Pan – Rockwall Summer Musicals
Best Actress in a Musical
Molly Pope – Peter Pan – Peter Pan – Rockwall Summer Musicals
Best Ensemble in a Musical
Peter Pan – Rockwall Summer Musicals
JEREMY WILLIAM OSBORNE (Associate Theatre Critic)
1. “Hair” – Dallas Theatre Center. In my opinion, there was not a better locally produced show this year. “Hair” was a touching emotional roller coaster spectacle. All involved should be commended.
2. “Hands on a Hardbody”- Runway Theatre. Speaking of emotional productions, “Hands on a Hardbody” at Runway Theatre connected to the audience in powerful ways.
3. “Disaster!” – ONSTAGE in Bedford. Getting away from the moving and poignant, “Disaster” at ONSTAGE in Bedford was a memorable, ridiculously silly departure from life set to disco hits.
4. “Hood: The Robin Hood Musical Adventure” – Dallas Theater Center
1.“Macbeth” – LIP Service. One of very few shows I watched twice, “Macbeth” by LIP Service was an excellently produced punk-rock version of Shakespeare’s classic the world needs.
2.“Peter and the Starcatcher” – Firehouse Theatre. Fun performances captured child-like wonder for adults in this production from Firehouse Theatre.
Best Actor in a Musical (No Particular Order)
Greg Phillips – JD - “Hands on a Hardbody” – Runway Theatre
Robert San Juan – Gomez Addams – “The Addams Family” – Runway Theatre
Jonathan Hardin – John Truitt – “Meet Me in St. Louis” – Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
Nick Bailey – Robin/Robert – “Hood: The Robin Hood Musical Adventure” – Dallas Theatre Center
Jaime Cepero – Claude – “Hair” – Dallas Theatre Center
Chris Peluso – Berger – “Hair” – Dallas Theatre Center
Best Actress in a Musical (No Particular Order)
Caroline Rivera – Norma – “Hands on a Hardbody” – Runway Theatre
Sarah Dickerson – Marianne – “Disaster!” – ONSTAGE in Bedford
Haven Isom – Wednesday Addams – “The Addams Family” – Runway Theatre
Sarah Perkins – Esther Smith – “Meet Me in St. Louis” – Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
Ashley Park – Marian - “Hood: The Robin Hood Musical Adventure” – Dallas Theatre Center
Tiana Kaye Johnson – Sheila – “Hair” – Dallas Theatre Center
Best Actor in a Play (No Particular Order)
R. Andrew Aguilar – Macbeth – “Macbeth” – LIP Service
Garrett Reeves – Boy (Peter) – “Peter and the Starcatcher” – Firehouse Theatre
Sterling Gafford – Black Stache - “Peter and the Starcatcher” – Firehouse Theatre
Michael Spencer – Evelyn/Rupert - “Corpse!” – ONSTAGE in Bedford
Kit Hussey – Major Powell – “Corpse!” – ONSTAGE in Bedford
Best Actress in a Play (No Particular Order)
Dayna S Fries – Lady Macbeth – “Macbeth” – LIP Service
Caitlin Jones – Molly Aster – “Peter and the Starcatcher” –Firehouse Theatre
Emily Scott Banks – Sara – “Graceland” – LIP Service
Best Supporting Actor in a Musical (No Particular Order)
Grayson Oliver – Ben/Lisa – “Disaster!” – ONSTAGE in Bedford
Stephen Bates – Alonso Smith - “Meet Me in St. Louis” – Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
Jacob Ben Widmar – Will Scarlett – “Hood: The Robin Hood Musical Adventure” – Dallas Theatre Center
Ace Anderson – Hud – ““Hair” – Dallas Theatre Center
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical (No Particular Order)
Sherry Etzel – Shirley – “Disaster!” – ONSTAGE in Bedford
Rebecca Paige – Jackie - “Disaster!” – ONSTAGE in Bedford
Susan Shaw – Katie – “Meet Me in St. Louis” – Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
Alysha Umphress – Meg – “Hood: The Robin Hood Musical Adventure” – Dallas Theatre Center
Best Supporting Actor in a Play (No Particular Order)
Shane Beeson – Banquo – “Macbeth” – LIP Service
Chris Lew – Seyton – “Macbeth” – LIP Service
Stephen Newton – Smee – “Peter and the Starcatcher” – Firehouse Theatre
Best Supporting Actress in a Play (No Particular Order)
Rose Anne Holman – Mrs. McGee – “Corpse!” – ONSTAGE in Bedford
Best Director of a Musical (No Particular Order)
Terri Hagar Scherer – “Hands on a Hardbody” – Runway Theatre
Lon Barrera – “Disaster!” – ONSTAGE in Bedford
Dena Dunn – “Meet Me in St. Louis” – Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
Douglas Carter Beane – “Hood: The Robin Hood Musical Adventure” – Dallas Theatre Center
Kevin Moriarty – “Hair” – Dallas Theatre Center
Best Director of a Play (No Particular Order)
Jason Leyva – “Macbeth” – LIP Service
Tyler Jeffrey Adams – “Peter and the Starcatcher” – Firehouse Theatre
Seth Johnston – “Corpse!” – ONSTAGE in Bedford
Best Music Director (No Particular Order)
Kristin Spires - “Disaster!” – ONSTAGE in Bedford
Kevin Sutton – “Meet Me in St. Louis” – Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
Brad Simmons - “Hood: The Robin Hood Musical Adventure” – Dallas Theatre Center
Vonda K. Bowling - “Hair” – Dallas Theatre Center
Alex Heika - “Peter and the Starcatcher” – Firehouse Theatre
Best Set Design
Jo Winiarski - “Hair” – Dallas Theatre Center
Ann Yee - “Hair” – Dallas Theatre Center
Best Lighting Design (No Particular Order)
Seth Reiser - “Hair” – Dallas Theatre Center
Branson White - “Macbeth” – LIP Service
Josh Hensely - “Peter and the Starcatcher” – Firehouse Theatre
ELAINE PLYBON (Associate Theatre Critic)
2017 is a year that brought a great selection of entertaining and artful productions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I found some of these to be extraordinarily memorable and deserving of mention in my selections for 2017:
Best costumer is a tie in my book. Missy Brooks designed period-appropriate costumes for Steel Magnolias at Granbury Theater Company. Her attention to detail added a delightful element to the play as a whole. Ashley Peisher designed costumers for The Addams Family at Grapevine Runway Theatre which fulfilled director Bill Sizemore’s vision and delivered grayscale ancestors which complemented the living family members’ designs quite well.
My favorite set for 2017 was designed by M. Ryan McBride for The Aliens at Stage West. The design brought the audience straight into the back lot of an urban coffee bar. The beautiful set was nice to take in while waiting for the performance to begin and afforded the actors a brilliant space in which to perform.
The most unique experience I had in 2017 was when I saw Her Song, a music and dance revue by Echo Theater. This annual event is set in a 1930s supper club and the audience becomes a part of the show. Unfortunately, Echo Theater has announced that the 2018 production will be the last time Her Song will be in their season, so be sure to get tickets when they go on sale in January!
My choice for best actors go to two duos. Jake Buchanan and Joey Folsom expertly performed not only their own roles in The Aliens at Stage West, but switched roles on alternating performances. Both of them delivered strong performances. Marcus Stimac and Matthew Posey earned best actor designation for their roles in Original Man at Ochre House Theater. The pair were an extremely believable father and son in the musical penned by Posey.
The best original soundtrack for 2017 is the creation of the ensemble of Original Man at Ochre House Theater. Period-appropriate tunes created during rehearsals elaborately surrounded the action and completely enhanced the experience. I wish I could have a soundtrack of these songs which I will likely never hear again, but which were so infectious!
One production stands out above all that I saw in 2017. Picasso: Matador de Málaga at Ochre House Theater was superlative in every way. I left the theater knowing that I had just witnessed the best of all the arts in one performance. Beautiful flamenco dancing paired with original music by Calvin Hazen and Alfonso Cid drew portraits in choreography and song that told the story of the brilliant painter and his many loves. The result was sheer beauty and a definitive experience in theater.
HOLLY REED (Associate Theatre Critic)
The DFW Theater scene is one to be proud of. As a graphic designer for one of Broadway’s Tony-winning producers, I’m in New York often and always have great things to pass along about what’s happening back in Dallas. Due to a family move outside of the DFW area this year, I haven’t been able to see as many shows as usual, but the ones I get to come in to town for are always delightful. A few of my favorites:
Best Musical: Into the Woods (National Tour, The Fiasco Theater Production)
Best Director: Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld, INTO THE WOODS (National Tour, The Fiasco Theater Production)
Best Actor: Darick Pead as Milky White/Florinda/Rapunzel’s Prince, INTO THE WOODS (National Tour, The Fiasco Theater Production)
Best Actress: Emma Bruce as Mrs. Lovett (SWEENEY TODD, Grand Prairie Arts Council)
Best Supporting Actor: Dakota James as Tobias Ragg (SWEENEY TODD, Grand Prairie Arts Council)
Best Scenic Design: Derek McLane, INTO THE WOODS (National Tour, The Fiasco Theater Production)
Best Costume Design: Whitney Locher, INTO THE WOODS (National Tour, The Fiasco Theater Production)
CAROL RICE (Associate Theatre Critic)
As a Theater Critic for THE COLUMN, I see a lot of shows I wouldn’t normally see. I would encourage all of you reading this special issue to PLEASE go see shows that you know nothing about and in which you know no one! You will see some GREAT stuff!
Best Actor, Play
Zachary Leyva as Conrad in Ordinary People at Resolute Theatre Project
Robert San Juan as Gregory Roberts in Let It Be Me at Theatre Britain
Best Actor, Musical
Alex Krus as Horton the Elephant in Seussical the Musical at The Firehouse Theatre
Taylor Vasek as Danny in Grease at Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Best Actress, Play
Latreshia Lilly as Mazy Buford/Dianne Greely in Fly Babies at Lunatic Theatre Company
Best Actress, Musical
Haven Isom as Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family at Runway Theatre
Best Supporting Actor, Play
Kit Hussey as Major Powell in Corpse! at ONSTAGE in Bedford
Audie Preston as Todd in Unnecessary Farce at Allen’s Community Theatre
Best Supporting Actor, Musical
Kenneth Fulenwider as the Monster in Young Frankenstein at Allen’s Community Theatre
Best Supporting Actress, Play
Debbie Fu as Hazel Ying in Fly Babies at Lunatic Theatre Company
Becca Tischer as Billie Dwyer in Unnecessary Farce at Allen’s Community Theatre
Best Supporting Actress, Musical
Laura Jennings as Elizabeth in Young Frankenstein at Allen’s Community Theatre
Michelle Phillips as Sister Mary Downey in Disaster: the Musical at ONSTAGE in Bedford
Best Featured Actor
Tanner Garmon as Eugene in Grease at Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Randy Sandifer as Victor von Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein at Allen’s Community Theatre
Best Featured Actress
Gretchen Hahn as Karen in Ordinary People at Resolute Theatre Company
Shauna Holloway as Bessie Banger, Match Lady & Prostitute in Jekyll & Hyde at Pocket Sandwich Theatre
Best Youth Actor
Alexander Lilly as Pugsley Addams in The Addams Family at Runway Theatre
Grayson Oliver as Ben/Lisa in Disaster: the Musical at ONSTAGE in Bedford
Best Youth Actress
Aria Hamilton as the Genie in Aladdin, Jr. at Haggard Middle School
The Addams Family, Runway Theatre
Inspecting Carol, Not Right Productions
Seussical the Musical, The Firehouse Theatre
Best Set Design
Kevin Brown, Seussical the Musical, The Firehouse Theatre
Bart McGeehon, The Full Monty, Uptown Players
Best Costume Design
Victor Norman Brockwell, Seussical the Musical, The Firehouse Theatre
Tory Padden, The Three Musketeers, Theatre Britain
Best Lighting Design
Aaron Johansen, Goosebumps the Musical: Phantom of the Auditorium, Dallas Children’s Theater
Branson White, Seussical the Musical, The Firehouse Theatre
Derek Whitener, Seussical the Musical, The Firehouse Theatre
Seussical the Musical, The Firehouse Theatre
Let It Be Me, Theatre Britain
Best National Tour
Something Rotten!, AT&T Performing Arts Center
DARLENE SINGLETON (Associate Theatre Critic)
Best Show of 2017:
PIPPIN, Firehouse Theater
Derek Whitener, PIPPIN, Firehouse Theater
Robert Banks, Roy Hubley, Plaza Suite, ONSTAGE at Bedford
Matthew James Edwards, Captain Hook, Peter Pan, Rockwall Summer Musicals
David Benn, The Man, Occupant, WingSpan Theater
Molly Pope, Peter Pan, Peter Pan, Rockwall Summer Musicals
Megan Liles, Morticia Addams, The Addams Family, Company of Rowlett Performers
Constance Gold Parry, Louise Nevelson, Occupant, WingSpan Theater
Best Supporting Actor:
Steve Golin, Uncle Fester, The Addams Family, Company of Rowlett Performers
Dane Hoffman, Nicely-Nicely, Guys & Dolls, Company of Rowlett Performers
Best Supporting Actress:
Andi Allen, Berthe, PIPPIN, Firehouse Theater
Best Scenic Designer:
Michael B. Winters and Charlotte Newman, Plaza Suite, ONSTAGE at Bedford
Best Costume Designer:
Victor Newman Brockwell, PIPPIN, Firehouse Theater
Christina Kudlicki Hoth, PIPPIN, Firehouse Theater
MARK-BRIAN SONNA (Associate Theatre Critic)
Best Actor: Joey Donoian in “Buyer and Cellar” (The Daum Theatre Company). It’s hard to pull off a one man show and Joey made the play elevated this production to a Tour de Force.
Best Actress: Hannah Smith in “[Title of Show]” (The Firehouse Theatre). This quirky musical requires expert comedic timing on the part of the performers. But for the production and the characters to work there has to be honesty in the portrayal. Hannah’s performance hit the mark.
Best Supporting Actress: Michelle Phillips in “Disaster!” (.ONSTAGE in Bedford). She nearly stopped the show every time she came on stage. I’ll never look at slot machines the same way again, thanks to her.
Best Supporting Actor: Rob Veal in “Phantom” (Artisan Theater Center). The role of Gérard Carrière doesn’t require much singing in this musical. This role requires subtlety, finesse, and nuances in order to capture the complexity of the character. Rob’s portrayal captured all of it.
Best Lighting Design: Kevin Grammer’s lighting design on “Smile, Smile Again” (Ochre House Theater) proves how one not need fancy lighting equipment in order to convey a mood and a location. I overlooked mentioning him in my original review, but when compiling this list, it was his effectively raw lighting design that struck me the most in all the plays and musicals I saw this year.
Best Choreography: Shannon Walsh & ReEtta Roever for “Disaster!” (ONSTAGE in Bedford). It was obvious that this show was fun to choreograph, and the zany-loony-ness of what was presented on stage was just as much fun to watch as an audience member.
Best Scenic Design: Wendy Searcy-Woode created a miraculous set for “Phantom” (Artisan Theater Center). Designing in the round is difficult, but she utilized the four corners and the areas behind the audience to create the feel of catacombs, the backstage of the Paris Opera House, etc.
Best Sound Design: Danny Bergeron created a soundscape of bells, buzzers, doors opening, etc. His sound design helped visualize what was happening off stage, and it was flawlessly timed with the action on stage in “Buyer and Cellar” (The Daum Theatre Company).
Music Director: Kristin Spires for “Disaster!” (ONSTAGE in Bedford). She worked wonders with the cast. It was clear that even though some of the performers had well trained voices, the range of abilities varied. Kristin was able to maximize the levels of talent to present a wonderfully performed musical score.
Best Props: Connie Mauree Hay for “Disaster!” (ONSTAGE in Bedford). This musical requires many a goofy prop for the jokes to work. Every single prop elicited laughter.
Best Costume Design: Nita Cadenhead for “Phantom” (Artisan Theater Center). It’s difficult to costume a period piece, especially with such a large cast. Her costume design was lush and marvelous.
Best Director: Ian Bjorklund for “Buyer and Cellar” (The Daum Theatre Company). To create effective stage pictures is difficult when it’s a one man show. He did it. To elicit honest portrayal from the actors is difficult. He did it. To pace a show so that there it constantly keeps the audience interest without overwhelming them is difficult. He did it. Simply brilliant.
Best Play: “Buyer and Cellar” at The Daum Theatre Company. Effervescent, funny, touching, thrilling, amusing, emotional, etc.
JERI TELLEZ (Associate Theatre Critic)
THE SHOW MUST GO ON award to Spencer Baker and the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Firehouse Theatre), for stepping up and completing the run after the senseless attack on cast member Derek Whitener. Had I not known Baker wasn't originally part of the cast, I wouldn't have been able to tell from his performance. Thankfully he had performed that role at Texas Wesleyan University and was able to get up to speed with an intense week of rehearsals. Kudos to Ben Phillips and the cast and crew for their hard work.
BEST MUSICAL PERFORMANCE to Dracula the Musical (Garland Civic Theatre) and Music Director Jeanie Adamson. Outstanding job of coaching the cast on both diction and musical expression with a fabulous soundtrack. The two piece orchestra sounded much larger.
BEST FIGHT CHOREOGRAPHY to Bus Stop (Rover Dramawerks) and Joseph L. Taylor II. It was realistic enough some of the audience seemed to believe there was real hitting taking place. This was even more impressive when I realized the entire scene could have been imagined offstage, narrated by the rest of the cast.
BEST FEEL GOOD MUSICAL to The Marvelous Wonderettes: Dream On (Granbury Theatre Company). Chock full of old favorites, it had audiences singing along, as well as participating in surprise performances.
BEST SET DESIGN to The Savannah Sipping Society (Richardson Theatre Center) and Jake Blackman and Leigh Wyatt Moore. There were extra details too numerous to count, making the presentation even more realistic.
BEST REIMAGINING OF AN OLD CLASSIC to Macbeth (L.I.P. Service) and Jason Leyva for creating a grunge rock version of the Scottish Play. Short of the old English dialogue, there was nothing else that indicated the play was written centuries ago. It was quite unexpected, but oddly worked well.