PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING!
EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS SPECIAL ISSUE AND ITS COMMENTS, CRITIQUES, SELECTIONS, ETC. ARE SOLE PROPERTY OF JOHN GARCIA’S THE COLUMN AND ITS EDITOR. THESE ARE NOT THE ACTUAL COLUMN AWARD WINNERS NOR OFFICIAL NOMINEES NOR SHOULD THEY BE ADVERTISED AS SUCH WHATSOEVER. YOU MAY POST, PUBLISH OR USE THIS ISSUE IN ANY SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS, PUBLICATIONS, NEWSLETTERS, ETC. HOWEVER, YOU CANNOT STATE "WE WON A COLUMN AWARD!" "WE GOT NOMINATED". THESE WERE SELECTED BY THE PROFESSIONAL STAFF OF ASSOCIATE THEATER CRITICS AND THE EDITOR. THUS, YOU ARE BEING HONORED BELOW BY THIS NATIONAL ONLINE PUBLICATION, ITS STAFF, AND EDITOR FOR YOUR WORK AND ARTISTRY.
Here it is! That issue so many of you have been waiting months for! THE COLUMN’S BEST OF DFW THEATER 2018! Here is where my dedicated and large staff of Associate Theater Critics and myself make our very own selections on what we thought was the best in theater produced around the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
My critics are on their own to make their own selections. There is no committee, no voting, nada. Just them and their voice. I do not tell them “Oh you can’t select that person”, etc. There were no restrictions. And its not just on the productions that they reviewed, but also the productions where they attended as a guest that they can choose from as well.
As Editor, I take great pride and honor in stating that our BEST OF DFW THEATER selections and issue is a much more truthful and honest list than others in that we as a publication do review and see theater ALL OVER the DFW area. Other publications limit themselves or have Publishers that tell them to stick to only Dallas theater (and even that is selective), or to only review equity theater, or review certain theaters. Now we at THE COLUMN can’t review every show, but by god we do our very best to get every theater company at least once this year! We just about succeeded in doing that this year, apart from just FOUR theater companies! That is a herculean feat to accomplish! And its because of these amazing and hard-working associate theater critics that I am so lucky to have on my staff.
So, READ THE ENTIRE ISSUE! Don’t assume that no one from THE COLUMN saw your work! You will see below how varied our selections are this year! SHARE THIS ISSUE WITH YOUR THEATERS, CASTS, CREWS, ETC! SPREAD THE NEWS! CONGRATS TO EVERYONE LISTED BELOW BY ALL OUR STAFF! And thank you for an incredible season of theater!
-John Garcia, Editor/Senior Chief Theater Critic/Founder, THE COLUMN
JOHN GARCIA (Editor/ Senior Chief Critic/Founder)
BEST ORGINIAL PRE-BROADWAY NEW MUSICAL OF 2018:
MOULIN ROUGE! The Musical (Emerson Colonial Theatre, Boston, Massachusetts) This was my fourth time to review an original new musical that was having its out of town try out run prior to its Broadway debut. They do this to work out the kinks and problems with the book, score, lyrics, casting, direction, etc. What works, what doesn’t. The last pre-Broadway show I reviewed was in Atlanta Georgia, a musical titled THE PROM. I wrote nothing but glowing praise and stated that this needs to be on Broadway right now because of what our nation is going through. I happened to review the musical only two months after the horrific tragedy at the Pulse club in Orlando, FL. THE PROM opened on Broadway this season to uproarious critical praise and is the front runner to win the Tony for Best Musical. This summer, I went to Boston and saw back to back performances of MOULIN ROUGE! The Musical. It’s based on my all-time favorite motion picture of the same name. It is ALREADY in such superb shape for Broadway (which is RARE for out of town shows).
This is a musical that cannot be called a jukebox musical, because it breaks new ground that is way beyond the scope of a jukebox musical. The jaw-dropping performances and lavish design of sets, costumes, and light are out of this world epic. At my evening performance in the row in front of me was a gentleman closely associated to the production team, who told me at intermission (he turned around to talk to our row) that the entire cast had already signed on to reprise their roles for Broadway, even though no theater or date had been announced. Unheard of in today’s casting! But they knew they are in a once of a lifetime experience. And that score, OH THE SCORE! Combined with the mesmerizing choreography, it was a sensory overload of raw, intense, sensual, and dazzling artistry that has not been done on stage before. MOULIN ROUGE! Is pure artistry that awakens the genre of musical theater. I wrote in my review that it will shake Broadway to its very core, because nothing like this has been created so beautifully and artistically powerful in years. MOULIN ROUGE! will open on Broadway this coming June!
TO READ MY FULL REVIEW OF THE BOSTON PRODUCTION, GO TO: http://thecolumnonline.com/review/08-14-2018_MOULIN-ROUGE-THE-MUSICAL/
BEST NATIONAL TOURS OF 2018:
ON YOUR FEET! THE EMILIO & GLORIA ESTEFAN BROADWAY MUSICAL (Dallas Summer Musicals)
LOVE NEVER DIES (Dallas Summer Musicals)
THE HUMANS (AT&T Performing Arts Center)
LES MISERABLES (Dallas Summer Musicals)
BEST LOCAL PRODUCTIONS OF 2018 (EQUITY AND NON-EQUITY combined):
HANDS ON A HARDBODY (Granbury Theatre Company)
I have never done this EVER in my selections for Best Production, but for the SECOND year in a row, Granbury Theatre Company has TWO shows on my Best list. HANDS ON A HARDBODY had it all! A rousing live band on stage, detailed direction, and a tight cast that worked like a fine-tuned symphony of music, emotion, and commitment. I applaud GTC for mounting this smashing musical instead of sticking to some tiresome war horse musical. Taking artistic risks like this is RARE nowadays in this area. I hunger for this kind of musical theater now more than ever. Bravo GTC!
INTO THE WOODS (Granbury Theatre Company)
You add exquisite costumes, glorious lighting, smashing direction, pristine musical direction and a cast that fully understood the subtext and the emotional canvas to flesh out honest, gripping characterizations. You pour all this into a theater company that continues to floor and incredibly impress me with their peerless artistry. Mix well with theater glitter and magic, and you get a shimmering and haunting new interpretation of Sondheim’s INTO THE WOODS!
MAMMA MIA! (Brick Road Theatre)
I walked into the Cox Theater mentally with my critic hat on, but emotionally I was dealing with some serious issues (still am). But Patty Breckenridge, Sara Shelby-Martin, Cara Statham Serber, and the entire MAMMA MIA! Company made me forget all that personal mess for two hours! Their energy was bouncing off the walls, they nailed the comedy, they touched our hearts, and brought to life all those fantastic disco classic hits, one after another. Plus, they had a kick ass, disco thumping orchestra that made us shake our Voulez-Vous thangs all night. This musical CANNOT be done with taped canned music, you need a live orchestra that brings that music to techno disco life. Very smart decision by Brick Road Theatre to do that. But to cast Breckenridge, Shelby-Martin, and Serber in those roles was a master stroke of casting genius! These three Dallas powerhouse talents constructed fresh, new, and vibrant characterizations of these roles. Their chemistry was nothing I’ve seen in ANY production of MAMMA MIA! They were the goddesses of Abba-licious from the top of their heads to the bottom of their silver platform shoes. Brick Road Theatre (as has those three gals!) has set the bar very high for all future versions that are coming up in our area this season!
NEWSIES (Lyric Stage)
This was Lyric Stage’s best musical production they have ever mounted in my humble opinion. They had a phenominal cast backed with a large, elegant orchestra (with live strings!). They had a remarkable director, a superb choreographer, and an army of male and female newsies that left the Majestic Theatre as the stars of this magnificent musical. The theater gods smiled on Lyric Stage and made every element work so smoothing and emotionally, it was a spectacular and stunning musical!
GYPSY (The Firehouse Theatre)
Taking a war horse musical and freshening it up with just the right cast was the perfect element in Firehouse Theatre’s version of the battle axe stage mother and her two daughters. Visually the sets, costumes, and lighting were in perfect sync with not just in period, but with color and pizazz. The choreography was smashing and was executed wonderfully by the first-rate ensemble. But what made GYPSY such an artistic hit for me was the magnetic and highly memorable performances of Sara Shelby-Martin (as Momma Rose) and Kimberly Pine (as Gypsy Rose Lee/Louise). Shelby-Martin (who had a GREAT year as an actress) laid her naked heart out on the floor in anger and hunger as the mother who wants her stardom, I mean for her daughter. Kimberly Pine was stupendous as Louise, but her subtext and emotional arc that showed her transformation into Gypsy Rose Lee was staggering beyond words.
NEWSIES (Family Music Theatre)
It’s always an interesting journey when you venture to observe a theater company whose work you’ve never seen before. It can open you to exciting new talent or it can show you why you wished you had stayed home to catch up on your DVR. Family Music Theater was the first, and it was packed to the gills with outstanding talent! What made it much more enjoyable was to see an entire company of thespians that I have never seen on stage, and they were out of this world amazing! All this talent was placed on a towering set and backed up with a terrific live orchestra. The pure joy and commitment they had to the material and score was displayed on their faces all evening long. Special kudos goes to that astounding choreography! FMT, you Just completely blew me away by this most impressive production and cast!
SPRING’S AWAKENING, TRAGEDY OF CHILDHOOD (Outcry Theatre)
This isn’t your typical teen/children’s theater where you groan and a foggy haze floats over your eyes because its all cupcakes and princesses, with fake acking style performing. Call me bitter single person, but teens and kids are sent to these theater camps or theater schools and are trained in the worst ways. I see the results when I see them in other shows. At Outcry theater they do a range of challenging and complex works for their teens, pushing them out their comfort zones, getting them to comprehend subtext, the arc of a character. Their proof was displayed in the haunting, dark, and raw sensuality of SPRING’S AWAKENING. These teens didn’t just get it, they GOT IT and UNDERSTOOD IT. They held nothing back and allowed the graphic honesty of their characterizations ooze onto the stage boards. Hell, they even outshined some adult actors in the musical version of the same name that I have seen in some past productions. The direction and staging were astonishing. This was RAW, REAL, GRIPPING theater…done by teens. That’s Outcry Theatre!
THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Genesis Children’s Theater)
This was performed by the adult staff of Genesis Children’s Theater, which they have done once a year. Another theater company I’ve never been to and another a new journey! My first thought was how will this intimate theater work to do a big, splashy, glitzy musical like CHAPERONE? Oh Dear…. Boy was I in for a shock! Most of the cast I had never seen before, but it was stuffed to the rooftops with tour de force talent! This was BY FAR the funniest, most original, and perfectly cast production of DROWSY that I have ever seen done locally! Not a weak link in the cast. The direction was exhilarating, the choreography was thrilling and had the crowd cheering. The set was sweet and charming as well. But it was this company of rousing and brilliant performers that had me laughing so hard all evening long! As my daling friend Beth Leavel (the original Drowsy Chaperone) would say, “Cheers Daling!”
THE LITTLE MERMAID (Artisan Center Theatre)
This was a complete surprise for me, because I didn’t expect much out of seeing yet another production of this Disney musical that has been done to death now. Well put me on a clam and call me shell shocked, because it was so not the usual fish chick in love with the human tale. The cast was led by a bountiful sea of principal and supporting performances. The costumes were dazzling in color, richly detailed. The Make up design was great, special kudos for all the glitter! The lighting, big set pieces, projections, etc. all worked sublimely throughout the evening. The ensemble was top drawer! ATC brought back its magic with this cast and production team with LITTLE MERMAID!
THE WEDDING SINGER (Stolen Shakespeare Guild)
I have never seen this musical, so this was a first to me. SSG immediately took us into the 80s with their great concept of turning the theater into a prom itself! Keith Warren gave the best performance I have ever seen him do in this musical. His comedic timing, pace, and delivery was spot on, layered that with his facial expressions and you have comedy gold! The cast was a motorcade of slick silver Deloreans on that stage! Each cast member a one of a kind and spreading their wings to fly with their talents and non-stop energy. The direction was smart and bold, while the pace was just right. This was a remarkable and rare gem of a production!
*NOTE: ALL OF THE NAMES LISTED BELOW IN THE CATEGORIES ARE LISTED IN ALAPHABETICAL ORDER
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE (PLAY OR MUSICAL):
Kris Allen as Sam in MAMMA MIA! (Brick Road Theatre) and as “Herbie” in GYPSY (The Firehouse Theatre)
Jake Blakeman as Melchior in SPRING’S AWAKENING, TRAGEDY OF CHILDHOOD (Outcry Theatre)
Anthony Fortino as Jack Kelly in NEWSIES (Lyric Stage)
Brian Lawson as Benny Perkins in HANDS ON A HARDBODY (Granbury Theatre Company)
Aaron Lett as Gomez Addams in THE ADDAMS FAMILY (Plaza Theatre Company)
Matt Meutner as the Baker in INTO THE WOODS (Granbury Theatre Company)
Stephen Hershack as Man in Chair in THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Genesis Children’s Theatre)
Darren McElroy as Simon Cato in PURE CONFIDENCE (African American Repertory Theatre)
Cody Walker as Prince Eric in THE LITTLE MERMAID (Artisan Theater Center)
Keith Warren as Robbie in THE WEDDING SINGER (Stolen Shakespeare Guild)
Christopher Whelan as Sam in MAMMA MIA! (Casa Manana)
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE (PLAY OR MUSICAL):
Mira Agustin as Wendla Bergman in SPRING’S AWAKENING, TRAGEDY OF CHILDHOOD (Outcry Theatre)
Imani Ani as Aida in AIDA (The Firehouse Theatre)
Patty Breckenridge as Donna in MAMMA MIA! (Brick Road Theatre)
Meredith Browning as the Baker’s wife in INTO THE WOODS (Granbury Theatre Company)
Megan Demsky as The Drowsy Chaperone in THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Genesis Children’s Theatre)
Michelle Dowdy as Tracy Turnblad in HAIRSPRAY (Dallas Theater Center)
Parker Gerdes as Ariel in THE LITTLE MERMAID (Artisan Theater Center)
Jocelyn Hansen as Katherine Plumber in NEWSIES (Lyric Stage)
Abigail Holmes as Katherine Plumber in NEWSIES (Family Music Theatre)
Sara Shelby-Martin as Mama Rose in GYPSY (The Firehouse Theatre)
Michelle Stahlecker as Esmeralda in THE HUNCHBACK OF NORTE DAME (Plaza Theatre Company)
Emily Warwick as the Witch in INTO THE WOODS (Granbury Theatre Company) and as Norma Valverde HANDS ON A HARDBODY (GTC)
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE (PLAY OR MUSICAL):
Quinn Angell as Sammy in THE WEDDING SINGER (Stolen Shakespeare Guild)
Austin Bender as Jack in INTO THE WOODS (Granbury Theatre Company)
Jason Bias as Robert Martin in THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Genesis Children’s Theatre)
David Coffee as Edna Turnblad in HAIRSPRAY (Dallas Theater Center)
Parker Gray as Crutchie in NEWSIES (Lyric Stage)
Jacob Harris as George in THE WEDDING SINGER (Stolen Shakespeare Guild)
Josh Hepola as Bill Austin in MAMMA MIA! (Brick Road Theatre)
Bryce Lederer as Moritz Stiefel in SPRING’S AWAKENING, TRAGEDY OF CHILDHOOD (Outcry Theatre)
Charles Mason as Chris Alvaro in HANDS ON A HARDBODY (Granbury Theatre Company)
Mark-Andrew McMeans as Crutchie in NEWSIES (Family Music Theatre)
Sheridan Monroe as Sebastian in THE LITTLE MERMAID (Artisan Theater Center)
Dominic Pecikonis as Tulsa in GYPSY (The Firehouse Theatre)
G. Aaron Siler as Uncle Fester in THE ADDAMS FAMILY (Plaza Theatre Company)
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE (PLAY OR MUSICAL):
Cheryl Allison as Tanya in MAMMA MIA! (Casa Manana)
Jill Deramus as Holly in THE WEDDING SINGER (Stolen Shakespeare Guild)
Danelle Estes as Amneris in AIDA (The Firehouse Theatre)
Ansley Hamilton as Janet Van De Graaf in THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Genesis Children’s Theatre)
Berri Harris as Little Red Ridinghood in INTO THE WOODS (Granbury Theatre Company)
Tiffany Hyatt as Kelli Mangrum in HANDS ON A HARDBODY (Granbury Theatre Company)
Sara Shelby-Martin as Rosie in MAMMA MIA! (Brick Road Theatre)
Morgan Maxey as Sophie Sheridan in MAMMA MIA! (Brick Road Theatre)
Jeannie Miller as Cinderella in INTO THE WOODS (Granbury Theatre Company)
M. Denise Lee as Rosie in MAMMA MIA! (Casa Manana)
Kimberly Pine as Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee in GYPSY (The Firehouse Theatre)
Cara Statham Serber as Tanya in MAMMA MIA (Brick Road Theatre)
BEST ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE (PLAY OR MUSICAL):
Zach Albracht as George in THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Genesis Children’s Theatre)
Sam Bullington as Rapunzel’s Prince in INTO THE WOODS (Granbury Theatre Company)
Andrew Bullard as Greg Wilmote in HANDS ON A HARDBODY (Granbury Theatre Company)
Michael Bush as Jesus Pena in HANDS ON A HARDBODY (Granbury Theatre Company)
Henry Cawood as Scuttle in THE LITTLE MERMAID (Artisan Theater Center)
Tim Demsky as Underling in THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Genesis Children’s Theatre)
Nathan Early as Cinderella’s Prince in INTO THE WOODS (Granbury Theatre Company)
Matt Holmes as Sky in MAMMA MIA! (Brick Road Theatre)
Ryder Houston as Ernst in SPRING’S AWAKENING, TRAGEDY OF CHILDHOOD (Outcry Theatre)
Seth Monhollon as Mr. Feldzig in THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Genesis Children’s Theatre)
Ken Orman as George DeWitt in PURE CONFIDENCE (African American Repertory Theatre)
Mark Quach as Eddie in MAMMA MIA! (Brick Road Theatre)
Bob Reed as Wilbur Turnblad in HAIRSPRAY (Dallas Theater Center)
Andy Stratton as Hanschen Rilow in SPRING’S AWAKENING, TRAGEDY OF CHILDHOOD (Outcry Theatre)
Robert Twaddell as Capt. Phoebus de Martin in HUNCHBACK OF NORTE DAME (Plaza Theatre Company)
BEST ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE (PLAY OR MUSICAL):
Andi Allen as Electra in GYPSY (The Firehouse Theatre)
Amy Cave as Miss Cratchitt in GYPSY (The Firehouse Theatre)
Hilary Evitt Allen as Tessie Tura in GYPSY (The Firehouse Theatre)
Sydney Comelius as Medda Larkin in NEWSIES (Family Music Theatre)
Mackenzie Kile as Gangster #2 in THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Genesis Children’s Theatre)
Nancy Lamb as Rosie in THE WEDDING SINGER (Stolen Shakespeare Guild)
Courtney Mitchell as Alice Beineke in THE ADDAMS FAMILY (Plaza Theatre Company)
Liz Mikel as Maybelle Motormouth in HAIRSPRAY (Dallas Theater Center)
Maddie McQueen Monhollon as Kitty in THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Genesis Children’s Theatre)
Cara Statham-Serber as Velma Von Tussle in HAIRSPRAY (Dallas Theater Center)
Cheyenne Shreve as Rapunzel in INTO THE WOODS (Granbury Theatre Company)
Stephanie Simmons as Heather Stovall in HANDS ON A HARDBODY (Granbury Theatre Company)
Meg Sullivan as Gangster #1 in THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Genesis Children’s Theatre)
BEST ENSEMBLE (Play or Musical):
SPRING’S AWAKENING, TRAGEDY OF CHILDHOOD (Outcry Theatre)
NEWSIES (Lyric Stage)
MAMMA MIA (Brick Road Theatre)
AIDA (The Firehouse Theatre)
THE HUNCHBACK OF NORTE DAME (Plaza Theatre Company)
THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Genesis Children’s Theatre)
NEWSIES (Family Music Theatre)
BEST DIRECTOR (PLAY OR MUSICAL):
Nathan Autrey for THE WEDDING SINGER (Stolen Shakespeare Guild)
Shane Brooks for HANDS ON A HARDBODY (Granbury Theatre Company)
Dr. Sam Germany for NEWSIES (Family Music Theatre)
Marcelle Hamilton for THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Genesis Children’s Theatre)
Jay Lewis for INTO THE WOODS (Granbury Theatre Company)
Noah Putterman for NEWSIES (Lyric Stage)
Katharine Quinn for MAMMA MIA! (Brick Road Theatre)
Becca Johnson-Spinos for SPRING’S AWAKENING, TRAGEDY OF CHILDHOOD (Outcry Theatre)
BEST MUSICAL DIRECTOR:
James Deel for HANDS ON A HARDBODY (Granbury Theatre Company)
Dr. Sam Germany for NEWSIES (Family Music Theatre)
Ashley Green for INTO THE WOODS (Granbury Theatre Company)
Bruce Greer for NEWSIES (Lyric Stage)
H. Richard Gwozdz for THE LITTLE MERMAID (Artisan Theater Center)
Isaac Leaverton for MAMMA MIA! (Brick Road Theatre)
John Norine Jr. for GYPSY (The Firehouse Theatre)
Brina Palencia for AIDA (The Firehouse Theatre)
Ashley Hamilton for THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Genesis Children’s Theatre)
Brittany Jenkins for HANDS ON A HARDBODY (GTC) and THE ADDAMS FAMILY (PTC)
Quintin Jones for AIDA (The Firehouse Theatre)
Katherine Quinn for NEWSIES (Lyric Stage)
Valerie Walker for THE LITTLE MERMAID (Artisan Theater Center)
Kyle Christopher West for GYPSY (The Firehouse Theatre)
Stacia Woodlan for NEWSIES (Family Music Theatre)
BEST COSTUME DESIGN FOR A PLAY OR MUSICAL:
Michelle Cawood for THE LITTLE MERMAID (Artisan Theater Center)
Tina Barrus for THE HUNCHBACK OF NORTE DAME (Plaza Theatre Company)
Grabrielle Grafrath for SPRING’S AWAKENING, TRAGEDY OF CHILDHOOD (Outcry Theatre)
Drenda Lewis for INTO THE WOODS (Granbury Theatre Company)
BEST SCENIC DESIGN FOR A PLAY OR MUSICAL:
Marcelle Hamilton, Megan Demsky, Meg Sullivan, and Tony Hall for THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (GCT)
Caroline Gharis for MAMMA MIA (Brick Road Theatre)
Bradley Gray for SPRING’S AWAKENING, TRAGEDY OF CHILDHOOD (Outcry Theatre)
Prudence Jones for PURE CONFIDENCE (African American Repertory Theatre)
Dee Longino, Joel Keys for NEWSIES (Family Music Theatre)
Lauren Morgan for THE WEDDING SINGER (Stolen Shakespeare Guild)
Kerri Pavelick for HANDS ON A HARDBODY (Granbury Theatre Company)
Eric Luckie for THE LITTLE MERMAID (Artisan Theater Center)
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN FOR A PLAY OR MUSICAL:
Natalie Burkhart for THE LITTLE MERMAID (Artisan Theater Center)
Cameron Barrus for THE HUNCHBACK OF NORTE DAME (Plaza Theatre Company) and THE ADDAMS FAMILY (PTC)
Bryan Douglas for THE WEDDING SINGER (Stolen Shakespeare Guild)
Kalani Morrissette for HANDS ON A HARDBODY (Granbury Theatre Company)
Cassondra Plybon-Harbin for AIDA (The Firehouse Theatre)
Kyle Hoffman for INTO THE WOODS (Granbury Theatre Company)
Hannah Winkler for SPRING’S AWAKENING, TRAGEDY OF CHILDHOOD (Outcry Theatre)
BEST LIVE ORCHESTRA / BAND / COMBO FOR A MUSICAL PRODUCTION:
HANDS ON A HARDBODY (Granbury Theatre Company)
NEWSIES (Lyric Stage)
MAMMIA MIA! (Brick Road Theatre)
AIDA (The Firehouse Theatre)
NEWISES (Family Music Theatre)
*** SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARDS ***
BEST LAVISH, NEW THEATER BUILDING /FACTILITY:
Plaza Theatre Company
BEST EXAMPLE ON HOW THREE DIVAS WERK THE STAGE AND SHOW EVERYONE ON HOW ITS DONE:
Patty Breckenridge, Sara Shelby-Martin, and Cara Statham Serber in MAMMA MIA! (Brick Road Theatre)
BEST EXECUTION OF CHOREOGRAPHY AND SINGING WHILE ATTACHED TO AN "AIRPLANE":
Rebecca Bias as Trix The Aviatrix in THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Genesis Children’s Theatre)
BEST ORIGINAL MUSIC COMPOSITION FOR A DRAMATIC PLAY / OUTSTANDING ONSTAGE GUITAR ACCOMPANTMENT:
Logan Beutel for SPRING’S AWAKENING, TRAGEDY OF CHILDHOOD (Outcry Theatre)
THE PSEUDOLUS AWARD:
Aaron Lett as Gomez Addams In THE ADDAMS FAMILY, both at PTC and Rockwall Community Playhouse
SHOWSTOPPING PERFORMANCES THAT BROUGHT THE HOUSE DOWN AWARD:
*Megan Demsky as The Drowsy Chaperone for her hysterical, side-splitting, yet original fresh take of “As We Stumble Along” in THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Genesis Children’s Theatre). The girl NAILED the comedy like Carol Burnett doing Norma Desmond under valium with a dash of Gild Radner and Bette Midler. Now add martinis sloshing all over the stage and you have Demsky’ s scene stealing performance in this glittering bauble of a musical!
*The full company of THE HUNCHBACK OF NORTE DAME (Plaza Theatre Company) whose grand voices filled the beautiful new Dudley Hall theater with “The Bells of Norte Dame”.
*Patty Breckenridge’s beautifully moving rendition of “Slipping Through My Fingers” and then segueing with belting emotional force “The Winner Takes It All” in MAMMA MIA! (Brick Road Theatre)
*Cody Walker’s marvelous tenor voice covered his ballad “Her Voice” in stellar vocal technique and shimmered just like the ocean in which his character Prince Eric found Ariel in Artisan Theater Center’s THE LITTLE MERMAID.
*The company of Family Music Theater’s NEWSIES and their fantastic tap-dancing energy and execution of the choreography in “King of New York”. The ENTIRE cast tapped in that number and it was show stopping magic! But more accolades must be bestowed on the Newsie male and female members with their glorious harmonies and robust vocals that could be heard with crystal clear clarity in their full company numbers.
*As Aida, Imani Ani’s magnificent pipes did vocal justice to the mega pop ballad “Easy As Life” in Elton John’s AIDA (The Firehouse Theatre). Her entire performance was spectacular. From her Jennifer Hudson like power vocals to her scorching arc within her characterization. She was a masterpiece of voice and emotion.
*Emily Warwick’s vocal powerhouse performances in both INTO THE WOODS and HANDS ON A HARD BODY (Both at Granbury Theatre Company). She has that rare soprano voice that can go from thrilling gospel (As she did in HANDS ON A HARD BODY) straight into creating a devastating and soaring new interpretation to Sondheim’s score as the Witch in INTO THE WOODS.
*ANY production number that had the dancing/singing ensemble of Lyric Stage’s NEWSIES. Their electrifying energy and smashing talents made their numbers stand out over and over as the evening moved on. They were the dazzling stars that made Lyric Stage’s NEWIES a triumph!
*Quinn Angell as Sammy, Jacob Harris as George, and Keith Warren as Robbie in THE WEDDING SINGER (Stolen Shakespeare Guild) doing the all-male number, “Single” that is in Act II. Angell in particular was so damn hilarious in this production number with his acting choices and facial expressions. Plus, his comedic timing was razor sharp with the lyrics. The entire group of men in this number were down right hysterical!
*Ayanna Edwards, Tanisha Moore, and Gabrielle Reyes as The Dynamites in Dallas Theater Center’s HAIRSPRAY. These three extraordinary divas tackled those soulful harmonies and Mariah Carey like runs and SUCCEEDED with golden vocal brilliance! Having seen the original Broadway production, first national tour, and countless productions, they were the FIRST Dynamite trio to nail those notes since the Broadway version. Shantay You slay!
THE COLUMN STAFF OF ASSOCIATE
THEATER CRITICS PICKS!
MILDRED AUSTIN (Associate Theatre Critic)
Best Actor Musical (Non-Equity)
Sadat Hossain for TOXIC AVENGER THE MUSICAL (Lakeside Community Theatre)
Sadat Hossain had only one flaw in this production—he’s handsome! What a burden for an actor to bear! But he effectively used his body and voice to convey meek and mild and his transformation to the Avenger was amazing. His vocals matched his two characters effectively and he was completely believable both as the lovesick, sweet Melvin and the awesome super hero. Loved that growl!
Best Actress Musical (Non-Equity)
Stephanie Felton for TOXIC AVENGER THE MUSICAL (Lakeside Community Theatre)
Stephanie Felton in her three roles as the nun, Melvin’s ma and ma’s arch rival, the Mayor, exploded with energy. Each of her characters were quite different and she was required to switch between Ma and the Mayor quickly and often and she brought it off without a flaw. She has a strong voice and can belt her numbers out when that is called for. And, her number “Evil Is Hot” was nothing short a show-stopper!
Best Featured Actor Musical (Non-Equity)
Shane Alexander as Black Dude for TOXIC AVENGER THE MUSICAL (Lakeside Community Theatre)
Shane Alexander as Black Dude was Mr. Animation! His face was his ace in this role. He could twist and contort it and role his big eyes all around at the same time he used his entire body to portray a character. The hairdresser role left me gasping for breath with laughter. He is very astute as an actor in using voice, body and facial expression to portray a character, and in this show, several characters, each different. His voice is strong, and his vocals were spot on.
Best Musical (Non-Equity)
TOXIC AVENGER THE MUSICAL—Lakeside Community Theatre
Following a cursory Google of the show beforehand as I was unfamiliar with it, I was totally in the dark as to how all the hilarity and quirky subject matter would be pulled off. But leave it to Lakeside. This theatre delivers on their advertising with solid theatre whether it be a funky musical or a serious drama. As the show progressed from scene to scene, I have to say, I found myself anxious to see what was coming next. I watched and listened and anticipated the fun to come! Choosing this musical for their season was a smart theatrical decision. It was well-paced, efficient, outrageous well cast and superbly directed both on stage and musically. This is a DIFFICULT show! One shouldn’t be fooled by that super hero, comic book aspect of the story. The musical features only five actors and all but one takes on multiple roles. To describe the show as madcap would be an understatement. It relies on energy, energy and more energy from those five actors. And, at Lakeside’s production, under the creative hand of director Benjamin Keegan Arnold, energy doesn’t just flow out, it explodes! As we finished a summer full to bursting with Super Hero movies for the kiddos, this silly, goofy, irreverent stage show was just the ticket for us guffaw hungry adults! movies for the kiddos, this silly, goofy, irreverent stage show was just the ticket for us guffaw hungry adults!
Best Director Musical (Non-Equity)
Benjamin Keegan Arnold for TOXIC AVENGER THE MUSICAL (Lakeside Community Theatre)
I could see AND EXPERIENCE the fun, the exuberance, the naughtiness which Mr. Arnold sought to bring to the stage in his direction AND stage design for TOXIC AVENGER THE MUSICAL. He paced his actors perfectly and moved them flawlessly about the space of the stage. His direction reflected his stage design—everything perfectly integrated to push this outrageous story along at a madcap pace. His choice of actors, again, couldn’t be faulted and he made the most of what they brought to the story. His stage direction seamlessly showcased his musical director’s concept of a production with focused vocals, staging, movement and stage business of the actors.
Best Scenic Designer Musical (Non-Equity)
Benjamin Keegan Arnold for TOXIC AVENGER THE MUSICAL (Lakeside Community Theatre)
The set for this production took me back a little to POLOROID STORIES, also directed by Arnold, which I saw and reviewed (and loved) at Lakeside previously. This time though, it was a toxic waste dump in Tromaville, New Jersey, and it looks like it. Having big barrels practically oozing green radioactive waste, form the basis of the background is perfect. Love the special effects of green smoke and light! Also, the chain link fencing that cordons off the combo is priceless and blends in quite appropriately. Kudos go to Mr. Arnold, the director of the show, for providing this unexpected but oh so appropriate setting for the production!
Best Musical Director Musical (Non-Equity)
TOXIC AVENGER THE MUSICAL — Rebecca Lowrey
The music was outstanding as directed by Rebecca Lowery on keyboard, with Aaron Sutton on guitar, Catherine Conlin woodwinds, Chris Wooley bass and Kami Lojan, drums. Ms. Lowery is sometimes a performer as she enters and mirrors the hilarity onstage. She delivered live music, and good live music and this was so preferable to a sound track and certainly helped to move everything along in a rollicking production.
Best Play (Non-Equity)
THE INNOCENTS (Richardson Theatre Centre)
An all-time favorite of mine, the INNOCENTS is all about dark suggestion, innuendo, and supposition played out against the backdrop of a lonely, cheerless country estate in England around the end of the 1900’s. In Richardson’s production, the gloom and eeriness were brought to life by the director and actors. There are hints, but never proofs that ghosts inhabit the manse and seek to own the innocents that reside within. The play was a particularly appropriate choice for the Halloween season, although the chilling secret the story holds balances much more on the psychological than the physical. It was as haunting and unnerving as it was dark and deceptive. Eerie sound effects added to the suspense and the director and actors steered it to its horrifying conclusion. Well done!
Best Director Play (Non-Equity)
Charles Ballinger for THE INNOCENTS (Richardson Theatre Centre)
Mr. Ballinger’s concept of William Archibald’s dark play THE INNOCENTS, based on THE TURN OF THE SCREW by Henry James, closely follows the latter author. The audience thinks there may be ghosts in the remote estate holding two children. And the ghosts may have incorporated those innocents in their perverted activities while alive and now seem to want to continue even after death. The play is somber, and, while evocative, only suggests as to what constitutes reality and what is simply the hysteria of a lonely woman. Ballinger uses lighting and sound to create the eerie and depressive atmosphere so important to the action and the story. His movement of his actors around the stage is brilliant and his stage pictures stunning. His decision to tackle this older work and present it in the fall was equally brilliant, making THE INNOCENTS a chilling experience for the audience as we approached Halloween, the “season of ghosts.”
Best Supporting Actress Play (Non-Equity)
Deborah Key for THE INNOCENTS (Richardson Theatre Centre)
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.
ERIC BIRD (Associate Theatre Critic)
Hunchback of Notre Dame – Plaza Theatre Company
Best Set Design
Nicholas Graves - You Can’t Take It with You – Granbury Theatre Company
Best Costume Design
Emily Warwick – Guys and Dolls, Granbury Theatre Company
Josh Rhodes – Bright Star, AT&T Performing Arts Center
Best Actor, Musical
Sam Bullington as Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls (Granbury Theatre Company)
Best Actress, Musical
Mia Cree Washington as Adelaide in Guys and Dolls (Granbury Theatre Company)
Best Actress, non-musical
Kathy Lemons as Penelope in You Can’t Take It with You (Granbury Theatre Company)
CHARLIE BOWLES (Associate Theatre Critic)
My main criteria for choosing an exceptional production comes from what I remember of it before I look back at my notes. As always, I am thrilled that there are many producing companies mounting relevant, interesting, compelling theater in DFW. There is diversity in production teams and production quality. It's a great gift that on any day of the year there's a production running somewhere. Easy to reach, affordable and quality work. And with that, my 2018 memories.
I list memorable shows based on different qualities. All are good. Production elements are unique, well-designed, executed well by crew and cast, and acted superbly. But there's different works with different values, so I look at each individually.
Cats – Andrew Lloyd Webber – Artisan Center Theater
Cats has fabulous production qualities and a long history, not to mention evocative songs and lovable characters. Pop music lovers remember the iconic Memories, but Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote stirring, fun and exciting music for each character that enacts T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Artisan Center Theater remounted this timeless musical after many years and it was good in every way. They created a wide range of the required cat costumes out of special creativity and the proverbial limited community theater budget. Cat characters sang and danced well, led by Music Director Richard Gwodz and Choreographer Brittany Jenkins, and their characters achieved memorable performances across the board, despite the young age and youthful experience of most of the cast. I especially loved Director Reid Horton's ability to draw totally different characteristics from each cat, despite the fact he also performed one of my favorite roles, Gus the Theater Cat. His performance of this little understated song was worthy of best actor, but he also played two other roles and kept a keen eye on the traditions of this show and his vision. And when it comes to that iconic Memories, Artisan put forth (in my performance) Mary Ridenour as Grizabella. Her performance of those songs both thrilled and excited the audience and this reviewer. Her creation of this woeful, disheartened old Cat was extraordinary and in the end, there's no one who questions her right to rise to Heaviside Layer. I have seen the movie dozens of times and on-stage numerous times and Artisan's production kept up the strong tradition this show demands.
Jekyll & Hyde – Frank Wildhorn & Leslie Bricusse & Steve Cuden– Casa Mañana
I had not seen Jekyll & Hyde and paid little attention to it in its Broadway run, but I saw it with a friend as a favor and found it to be well-done. The storyline is the saga of Henry Jekyll, who experiments with mind-altering drugs to affect personality for his patients. Bradley Dean, as Dr. Jekyll, uses himself as test subject in his experiment and brings out Edward Hyde, his own alter-ego. And the battle that ensues affects everyone he knows, especially the two women who love him. Music was powerful and heart-wrenching with lush, rich harmonies and intricate counter-lines that offered spectacular solo performances and duets. Unfortunately it also suffers from its own internal struggle. I loved the songs at the time, but can't remember any of them now. But Casa staging, led by Director Tee Scatuorchio, combined the warm hues of an era built of wood with stark colors, gritty lighting and a metallic feel of the Industrial Age which reinforced the hard-edge of this story and its message. Inside each of us are personalities at war with each other. For most of us, we don't need drugs to let them out.
An Octoroon – Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins - Stage West
This quirky piece uses the retelling of a turn-of-the-century story about slaves to pose questions of racial identity and social stereotypes in America. Akin Babatunde directed this cast to create memorable characters who play actors in the current day playing characters in the original 1859 story, The Octoroon, by Dion Boucicault. With dual characterizations, cross-costumed actors, diverse casting and characters playing against their stereotypes, along with time-slipping story lines, this was a challenge to keep straight but was also evoking of the message about common stereotypes, which are abundant and evident even today. I love these stories that take you to the edge of an issue and leave you hanging with your own judgements. It's those judgements, when seen in the open, that cause change.
This Random World – Steven Dietz - Circle Theatre
Steven Pounders directed this random walk through life by a group of seemingly unrelated characters who barely miss several chance encounters in ways that affects all of their lives, often in unbearable or comic ways. I always love how the production teams at Circle create such rich settings with little pieces of set in this small basement stage. Random World takes place in several different locations during different seasons and yet we go there with them willingly. And I get excited when a production introduces new effects with surprisingly simple technology, as they did with a full-blown rainstorm on-stage. Amazing!
The Bald Soprano & The Lesson – Eugene Ionesco – Michael Muller Productions & Dragstrip Courage
There is precious little real experimentation with the strange and quirky avant-garde genres. These shows admittedly don't draw the general public and certainly don't get large enough audiences to make people want to produce them more often. But Michael Muller and Seth and Lark-Wallis Johnston do try this and give audiences an opportunity to see these shows you seldom see elsewhere. This production of two 1-acts by Eugene Ionesco, one of the most successful of the Absurdist authors in the early 20th Century, was true to the form. The goal of this art form was to point out how absurd we humans and our societies can be with our dualistic judgmental value systems and our choices to do things that make no sense in any logical form. Muller points out that these two plays opened just after the only two atomic weapons ever used, killing 300,000 people in two single moments. But, then, you could imagine that the entire war machine, on all sides, was the most bizarre absurd thing we've ever seen. And, doesn't it seem like history is repeating itself even now?
Picasso at the Lapin Agile – Steve Martin – Resolute Theatre Project
This was another show I had read about, but not paid much attention to. We think of Steve Martin as a fabulous stand-up comic who made it big on Saturday Night Live and in several movies. But playwright? Resolute Theater put this up as a celebration of Martin's comic genius. And when I say comic, I mean smart, thoughtful comedy with a message wrapped in a complex, interesting story. Picasso walks into a bar and runs into Albert Einstein, both just before they discovered their greatest achievements. This play combines the French view that every Frenchman is an artist with a realization that artistic genius is often found through serendipity. And Martin adds the fact that scientific and artistic genius are not so different and come out of the same sense of wonder about the world. Einstein said this. This was well-acted by its small cast and directed by Shawn Gann with a sense of the precise timing of Martin's own art.
Every Brilliant Thing – Duncan Macmillan/Jonny Donahoe - Circle Theatre
If you take a little stream-of-consciousness memory play, put it in the hands of a single young actor, Zak Reynolds, and then add the touch of a master presenter, Director Harry Parker, you get a unique, luscious audience experience. Essentially a long monologue about the things a man remembers about his life, this kind of story could easily turn into something mundane or hard to digest, though it still might be a little funny. But with the deft handling by Parker and Reynolds, who could engage an audience as actors seldom do, even as they stood in the lobby before opening, you get a funny, often hilarious reminder that every seemingly minor event from the day you're born could easily qualify as the most brilliant thing that ever happened to you. The unique experience came from the invitation, maybe a little cajoling, by Reynolds to audience members to be the disembodied voice, and sometimes a character on-stage who voiced, the expansive list of Every Brilliant Thing in the author's life.
National Theater Live Performance on the Big Screen:
Once used to beam live Shakespeare from London's National Theatre by the folks most famous for the Bard's plays, NT Live has expanded their shows to include many genres. For a few dollars you can sit in a theater audience near you and join the live audience at Royal National Theater to watch on-stage, live performances. One of the best places to see these performances is Fort Worth's Modern Art Museum theater, presented by Amphibian Stage Productions. It's one of their season offerings and they deserve kudos and thanks for making it possible.
Julie – Polly Stenham, adaptation of August Strindberg's Miss Julie – NT Live – Amphibian Stage Productions
While this was a play we saw on a movie screen, it was actually a live on-stage production with audience and all the production values we expect of excellent theater. Julie is a rich girl depressed about life in Daddy's mansion, especially after he no-shows her birthday party. She tries desperately to find love in the arms of her father's chauffer, Jean, the lover of her cook and seemingly best friend, Kristina. Director Carrie Cracknell placed this updated version into contemporary London, so the lights and sounds and staging was ultra-modern. But what really drove this show were the actors, Vanessa Kirby, of Crown fame, as Julie, Thalissa Teixeira, as Julie's cook, and fiancé to the chauffer, Jean, played by Eric Kofi Abrefa. The acting and direction was superb in every way and I was so glad to catch lightning in a bottle by seeing this on a whim. You likely cannot see this in reruns now, but do not ignore other NT Live events hosted by Amphibian. They are worthy of your time and a whole lot cheaper than a flight to London. And you may see some extraordinary theater.
RICHARD BUSWOLD (Associate Theatre Critic)
2018 – what a year for theatre in DFW. I reviewed 14 shows for John Garcia’s The Column and attended a half dozen more. For the most part, I have seen great theater this year in DFW. I can find quality things to say about even those shows that were less than par. But thankfully almost every show I attend this year was over par... some were WAY over.
I’ll start with what I think was the single best show of 2018.
The Plaza Theatre Company in Cleburne, Texas christened their new performance space at Dudley hall with “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” in February. Brad Justice as Quasimodo was an absolute joy to experience. His stunted speech and hunkered frame fit perfectly into Quasimodo. I described Kevin Poole as ‘oily’ and as Frollo he was, deliciously so. Michele Stahlecker as Esmerelda still brings a smile to my face. This was such a perfect show that Plaza set the bar so high with their Dudley Hall Debut, they never really attained that level of perfection throughout the rest of their season.
Out of this ONE show I have many picks under the heading of Musical – Non-Equity:
Best Musical (Non-Equity) - The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Best Director - G. Aaron Siler and Milette Siler
Lead Actor – Brad Justice (Quasimodo)
Lead Actress – Michelle Stahlecker (Esmerelda)
Featured Actor – Brian Lawson (Clopin Trouillefou Gypsy King)
Stage West produced a show this year that was a bit uncomfortable for me. The show was "A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York", easily the longest play title I have ever seen. The show deals with adult children of moms with cancer. I lost my mom not too long ago to cancer and some of the situations and even the lines were things I heard or said at the end of my mom’s life. Kudos to Janelle Kastner and Thomas Ward for their performances but my “Best Of” pick from the show is for the tech.
Best Lighting Design (Equity) - L.W. Miller
Best Set Design (Equity) - Jocelyn Girigorie
If “Hunchback” is the best musical I saw in 2018, the best play comes down to a race between “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” Produced by Theatre Three and “Don’t Dress for Dinner” at Stage West. Both shows were Equity productions so I must group them together. Unfortunately, the shows cannot be more diametrically opposed. The former being a sex, lies and intrigue tension filled anger fest and the latter being a sex, lies and intrigue tension filled bust-a-gut comedy.
“Dinner” was a perfectly cast fully realized sex farce with impeccable timing that I gave my highest possible recommendation, “Go. See. This. Show.” I loved every aspect of this production. Everybody was perfect for their roles. They looked, moved and sounded exactly as you think they should have been. Even though every aspect of their characters was ramped up almost to the point of absurdity, it was the ideal presentation for this farce. The set was exciting, and the lighting was painstakingly precise in its perfect presence. My “Best Of” picks for this show are many so strap in:
Play (Equity) - Don’t Dress for Dinner – Stage West
Lead Actor in a play (Equity) – Mark Shum (Bernard)
Supporting Actor in a play (Equity) – Michael Federico (Robert)
Supporting Actress in a play (Equity) - Allison Pistorius (Suzette)
Sound Design of a play (Equity) – John Flores
Lighting Design of a play (Equity) – Aaron Johansen
Set Design of a play (Equity) – Michelle Harvey
“Les Liaisons Dangereuses” was as equally well acted but like I said, it was an intense anger fest instead of a farce. The set and the lighting in Theatre Three’s round stage is effective but just missed making the cut for my Best Of picks. Brandon Potter is so excellent in as Valmont, it is amazing. He is as snide as John de Lancie's Q from Star Trek TNG while being as charming as George Clooney's Danny Ocean. He is the one character who runs the gambit of emotions throughout the play and he brings them all to life. He is at times slimy and sleek, then loving and careful, sexually aggressive and tormented by demons he may not have known existed. He lets you know what is going on inside his head by subtle facial expressions coupled with spot-on mannerisms. Cindee Mayfield makes the perfect mate, foil, frenemy of Valmont. She is a cold, calculating bitch of a woman whose only real pleasure in life seems to be destroying men and she plays this roll magnificently.
The four “Best Of” picks that I do have from this production are:
Best Play (Equity) - Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Lead Actor in a play (Equity) - Brandon Potter (Valmont)
Best Director of a play (Equity) - Tiffany Nichole Greene
Lead Actress in a play (Equity) - Cindee Mayfield (Marquise de Merteuil)
There were many shows this year where the production was less than stellar but had stellar performances wrapped up inside them. For using a pit of musicians instead of canned music making it LIVE musical theatre, MainStage Irving-Las Colinas earned mucho respect from this critic.
Music Direction (Non-Equity) - Mary Medrick, Kiss Me Kate
Other “Best Of” recognitions go to:
Lead Actress Musical (Non-Equity) - Dana Rice (Ester Smith) in Artisan Center Theatre’s “Meet Me in St Louis”
Featured actor in a play (Non-Equity) - Terry Yates (Feste) Twelfth Night produced by Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Best Musical (Equity) - ONCE produced by Theatre Three
GENEVIEVE CROFT (Associate Theatre Critic)
Another year has come and gone, and another season of successful shows for many local theater companies is in the books. In my opinion, this season, there was a fantastic variety of material. From musicals, to comedies and dramas, the performing arts are alive and well in our competitive and large Metroplex. I submit, for your perusal, Croft’s Best of Theatre 2018:
Best Shows of the year:
Chicago, Broadway at the Bass, Bass Hall, Fort Worth
The Marvelous Wonderettes, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne, Texas
Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne, Texas
A Christmas Story The Musical, AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House, Dallas
Hairspray, Dallas Theatre Center, Winspear Opera House, Dallas
Elf the Musical, Dallas Summer Musicals, Music Hall at Fair Park, Dallas, Texas
Tim Herndon, Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Evan Beggs, Ren McCormack, Footloose the Musical, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Matt Victory, Sebastian, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne, Texas
Matt Beutner, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, Young Frankenstein, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Eric Williams, Buddy the Elf, Elf the Musical, Dallas Summer Musicals, Dallas, Texas
John Adkison, Walter Hobbes, Elf the Musical, Dallas Summer Musicals
Paul Nobrega, The Old Man, A Christmas Story The Musical, AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House, Dallas, Texas
Michael Norman, Ralphie, A Christmas Story The Musical, AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House, Dallas, Texas
David Coffee, Edna Turnblad, Hairspray, Dallas Theater Center, Winspear Opera House, Dallas, Texas
Lana Gordon, Velma Kelly, Chicago, Broadway at the Bass, Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Dylis Croman, Roxie Hart, Chicago, Broadway at the Bass, Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Amanda Williams Ware, Miss Mona, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Bentleigh Nesbit, Vi Moore, Footloose the Musical, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Emily Warwick, Missy, The Marvelous Wonderettes, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne, Texas
Eden Barrus, Ariel, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne, Texas
Emily Warwick, Ursula, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne, Texas
Nancy Bartke, Mother Superior, Sister Act, Grand Prairie Arts Council, Grand Prairie, Texas
Antonette Hunt, Delores Van Cartier, Sister Act, Grand Prairie Arts Council, Grand Prairie, Texas
Michelle Dowdy, Tracy Turnblad, Hairspray, Dallas Theater Center, Winspear Opera House, Dallas, Texas
Best Supporting Actor:
Colton Lively, Melvin P. Thorpe, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Austin Bender, Willard Hewitt, Footloose the Musical, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Tim Herndon, The Monster, Young Frankenstein, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Colton Lively, Igor, Young Frankenstein, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Best Supporting Actress:
Jennifer Fouche, Matron “Mama” Morton, Chicago, Broadway at the Bass, Fort Worth
Jerry Doran, Sister Mary Lazarus, Sister Act, Grand Prairie Arts Council, Grand Prairie, Texas
Meg Maley, Inga, Young Frankenstein, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Mia Cree Washington, Elizabeth Benning, Young Frankenstein, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Bentleigh Nesbit, Frau Blucher, Young Frankenstein, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Galyana Castillo, Deb, Elf the Musical, Dallas Summer Musicals, Dallas, Texas
Best Scenic Designer:
Parker Barrus and Soni Barrus, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne, Texas
Kerri Pavelick, Young Frankenstein, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Michael Carnahan, A Christmas Story The Musical, AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House, Dallas, Texas
Domanick Anton Hubbard, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Jay Lewis, The Marvelous Wonderettes, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne, Texas
Nathan Autrey, The Wedding Singer, Stolen Shakespeare Guild, Fort Worth, Texas
Eric Criner, Sister Act, Grand Prairie Arts Council, Grand Prairie, Texas
Ricky Pope, Young Frankenstein, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
David Hyslop, Chicago, Broadway at the Bass, Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Sam Scalamoni, Elf the Musical, Dallas Summer Musicals, Dallas, Texas
Matt Lenz, A Christmas Story The Musical, AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House, Dallas, Texas
Best Costume Designer:
Emily Warwick, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Emily Warwick, The Marvelous Wonderettes, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne, Texas
Tina Barrus, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne, Texas
The Marvelous Wonderettes, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne, Texas
Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne, Texas
JOEL GERARD (Associate Theatre Critic)
TOP 10 PRODUCTIONS OF THE YEAR:
Like A Billion Likes (Stage West Theatre):
Stage West had the world premiere of this contemporary work by Erik Forrest Jackson. This was an edgy show that dealt with topical issues like LGBTQ representation, bullying, infidelity, gender self-identification, and social media. Director Garret Storms used cute social media projections and a killer music soundtrack to highlight the action onstage, and a great cast really hit all the right notes in this stellar production.
A Chorus Line (Uptown Players):
While A Chorus Line isn’t one of my favorite musicals, this sleek production from Uptown Players helped lift some of the material above the issues I have. Since every actor in this show needs to be a triple threat, I was impressed by the level of talent onstage. Director and choreographer Jeremy Dumont earned praise for a well-executed show and some great choreography.
Evita (Music Theatre of Denton):
Music Theatre of Denton did a sumptuous production of this classic musical about Eva Peron. Sets, costumes, and wigs all looked lavish and director Kyle Christopher West kept the action moving with smooth transitions and visually interesting musical numbers. I was especially impressed by actress Alena Cardenez as Eva Peron and a very strong ensemble that harmonized perfectly.
She Kills Monsters (Theatre Three):
She Kills Monsters is billed as “an action-packed dramatic comedy” and it delivers on all those promises. As a fellow geek, I loved all the 90’s pop culture references, video games, fantasy, sword fighting, and Dungeons & Dragons-like quest. Theatre Three made all these varied elements into a truly fun production with a surprising emotional connection.
The Full Monty (Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas):
The Full Monty is one of my favorite shows, and the first show I ever saw on Broadway with the original cast. This was the first production of this show I’ve seen since then, and I can say it was just as good as what I saw on Broadway. The cast looked like they were having a blast and the audience loved it even more.
My Fair Lady (Garland Summer Musicals):
This is one of those big, classic musicals that is tough to produce. But I was really impressed with everything Garland Summer Musicals did for this show. There were huge sets, beautiful costumes, and a large cast. Director Michael Serrecchia made this enormous undertaking look easy and delivered a Broadway quality show.
Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert: The Musical (Uptown Players):
I’ve wanted to see this show for a long time, and Uptown Players did not disappoint with what was probably the most fun night of theatre of the year. The outrageous costumes and set pieces are integral parts of the show and Uptown delivered a visual treat with the pieces they borrowed. I can’t imagine how many costumes changes there were in total! The actors playing the three lead “queens” really threw themselves into the roles and found the depth to these characters.
Hairspray (AT&T Performing Arts Center Broadway Series and the Dallas Theater Center):
I always enjoy seeing Hairspray, and this time was no exception. Michelle Dowdy and David Coffee as Tracy and Edna Turnblad were a delight to watch. The sets and costumes were bright and colorful enough to be seen way back in the huge Winspear Opera House. I really hope they do more fun and well-executed joint productions like this in the future.
Into The Woods (Granbury Theatre Company):
This is a big musical that I feel is trickier to produce than most theatres think, but Granbury Theatre Company really nailed it. Doing a Stephen Sondheim show requires a deft understanding of the material and music. Director Jay Lewis and the entire cast understood the complexities and nuances of the show. It was creatively one of the best productions of Into the Woods I’ve seen.
Angels In America, Part Two: Perestroika (Uptown Players):
Part Two is not produced quite as often as Part One, in my opinion, because it’s more cerebral and the plot meanders. However, this is still an extremely important piece of theatre and I’m glad Uptown Players decided to do Part Two with the exact same cast two years later. I included their production of Part One on my “Best Of” list back in 2016. I said this was one of the best ensembles of actors I’ve ever seen for a locally produced show, and I still feel that way. This was a satisfying conclusion to an epic undertaking.
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCES OF THE YEAR:
Evan Michael Woods as “Jacey Collier” in LIKE A BILLION LIKES (Stage West Theatre)
Ashley Chasteen as “Cassie Ferguson” in A CHORUS LINE (Uptown Players)
Beth Lipton as “Sheila Bryant” in A CHORUS LINE (Uptown Players)
Alena Cardenez as “Eva Peron” in EVITA (Music Theatre of Denton)
Michelle Stahlecker as “Esmeralda” in THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (Plaza Theatre Company)
Madeline Ruth Pickens as “Annelle” in STEEL MAGNOLIAS (Theatre Frisco)
Sarah Michal Roberts as “Shelby” in STEEL MAGNOLIAS (Theatre Frisco)
Preston Isham as “Jerry Lukowski” in THE FULL MONTY (Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas)
Dakota Davis as “Malcolm MacGregor” in THE FULL MONTY (Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas)
Lisa Anne Haram as “Jeanette Burmeister” in THE FULL MONTY (Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas)
Jonathan Hardin as “Ren McCormack” in FOOTLOOSE (Theatre Arlington)
Sara Shelby-Martin as “Mama Rose” in GYPSY (The Firehouse Theatre)
Kimberly Pine as “Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee” in GYPSY (The Firehouse Theatre)
Keith Warren as “Robbie Hart” in THE WEDDING SINGER (Stolen Shakespeare Guild)
Jacob Harris as “George” in THE WEDDING SINGER (Stolen Shakespeare Guild)
Michael A. Robinson as “Henry Higgins” in MY FAIR LADY (Garland Summer Musicals)
Alexandra Cassens as “Eliza Doolittle” in MY FAIR LADY (Garland Summer Musicals)
Jack Donahue as “Bernadette” in PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT (Uptown Players)
Blake McIver as “Adam/Felicia” in PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT (Uptown Players)
Sonny Franks as “Bob” in PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT (Uptown Players)
David Coffee as “Horace Vandergelder” in HELLO, DOLLY (Casa Manana)
Kenny Francoeur as “Barnaby Tucker” in HELLO, DOLLY (Casa Manana)
Michelle Dowdy as “Tracy Turnblad” in HAIRSPRAY (AT&T Performing Arts Center and Dallas Theater Center)
David Coffee as “Edna Turnblad” in HAIRSPRAY (AT&T Performing Arts Center and Dallas Theater Center)
Anthony Fortino as “Jack Kelly” in NEWSIES: THE MUSICAL (Lyric Stage)
Imani Ani as “Aida” in AIDA (The Firehouse Theatre)
Danielle Estes as “Amneris” in AIDA (The Firehouse Theatre)
Madison Williams as “Amalia Balash” in SHE LOVES ME (Runway Theatre)
CHRIS HAUGE (Associate Theatre Critic)
Over the past year my wife and I have had the pleasure of attending live performances all around the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I returned to some theatres where I had reviewed shows before, but mostly, I was introduced to companies completely new to me. It's wonderful seeing the quality of talent that we have access to in our area. And it is an honor to have had the chance to experience it.
I will admit that when I first began as a critic, I rarely read the reviews of others. I have corrected that oversight and have been introduced to shows I didn’t have the opportunity to see and insights from other critics that deepened my own understanding of my role as a reviewer.
There were two shows where reviews from other sources were completely different from my own opinion. And the reviewers were at the same performance I had attended. This affirmed the subjective nature of this position. I am bound by my own expectations. Have I seen a production of a show before and how does the present one holds up? Are my expectations met or is there something that seems lacking? These and many more questions affect my final review. And I don’t think any reviewer is mistaken in their opinion for all of us are bound by our subjective perceptions.
Now that I have waxed philosophically and if any of you are still reading, I would like to share some of the productions, actors, directors, designers and backstage crew that have delighted me over the last year. I will start with some performances I attended with my wife where I did not review the proceedings. And I want to share a couple of organizations in the Dallas Area that perform throughout the year that you may find out more about yourself.
So, here we go!
Plano Community Band – My wife and I have a friend in this group, and we have attended concerts over the last decade. During the Summer they conduct concerts at Haggard Park in Plano and have two concerts a year at the Eisemann Center Performance Hall. All these concerts are free of charge. They are a first-class group and for over forty years they have provided top quality music to the area. The last concert we attended was their 40th Anniversary concert, featuring internationally renowned trumpeter Wayne Bergeron as guest performer, and was a wonderful confirmation of what a great musical group this is. Check them out at PlanoBand.com
The East Dallas Christian Church Music Program – If you wish to have your choral music fix satisfied, I urge you to attend a performance at this historic East Dallas church. There are major concerts throughout the year featuring an orchestra and guest choirs and artists, as well as smaller concerts featuring everything from Art Songs to Cabaret. Under the direction of Keith Critcher, East Dallas Christion Church has established an impressive music program. There is no charge for the concerts, but donations are encouraged. It’s worth checking out. For a schedule of the concerts, you can go to www.edcc.org/concert_series/.
2018 Picasso: Matador De Málaga written and directed by Matthew Posey in collaboration with the 2018 Dallas Flamenco Festival, Ochre House Theatre – I did not review this show, but my wife and I had the honor of seeing it. With choreography by and featuring the flamenco dancing of Antonio Arrebola & Delilah Buitrón Arrebola, Matthew Posey’s play gave powerful insight into the life and loves of Pablo Picasso and a visceral picture of a man obsessed with art. With an outstanding cast and music provided by Alfonso Cid and Calvin Hazen, it was a memorable theatrical experience. More information on this company can be found at www.ochrehousetheater.com.
The Promise – Son of David at the Texas Amphitheater in Glen Rose, TX – Yes, it is a long trek to Glen Rose. My wife and I had a friend in the cast, and we were unsure of what to expect. To our surprise and to the delight of my wife’s sister who accompanied us, it was a wonderful experience. I have seen Passion Plays before in Eureka Springs, AR and in Spearfish, SD, but this was the best I have seen. The acting was solid, especially Robert Twadell as Jesus, who played the part with great humanity. The songs were good, and the production values were wonderful. Running every year from August to November, this a grand outdoor pageant for the whole family. Whether the message is something you ascribe to or not, it is spectacle in all the best ways. It is worth the time it takes to get there. Thepromiseglenrose.com.
And now for the shows I reviewed.
Best Musical – Mary Poppins-The Broadway Musical Presented by Gateway Performing Arts-Southlake, TX – With memories of the Disney movie in head and no earthly idea what to expect from a company with which I was unfamiliar, I was blown away by this show. Produced and directed by Eric Snodgrass and helmed by the performances of Nicole Choate, J. Scott Gage, Matt Ervien and Ashley Sommer, this show was beautifully done. They had a great set, strong choreography and flying! What more could you ask for? To quote Mary Poppins, “It’s practically perfect in every way.”
Runners-up – Finding Neverland-Touring Company-Bass Hall-Fort Worth, TX, The Music Man-Rockwall Community Theatre-Rockwall, TX, The Woman Who Knew Too Much-Ochre House Theater-Dallas, TX, Disney Newsies-The Broadway Musical-Family Music Theatre-Lancaster, TX, Kiss Me Kate-The Garland Summer Musicals-Garland, TX.
Best Drama – A Doll’s House, Part 2-Stage West Theatre- Fort Worth TX – This was a visit with the characters from Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House fifteen years later and we learned that no matter how we try to change, society will find a way to restrict us. Shannon J. McGrann gave us a Nora still struggling with the restraints she thought she had slammed behind the door with strength and resolve. J. Brent as Torvald, Judy Keith as the nanny and housekeeper and Amber Marie Flores as Nora’s grown-up daughter Emmy all ably convey the wish, they must escape the fetters society has placed on them. This was a very well realized production of a thought-provoking script.
Runners-up – The Great Society-Dallas Theatre Center-Dallas, TX, The Meeting-African American Repertory Theater-Dallas, TX.
Best Comedy – Sure Thing-UNT Drama Lab-Denton, TX – Have you ever wanted a do-over when talking with people? Sure, Thing shows us what that would be like in a succinct and hilarious way. David Ives’ script takes little time to perform but it is so much fun to watch. And watching younger actors (everyone is younger than me these days) exhibiting such talent gives me hope for the health of live theatre.
Runner-up – Funny Little Thing called love-Richardson Theatre Centre-Richardson, TX
Most Memorable Performances by Actresses in Any Production
Nicole Choate as Mary Poppins and Ashley Sommer as Winifred Banks-Mary Poppins-The Broadway Musical-Gateway Performing Arts
Judy Keith as Anne Marie, Shannon J. McGann as Nora and Amber Marie Flores as Emmy -A Doll’s House, Part 2-Stage West Theatre
Simone Pinnock and Amanda Surman -Sure Thing-UNT Drama Lab
Jenny Tucker as Mrs. Lovett and Elisa Danielle James as The Beggar Woman-Sweeney Todd-The Demon Barber of Fleet Street-L.I.P Service
Marti Etheridge as Violet-The Woman Who Knew Too Much-Ochre House Theater
Abigail Holmes as Katherine Plumber-Disney Newsies-The Broadway Musical-Family Music Theatre
Marisa Diotalevi as Mary, Jennifer Kuenzer as Fanny, and Barrett Nash as Alex-On The Verge or The Geography of Yearning-Wingspan Theatre Company
Lael Van Keuren as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies-Finding Neverland-National Touring Company
Melissa Hartman Couture as Gwendolyn Norwich and Sue Goodner as Lottie-Funny Little Thing Called Love-Richardson Theatre Centre
Lauren LeBlanc as Lilli Vanessie/ Katherine-Kiss Me Kate-The Garland Summer Musicals.
Most Memorable Performances by Actors in Any Production
Will Ray as J.M. Barrie-Finding Neverland-National Touring Company
J. Scott Gage as Bert and Matt Ervien as George Banks-Mary Poppins-The Broadway Musical-Gateway Performing Arts
Christopher Dontrell Piper as Malcolm X and Jordan DragonKing as Martin Luther King, Jr.-The Meeting-The African American Repertory Theater
Eddie Herring as Alastair Standley-Funny Little Thing Called Love-Richardson Theatre Centre
Charlie Anton and Jose Aragundi-Sure Thing-UNT Drama Lab
Jeff Burleson as Man of Many Guises-On The Verge or The Geography of Yearning-Wingspan Theatre company
Jacob Clinton as Jack Kelly and Mark-Andrew McMeans as Crutchie-Disney Newsies-The Broadway Musical-Family Music Theatre
Justin Locklear as Max-The Woman Who Knew Too Much-Ochre House Theater
Fred Patterson as Bubba Fatt-Indiana Solo and the Hunt For The Jewelled MacGuffin-Camp Death Productions
Javier Morante as Olivier-Hamlette-Bare Bones Shakespeare
Michael Isaac as Fred Graham/Petruchio-Kiss Me Kate-The Garland Summer Musicals
Directors I Would Like to Acknowledge:
Jake Blakeman-Sure Thing-UNT Drama Lab
Susan Sargeant-On The Verge or The Geography of Learning-Wingspan Theatre Company
Erik Snodgrass-Mary Poppins-The Broadway Musical-Gateway Performing Arts
Diane Paulus-Finding Neverland-National Touring Company
Dr. Sam Germany-Disney Newsies-The Broadway Musical-Family Music Theatre
Designers I Would Like to Acknowledge:
Kelly Cox, Set and Susan A White, Lighting-Kiss Me Kate-The Garland Summer Musicals
Suttirat Anne Larlarb, Costume, Scott Pask, Scenic, and Kenneth Posner, Lighting-Finding Neverland-National Touring Company
Pavel Perebillo, Lighting and Randall Wright and Erik Snodgrass, Scenic-Mary Poppins-The Broadway Musical-Gateway Performing Arts
Beowulf Boritt, Scenic, Jen Caprio, Costume, and Clifton Taylor, Lighting-The Great Society-Dallas Theater Center
Matthew Posey, Set, Amie Carson, Costume, and Kevin Grammar, Lighting-The Woman Who Knew Too Much-Ochre House Theater.
My Favorite Special Effect on a Shoestring Budget – The cave-in-Indiana Solo and the Hunt for the Jewelled Macguffin-Camp Death Productions. Having people run on stage with blackboards indicating that a cave-In was taking place was a work of genius.
Well, my mind is all used up. If I have forgotten someone, I apologize. I want to thank all of you for your courage to put your talent up on stage for all the world to see. I can’t wait to see what you have in store for me in the coming year. I know it will be a lot of fun. Happy 2019!
CHRIS JACKSON (Associate Theatre Critic)
Saw lots of shows in 2018, and was impressed, as always, by the level of talent in the DFW theater community.
The following is the list of plays that I enjoyed the most:
FRANKENSTEIN at the Dallas Theater Center. A wonderful production filled with intensely moving acting, led by Kim Fischer as The Creature and Alex Organ as Frankensein, and outstanding production values, especially the projections by David Bengali, and scenery by Amelia Bransky.
HAND TO GOD at WaterTower Theater under Joanie Schultz’s insanely inventive direction, and the jaw-dropping performance by Parker Gray. Scenic Design by Richard Ouellette, and Costume/Puppet Design by Chelsea M. Warren.
ANGELS IN AMERICA, Part Two: Perestroika at Uptown Players. Direction by the incomparable Cheryl Denson, and a uniformly strong cast led by Garret Storms, including Emily Scott Banks, Pam Dougherty, Marianne Galloway, Kyle Igneczi, Walter Lee, David Lugo, and David Meglino.
STEEL MAGNOLIAS at The Dallas Theater Center. Joel Farrell took the reins and put together one of the most exciting casts of the year, including six of Dallas’s best actresses: Tiana Kaye Blair, Ana Hagedorn, Liz Mikel, Sally Nystuen Vahle, Christie Vela, and Nance Williamson. Such a gift to see all of these gifted women at work on the same stage at the same time.
THE LADY FROM THE SEA at the Undermain, with Joanna Schellenber and Bruce DuBose showing us once again what real acting is all about. A uniformly strong cast under Blake Hackler’s astute direction made this a memorable evening.
THE MOORS at Theater Three was a fascinating and wryly twisted look at the Bronte genre, with costumes by Aaron Patrick DeClerk that were so right, especially the one for Felilcia Bertch as the Moor-Hen.
THE WINTER’S TALE at The Dallas Theater Center for its dazzling collection of local talent, reminding us of the power of Theater, and the Arts in general, to pull us all together beyond age, ethnicity and gender.
The following musicals were my favorites:
ONCE, at Theater Three, was hands-down my favorite. Superb Direction by Marianne Galloway who put together a breath-taking array of talented musician/actor/singers who grabbed hold of the material, and just wouldn’t let go. An absolutely thrilling evening.
PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT, at Uptown Players, was an exploding bag of glitter, boas and wigs that never lagged for a moment under Ann Nieman’s direction and choreography. A committed and talented cast pulled it all together, hitting all the notes of comedy and drama, and everything in between.
GUYS AND DOLLS by Lyric Stage downtown at the Majestic Theater where it was right at home in its retro lushness under Penny Ayn Maas’s direction. With a cast that had Janelle Lutz, Catherine Carpernter Cox, Christopher J. Deaton, and Andy Baldwin in the lead roles, and a strong, outstanding ensemble with not one weak link.
THE LAST FIVE YEARS at WaterTower Theater, directed keenly by Kelsey Leigh Ervi, with two wonderful singer/actors, Monique Abry and Seth Womack, in the lead roles. Any chance to hear a score by Jason Robert Brown is an event I count as a win.
MAMA MIA at Brick Road Theatre had a blockbuster cast and energy to burn. What a fun evening!
THE MUSIC MAN at The Firehouse Theatre proved once again that this company has earned its right to be counted with the best in the city.
THE CRADLE WILL ROCK at Brick Road Theatre. I know I was a part of this show, but thanks to Brick Road for deciding to pull this historical piece of theater out of the past and make it live again, exposing audiences to a score and a past event that deserve to be remembered.
In all, a wonderful year, full of delights, few disappointments, and lots of indicators for a continued strong community of performers, eager to share their talents and love.
RYAN MAFFEI (Associate Theatre Critic)
Five terrific shows I, as well as you, saw in 2018:
- Heisenberg, Theatre Three
- Empathitrax, Second Thought Theatre
- Hand to God, Water Tower Theatre
- Pompeii!!, Kitchen Dog Theatre
- The Revolutionists, Imprint Theatreworks
TRAVIS MCCALLUM (Associate Theatre Critic)
BEST PRODUCTION: SYLVIA (Lakeside Community Theatre).
It was very hard to choose because almost all the shows I reviewed were incredible in their own way. But I got to say, based on my experience at Lakeside Community Theatre, the dedication and discipline of the cast of Sylvia blew me away.
Sylvia left a lasting impression on me for a variety of reasons but perhaps the biggest is the sheer discipline and dedication the actors demonstrated. I like how Robin Clayton stayed in character as a dog for entire show. She wore the spotlight with lavish charm, accompanied by a complementary cast amidst the domestic household, so brilliantly designed by Rustin Rolen.
The intimacy of the stage drew the audience in close, especially with Greg's (Brian Hoffman's) thoughtful monologues out in the park. Director Neale Whitmore made the best of his resources to deliver an unforgettable performance.
ONCE (Theatre Three)
THE YELLOW BOAT (Resolute Theatre Project)
I don't cry too often, but Benjamin (Ethan Mullins) stabbed me deep in the heart with his genuine story of hardship. With an innovative and diverse cast wearing multiple hats under the thoughtful leadership of up-and-coming director Taylor Mercado Owen, tragedy can also bring hope in the most unusual of ways.
Thank you for bringing rich color and joy with beautifully designed costumes (Ashley Peisher), sets (Steve Cave), props (Kim Velten), and lights (Ryan Burkle)
STAGE KISS (Circle Theatre)
KATHLEEN MORGAN (Associate Theatre Critic)
As a lifelong lover of the theatre, I feel so honored (and lucky!) to have had the opportunity to join the staff of John Garcia’s The Column this year. In the 5 months since I have joined this organization full of talented and passionate individuals, I have had the pleasure to review 10 different shows around the DFW Metroplex. Throughout the year I’ve seen quite a few others on my own. Here’s the highlight reel of those shows, artists, and creators who I think are most deserving of recognition:
Best Play, Non-Equity 2018:
The Foreigner- Carnegie Cleburne Players
Everything from the set, to the direction, to the phenomenal actors came together to make this show simply amazing. Each actor was perfectly cast and each person had impeccable comedic timing, making this one of the most memorable (and more importantly, fun!) shows that I’ve seen this year.
Best Musical, Non-Equity 2018:
Oklahoma! - Artisan Center Theater
When a show is as well-known and as timeless as Oklahoma!, there are high expectations when it comes to its execution. Artisan Center Theater met those expectations and then some. The robust company numbers, the tender (and heated) moments between Curly and Laurey, and the strong energy throughout the show made this musical a delight to watch.
Best Play, Equity 2018:
A Christmas Carol- Dallas Theatre Center
Without a doubt, DTC’s A Christmas Carol was the most engaging piece of theatre I’ve seen this past year. The creativity they used in bringing new life to a 175 year-old show continues to astound me. With a multi-tiered set and a cast that spanned several generations, Dallas Theater Center managed every scene change and transition more smoothly than I ever thought possible. The lively Christmas party scene at Fezziwig’s was especially delightful and bursting with Christmas spirit.
Best Musical, Equity 2018:
Les Misérables- Dallas Summer Musicals
There’s no show that captures the meaning of sacrificial love and forgiveness quite like Les Misérables - and the performance with Dallas Summer Musicals did not disappoint. Each of the principal actors excelled at laying bare the souls of their characters onstage (or in Thenardier’s case, laying bare the pocketbooks of his customers). The intense energy and mastery of many nuanced emotions by the cast made this show especially memorable for me.
Best Actor 2018:
Clark Hackney as Charlie Baker – Carnegie Cleburne Players’ “The Foreigner”
For a character that barely speaks (except in gibberish, that is), Clark Hackney had the audience captivated at every turn in The Foreigner. His mastery of facial expressions, comedic timing, and his powerful stage presence makes his performance the kind I keep coming back to even months after having seen the show.
Best Actress 2018:
Angela Burkey as Betty Meeks- Carnegie Cleburne Players’ “The Foreigner”
Anyone who has seen The Foreigner probably wishes they had a Betty Meeks in their life, and I’m no exception- as long as that Betty is exactly like the way Angela Burkey portrayed her. Burkey’s cackle, stooped gait, and effusive joy at meeting new and interesting people were as consistent as they were charming throughout the show. She had me doubled over in laughter more times than I can remember, and even her ridiculous cackle had me in tears. I can’t wait to see more from Burkey in the theatre!
Best Supporting Actor 2018:
Brian Hokanson as Clown– Garland Civic Theatre’s “The 39 Steps”
There’s nothing I associate more with Hokanson’s performance than laughter- pure, unrestrained, bubbling laughter. From the ludicrous hilarity with which he portrayed his female characters to the menacing leer of his “Professor,” Hokanson’s multifaceted performance could not have been more perfectly executed.
Best Supporting Actress 2018:
Rose Anne Holman as Elinor Glyn – ONSTAGE in Bedford’s “The Cat’s Meow”
I could listen to Rose Anne Holman all day, so captivating was her voice in The Cat’s Meow. Her opening and closing monologues had an especially hypnotic effect. The way in which Holman interacted with the other characters was full of confidence and poise, and at times a little mischief. Bravo, Rose Anne!
Best Costume Design 2018:
Cinderella- Bass Hall
Bass Hall’s Cinderella had the most seamless costume changes that I’ve ever seen in my life. The transformation of “country bumpkin” into a royal young woman- and back again- still has me wondering how they pulled it off! Besides these seamless transitions, the gowns of both Cinderella and the guests of the palace were dazzling, colorful, and complemented the wearers perfectly. Even the simple garb of the townsfolk was delightful to watch through complicated dance numbers! It’s no wonder that the Costume Designer, William Ivey Long, not only has six Tonys, but has been inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame as well.
Best Scenic Design 2018:
Love Never Dies- Dallas Summer Musicals
The set of DSM’s Love Never Dies is the most dazzling one I’ve ever seen. Constructing a miniature Coney Island complete with carnival attractions and a roller coaster is a magnificent feat, and it’s no wonder that it takes 11 large trucks to transport all the equipment that makes it all happen. Love Never Dies created a visual masterpiece that was utterly captivating in each and every scene.
Best Direction 2018:
Tiffany Nichole Green- Dallas Theater Center’s “A Christmas Carol”
I can’t use the word “creative” enough when describing this show. I’ve never been more surprised by a production that I’ve seen in different mediums at least a dozen times before. The twist on Scrooge’s profession, the mischievous (if not maniacal) nature of the Ghost of Christmas Present, the use of the multi-layered set—all of it was thrilling, and all of it came together beautifully. I can’t wait to see what Greene does as director of Hamilton, arriving in Dallas April 2019!
ANGELA NEWBY (Associate Theatre Critic)
The Lion King--Dallas Summer Musical
Beauty and the Beast--Artisan Center Theater
John Wilkerson- Beauty and the Beast-Artisan Center Theater
Julie Taymor--The Lion King--Dallas Summer Musical
Best Musical Director
Richard Gwozdz--Beauty and the Beast--Artisan Center Theater
Elise Lavallee--Beauty and the Beast--Artisan Center Theater
Garth Fagan--The Lion King--Dallas Summer Musical
Best Scenic Design
Richard Hudson--The Lion King--Dallas Summer Musical
Julie Taymor--The Lion King--Dallas Summer Musical
Ellen Bonish--Beauty and the Beast--Artisan Center Theater
Mukelisiwe Goba--Rafiki--The Lion King--Dallas Summer Musical
Tony Freeman--Zazu--The Lion King--Dallas Summer Musical
Jared Dixon--Simba--The Lion King--Dallas Summer Musical
Mary Ridenour--Belle--Beauty and the Beast--Artisan Center Theater
Jared Kyle--Gaston--Beauty and the Beast--Artisan Center Theater
Louis Quezada--Lefou--Beauty and the Beast--Artisan Center Theater
The Lion King--Dallas Summer Musical
Beauty and the Beast--Artisan Center Theater
CAROL M. RICE (Associate Theatre Critic)
As a reviewer for John Garcia’s THE COLUMN, I see a lot of shows I wouldn’t normally see. I would encourage all of you reading this to go see plays and musicals that you know nothing about and in which you know no one! You will see some GREAT stuff!
Best Actor, Play
Joe Barr as Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple at Richardson Theatre Centre
Allen Matthews as William Randolph Hearst in The Cat’s Meow at ONSTAGE in Bedford
Best Actor, Musical
Jeffrey Fein as Robert Kincaid in The Bridges of Madison County at Theatre Coppell
Sadat Hossain as Melvin Ferd/The Toxic Avenger in The Toxic Avenger at Lakeside Community Theatre
Best Actress, Play
Ellen Bell as Violet Weston in August: Osage County at Lakeside Community Theatre
Best Actress, Musical
Reanna Bell as Sarah in The Toxic Avenger at Lakeside Community Theatre
Molly Bower as Francesca Johnson in The Bridges of Madison County at Theatre Coppell
Best Supporting Actor, Play
Andrew Manning as Thomas Ince in The Cat’s Meow at ONSTAGE in Bedford
Best Supporting Actor, Musical
Zachary J. Willis as Mereb in Aida at The Firehouse Theatre
Jonah Munroe as Bill Calhoun/Lucentio in Kiss Me Kate at Mainstage Irving -Las Colinas
Best Supporting Actress, Play
Autumn McNamara as Ivy Weston in August: Osage County at Lakeside Community Theatre
Best Supporting Actress, Musical
Kimberly Pine as Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee in Gypsy at The Firehouse Theatre
Stephanie Felton as Mayor/Ma/Nun in The Toxic Avenger at Lakeside Community Theatre
Best Featured Actor
Byron Holder as the Waiter in She Loves Me at Runway Theatre
Best Featured Actress
Heather Walker Shin as Gwendolyn Pigeon in The Odd Couple at Richardson Theatre Centre
Best Youth Actor/Actress
Sydney Noelle Pitts as Young Louise in Gypsy at The Firehouse Theatre
The Toxic Avenger - Lakeside Community Theatre
Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol - Allen’s Community Theatre
Best Set Design
Mike Hathaway for The Cat’s Meow at ONSTAGE in Bedford
Benjamin Keenan Arnold for The Toxic Avenger at Lakeside Community Theatre
Best Costume Design
Maranda Kinsella, Nathan Scott and the LCT Costume Shop for The Toxic Avenger at Lakeside Community Theatre
Best Lighting Design
Douglas Gill for The Toxic Avenger at Lakeside Community Theatre
Benjamin Keenan Arnold for The Toxic Avenger at Lakeside Community Theatre
The Odd Couple - Richardson Theatre Centre
The Toxic Avenger - Lakeside Community Theatre
Best Touring Show
School of Rock, the Musical - Bass Performance Hall
REBECCA ROBERTS (Associate Theatre Critic)
Having only moved back to the metroplex halfway through the year, I didn’t quite have the full 2018 DFW theatrical experience. However, I am amazed at the talent I DID get the chance to witness in my few months here, and have compiled a list of some of those key show-stopping performances and designs.
Wendy Searcy’s scenic design for Granbury Theatre Company’s INTO THE WOODS was easily the most breathtaking overall design of 2018. The disembodied abstract form itself might as well have been a leading actor in the production. Searcy’s storybook cutouts and interactive scenic elements were truly extraordinary. In fact, it is very possible that Searcy’s stage actually served a deeper purpose, perhaps as a portal in which one could physically be transported into Sondheim’s dark and twisted fairytale world. To musical theatre fan fiction writers everywhere: you’re welcome for this brilliant story prompt.
Having an extensive background in costume design, I fully understand the importance of costumes when it comes to character and world building. Lauren Morgan, of Stolen Shakespeare Guild fame, is always extremely successful in doing just that. Her costume design for THE HOLLOW was no different. Her careful selections of colors, fabrics, and silhouettes were perfectly chosen. And it’s always a sign of a talented costume designer when you see an outfit onstage that, even though if worn in today’s modern era might look ridiculous, you long to sneak into the dressing room and steal after the show. Let me just say…I hope they didn’t look too closely at their costume inventory after the performance I attended.
Brittany Jenkins choreographed Artisan Center Theater’s production of CATS, a show that never quite resonated with me as anything more than an 80’s fever dream of fur, spandex, and undecipherable character names. However, Jenkins’ incredibly complex choreography, staged in such a unique space, really changed the game for me. While I never realized that being pelted with glitter by a pirouetting cat in a sparkly vest was something I wanted to experience…I now realize it’s the ONLY thing I want to experience.
Small ensemble shows are my absolute favorite because they give theatres the opportunity to really cherry pick a harmonious (both musically and congruously) cast of talented performers. Jubilee Theatre’s production of BLUES IN THE NIGHT showcased chill-inducing harmonies from one of the most impressive musical ensembles I’ve ever heard in the DFW metroplex. Each of the actors were able to create layers and depth in their characters through only sparse dialogue and minimal lyrical insight. Led by music director, Michael Childs, the ensemble’s flawless vocals perfectly matched the very specific style of the 1930s.
As the ironically tall Jack in Granbury Theatre Company’s production of INTO THE WOODS, Austin Bender captivated the audience with his perfect comedic timing. He is the kind of actor who is probably regularly reminded to not pull focus with his amusing antics when on the sidelines of a serious focal scene. But it’s not his fault that just his facial expressions alone are enough to make audience members actively seek him out onstage during any scene, in hopes of witnessing an otherwise undetected comical moment. People love to laugh, and I follow the Bender philosophy that one shouldn’t waste a single moment onstage that has even the smallest possibility of making an audience member laugh.
I never truly understood the phrase “moved to tears” until I experienced Mary Ridenour’s performance of “Memory” in Artisan Center Theater’s production of CATS. I say “experienced” and not just “heard” because the song was a true experience. Ridenour moved me so deeply that I couldn’t even tell you at what point the involuntary tears that vigorously sprung from my eyes even began to spring. All I can tell you is that as a 24-year-old human, I think I now understand feline geriatric depression.
ANN SAUCER (Associate Theatre Critic)
BEST ORIGINAL PLAYWRIGHT OF A COMEDY-MUSICAL:
Jonathan Norton for Solstice: A New Holiday Adventure (Theatre Three)
Local playwright Jonathan Norton understands Dallas, and he paints this City in a benevolent light in Solstice: A New Holiday Adventure. You really have to have talent to bring the Nordstrom golden hare to life, and that is just one of many clever, thoroughly original elements in Solstice, a hilarious and endearing send-up of Christmas in Big D. Norton does a phenomenal job of weaving modern culture (i.e. television, musical entertainment) into his comedy.
Jen Silverman for The Moors (Theatre Three).
Jen Silverman takes the elements of Victorian Era fiction, turns them inside out, and serves them up in a resoundingly clever comedy. Everyone is the opposite of what is expected, and the most human characters aren't even human!
BEST ORIGINAL PLAYWRIGHT OF A DRAMA:
Jessica Cavanaugh for Self Injurious Behavior (Theatre Too).
Jessica Cavanagh hits it out of the park in this emotional rollercoaster of a play about a mother in over her head caring for her autistic son. I hate the phrase "I laughed, I cried" (how dare anyone make me cry!). But, well, I laughed and I cried. It is piercing and unforgettable.
BEST NON-EQUITY MUSICAL:
A White Christmas, Firehouse Theatre. Everything came together perfectly in this charming production. This was a real crowd pleaser!
BEST NON-EQUITY DRAMA:
The Felling, Ochre House Theater. This fascinating and original play transports the audience into another world, and the cast worked together perfectly. The play is heavy on symbolism and universal themes. It was an ambitious production that delivered a thought-provoking experience.
BEST EQUITY DRAMA:
Self Injurious Behavior, Theatre Too. The play, the performances, and the set – they all came together in this production of a powerful drama.
BEST EQUITY ACTOR IN A COMEDY:
Dan Evers as Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey (Richardson Theatre Centre). Evers was thoroughly endearing as the befuddled Elwood.
BEST EQUITY ACTRESS IN A COMEDY-MUSICAL:
M. Denise Lee is glorious from start to finish as the quirky, sexy, hilarious and above all loveable Paulette in Solstice: A New Holiday Adventure (Theatre Three). And her voice is, as ever, to die for.
BEST EQUITY ACTRESS IN A DRAMA:
Camille Monae appears effortlessly commanding as the one-armed Civil War veteran and grizzled explorer John Wesley Powell in Men on Boats (Circle Theatre). Her Powell commands volumes with his eyes; it was a marvelously powerful performance.
EST EQUITY SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY:
Thomas Ward as Mastiff in The Moors (Theatre Three). This demanding part required that Ward fall into star-crossed love, but as a dog.
BEST NON-EQUITY ACTOR IN A COMEDY-MUSICAL:
Aaron Lett as Gomez Addams in The Addams Family, Rockwall Community Playhouse. Lett served up a fantastic performance on all fronts: he is funny, he is touching, and he can sing and dance.
BEST NON-EQUITY ACTRESS IN A COMEDY:
Mikaela Krantz (Equity Candidate) as Huldey in The Moors (Theatre Three) brings down the house in an eclectic musical number. She is delightfully awkward and ridiculous, earning laughs throughout.
BEST NON-EQUITY SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY-MUSICAL:
Paul Burnam as Mal Beineke in The Addams Family, Rockwall Community Playhouse. Burnam's character's transformation in the Second Act was phenomenal. He makes Mal's metamorphosis thoroughly believable. It was a joy to watch.
BEST NON-EQUITY SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY:
Jenny Ledel (Equity Candidate) as Marjory the Maid in The Moors (Theatre Three). Ledel teases every laugh out of her character's frustration and makes her character's rise to prominence believable.
BEST CHILD ACTOR IN A DRAMA:
Jude Segrest in Self Injurious Behavior, Theatre Too. His character goes completely off the rails. The intensity and raw emotion of his performance was phenomenal.
BEST CHILD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY-MUSICAL:
Abby Chapman is a versatile actress and accomplished singer in Solstice: A New Holiday Adventure (Theatre Three).
BEST CHILD ACTOR IN A COMEDY-MUSICAL:
Tysen Johnson as Puglsey Addams in The Addams Family, Rockwall Community Playhouse. This young man is a talent to watch! He can steal a scene like nobody's business.
Monica Glenn for the Music Man, Stolen Shakespeare Guild. The choreography is impressive in a tight space, and the teens were superlative.
OUTSTANDING COSTUME DESIGN:
Aaron Patrick DeClerk for The Moors (Theatre Three). The Victorian Era costumes are glorious, and the design and execution of the Mastiff and Moor Hen costumes are superlative.
Mark-Brian Sonna for A Lovely Goodbye (MBS Productions). Sonna answers the question of what a drag queen wears to volunteer on Sunday morning at the old folks' home. Need I say more?
OUTSTANDING SCENIC DESIGN:Christina McCormick for Men on Boats (Circle Theatre). I thought I had been transported into a great American landscape painting in this gorgeous scene set in the Grand Canyon.
Jeffrey Schmidt for Solstice: A New Holiday Adventure (Theatre Three) and Self Injurious Behavior (Theatre Too). In Solstice, Schmidt hilariously recreates the most silly elements of a certain shopping mall – I was cracking up even before the play started. In Self Injurious Behavior, he starts with the living room of a harried mom and ends at a Renaissance Fair campground; he makes brilliant use of the limited space while rendering the two different settings in authentic detail.
OUTSTANDING SOUND DESIGN:
John M. Flores for The Moors (Theatre Three). The sound perfectly facilitated scene changes and when it needed to be ramped up for full dramatic effect in different scenes toward the end, the acoustics and sound quality were pitch perfect.
DARLENE SINGLETON (Associate Theatre Critic)
This past year I visited several new theaters (new to me at least) in the DFW Metroplex and New York. The quality of the productions in our area just gets better and better. And, as a note - rarely do I feel the need to walk out on a show but this year I did, and it was a show on Broadway. The productions I saw in the DFW area were so entertaining and very creative. I am excited and looking forward to seeing more DFW excellence in 2019.
Best Shows of 2018:
MAMMA MIA, Brick Road Theatre
LITTLE WOMEN THE MUSICAL, Firehouse Theatre
Katharine Quinn, Director – MAMMA MIA, Brick Road Theatre
Rebecca Lowrey, Director - THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, North Texas Performing Arts Repertory – Plano
Marilyn Setu, Director – LITTLE WOMEN THE MUSICAL, Firehouse Theatre
Kris Allen (Sam Carmichael) – MAMMA MIA, Brick Road Theatre
Chris Berthelot (Jonathan Brewster) - ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, Allen Community Theater (ACT)
Patty Breckenridge (Donna Sheridan) – MAMMA MIA, Brick Road Theatre
Chelsea Bridgman (Jo March) – LITTLE WOMEN THE MUSICAL, Firehouse Theatre
Christian Houston (Felicia Farrell) - MEMPHIS THE MUSICAL, Music Theatre of Denton
Best Supporting Actor:
Rodney M. Morris (Rocky Horror) - THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, North Texas Performing Arts Repertory – Plano
Audie Preston (Dr. Einstein) - ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, Allen Community Theater (ACT)
Chris Portley (Delray Farrell) - MEMPHIS THE MUSICAL, Music Theatre of Denton
Best Supporting Actress:
Catilin Jones (Lisa) – MAMMA MIA, Brick Road Theatre
Caitlin Jones (Amy) – LITTLE WOMEN THE MUSICAL, Firehouse Theatre
Samantha Snow (Magenta) - THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, North Texas Performing Arts Repertory – Plano
Lindsey Smith (Columbia) - THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, North Texas Performing Arts Repertory – Plano
Best Scenic Designer:
Caroline Gharis, Scenic Design – MAMMA MIA, Brick Road Theatre
Wendy Rene'e Searcy, Scenic Design – LITTLE WOMEN THE MUSICAL, Firehouse Theatre
Best Costume Designer:
Ashley Peisher, Costumes – LITTLE WOMEN THE MUSICAL, Firehouse Theatre
Katharine Quinn, Choreography – MAMMA MIA, Brick Road Theatre
Christina Kudlicki Hoth - THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, North Texas Performing Arts Repertory – Plano
MARK-BRIAN SONNA (Associate Theatre Critic)
It’s that time of year again in which I must pick the best of. But in a list like this I must pick the best of the best. Honesty, all categories would go to the touring production of Chicago. It rivaled the original NY revival from 1996 which I saw. This said, I want to focus on the local theatre scene instead of a national tour. So here it goes.
Best Male Actor: Robert Bradford Smith as Hitch in Giant Entertainment’s Hitchcock Blonde. Playing the famous director Hitchcock could be an exercise in mimicry. What Smith did was not just capture the tics and vocal qualities of the master, but he developed the character so much that we felt like we got to know Hitchcock.
Best Female Actor: Nikki Cloer as The Blonde in Giant Entertainment’s Hitchcock Blonde. Her role was quite difficult because there are some inherent flaws in the script. She is saddled with extremely lengthy monologues with much redundancy and exposition. This said, she managed to make the most of it and give a sublime performance that was quite memorable.
Best Female Actor in a Musical: Wendy Welch as The Countess in Theatre Three’s The Last One Nighter on the Death Trail. This musical which felt more like a work in progress rather than a fully finished concept allowed the entire cast to shine at one point or another. As The Countess Welch gave a performance which was full of pathos and bravura. The rapturous ovation she received at curtain call was well deserved.
Best Male Actor in a Musical: Darret Heart as Cervantes/Don Quixote in The Man of La Mancha at Theatre Frisco. This is a monster role that few actors can truly tackle. It requires a set of vocal chops, mastery in acting, and the ability to command the stage. Heart even though physically was not your typical Don Q made the role his and left an indelible performance.
Best Director of a Musical: Neal Whitmore for The Man of La Mancha at Theatre Frisco. Considering the difficult configuration of the stage, he was able to create some beautiful stage pictures, made all the action fluid, brought out great performances out of his cast, and gave the musical a wonderful pace allowing the delicate moments to breathe and then explode with energy when needed.
Best Director of a Play: Ashley H White for Glengarry Glen Ross at Imprint Theatreworks. With explosion of some of the best acting talent in DFW all on one stage it required a very strong director to reign in these actors and guide them to create an ensemble that was perfect. White who had to work within the small confines at the Bath House stage sculpted a riveting drama that still haunts me. Excellent direction. It came across as symphonic.
Best Costuming: Jessica Wallace for Glengarry Glen Ross at Imprint Theatreworks. The set was minimal as was the costuming. I saw many other shows in which the costuming was much more elaborate. Why give a play in which pretty much everyone was wearing a suit this kind of recognition? Because within the details of the suit - the colors, the patterns, the fit, the textures, - the suits didn’t just dress the characters but clued us in as to the psychological stage of the character in subtle yet effective ways.
Best set: Rodney Dobs for The Man of La Mancha at Theatre Frisco. Elaborate? Check. Functional? Check. Beautiful? Check. This set hit all the right notes for this major musical.
Best Lighting: Alex Ammons for The Man of La Mancha at Theatre Frisco. The lighting for this show was a major undertaking for it is a key component to this musical. It must not simply illuminate the actors, but it needs to cue the audience as to the location, the time, and if we are witnessing the real world or a dream fugue. It also must match the emotion of the scene. Ammons accomplished all of this beautifully.
Best Musical Director: Kristin Spires for The Putnam County Spelling Bee at Grand Prairie Arts Council. My comment in the original review still stands: “She made sure that every performer maximized their musical moment to their full extent while remaining on pitch and to tempo. She also insured that the four-piece band was well rehearsed.” Her cast varied in singing ability, but she made them all shine, which is what a great musical director does.
Best Choreography: Jonah Gutierrez for Hitchcock Blonde, Giant Entertainment. While I did see musicals this year with many dance numbers, the reason I am crediting Gutierrez for Choreography was because it was his “Violence Design” in the play that truly was one of the most memorable I’ve seen. It was tightly choreographed and imbued a sense of palpable danger in the audience yet at times it made us laugh.
Best Ensemble: The Putnam County Spelling Bee at Grand Prairie Arts Council. A great cast that made this joyous musical infect the audience with glee.
Show stopping performer of the year: Dakota James as Leaf Coneybear, The Putnam County Spelling Bee at Grand Prairie Arts Council. His transformation between characters was so quick and, on the spot, and so perfect that I still giggle thinking about this tremendous performer.
Best Musical of the year: The Man of La Mancha at Theatre Frisco. I have never been fond of this show, and never really cared for the music. For me to say that this was the best musical of the year shows you how marvelous this production was.
Best Play of the Year: Glengarry Glen Ross at Imprint Theatreworks. Again, a play I’ve never really liked, but after seeing their production, it made me re-evaluate this play. It was tremendous.
CAROL ST. GEORGE (Associate Theatre Critic)
I will say that in addition to the productions I reviewed, I saw a few other memorable shows. Among them was a terrific musical, The Last Five Years, staged by Water Tower Theatre. Two accomplished singer-actors, Monique Abry and Seth Womak, played a couple reenacting the beginning, middle, and end of their relationship, one telling the events from then to now, and the other in reverse order. Witty, funny, sad, and musically stirring, the production was first rate, neatly held together by Jason Robert Brown’s lyrics and score, Drama Desk Award-winners for Best Music and Best Lyrics. Skillfully directed by Kelsey Leigh Ervi with music direction by Adam C. Wright, the show was a refreshing summer treat, served on a multilevel confection of a set designed by Bradley Gray.
Earlier in March, I was treated to a surprisingly disruptive opera at The Dallas Opera’s presentation of Sunken Garden. With music by Michel van der Aa and libretto by David Mitchell, the one-act opera fused 3-D film (complete with glasses) with live action in a surreal tale about characters trapped in a dream of a sunken garden, “the dusk between life and death,” which converts visitors’ souls into immortality. The spell binding visual devices were not gratuitous, but integral to the story, which was deftly sung by Katherine Manley, Roderick Williams, Miah Persson, Jonathan McGovern, and Kate Miller-Heidke.
Finally, I must congratulate the Dallas Symphony’s performance of Carmina Burana in October. The orchestra, the Symphony Chorus, the Children’s Chorus of Greater Dallas, and soloists flooded the Myerson with a tsunami of exhilarating sound, and I felt privileged to count myself among the drenched.
Of the performances I reviewed for John Garcia’s THE COLUMN, I was especially taken with The Garland Summer Musicals’ production of My Fair Lady, starring Michael A. Robinson as Professor Higgins and Alexandra Cassens as Eliza Doolittle, and featuring a well-blended ensemble of singers, delightful Edwardian costumes and a skillfully crafted set by Rodney Dobbs.
Running almost neck-in-neck with GSM’s My Fair Lady was the Imprint Theatreworks’ production of Blood Brothers, staged at The Bath House Cultural Center. On a minimal set, Lauren LeBlanc as Mrs. Johnstone brought the tragic story to life with her warm singing and endearing stage presence. Jonathan McInnis as Mickey and Colin Phillips as Eddie completed the dark family portrait as the rest of the ensemble filled in the events leading to their demise, framed by Jamall Houston’s narration.
It was a fine year for the performing arts. I look forward to the next one.
My Fair Lady (The Garland Summer Musicals)
The Last Five Years (Water Tower Theatre)
My Fair Lady (The Garland Summer Musicals)
Blood Brothers (Imprint Theatreworks)
Joe Messina, Blood Brothers (Imprint Theatreworks)
Kelsey Leigh Ervi, The Last Five Years (Water Tower Theatre)
Best Musical Direction:
Mark Mullino, My Fair Lady (The Garland Summer Musicals)
Best Costume Design:
Michael A. Robinson, My Fair Lady (The Garland Summer Musicals)
Best Scenic Design:
Bradley Gray, The Last Five Years (Water Tower Theatre)
Gabriella Tylesova, Love Never Dies (Bass Performance Hall)
Lauren LeBlanc (Mrs. Johnstone), Blood Brothers (Imprint Theatreworks)
James Williams (Colonel Pickering), My Fair Lady (The Garland Summer Musicals)
Jake Heston Miller (Gustave), Love Never Dies (Bass Performance Hall)
Jon Morehouse, Barefoot in the Park (Garland Civic Theatre)
JERI TELLEZ (Associate Theatre Critic)
Kris Allen (Herbie), Gypsy, The Firehouse Theatre
Sheridan Monroe (Sebastian) The Little Mermaid, Artisan Center Theater
Andrew Nicolas (Quasimodo), The Hunchback of Notre Dame, North Texas Performing Arts
Seth Thomas (Benny), Postcards from Uncle Al, The Core Theatre
Caitlin Galloway (Esmeralda), The Hunchback of Notre Dame, North Texas Performing Arts
Megan A. Liles (Anita), West Side Story, Plaza Theatre Company
Octavia Y Thomas (Aldonza/Dulcinea), Man of La Mancha, The Stage Door
Kathleen Vaught (Jimmie Wyvette Verdeen), Last Roundup of the Guacamole Queens, Allen’s Community Theatre
Best Supporting Actor:
Don Kruizinga (Aubrey Verdeen), Last Roundup of the Guacamole Queens, Allen’s Community Theatre
Dan Morrow (Sancho Panza), Man of La Mancha, The Stage Door
Trey Orman (Clopin Trouillefou), The Hunchback of Notre Dame, North Texas Performing Arts
Best Supporting Actress:
Macye Armstrong (Flounder), The Little Mermaid, Artisan Center Theater
Kelly Moore Clarkson (Mattie Fae Aiken), August: Osage County, Lakeside Community Theatre
Johnna Leigh (Marilla Cuthbert), Anne of Green Gables, Rockwall Community Playhouse
Best Featured Actor:
Chris Espinosa (Mayor Meekly), Unnecessary Farce, Not Right Productions
Devin Kelly (Slater), Funny Money, Lakeside Community Theatre
Geoff D Leonard-Robinson (Abe), Beau Jest, Artisan Center Theater
Best Musical Director:
BKathy French, Man of La Mancha, The Stage Door
John Norine Jr, Evita, Music Theatre of Denton
Mose Pleasure III, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, North Texas Performing Arts
Tabitha Ibarra, West Side Story, Plaza Theatre Company
Valerie Walker, The Little Mermaid, Artisan Center Theater
Kyle Christopher West, Gypsy, The Firehouse Theatre
Best Costume Design:
Michelle Cawood, The Little Mermaid, Artisan Center Theater
Wiloni Darrington, Anne of Green Gables, Rockwall Community Playhouse
Johnathan Martin, Evita, Music Theatre of Denton
STACEY UPTON (Associate Theatre Critic)
Best Production of the Year:
"The Revolutionists" produced by Imprint Theatreworks
Every aspect of this production was expertly handled. The quartet of actresses could all be nominated for a "Best Actress" award, and all tech aspects were excellent. The direction shared by Joe Messina & Ashley H. White was full of action, but also good in introspective moments. The pick by the producers of this show was timely and insightful. It was an inspired night of theatre.
"The Revolutionists" produced by Imprint Theatreworks.
All four actresses were ultra-present for their fellow actors, often sacrificing a moment in the spotlight to another character to the betterment of the whole.
Runner up, Best Ensemble:
"Men on Boats" produced by Onstage in Bedford.
The whole cast and crew of this show worked together to create a memorable theatrical piece that required the suspension of disbelief by the audience. They pulled off this all-gal show brilliantly and made us laugh and feel along with them. They were superbly supported by the tech crew.
Best One Person Show:
"Pichanga" produced by World Stage Theatre Company, performed at the Fort Worth Fringe Festival.
Riveting use of multimedia and a passionate performance in this biographical play overcame language and culture barriers to create a memorable and important evening of theatre.
Best Lead Actor:
Steve Cave as Will, "A Bright New Boise" produced by Resolute Theatre Project
Steve's quiet, anguished performance was pitch perfect. He took what could have been a terribly off-putting role, managed to find the humanity in it, and made us care. Meticulous acting job.
Best Lead Actress:
Marianne Galloway as Olympe de Gouges in "The Revolutionists".
Ms. Galloway leapt, bowed, bent over backwards and showed all the nooks and crannies this character had to offer. It was a tour-de-force performance that counted on her impeccable comedic timing as well as her ability to plumb the depths of human fear and uncover courage. It was a joy to see.
Best Best Supporting Actor:
Sonny Franks as Candy in "Of Mice and Men" produced by The Firehouse Theatre.
Mr. Franks made the most of this sad man, allowing us to see his frailty with a vulnerable, heartfelt performance. His monologue in Act 2 was superb, and the moment when he allowed himself just for a moment to hope that his life might actually become a joyful one was perfectly heartbreaking.
Best Supporting Actress:
Kateri Cale as Miss Dee/Kay in "Radiant Vermin" produced by Kitchen Dog Theatre.
Ms. Cale wowed in a boisterous over-the-top gleeful, leering performance as Miss Dee, and then broke our hearts as a homeless woman as Kay in her double role in the play "Radiant Vermin". Somehow this remarkable actress danced up to the very edge of believability in both roles but didn't tip over the line. Daring and fabulous.
Tim Johnson "Radiant Vermin" produced by Kitchen Dog Theatre
Mr. Johnson took a nearly impossible play, one that boasted deliberately unlikeable characters and forced his audience to not only like them, and feel sympathy for them, but to (momentarily) float along with their notion that murder was an okay proposition if one got a dream house in the process. His direction of this tiny three-person cast was impeccable from start to finish. From physical comedy to breaking the fourth wall to creating a garden-party sequence where two actors portrayed a slew of guests, this director excelled in his mission to bring us a timely piece of thought-provoking and entertaining theatre.
Jessie Wallace, "The Revolutionists" Imprint Theatre
Best Set Design:
Jason Leyva, "Sweeney Todd" L.I.P. Service
Best Sound Design:
Riley Larson, "The Revolutionists" Imprint Theatre
Best Lighting Design:
Dawn M. Wittke, "Sweeney Todd" L.I.P. Service