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.
A MAJOR FIRST FOR THE COLUMN! In a THRILLING SURPRISE for this editor, as I started receiving the staff’s selections, I began to see something unique, fresh, and exciting. You will see that we all selected productions, performances, designers, etc. from all OVER the DFW area. There are VERY few picks that show up more than once. Usually in past seasons, there are productions that do appear several times in five or seven critics’ lists, not this year. This season we definitely went on different paths.
Another year, and another year of outstanding theater was bestowed before audiences all over the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. There were lavish national tours that came through bringing us the latest from Broadway, while the larger theater companies created their own magic for audiences. At the same time the intimate theater companies dazzled us with their own special brand of wizardry.
So out of all those productions, which ones did the staff of THE COLUMN pick as the BEST of 2019? As the Editor and founder of THE COLUMN, I let each critic to select their picks based on his or her own opinions, thoughts, and according to their point of view of what they consider is the best. Thus, that is why you will see below the varied difference in the formats of their picks.
BUT here is what I am VERY proud of what makes THE COLUMN’s picks of what was the BEST IN DFW THEATER unique than any other “Best of” list when it comes to DFW Theater:
We have the largest staff that has reviewed theater ALL over the DFW metroplex, simple as that. Also, we did not just focus on Equity nor did we just review Dallas theater, thus leaving out so many theater companies around the area. I am a strong believer in that ALL theater should be celebrated, honored, reviewed, and respected. Thus, because THE COLUMN reviews on a consistent basis all over the metroplex, we can honestly state that we have seen most of the theater within the DFW area- not all- but most of it.
And while I have your attention, let me state publicly I cannot thank enough every single member of my staff. They all have a vast background in theater, education, personal lives. Some are married, some are single. Some have kids. They live all over the DFW area. Some juggle jobs, rehearsals, etc. Some are retired. But the one common factor that my entire staff has is a passion, love and deep respect for the creation and art that is theater. They have their own unique, special, and brand of “voice” when it comes to their reviews. This publication would have NEVER grown to the mammoth numbers where we are today had it not been for these incredible critics reviewing all over the DFW area. I cannot thank them enough. They are AMAZING! Thank you to each single one of them.
Without further ado I give you the selections of the Editor and the staff from THE COLUMN on who and what they decided and chose was the Best in Theater in 2019:
-John Garcia, Editor/Senior Chief Theater Critic/Founder, THE COLUMN
JOHN GARCIA (Editor/ Senior Chief Critic/Founder)
Normally I have a much bigger list, but this season I’m trying something different. I ALL the shows that I reviewed, including national tours, plus shows that I attended as a guest, plus several productions that I “snuck” in with a friend at the last minute. I am combining all of them up in one big bowl and going through each production with a VERY fine artistic tooth comb. So, my selections are much smaller and VERY specific. I have a very detailed list of what I consider is the best, what makes a performance stand above others, what design elements go beyond the norm, and so forth. Thus, here are my VERY specific selections on what I consider was the best in theater for 2019 within the DFW area:
PRODUCTIONS OF THE YEAR:
DEAR EVAN HANSEN – National Tour (Dallas Summer Musicals)
FALSETTOS- National Tour (AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House)
HAMILTON- National Tour (Dallas Summer Musicals)
NEWSIES (Plaza Theatre Company)
RAGTIME (Family Music Theatre)
SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (Garland Summer Musicals)
THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG- National Tour (AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House)
PERFORMANCES OF THE YEAR:
Nick Adams (Whizzer) FALSETTOS- National Tour (AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House)
Stephen Christopher Anthony (Evan Hansen) DEAR EVAN HANSEN, National Tour
Evan Beggs (Jack) NEWSIES (Plaza Theatre Company)
Alejandra Bigio (Diana) A CHORUS LINE, Mainstage Irving Las Colinas
Kim Billins (Aida) AIDA, (Plaza Theatre Company)
Nick Blaemire (Mendel) FALSETTOS - National Tour (AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House)
Erin Clemons (Eliza Hamilton) HAMILTON- National Tour (Dallas Summer Musicals)
Damond Cobin (Mereb) AIDA, (Plaza Theatre Company)
Sydney Cornelius (Sarah), RAGTIME, Family Music Theatre
Christion Dior Draper (Coalhouse Walker Jr.) RAGTIME, Family Music Theatre
Eden Espinosa (Trina) FALSETTOS - National Tour (AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House)
Max Von Essen (Marvin) FALSETTOS - National Tour (AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House)
Jillian Harrison (Katherine) NEWSIES (Plaza Theatre Company)
Michael Isaac (Adam Pontipee), SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (Garland Summer Musicals)
Caitlin Jones (Val) A CHORUS LINE, Mainstage Irving Las Colinas
Lauren LeBlanc (Milly Brandon), SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (Garland Summer Musicals)
Kathy Lemons, (Alice Beinecke}, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, Artisan Center Theater
Joseph Morales (Alexander Hamilton) HAMILTON- National Tour (Dallas Summer Musicals)
Heather Morrill (Mother), RAGTIME, Family Music Theatre
Jessica E. Sherman (Heidi Hansen), DEAR EVAN HANSEN National Tour
Courtney Sikora (Amneris) AIDA, (Plaza Theatre Company)
Nik Walker (Aaron Burr) HAMILTON- National Tour (Dallas Summer Musicals)
The ancestors in THE ADDAMS FAMILY (Artisan Center Theater)
The seven brothers in SEVEN BROTHERS FOR SEVEN BRIDES (Garland Summer Musicals)
The Nubians in Elton John’s AIDA (Plaza Theatre Company)
The full company of RAGTIME (Family Music Theatre)
The full company of THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG -National Tour (ATT Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House)
The dancing/singing newboys and newsgirls of NEWSIES (Plaza Theatre Company)
Tina Barrus & Tabitha Ibarra, NEWSIES (Plaza Theatre Company)
Dr. Sam Germany, RAGTIME (Family Music Theatre)
Buff Shurr, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (Garland Summer Musicals)
Eden Barrus, AIDA, (Plaza Theatre Company)
Tabitha Ibarra, NEWSIES (Plaza Theatre Company)
Kelly McCain, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (Garland Summer Musicals)
Elias Roman, THE ADDAMS FAMILY (Artisan Center Theater)
Stacia Woodlan, RAGTIME (Family Music Theatre)
BEST MUSICAL DIRECTION:
Dr. Sam Germany, RAGTIME (Family Music Theatre)
Larry Miller, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (Garland Summer Musicals)
Geno Young, AIDA (Plaza Theatre Company)
BEST SCENIC DESIGN:
Parker Barrus, AIDA, (Plaza Theatre Company)
Kelly Cox, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (Garland Summer Musicals)
BEST COSTUME DESIGN:
Tina Barrus, AIDA, (Plaza Theatre Company)
Henry Cawood, Michelle Cawood, THE ADDAMS FAMILY (Artisan Center Theater)
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN:
Cameron Barrus, AIDA, (Plaza Theatre Company)
SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARDS:
TO MAINSTAGE IRVING-LAS COLINAS: In a season where it seems like every theater was doing the same three shows that everyone else was doing, MILC avoided this trap, and took the artistic challenge in mounting Michael Bennett’s crowning achievement, A CHORUS LINE. Sure, it had its problems, but overall it was a highly entertaining production that reminds you of the glory of Bennett’s life and work, and the cruel reality of working in the theater. I’d take MILC wonderful production any day than sit through one more performance of those tiresome shows that seem to pop up every weekend.
TO FAMILY MUSIC THEATRE’s RAGIME: Last season I saw my first production at this theater with NEWSIES, which earned them their first ever COLUMN Award nomination for BEST MUSICAL. I was NOT prepared for what they had with RAGTIME. The original Broadway production (which I saw) had a huge cast. FMT had a whopping 70-member company! And this time all three cultures were evenly represented (past versions I’ve seen had to either double cast or had to have much smaller casts). So that glorious score was sung with power lung voices backed up with a marvelous live professional sounding orchestra! The cast was sublime. This company sincerely has delivered for the second time a musical production that left me speechless.
THE ENSEMBLE WHO PORTRAYED THE NUBIANS AND KIM BILLINS (AIDA) AIDA, PLAZA THEATRE COMPANY: Since I saw the original Broadway production on its opening weekend, I deeply love this musical, its score, the story, and the emotions it stirs up. In Plaza’s version, something happened that I’ve never seen before. The cast who made up the Nubians and Kim Billins (Aida) slowly started the Act I closing number “Gods Love Nubia”, the number began to build with voice, the volume of the orchestra (which was live!), as well with the incredible emotion and power. The number crescendo to magnificent theatrical beauty. So much so, the entire audience rose to their feet and gave them a standing ovation-and they had NOT finished the number! That’s how incredible the members of the Nubian ensemble and Ms. Billins were!
OUTSTANDING DEBUT IN DIRECTION: Aaron Lett for THE ADDAMS FAMILY (Artisan Center Theater). I only attended this production as a friend and supporter, but I still wore my critique cap. I was extremely impressed by his work helming this musical. The staging and blocking were quite creative and had some fresh and humorous sequences. The pace was good and most of the performances were smashing. He had a great chorographer, flawless costumes, make up designers, and to top it off he had the best set of ensemble ancestors that I have seen for this musical. I was VERY relieved that the humor was not watered down at all. I am a firm believer that in some cases (SOME!) actors do make the best directors. Mr. Lett fits the qualification he has a bright and exciting future as a director.
THE COLUMN STAFF OF ASSOCIATE
THEATER CRITICS PICKS!
MILDRED AUSTIN (Associate Theatre Critic)
BEST PLAY (EQUITY)
OUR TOWN - Circle Theatre
OUR TOWN is a warhorse in every sense of that word. It is metatheatre as conceived in the modern dramatic sense. The “fourth wall” does not exist. Characters speak directly to the audience and walk in and out of the audience as if the entire theatre is the set of the play and we observers are part of it. The actors may ask us questions, or they may sit among us. This serves to draw the members of the audience further into the action and emotion of the play than the standard proscenium presentation of a show. Circle is an equity theatre that showcases actors who are members or candidates of Actor’s Equity. It is a company of very experienced, very talented actors. I did not see a single cast member not quite up to such a difficult show as OUR TOWN. I enjoyed it very much and so did the other members of the audience. Overall, it appeared that Matthew Gray, the director, steered away from over-sentimentalizing the play, which can certainly happen easily. Thornton Wilder, the author, makes a very important point in this play and that is “Life is short, sometimes very short and humans err in allowing their lives rush past without a thought of being-mindful or in the moment.” Kudos for Circle Theatre in bringing this treasure back to the stage, dusting it off a bit, and inspiring new audiences who may never have experienced it. The message never grows old.
BEST MUSICAL (NON-EQUITY)
THE WILD PARTY - Bishop Arts Theatre
THE WILD PARTY by Andrew Lippa is loosely based on a 1928 narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March by the same title. March was best known for this sexually charged Jazz Age poem. The story of the musical version follows two vaudeville performers, Queenie and Burrs through their lusty love affair. When the relationship begins to finally sour, the pair decides to host a wild, wild party, complete with bathtub gin, cocaine, and uninhibited sexual behavior. As the party wears on, it quickly devolves into an orgy with a tragic ending. The guests at the party are a parade of varied sexual “types” and vaudevillian characters and include a mysterious Mr. Black, brought by the cocaine addicted temptress, Kate, who is Queenies best friend and rival. Black, younger than Kate, is quickly attracted to Queenie. Also attending: a gay/brothers act the D’Armanos who provide comic relief, Madelaine True a lesbian stripper, Jackie the dancer, prizefighter Eddie, his wife Mae, and Mae’s underage sister, the innocent Nadine. The Bishop Arts Production embodied the loose, jazz age tone of the musical and followed an increasingly frantic pace to the story’s tawdry and tragic conclusion. All areas of the stage were involved in the unfolding drama and the staging was beautiful. It was a “dark” musical, much like CABARET and totally captivated the audience.
BEST ACTOR MUSICAL (NON-EQUITY)
Antonio Thomas as Mr. Black in THE WILD, PARTY Bishop Arts Theatre
Antonio Thomas is quite impressive both vocally and in his stage presence as the mysterious Mr. Black, a younger lover Kate brings with her to the party. Thomas played the character as almost innocent or heedless of the sexual intrigues that swirled about him. When he engaged with Queenie he appears to be the man she wants but is trapped by the circumstances of her life and decisions she has made or failed to make. Thomas breathed life into this naïve, tragic character.
BEST ACTRESS MUSICAL (NON-EQUITY)
Ashley Ragsdale, Kate in THE WILD PARTY Bishop Arts Theatre
Ms. Ragsdale was a dynamic, sexually charged Kate with vocals and dance to match. She captured both the erotic predatory side of her character, but also the weary, cocaine addicted outsider who will most likely never find the actual love she seeks. Ragsdale owned the stage when it was called for and was also hard to take your eyes off her. Her performance was truly electric.
BEST FEATURED ACTOR MUSICAL (NON-EQUITY)
Brian Witkowics as Paddy Chayevsky in RAZZ Ochre Theatre
Brian Witkowicz was absolutely both charming and subsequently dark as Bob Fosse's best friend, Paddy Chayevsky (Fosse danced at Chayefsky's funeral). Both artists struggled in different ways with the commercialism of film, Broadway and the sacrifice of their art. Not only does Witkowicz very much physically resemble Paddy Chayefsky, but he captured the essence of the man and the artist both at once. His sadness and resignation lined with subtle anger drew the audience in and captured their complete attention.
BEST FEATURED ACTRESS MUSICAL (NON-EQUITY)
Sarah Powell as Madeline True in THE WILD PARTY Bishop Arts Theatre
Sarah Powell as Madelaine True provided an absolutely electrical performance both musically and in her characterization of a lesbian woman seeking real love in all the wrong places. Her energy and stage presence made it difficult for me to keep my eyes off her wherever she was onstage. Her character never faded. She was always Madelaine True and absorbed the audience in her performance.
BEST DIRECTOR MUSICAL (NON-EQUITY)
Adam Adolfo THE WILD PARTY Bishop Arts Theatre
Adolfo made magnificent use of his actors and his space. He orchestrated the staging and the pace of the production brilliantly, beginning slowly and proceeding to the frantic pace of the party. And that pace never lagged. That is, he marks, I believe of a very special director who can convey the concept of pace to his actors and use it to bring a story to life.
BEST SCENIC DESIGNER MUSICAL (NON-EQUITY)
Davis Lighting THE WILD PARTY Bishop Arts Theatre
I loved, loved, loved the set as its multi-levels provided the director and actors almost endless possibilities in staging the many mini-scenes-within-scenes so inherent in the show. Of course, the lighting went hand in hand to make use of those levels
BEST PLAY (NON-EQUITY)
ANY WEDNESDAY Rover Dramawerks
This play is old by current standards. Really old! Written by Muriel Resnik, it was first produced on Broadway in 1964, starring Sandy Dennis and Gene Hackman, and ran for 984 performances. It was a “sleeper” that turned into a little smash hit! The plot revolves around a prominent middle-aged businessman in New York City, John Cleves, who keeps a pretty young mistress secluded in an apartment that is actually owned by his company, much to the young woman’s dislike. Their arrangement is that he will visit her “every Wednesday” and spend the rest of the week with his wife. But this is growing old for the young woman, Ellen Gordon, and she is pushing for the commitment he has dangled before her: he will leave his wife and marry Ellen. Yeah, right. Like I said, 1964/2014, in fifty years what has changed? I had never read nor seen this play, or seen the movie based on it starring Jane Fonda and Jason Robards. I wasn’t sure what to expect, though, of course, I knew it was a comedy. I can state without reservation I was therefore, quite pleasantly surprised at the production mounted by Rover Dramawerks in Plano and directed by Carol Rice. I was only sorry that this very entertaining production closed the afternoon after we saw it. It was worth seeing a second time and not many shows can claim that honor! Congratulations and “Thank You” to cast and director for presenting a delightful evening of real community theatre.
BEST ACTOR PLAY (NON-EQUITY)
Mark Massey ANY WEDNESDAY Rover Dramawerks
Massey as John Cleves reminded me of the character of Richard Gere at the beginning of PRETTY WOMAN. Massey let us know immediately his character is a user. He’s not a lover or a giver but a rather ruthless businessman who rents his mistress’s apartment in the name of his company so he can take it as a “tax deduction.” Massey brilliantly underplayed this character just enough to not come off as mean, but simply emotionless and pragmatic. He was comfortably at ease as Cleves and I could easily forget this was a role he was playing, his character seemed so natural.
BEST ACTRESS PLAY (NON-EQUITY)
Jade Reyes ANY WEDNESDAY Rover Dramawerks
Jade Reyes as Ellen Gordon, the pretty young woman kept by Cleves, fit the role physically to a T. She is young, lithe and enthusiastic, in stark contrast to her lover, Cleves, who visits her every Wednesday. As we saw in the opening scene, he is somewhat emotionally dull compared to Ellen. Reyes was transparently naïve in her characterization and appeared to be truly in love with a man who is in the business of money and status and will never make their liaison a permanent commitment. As Ellen, Reyes was perky, kooky and totally believable. I know everyone wanted to just shake some sense into her-- “Girl, what were you thinkin’?”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR PLAY (NON-EQUITY)
Eddy Herring ANY WEDNESDAY Rover Dramawerks
Rounding out what became a madcap quartet was Eddy Herring as Cass Henderson, a young man whose company has been taken over and bought out by Cleves. He’s ready for a faceoff, but, instead, is mistaken for Ellen’s husband by Mrs. Cleves. The two are forced to go along with the mistake, Ellen desperately trying to avoid having Mrs. Cleves figure out who she is. Henderson’s character ends up in a series of mix-up and mistakes and he finally realizes, a bit late, his attraction to Ellen, feeling she deserves so much more in a relationship than she is settling for. Henderson’s character is the mirror opposite of Cleves and Herring managed that superbly. He, too, began at an easy pace, but grabbed the tilt-a-whirl when called upon to step up and win fair lady, though towards the end, be becomes just a bit more frantic than is probably necessary. But that is a tiny, tiny criticism, because overall, Herring’s performance was believable and energetic.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS PLAY (NON-EQUITY)
Lucia Welch ANY WEDNESDAY Rover Dramawerks
Lucia Welch as the unsuspecting, long ignored wife was relaxed and totally natural in that role. She nailed the character of the busy society matron, redecorating, offering advice to the young couple she believes to be staying at the company apartment for business reasons. Welch seemed truly sincere which is a perfect added dimension to a character who could come off as one dimensional but did not. When at last she had to face the truth of her husband’s dalliance while playing a game with his mistress she had inadvertently taken out for a birthday dinner, it was a priceless moment. Her look of final understanding wasn’t overdone. Welch respects that sometimes less is more and her reaction was so real and perfect. You immediately just KNOW that SHE KNOWS. She brought her character so easily to life for the audience we wanted to practically stand up and cheer for her when she embraced the satisfaction of living her life outside the shadow of her manipulative husband.
BEST DIRECTOR PLAY (NON-EQUITY)
Carol Rice ANY WEDNESDAY Rover Dramawerks
Ms. Rice handled the staging and the pace of this production brilliantly. It begins benignly enough, but slowly picks up pace leading to the unbelievable game of word association that brings the story to its inevitable climax. Her casting played to each of her actor’s strengths and she was able to keep her actors tamped down enough to avoid overacting which can be a problem in a comedy such as this. I love it when theatres and directors bring back the “old ones”. Some themes don’t change even after 50 years!
CHARLIE BOWLES (Associate Theatre Critic)
Every year I think back over shows I’ve seen and remember what struck me from my memories of those shows. To me the power in a production is what stays with me over time. There are companies producing compelling theater in DFW. There’s diversity in production teams and quality and artists sharing their visions. Their passion is palpable. This year, however, I personally was struck with illness that blocked me from seeing many shows, so I only have a few to describe.
Theater interests me based on various qualities in production and performance. I seldom see bad shows and those are often due to issues outside the stage experience. I believe in the idea of “different” rather than better or best, so I don’t categorize shows as Best or Betters. Each production has unique qualities and the ones I like are well-designed and well-executed by crew and cast, as well as the producing company. Theater begins when I hit the parking lot. Everything that happens on the walk in, through the lobby, while interacting with staff and volunteers builds an expectation of what happens on-stage. It’s an integrated theater experience and I evaluate it all. But there's different works with different values to see. There’s a wide divergence of experience levels and resources in producing companies, so I look first to what a theater is trying and able to accomplish. Then I look at individual elements. In the end, I’m always looking for an atmospheric impression from the experience, maybe a lesson or ah-ha, but often just a general feeling that lingers.
As a reviewer, I’m attracted to unique, quirky, new, and adventurous shows. I tend to miss old standards and don’t review many musicals, though I like them. I see dramatic productions most often and seek out companies and venues that are new, smaller and adventurous. I like a theater company that takes chances in order to express its artistic soul, and that often means addressing subjects that may be too risky for other theaters. So, most of what I saw this year was drama and there were great productions among them. Each of these were fabulous pieces of artistic expression, each in its own different production values.
Stage West – ARE YOU NOW, OR HAVE YOU EVER BEEN… by Carlyle Brown
Carlyle Brown wrote this show about Langston Hughes’ hearing before the Select Committee on Un-American Affairs in the mid-1950s. It’s a clarion call about how Washington worked in the 1950s, not so differently from today. Dejore Nance created this riveting performance as Hughes, a flawed, if not worshipped, author. Hughes’ hearing before the committee is in the public record, so it was a challenge to portray the historical record in a way that was his own expression. He did that well. Director Vicki Washington put the unseen voices of the McCarthy hearings in and behind the audience, perhaps to reinforce that the Committee was actually a front for American public thought at that time. Though we didn’t see any of the named actors on-stage, they were none-the-less all around us and felt quite real in their questioning of Hughes. As a fear of a silent, dangerous spread of Communists among us, this ode to the Spanish Inquisition continued for years, damaging and ruining countless American lives. Some say it may have been Hughes’ passionate testimony that began to turn the tide against McCarthy.
LUNGS by Duncan MacMillan
Another premier presented by Stage West was about another major social conundrum. Lungs cast just two actors to play a young man and woman who were navigating their lives in the midst of a realization that the planet is grasping for air and choking on the detritus of human consumption. In the check-out lane of a local store, he asks her to have a child with him and this sparks a roller coaster ride across the full landscape of fears about becoming a parent in a dying world. Carson McCain directed an amazing job with a minimal setting, a bare stage backed with a display of empty bottles, ostensibly from our oceans. This play was packed with utter pathos punctuated by fits of laughter at things coming out of Dani Nelson’s and Ruben Carrazana’s mouths. They were shocking and pathetic in the struggle through life-long crises, yet their experience was so believable and familiar, it was hilarious to laugh at things we all worry about, but don’t do much about. The things we ignore in order to live our lives are killing us.
Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre -
Two shows by TART were destressing productions in that the subject matter was tragic and revealing of a human condition many people avoid. They shouldn’t have. They were good shows. But I attended one night as one of only two in the audience. Sad! Because there was much more to learn than the surface subject would indicate.
BURIED CHILD by Sam Shepard
A rural American family deals with extreme dysfunction across the whole family and comes to grips with a shocking cause in a long-held family secret. I think this might have been some of the best performances I’ve seen by regulars in area theaters, like Delmar Dolbier, Seth Johnston, Danny Macchietto, and Nancy Lamb. Each character lived their lives with some level of dysfunction, even Father Dewis, a minister linked deeply to the family it was trying to counsel. This was tough to watch, like a batch of train wrecks approaching an intersection. Yet the actors spilled their guts to get the deepest levels of realism they could imagine. The sad thought is that this is not unique or unusual. This type of dysfunction, with many causes, exists around the world and poses an explanation about the apparent deteriorating condition of our civilization. Karen Matheny directed this piece with finesse and simplicity and empowered each actor to find a place to explore the depths of their despair.
NIGHT, MOTHER by Marsha Norman
The second show was an equally challenging emotional piece by two actors, Cynthia Matthews and Tracie Foster. Mother and daughter live together in a case of daughter taking care of the mother while hiding from her own personal condition, worsening epilepsy. The quirk in this show is that the daughter makes a bold announcement that she will end her life and we then see the mother go through all of Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ stages of grief as the daughter prepares her mother to live alone and then completes the task. It’s an emotional ride few of us could imagine enduring. Yet Allen Walker’s direction paced the actors methodically towards the inevitable end, and yet still find moments of humor and humanity. It’s highly unusual that a suicide victim would announce this intention. To this end, Norman’s story is more absurdity than realism, yet it was funny and sad and heart-warming to see how this affected these two people. We saw no violence, but the imagination kept people from taking the chance. These two actors raised the bar and gave excellent performances to just two of us in the audience. The fear of suicide likely drove people away.
But what I got from this was not the suicide. That was a vehicle to trigger the journey to the bottom for these two who had barely scratched the surface in their lives. Look past the surface to find deeper meanings. Take chances on seeing something unusual, uncomfortable and revealing of value in humanity. TART gets huge thanks for taking on these truly difficult subjects with such finesse and grace.
CONSTELLATIONS by Nick Payne - Millennial Poison Theatre Company
For those who can recognize that being a Millennial is not a bad thing can enjoy a perspective on life and humanity that the older among us often fear. This young company produced Constellations in a hotel meeting room in downtown Dallas. Claire Fountain played a young woman who works in astrophysics in London. She meets her polar opposite, Roland, played by Ian McGee. He’s an earth-bound beekeeper. They meet, and meet, and meet again, and explore a life of relationships. Yes, “relationships” is plural. Constellations poses that we live in a multi-verse and at every moment we have a myriad of copies of ourselves going through the same choices and decisions with different outcomes. The repetitive text gets easier after a few minutes of figuring out that each thing they say, do, think and choose will be done multiple times, as if shifting from one M-verse to another. The same sequence of text is repeated several times, but each time Fountain and McGee shifted their attitude and perspective just slightly, enough to see that we were seeing different versions each time. Directed by Lucas Haupert, we danced through the lives of these people and saw them play out many iterations of their doppelgangers from different M-verses. By seeing each scene from different perspectives, the story and its ultimate meanings showed up in a unique way. It’s complicated, and yet it was easy to follow once we got the hang. I like the work of MPTC and look to seeing more.
I didn’t see much pure comedy this year, though I find humor in most productions, even in some tragedies. Humor is one of those aspects of productions most misunderstood by mainstream audiences. If they laugh, it’s funny and likely a comedy. If they cry, it’s likely tragedy. But comedy and tragedy overlap if it’s done well. In any tragedy there are humorous situations that lighten the story to create an interesting flow to the tragic end. Inside comedy there are moments of pathos, consequence and maybe heartbreak that can make you cry.
BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS by Neil Simon - Theatre Arlington
This is Neil Simon’s autobiographical sketch of early family life. These are events that pushed him to become Neil Simon. It was funny from the first moments. Megan Haratine directed a well-coached cast and a creative production crew that gave us a window into all the rooms of this house in Brooklyn at the same time. This survey of all rooms opened the story to quickly jump from a scene downstairs in the living room or kitchen to a bedroom upstairs with a quick change of lights that refocused us on the active part of the house. The cast was stellar. There’s crisis in this family, and it has many points of view with surprises at every moment. Each actor played their reactions as if they were life and death. And in this the humor was all-out laughter. This was comedy done well!
DRACULA by Michael Federico (with Christie Vela) adapted from Bram Stoker - Theatre Three
For October fright, you’ll get no better than the classic Dracula. Directed by Christie Vela, it took diverse casting to a new level by casting Allison Pistorius as the Count and Gloria Vivica Benavides as Van Helsing, both strongly written male roles. While Benavides had much of the same masculine, gruff, ballsy caricature of the Indiana Jones-like Van Helsing, Pistorius played Count Dracula with a strong femininity that gave the story a new perspective on her relationships with two ultra-feminine targets. Benavides’ portrayal of Van Helsing also created a feminine take on the scientist’s destructive pursuit of Dracula. This allowed Van Helsing to be a fabulous comic relief as Benavides played with entendre-laden, brash outbursts to the delight of the audience. I especially liked the placement of Paul Taylor’s creation of the crazy Renfield in a cage above the stage and how he made love to that cage as part of his act of insanity. This was a high point in my year.
NORTHANGER ABBEY by Jane Austen, adapted by Tim Luscombe - Stolen Shakespeare Guild
This is not strictly holiday fare as it was July. But Jane Austen wrote this as a parody of the strong beliefs in ghosts and spirits by the English, so maybe it’s a parallel with Dracula? It also was written as an indictment of society’s assumptions about class distinction and superior versus inferior groups, although her own family was not immune from that. It took aim at the common-place view that some people are good, and others are bad and that justifies rampant discrimination. So, the play was part social commentary and part ridicule, though with the utmost of politeness English society was known for. This production was directed by Lauren and Jason Morgan with their requisite beautiful costuming for which Lauren is known and their ability to take oft-archaic language and aging reference and make them accessible. It’s always a fashion display of the period finery and very tasteful, yet simple stage settings. It makes for a wonderful, light evening of entertainment and storytelling.
GENEVIEVE CROFT (Associate Theatre Critic)
Another year has come and gone. As we enter the next decade of the 2020’s, and close another season of successful shows, I am given the opportunity to look back on some of the best-produced and well-conceived productions of 2019 in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. The DFW area is fortunate to have so many professional and community theaters that keep the arts alive. I submit for your perusal, Croft’s Best of Theatre 2019 Picks-the final one of the 2010’s…on with the show!
Best Shows of the year:
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House
The Addams Family, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury Opera House
A 3D Adventure, Circle Theatre, Fort Worth, Texas
Alex Rain, Dr. David Mortimore, It Runs in the Family, Theatre Frisco, Frisco, Texas
Josh Hepola, Dr. Hubert Bonney, It Runs in the Family, Theatre Frisco, Frisco, Texas
Bradley McKinney, Paul Bratter, Barefoot in the Park, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Nolan Moralez, Adam, Disney’s Freaky Friday, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne, Texas
Brian Lawson, Gomez Addams, The Addams Family, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Micah B. Hardt, Seymour, Little Shop of Horrors, Richardson Theatre Centre
Luke Hunt, Judge Harry Wilkins, Dear Ruth, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne, Texas
Alexandria Owens, Ellie Blake, Disney’s Freaky Friday, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne, Texas
Courtney Mitchell, Katherine Blake, Disney’s Freaky Friday, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne, Texas
Caitlan Leblo, Morticia Addams, The Addams Family, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Berry Harris, Wednesday Addams, The Addams Family, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Sarah Bockel, Carole King, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House
Jenna Anderson, Boof, A 3D Adventure, Circle Theatre, Fort Worth, Texas
Mikki Lewis, Corie Bratter, Barefoot in the Park, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Best Supporting Actor:
Jeff Meador, Victor Velsaco, Barefoot in the Park, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Josh Leblo, Lurch, The Addams Family, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Austin Bender, Scarecrow/Hunk, The Wizard of Oz, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Bryson Petersen, Tin Man/Hickory, The Wizard of Oz, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Tyler Ivie, Lion/Zeke, The Wizard of Oz, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Matt Beutner, Teen Angel, Grease, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Best Supporting Actress:
Micaiah Armstrong, Betty Rizzo, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Gabriela Yarbrough, Miriam Wilkins, Dear Ruth, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne, Texas
Best Scenic Designer:
Kerri Pavelick, The Addams Family, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Wendy Searcy-Woode, Grease, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Derek McLane, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House
Sherri Small, It Runs in the Family, Theatre Frisco, Frisco, Texas
G. Aaron Siler, Disney’s Freaky Friday, Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne, Texas
Kyle Hoffman, The Addams Family, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Matt Beutner, The Wizard of Oz, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Marc Bruni, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House
Best Costume Designer:
Drenda Lewis, The Addams Family, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
Best Make-Up Designer:
Colton Lively, The Addams Family, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
The Addams Family, Granbury Theatre Company, Granbury, Texas
A 3D Adventure, Circle Theatre, Fort Worth, Texas
JOEL GERARD (Associate Theatre Critic)
TOP 12 PRODUCTIONS OF THE YEAR:
Spring Awakening (Uptown Players):
Director and choreographer Jeremy Dumont’s vision for this musical made for an excellent production. Every choice was clear and made sense to serve the story. I was impressed with the level of talent from the young cast, and the high energy songs were a lot of fun.
Equus (Lakeside Community Theatre):
I had never been to a show at Lakeside Community Theatre before, and I was thoroughly impressed by this stunning production. Equus is a dark and disturbing play and not one of my favorites by any means, but the director and designers made bold and exciting choices with this show.
Newsies: The Musical (Plaza Theatre Company):
I saw three different productions of Newsies in 2019. It’s honestly one of my favorite shows. Plaza Theatre Company’s production of Newsies was by far the best of all of them. In fact, I saw this particular production three times! A large cast of talented actors filled the stage and gave 100% to this show. The crew and designers all should be commended as well. This was a high quality, gold standard production from Cleburne’s Plaza Theatre Company.
Disaster! (Uptown Players):
Just thinking about this show again puts a smile on my face. This parody musical of 1970’s disaster movies set to pop songs is just a ridiculous fun time. Director B.J. Cleveland kept the madcap visual gags moving swiftly and a very game cast walked just the right line between silly and zany.
Hamilton (Dallas Summer Musicals):
Everything about Hamilton lived up to the hype. I had purposefully never listened to the songs so I would be watching and hearing this show fresh the first time I saw it. It’s a history lesson played by a diverse cast of actors and a stellar soundtrack from creator Lin-Manual Miranda. I’m happy I finally got to see this show and I was not disappointed in the least.
Cruel Intentions: The ‘90s Musical (AT&T Performing Arts Center):
Before you judge me, hear me out…the movie Cruel Intentions is a guilty pleasure cult classic and one of my favorite movies. I was super curious about the musical and I knew very little about it before I saw it. Honestly, it was hilarious and fun and made me ridiculously happy. It incorporated hit ‘90s pop songs with the same plot and most of the same delicious dialogue from the movie. Every pop song hilarious fit right into the story and the super talented cast deserved to have done this on Broadway.
The Play That Goes Wrong (AT&T Performing Arts Center):
I’m not overexaggerating when I say this is the funniest show I’ve ever seen. Period. Especially if you know theatre and have ever worked on a show and know how mistakes can happen and things fall apart sometimes, this show is an absolute riot. The set is honestly the real star of the show. I don’t know how you can do this show without this very specific set. I had to see this show twice because there was dialogue and visual gags, I missed the first time because I was laughing so loudly. This is an incredibly smart and funny show.
Reykjavik (Kitchen Dog Theater):
Reykjavik is a weird and exciting piece of theatre that I can’t really explain. The basic premise is a series of scenes that are loosely connected with actors playing multiple roles in the city of Reykjavik, Iceland. The opening scene takes place in a club with thumping music and a drunk tourist. It’s an unsettling scene that takes a dark turn and I still think about it today. That’s the exciting power of theatre.
In The Heights (Dallas Theater Center):
It’s hard to say if I’ve ever seen a perfect production of a musical that’s not a Broadway or touring show, but this comes really close. This was an exquisite show. The large cast was a mix of local actors and others from across the country. You could tell they all loved this show. I loved essentially everything about this production too.
A Chorus Line (Mainstage Irving/Las Colinas):
Directed by original Broadway cast member Michael Serrecchia, there was a lot to love about this production. The key to this show is having actors who can act, sing, and dance their hearts out. Very talented local actors dedicated themselves to this classic piece of theatre. I applaud Mainstage for producing a tough show and doing it right.
Lizzie (Imprint Theatreworks):
Who would have thought there was a musical about Lizzie Borden? This is an intriguing show. It’s less like a traditional musical, and more like a concert with a story. The intimate theater space with an amazing live band right there on stage created an immersive, in-your-face experience. But it was really all about the four actresses who sang their faces off and looked fierce. It totally rocked.
Dear Evan Hansen (Dallas Summer Musicals):
I had been dying to see this show for a while. I knew the songs, but I was unprepared for the journey the story took me on. This is an incredibly important show, especially for a younger generation who must deal with the pressures of social media, divorce, loneliness, suicide, and the consequences of lying to friends and loved ones. This is an emotional and beautiful show, and I can’t wait to see it again someday.
CHRIS HAUGE (Associate Theatre Critic)
It’s always fun going back and reliving the shows that I have had the honor to attend this past year. It is also daunting to come up with a list of the best of a large list of theatre companies, directors, actor, choreographers, and various designers. But, do it I must, so here is an attempt to share with you the theatres and artists that have touched me in 2019 and merit special mention.
SHOWS I ATTENDED BUT DID NOT REVIEW
“The Legend of Deadeye Mary” by Chris Irby & Sean Freeman – Pocket Sandwich Theatre – Dallas
In the interest of full disclosure, I admit to a long history with the PST. I performed there many times over 35 years and have a deep admiration for the people who have kept this institution going. That being said, “The Legend of Deadeye Mary” was among the best productions I have seen there. Chris Irby & Sean Freeman’s script is sharp and witty. I think it should be considered one of the top original scripts of the year. Director Rachel Vitemb ably directed a wonderful cast (particularly Staci Cook as Deadeye Mary, Madeleine Morris as Felicity Rothstein, and Joe Porter as Marshal J. L. Tucker) and gave the audience the perfect vehicle to cheer for the heroes, boo the villains, and throw popcorn at everyone. If they revive this script in the future, I suggest you check it out.
“Doom McCoy and the Death Nugget” written & directed by Justin Locklear – Ochre House Theater – Dallas
There are times when all the elements of theatre come together to produce something singular. Such is “Doom McCoy and the Death Nugget”. Using actors, music, and puppets, Justin Locklear took us into the legend of a humble cowboy doomed to travel time and space forever and made it an unforgettable journey.
“First Date” – Stage West Theatre – Fort Worth
This musical, with a book by Austin Winsberg and music & lyrics by Alan Zachary & Michael Weiner, took the awkwardness of a first date and transformed it into a night of hilarity and heart. Seth Womack and Amber Marie Flores were winning as a couple walking the minefield of a blind date and the rest of the cast kept the proceedings going with crisp characterizations and strong singing. It made for a wonderful night out.
"In the Heights” – Dallas Theater Center – Dallas
There was so much joy pouring out of every part of this show. The brilliant ensemble cast, headed by Xavier Cano as Usnavi, took Lin-Manuel Miranda’ music and made it soar. The set designed by Dahlia Al-Habieli took the audience right into the neighborhood and was a large part of helping us feel the energy and heart of the production. I loved it.
“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” – Garland Summer Musicals – Garland
Who knew that a story about kidnapping could be so entertaining! Directing stalwart Buff Shurr wrangled a huge cast with skill and produced a wonderful piece of entertainment. Based on the 1954 movie musical of the same name, the play showcased the talent of Michael Isaac and Lauren LeBlanc, as well as a host of others. It was a fun time at the theatre.
“La Muerte De Don Quixote” – Ochre House Theater – Dallas
I never know how to describe works at the Ochre House Theater, so musical will do for now. This show blends Matt Posey’s script, top level acting, music, and dancing (in this case the powerful flamenco of Antonio Arrebola and Delilah Buitrón Arrebola) so seamlessly that the only appropriate category to put it in is as a true work of art. At the end of the show I felt as if I too could ride to the moon like Don Quixote.
Special Mention – “Anastasia” – Broadway at the Bass touring Company – Bass Hall – Fort Worth; “The Phantom of the Opera” – Broadway at the Bass touring company – Bass Hall – Fort Worth; “Sistas The Musical” – Jubilee Theatre – Fort Worth.
“The Dining Room” – Resolute Theatre Project – Dallas
This production was propelled by the talented ensemble of John Daniel Pszyk, Ryan Maffei, David Helms, Rose Anne Holman, Dayna Fries, and Ashley Ottesen. A. R. Gurney’s play of WASP culture unfolded on a stage with nothing but a dining table with six chairs around it in front of drawn background and it was wonderful. It was acting at its purist and it is one of my top favorites of the year.
“Unveiled: A One Woman Play” – Presented by WaterTower Theatre – Addison
Writer and performer Rohina Malik created five women for us to meet and learn about and the experience was incredible. Ms. Malik made us feel so comfortable that by the end of play we felt we had made some new friends. That’s how real they became.
“Wolf at the Door” – Kitchen Dog Theater – Dallas
I saw two productions at Kitchen Dog Theater this year and both were excellent. This dark fairy-tale set in Mexico takes us into the life of a physically and emotionally abused woman who is about to give birth. The question of how much we are willing to sacrifice to get what we truly desire, and love resounds throughout Marisela Treviño Orta’s script. The set designed by Clare Floyd DeVries surrounds us with starkness of both the physical and psychological landscape of the piece.
“Fool for Love” – The Classics Theatre Project – Dallas
One of the pleasures of this job is the chance to see theatre groups I’ve not seen before. The Classics Theatre Project took Sam Shepard’s powerful script and made it distinctly their own. Sasha Maya Ada and Joey Folsom gave us the characters of May and Eddie in all of their tortured reality. Chris Messersmith and Braden Socia rounded out this excellent production of this American classic.
“The True History of the Tragic Life and Triumphant Death of Julia Pastrana the Ugliest Woman in the World” – Lakeside Community Theatre – The Colony
The power of the actors’ voices and the audience’s imagination are the elements that make this a unique and powerful theatrical experience. Performed almost entirely in the dark, this play leads us through the tragic world of a real-life circus freak in the 19th Century. The actors totally dedicated themselves to bring this story to us and their efforts produced a work of beauty.
Special Mention – “And Then There Were None” – Allen’s Community Theatre – Allen; “You Got Older” – Kitchen Dog Theater – Dallas; “Office Hour” – Circle Theatre – Fort Worth; “A Christmas Carol” – Dallas Theater Center – Dallas.
ACTORS OF NOTE
Kenneth Fulenwider – General Mackenzie – “And Then There Were None” – ACT – Allen
Collin Miller – Anthony Marston – “And Then There Were None” - ACT - Allen
Brandon Potter – Ebenezer Scrooge – “A Christmas Carol” – Dallas Theater Center – Dallas
Ace Anderson – Jacob Marley – “A Christmas Carol” – Dallas Theater Center – Dallas
John Daniel Pszyk – 1st Actor – “The Dining Room” – Resolute Theatre Project - Dallas
Ryan Maffei – 2nd Actor – “The Dining Room” – Resolute Theatre Project - Dallas
David Helms – 3rd Actor – “The Dining Room” – Resolute Theatre Project - Dallas
Seth Womack – Aaron – “First Date” – Stage West Theatre – Fort Worth
Randy Pearlman – Man 3 – “First Date” – Stage West Theatre – Fort Worth
Joey Folsom – Eddie – “Fool for Love” – The Classics Theatre Project – Dallas
Braden Socia – Martin – “Fool for Love” – The Classics Theatre Project – Dallas
Chris Messersmith – The Old Man – “Fool for Love” – The Classics Theatre Project – Dallas
Xavier Cano – Usnavi – “In the Heights” – Dallas Theater Center – Dallas
David Lugo – Kevin – “In the Heights” – Dallas Theater Center – Dallas
Chris Sykes – Sancho Panza – “La Muerte De Don Quixote” – Ochre House Theatre – Dallas
Alex Vinh – Dennis – “Office Hour” – Circle Theatre – Fort Worth
Michael Isaac – Adam Pontipee – “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” – GSM – Garland
Ryan Caviola – Gideon Pontipee – “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” – GSM – Garland
Greg Kozakis – Bernard S. Dunlap – “Suite Surrender” – Runway Theatre – Grapevine
Spencer Liles – Lent – “The True History of …” – Lakeside Community Theatre – The Colony
Ruben Carrazana – Séptimo – “Wolf at the Door” – Kitchen Dog Theater – Dallas
Barry Nash – Dad – “You Got Older” – Kitchen Dog Theater – Dallas
Max Hartman – Cowboy – “You Got Older: - Kitchen Dog Theater – Dallas
ACTRESSES OF NOTE
Kim Billins – Aida – “Elton John & Tim Rice’s Aida” – Plaza Theatre Company – Cleburne
Megan Tormey – Vera Claythorne – “And Then There Were None – ACT – Allen
Tiana Kaye Blair – Christmas Past & Mrs. Cratchit – “A Christmas Carol – DTC – Dallas
Rose Anne Holman – 1st Actress – “The Dining Room” – Resolute Theatre Project – Dallas
Dayna Fries – 2nd Actress – “The Dining Room” – Resolute Theatre Project – Dallas
Ashley Ottesen – 3rd Actress – “The Dining Room” – Resolute Theatre Project – Dallas
Amber Marie Flores – Casey – “First Date” – Stage West Theatre – Fort Worth
Sasha Maya Ada – May – “Fool for Love” – The Classics Theatre Project
Nancy Ticotin – Abuela Claudia – “In the Heights” – Dallas Theater Center – Dallas
Marina Pires – Vanessa – “In the Heights” – Dallas Theater Center – Dallas
Talia Thiesfield – Daniela – “In the Heights’ – Dallas Theater Center – Dallas
Olivia de Guzman – Gina – “Office Hour” – Circle Theatre – Fort Worth
Milly Brandon Lauren LeBlanc – “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” – GSM – Garland
Kimberly Billins – Roberta – “Sistas the Musical” – Jubilee Theatre – Fort Worth
Sydney Hewitt – Tameka – “Sistas the Musical” – Jubilee Theatre – Fort Worth
Corey Carter – Pippet – “Suite Surrender” – Runway Theatre – Grapevine
Laura Lester – Dora del Rio – “Suite Surrender – Runway Theatre – Grapevine
Araceli Radillo – Julia Pastrana – “The True History of …” – Lakeside Community Theatre – The Colony
Rohina Malik – Maryam, Noor, Inez, Shabana, and Layla – “Unveiled – WaterTower Theatre – Addison
Alejandra Flores – Isadora – “Wolf at the Door” – Kitchen Dog Theater – Dallas
Kristen Kelso – Yolot – “Wolf at the Door” – Kitchen Dog Theater – Dallas
Delores Godinez – Rocio – “Wolf at the Door” – Kitchen Dog Theater – Dallas
Jenny Ledel – Mae – “You Got Older” – Kitchen Dog Theater – Dallas
Brandy McClendon Kae – Hannah – “You Got Older” – Kitchen Dog Theater – Dallas
DIRECTORS OF NOTE
Joel Ferrell – “A Christmas Carol” – Dallas Theater Center – Dallas
Stefany Cambra – “The Dining Room” – Resolute Theatre Project – Dallas
Harry Parker – “First Date” – Stage West Theatre – Fort Worth
Van Quattro – “Fool for Love” – Classics Theatre Project – Dallas
James Vásquez – “In the Heights” – Dallas Theater Center – Dallas
Matthew Posey – “La Muerte De Don Quixote” – Ochre House Theater – Dallas
Jenny Ledel – “Office Hour” – Circle Theatre – Fort Worth
Nicole Denson – “The True History of …” – Lakeside Community Theatre – The Colony
Christopher Carlos – “Wolf at the Door” – Kitchen Dog Theater – Dallas
Tina Parker – “You Got Older” – Kitchen Dog Theater – Dallas
DESIGNERS OF NOTE
Parker Barrus – Set – “Elton John & Tim Rice’s Aida” – Plaza Theatre Company – Cleburne
Jen Caprio – Costume – “A Christmas Carol” – Dallas Theater Center – Dallas
Jeff Croiter – Lighting – “A Christmas Carol” – Dallas Theater Center – Dallas
Beowulf Borritt – Scenic – “A Christmas Carol” – Dallas Theater Center – Dallas
Michelle Harvey – Set – “First Date” – Stage West Theatre – Fort Worth
Amanda West – Lighting - “First Date” – Stage West Theatre – Fort Worth
Dahlia Al-Habieli – Scenic – “In the Heights” – Dallas Theater Center – Dallas
Matthew Posey – Set – “La Muerte De Don Quixote” – Ochre House Theater – Dallas
Fernando Hernandez – Costume – “La Muerte De Don Quixote” – Ochre House Theater – Dallas
Justin Locklear – Puppet – “La Muerte De Don Quixote” – Ochre House Theater – Dallas
Clare Floyd DeVries – Set – “Office Hour” – Circle Theatre – Fort Worth
Robbi D. Holman – Sound – “The True History of …” – Lakeside Community Theatre – The Colony
David Barnstein – Scent – “The True History of …” – Lakeside Community Theatre – The Colony
Clare Floyd DeVries – Set – “Wolf at the Door” – Kitchen Dog Theater – Dallas
Linda Blasé – Lighting – “Wolf at the Door” – Kitchen Dog Theater – Dallas
Korey Kent – Costume – “Wolf at the Door” – Kitchen Dog Theater – Dallas
John M. Flores – Sound – “Wolf at the Door” – Kitchen Dog Theater – Dallas
Clare Floyd DeVries – Set – “You Got Older” – Kitchen Dog Theater – Dallas
John M. Flores – Sound – “You Got Older” – Kitchen Dog Theater – Dallas
OTHER TALENTED PEOPLE OF NOTE
Jeremy Allen Dumont – Choreography – “A Christmas Carol” – Dallas Theater Center
Alan Shorter – Music Direction – “First Date” – Stage West Theatre – Fort Worth
Penny Ayn Maas – Movement Choreography – “First Date” – Stage West Theatre – Fort Worth
Rickey Tripp – Choreography – “In the Heights” – Dallas Theater Center – Dallas
Antonio Arrebola, Delilah Buitrón Arrebola, and Juan Paredes – Choreography – “La Muerte De Don Quixote” – Ochre House Theater – Dallas
Bill Lengfelder – Fight Choreography – “Wolf at the Door” – Kitchen Dog Theater – Dallas
My thanks to all of the artists that provided so much to me this past year. It’s been a lot of fun. And I look forward to what you have in store for me in the coming year. That’ll be even more fun!
CHRIS JACKSON (Associate Theatre Critic)
The most entertaining theatrical experience of the year for me was without a doubt, Theater Three’s NOISES OFF. How to do farce right! Tight, insightful direction, committed acting, costumes, scenery, and sardines! You expected, and got, fully realized comedic performances from Kristin McCollum, Michael Federico, Ashley Wood, Catherine D. DuBord, Adrian Churchhill, et al, and an unexpected star turn from newcomer Tadeo Martinez. All elements came together perfectly for one of the funniest shows I’ve seen in years. Congratulations to all involved.
DISASTER! at Uptown Players was anything but, with hysterical characterizations, especially by Laura Lites as Sister Mary Downy.
Scenically, TWELTH NIGHT at The Dallas Theater Center was a stunner. The hyper-realistic villa filled the stage at the Wyly and provided the perfect backdrop for a fine cast. AS YOU LIKE IT fulfilled its purpose in showcasing local talent and involving talent from all over the city, and PENNY CANDY was a tense look at life in Pleasant Grove, circa 1988. As usual, The Dallas Theater Center excelled in its technical as well as performing aspects.
Cara Mia Theatre Company provided an outstanding BLESS ME, ULTIMA featuring Ivan Jasso in the dual roles of Tony/Tenorio.
Kitchen Dog’s WOLF AT THE DOOR was a welcome excursion into the mythical world of Mexican folklore with atmospheric setting by Claire Floyd DeVries and sound by John Flores.
Shakespeare Dallas did their first winter show, HAMLET, with a strong lead performance from Seth Magill.
Lyric Stage did its usual fine work with I DO! I DO!, EVITA, AND MIRETTE in their new home at the Majestic Theater. I miss the Irving venue, however.
In all, another wonderful season of professional theater from an amazing talent pool located right here in North Texas!
CAT JIMENEZ (Associate Theatre Critic)
Best National Tour:
Anastasia (Bass Performance Hall)
Best Local Productions:
The Lifespan of a Fact (Stage West)
This play based on a true(ish) story was thought provoking and challenged the audience in the best way possible. A truly great show is one that you think about weeks after it, and I honestly still think about this one to this day. The story told is a great one, and I was so lucky to see it told by such an amazing cast. With a small cast of three, each actor/actress must command the stage in their own way, and each inspire a unique reaction in the audience. Enrapturing, view changing, lingering are all words I would use to describe this show. As not only an entertaining play, but as a journey that leaves you slightly changed, this show deserves every bit of praise.
Terra Nova (Fort Worth Community Arts Center)
This execution pf the retelling of the tragic story of the Terra Nova expedition made the atmosphere in the theatre thick with rich, true emotion. These actors brought the team of the Terra Nova back to life, and the audience was right there in the cold Antarctic desert with them. Every sense of homesickness, anxiety, fear, loss, isolation was translated so realistically. This show truly took a story that we all know the ending ton and keep it riveting, gut wrenching, and fresh.
Best Actor in a Leading Role:
Evan Michael Woods as Jim Fingal in The Lifespan of a Fact (Stage West)
Malcom Stephenson as Captain Robert Falcon Scott in Terra Nova (Fort Worth Performing Arts Center)
Best Actress in a Leading Role:
Lila Coogan as Anya/Anastasia in Anastasia (Bass Performance Hall)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
Carter Frost as Edgar “Taffy” Evans in Terra Nova (Fort Worth Performing Arts Center)
David Graham as Amundsen in Terra Nova (Fort Worth Performing Arts Center)
Best Actor in a Featured Role:
Jason Michael Evans as Gleb in Anastasia (Bass Performance Hall)
Marianne Galloway for The Lifespan of a Fact (Stage West)
Bert Pigg for Terra Nova (Fort Worth Performing Arts Center)
Best Set Design:
Clare Floyd Devries for the Lifespan of a Fact (Stage West)
Best Light Design:
Brian Douglas for Terra Nova (Fort Worth Community Arts Center)
Best Live Orchestra:
Bass Performing Hall- Anastasia
TRAVIS MCCALLUM (Associate Theatre Critic)
What a wild ride 2019 was! I was graced with so many amazing shows. Beginning my journey was Disney’s “Newsies” performed by the cast of Cleburne’s Community Theatre. A ragtag group of talented children and adults inside an arena theatre. I fondly remember the amazing choreography of the ensemble, filled with a fiery passion on the streets on New York. The reception of the staff gave me a backstage tour of the magic and spectacle of theatre in all its glory.
Quite a shock to mine ears was the illustrious musical “Snapshots – A Musical Scrapbook” performed by the Theatre Frisco. Brilliantly cast with a distinct cast, I was entranced with a series of stages in the lives of a couple and their enduring navigation to the very end. With excellent light and set design, the show was nothing less than spectacular worthy of praise.
In a dark time of historical portrayal, Theatre Arlington brought us “A Few Good Men” with a chilling look at military injustice. Costumes coupled with excellent ambience gave the illusion of a tense war on human behavior when left in a lawless era. I can appreciate the subtle accuracy to the military way of life with referential research like cadence and jodies.
Digging deeper into the darkness is Millennial Poison Theatre Company’s “Gruesome Playground Injuries”, a story of hardship and hope. Such chemistry between the pair of friends, growing old separate but together in their unique space. The tension rising from beginning to end left me breathless with a chilling hole in my heart. Good acting sells a show better than anything else.
But acting something out of character, or worse, trying to cover up the truth with a lie is the absolute lowest! “The Real James Bond Was Dominican” by the Bishop Arts Theatre Center gives us an artistic documentary on the origins of the famed 00 agent. The one-man show brings blazing excitement with an occasional contemplation of reality, wrought with personal anecdotes, informing the audience about the facts. Prop usage was especially powerful in driving thoughts and story forward, adding new characters to the scene in a unique way.
The one superstar I got to give my MVP too would have to be “The Lightning Thief – The Percy Jackson Musical” performed at the AT&T Performing Arts Center. I found myself hooked to the soundtrack for weeks listening on repeat. Granted, this was a traveling tour staged in one of the most prestigious theatre’s in Dallas, so expectations were high. The show set the quality bar standard opening pre-show with a beautiful light display speckled above the audience and an ominous rumble of thunder, true to its namesake. I enjoyed the flow of the show, holding my attention from start to end. Engrossed, I admired the special effects that sold the fantasy with amazing pyrotechnics and beautifully designed costumes for the characters and monster’s alike. It was the perfect playground for imagination. Couple in a moving set that transformed alongside the talented acting crew, dancing their hearts away with beads of sweat for this labor of love.
Grounding back to reality, a movement of social retribution exuded from the doors of WaterTower Theatre with “The Ballad of Little Jo”. I remember the massive set left me wondering what story would unfold amongst its many stations. Our ensemble each played a central role in shaping “Jo”sephine into the person he/she would become. My appreciation for the musicians taking center stage to entertain us with live music inside the house.
To liven up the audience, Garland Civic Theatre shared a taste of “Plaza Suite”. A tale of three very different couples staying in the same room of a hotel at varying times, it was a comedy to remember. Set design separated the different rooms in a way where the audience could see all the action happening from anywhere. I especially loved the realism of the Suite as a prop. Using the windows, turning off/on the lights, and hugging the doors are only a couple of uses the actor’s really put to their advantage.
When I heard my good friend, Dick Monday was putting on a circus act with “The Petite Palace” at the Bath House Cultural Center, I just had to go. Clowning has become something of a rare art these days, and seeing the comedy live is an extraordinary experience. I was dazzled with magic shows, feats of dexterity and strength, and acrobatics galore. Watching the ensemble meld an amazing story with all the acts which included plenty of audience participation is a true joy to experience.
Last, but certainly not least was “Queen of Basel” performed by the Kitchen Dog Theatre. True to the theatre’s mission, the play sets to disrupt the status quo by making the audience uncomfortable with harsh realities and thoughtful examination. I was most impressed by the cultural representation of 3 very different characters which shows different and similar we are as a human species. The tension was electric, and I never knew what was going to happen next with these flaming flickers.
So how does one pick a favorite out of so many amazing shows, each trying to represent different pieces of the human experience? It’s hard. It’s subjective. But it must be done.
My rank is as follows:
- Percy Jackson’s The Lightning Thief
- The Petite Palace
- The Real James Bond was Dominican
I loved all the shows, but these three left a lasting impression for personal reasons. I judged them on the unique differentiators; the quality expectations in categories like acting, lighting, costumes, etc.; and the content timing in relation to current events and trends in 2019.
CAROL M. RICE (Associate Theatre Critic)
I saw nearly 90 shows this year. As a reviewer for John Garcia’s THE COLUMN, many of these are ones that I knew nothing about before I went. 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
Stan Kelly as Frank Gianelli in Over the River and Through the Woods at The Core Theatre
Christopher Nash as Roat in Wait Until Dark at The Core Theatre
Best Actor, Musical
Anthony J. Ortega as Warren in Ordinary Days at Lakeside Community Theatre
Ian Mead Moore as Buddy Holly in Buddy: the Buddy Holly Story at Garland Civic Theatre
Best Actress, Play
Stephanie Oustalet as Catherine Simms in The Foreigner at Garland Civic Theatre
Deborah Key as Ida in The Cemetery Club at Richardson Theatre Centre
Best Actress, Musical
Gabie Hocson as Deb in Ordinary Days at Lakeside Community Theatre
Grace Bradbury as Cassie in A Chorus Line at Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas
Best Supporting Actor, Play
Joel Hashop as Jason in Rabbit Hole at Lakeside Community Theatre
Michael Wiseman as Juror 10 in Twelve Angry Men at Richardson Theatre Centre
Best Supporting Actor, Musical
Phil Gosselin as Hippockets Duncan in Buddy: the Buddy Holly Story at Garland Civic Theatre
Best Supporting Actress, Play
Jessica Martin as Caitlin in Over the River and Through the Woods at The Core Theatre
Best Supporting Actress, Musical
Ashley Padilla as Paulette in Legally Blonde at Grand Prairie Arts Council
Best Featured Actor
Nate Davis as Sam in Wait Until Dark at The Core Theatre
Best Featured Actress
Robin Clayton as Petra in A Little Night Music at Theatre Frisco
Pallas Lam as Sylvie/Bridesmaid 3 in Kentucky at Imprint TheatreWorks
Best Youth Actor/Actress
Riley Frauenheim as Prince Herbert in Spamalot at Allen’s Community Theatre
Nick Merritt as various characters in The Laramie Project at Teen Voices
Ordinary Days at Lakeside Community Theatre
Twelve Angry Men at Richardson Theatre Centre
Best Set Design
Hank Baldree for The Foreigner at Garland Civic Theatre
Rodney Dobbs for A Little Night Music at Theatre Frisco
Best Costume Design
Dallas Costume Shoppe for A Little Night Music at Theatre Frisco
Best Lighting Design
Daniel Spiropoulos for Lizzie at Imprint TheatreWorks
Emily Leekha for Ordinary Days at Lakeside Community Theatre
Twelve Angry Men at Richardson Theatre Centre
Ordinary Days at Lakeside Community Theatre
Fort Worth Fringe Festival
Best Touring Show
The Play That Goes Wrong at AT&T Performing Arts Center
Aladdin at the Music Hall at Fair Park
REBECCA ROBERTS (Associate Theatre Critic)
I feel so blessed to be an associate critic for John Garcia’s THE COLUMN. I have been given such amazing opportunities to go to theatres and see shows that I otherwise would never have attended. And I am constantly blown away by the talent I am surrounded by in the DFW area. I am truly not a person who is easily amazed. But in 2019, I had the incredible privilege of attending productions whose designs and performances amazed and even staggered me. Here are a few of those shining moments!
As someone who could not be more helpless when it comes to designing sets or lights, I sure have a lot of opinions about them. I can remember the exact moment in my theatre-going career when I realized their power. A single lighting cue or a simple set change can make an audience member cry, gasp, or laugh. And while you may not always realize when a production doesn’t have that special magic element, the goosebumps on your arms will let you know when it does. And there were two very different productions I saw this year that absolutely had…IT.
The eerie lighting and set design for Circle Theatre’s SWEENEY TODD created more of an immersive experience than your typical theatre production. Bob Lavallee designed an intricate stage of moving pieces and graffitied walls, littered with dystopian-like found objects designed by Matthew Gray and practical onstage lighting elements expertly designed by Amanda West. Similarly (and yet in a totally different kind of way), Bryan Stevenson’s set and lighting design for Theatre Arlington’s production of DEAD MAN’S CELL PHONE played a vital role in the production. Taking Edward Hopper paintings, removing the human elements in them, and projecting them as a tri-fold backdrop was a daunting task. And in a play that could have easily had a simple and unchanging backdrop, Stevenson raised the stakes and tied a big beautiful bow on an already lovely production.
Now, what I lack in extensive scenic and lighting knowledge…I make up for in costume expertise. And the most undeniably incredible costumes of 2019 could also be found in Circle Theatre’s production of SWEENEY TODD. Designer Melissa Panzarello bedecked each actor in a costume so deeply entrenched in theme and metaphor it would be easy to miss something. I squinted and persisted, and still probably didn’t catch everything there was to see. Each button, strap, and thread were chosen meticulously and purposefully, and there’s nothing more deeply satisfying than a purposeful costume choice.
The vocal performances in Stolen Shakespeare Guild’s production of WEST SIDE STORY, as music directed by Lauren Morgan, simply took my breath away. In a cast predominately led by young performers, this timeless story I’ve seen a million times took on a whole new life through music. And when Gideon Ethridge (Tony) and Marissa Pyron Rico (Maria) hit those chilling notes we all know and love, it was pure magic.
A favorite 2019 performance came from, surprise, Circle Theatre’s SWEENEY TODD. Somehow their perfect production design wasn’t enough…they also had to throw a cast of incredible actors into the mix. The nerve! The performance that stood out to me the most was Ian Ferguson as Anthony. He gave his iconic character such a unique energy and tone, especially in his vocal performance. And did I mention he was also the music director, leading a cast of eight in a complex show, each playing onstage instruments and matching every Sondheim vocal challenge with ease? No big deal.
And Jenny Tucker as Violet Weston in Theatre of North Texas’ AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY is the 2019 performance people will be talking about for years to come. Tucker’s flawless ability to slide into such a challenging and infamous role was truly an honor to witness. And if she were to ever teach a masterclass on perfecting slurred speech, drunk body language, and senile mannerisms onstage, you’d be a fool not to take it!
ANN SAUCER (Associate Theatre Critic)
Best Musical – Equity
The Book of Mormon (Dallas Summer Musicals)
This production was indescribably, uproariously funny. The crowd absolutely loved it, and the story is utterly original.
Best Musical – Non-Equity
Mamma Mia! (Garland Summer Musicals)
This production was just so much fun, and the chorus of college students was perfect. The leads belted out those ABBA numbers with ease.
Best Play – Equity
Penny candy (Dallas Theater Center)
Every single performance was perfection, in this riveting drama set in Dallas, and written by Dallas’ own Jonathan Norton. I went with a group and everyone absolutely loved “penny candy.”
Best Play – Non-Equity
Waiting for Godot (Fort Worth Community Arts Center)
When done well, Beckett is searing in its intensity, and this production was stellar. The performances were perfection, as well as memorable.
Outstanding New Work by a Local Playwright
Jonathan Norton’s penny candy (Dallas Theater Center)
Written by Dallas’ own Jonathan Norton, this play is funny, touching, though provoking, and relevant. Shootings, drug deals, family, and food: penny candy has it all!
Best Director of a Musical – Non-Equity
Ashley H. White, Ghost Quartet (Imprint Theatreworks, at the Bath House Cultural Center)
This was an action-packed, unique experience with a lot of moving parts! It was overall a very fun time, and well executed.
Best Director of a Play – Equity
Christie Vela, Real Women Have Curves (Dallas Theater Center)
This important, relevant play was brought to beautiful life in this poignant, perfectly cast production. The acting, the pace, the set, the sound effects, and the costumes (especially at the end) were all glorious.
Best Director of a Play – Non-Equity
Susan Sargeant, Two by Beckett (WingSpan Theatre, at the Bath House Cultural Center)
Wow and double wow. My husband, who grew up in New York, said seeing this production was like being in New York—his highest compliment.
Best Choreography – Equity
The Book of Mormon (Dallas Summer Musicals)
The choreography rose to the occasion of the unique plot line. The dancing was simply perfect.
Best Actor in a Musical -Equity
Conner Pierson as Elder Cunningham, Book of Mormon (Dallas Summer Musicals)
This is the second time that I enjoyed the Book of Mormon, and I liked it so much more, in part because of Conner Pierson’s gloriously dorky charisma. His stage presence is totally adorable and endearing.
Best Actor in a Musical – Non-Equity
Chris Sykes as Doom McCoy in Doom McCoy and the Death Nugget (Ochre House Theater)
Sykes is adorable as the doomed cowboy in this quirky, thoroughly innovative musical about the making of a legend.
Best Actress in a Musical -Equity
Jessica E. Sherman, as Heidi Hansen, Dear Evan Hansen (Dallas Summer Musicals)
Sherman was the thoroughly sympathetic Mom juggling too many obligations and struggling to cope. A memorable, heartfelt performance.
Best Actor in a Play -Equity
Leon Addison Brown as Dubba J, penny candy (Dallas Theater Center)
Brown delivers a brilliant, finely nuanced performance as a patriarch struggling with his own morally compromised choices.
Best Actor in a Play-Non-Equity
Sean Massey as Dr. John Prentice, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Lunatic Theatre Company)
Massey is a versatile talent, and it was thoroughly enjoyable to watch his suave performance as the dreamy Dr. John Prentice.
Best Actress in a Play -Equity
Liz Mikel, penny candy (Dallas Theater Center)
Oh, do I love Liz Mikel! Here, she is divine. Her powerful performance as a harried mother facing down violent crime that is too close to home was memorable and perfect at every turn.
Best Actress in a Play-Non-Equity
Jenny Ledel as Tessa in What We Were (Circle Theatre)
Ledel’s character in this play spans the age range of 6 to 37. Her no-holds-barred performance was quietly devastating. She navigates a tremendously tragic character with grace and sensitivity.
Best Supporting Actor in a Play -Equity
Ace Anderson as Kingston, penny candy (Dallas Theater Center)
Anderson completely convinced as a Jamaican drug dealer frequently on the razor’s edge of panic and violence. His charismatic performance infused a difficult character to like with a degree of sympathy.
Best Supporting Actor in a Play-Non-Equity
Christian Taylor as Doyle Paige/Floyd Paige/ Reverend in Shouting Down a Quiet Life (Rover Dramawerks)
You have not seen stuttering this phenomenal since Derek Jacobi was a Roman (that’s and I, Claudius reference, BTW). Wow. A completely phenomenal performance by Taylor.
Best Supporting Actress in a Play -Equity
Vanessa DeSilvio as Rosali in Real Women Have Curves (Dallas Theater Center)
DeSilvio absolutely convinces as a quietly super-competent factory worker hiding an eating disorder.
Best Supporting Actress in a Play-Non-Equity
Sally Soldo as Esther Crampton, Mornings at Seven (Rover Dramawerks)
Soldo delivered a beautifully calibrated performance as the older sister and long-suffering wife.
Best Original Costume Design of a Musical – Equity
Ann Roth, Book of Mormon (Dallas Summer Musicals)
You have to love Jesus in a hoop skirt!
Best Original Costume Design of a Musical – Non-Equity
Ryan Matthieu Smith, Doom McCoy and the Death Nugget (Ochre House Theater)
These thoroughly original costumes were hand-painted works of art.
Best Original Costume Design of a Play – Equity
Jeremy Bernadoni and Aaron Patrick DeClerk, The Armor Plays: Cinched & Strapped (Theater Three)
From period pieces to future dystopia, these costumes were important to defining the characters and their circumstances. The elaborate Victorian costumes in Cinched are exquisite, and they also included complicated undergarments. The Strapped costumes were equally impressive and also accommodate disrobing.
Best Lighting Design of a Musical – Equity
Japhy Weideman, Dear Evan Hansen (Dallas Summer Musicals)
This production is visually dazzling, with complicated visual effects.
Best Lightening Design of a Play – Non-Equity
Christopher M. Hamm, Two by Beckett (WingSpan Theatre, at the Bath House Cultural Center)
The spotlight on The Mouth’s red lips, and the lighting of her teeth, were beautiful and effective.
Best Original Scenic Design of a Musical – Equity
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (AT&T Performing Arts Center)
The effects are ground-breaking, a turning point from corporeal, three dimensional “sets” to the use of electronic projection upon two dimensions.
Best Original Scenic Design of a Musical – Non-Equity
IZK Davies, Doom McCoy and the Death Nugget (Ochre House Theater)
A glorious set of landscapes and constellations. From the start, the audience can see that a physically expansive tale will play out in a physically intimate space.
Best Original Scenic Design of a Play – Equity
Joceyln Giriorie, The Armor Plays: Cinched and Strapped (Theatre Three)
The armor plays are set in two very different landscapes, with several action-packed scenes. A lot was demanded of the scenic design, and here the execution was exquisite.
Best Sound Design of a Play – Equity
John M. Flores, Real Women Have Curves (Dallas Theater Center)
In addition to distinguishing between the street and interior sources of a wide variety of noises, the humming of several sewing machines waxes and wanes.
MARK-BRIAN SONNA (Associate Theatre Critic)
Though I attended more shows than I reviewed, there were a handful of shows that truly excelled. For this list I have omitted touring productions and focused on the local theatre scene.
Best Actor in a musical - Jamall Souther played Eddie in Water Tower’s production of Sister Act. The only word to describe his performance: Perfect.
Best Actress in a musical - Cherish Robinson as Deloris Van Cartie Water Tower’s production of Sister Act. Sassy, funny, and what a voice!
Best Actress in a play- Isabell Moon’s performance as Jill Mason in Equus at Lakeside community theatre was superb. She masterfully kept the audience guessing as to what her true motivations were making every word and gesture engaging.
Best Supporting Actor in a play - J King as Polonius in Poor Yorick’s production of Hamlet. Kings take on Polonius was unexpected, not traditional, yet somehow perfect.
Best Supporting Actress in a musical – Mary Tiner in Water Tower Theatre’s production of Sister Act. This role wasn’t created for her, but her take on as so perfect it’s as if the creators of the music knew one day, she would play the role.
Best Costuming - Emmalyn Gladney Miron in Poor Yorick’s production of Hamlet. Though this company operated on a shoestring budget, the money spent on costuming elevated the entire production.
Best Stage Design- Adam Adolfo for Equus at Lakeside Community Theatre. Truly a marvelous set full of detail and meaning.
Best Lighting- Jorge Guerra’s lighting for La Llorona, A Love Story at Bishop Arts Theatre Center may not have dazzled with many colors or dramatic light shifts. Where it succeeded was in the subtle shifts and the surreal shadows created that looked like eyes staring back at the audience giving the entire play an ominous quality.
Best Director- Adam Adolfo for both Equus at Lakeside Community Theatre, and La Llorona, A Love Story at Bishop Arts Theatre Center. Though some of his stage compositions caused obstructions in viewing the play Equus, the play was completely imbued with his signature style of high drama that it was a feast for the senses. In La Llorona, A Love Story his direction was much more subtle, but he expertly brought out the conflicts of the characters by merely placing them in certain positions on stage.
Best Touring Production: Falsettos’s, AT&T Performing arts center.
Best Play: Equus at Lakeside Community Theatre.
Best Musical: Sister Act at Water Tower Theatre.
JERI TELLEZ (Associate Theatre Critic)
Beauty and the Beast, North Texas Performing Arts Repertory Theatre
Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, Allen's Community Theatre
Lauren and Jason Morgan, Anything Goes, Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Robyn Mead, Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, Allen’s Community Theatre
Richard Gwozdz, The Ark, Artisan Center Theater
Bethany Lorentzen, Beauty and the Beast, North Texas Performing Arts
Rebecca Lowrey, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
John Norine, Jr., Ordinary Days, Lakeside Community Theatre
DeeDee Munson, Beauty and the Beast, North Texas Performing Arts
Christina Kudlicki Hoth, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
Eric Luckie and Connie Sanchez, The Ark, Artisan Center Theater
Jason Dixon and Helena Magee, The Foreigner, Richardson Theatre Centre
Rustin Rolen, Fifth of July, Lakeside Community Theatre
Lamar Graham, Randy Sandifer, and Kasey Bush, Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, Allen’s Community Theatre
Chris Speer, The Ark, Artisan Center Theater
Rustin Rolen, Fifth of July, Lakeside Community Theatre
Julien Makoutz, Anything Goes, Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Harrison Cawood, The Addams Family, Artisan Center Theater
Gary Hullett, A Few Good Men, Runway Theatre
Aaron Lett and Michelle Cawood, The Addams Family, Artisan Center Theater
Heidi Diederich, The Ark, Artisan Center Theater
Henry Cawood and Michelle Cawood, The Addams Family, Artisan Center Theater
Elizabeth Ann Lambert, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
Kristy Sims, The Importance of Being Earnest, Lakeside Community Theatre
Judi Conger (Eliza), The Ark, Artisan Center Theater
Araceli Radillo (Gwen), Fifth of July, Lakeside Community Theatre
Morgan Maxey (Claire), Ordinary Days, Lakeside Community Theatre
Robert Mata (Billy), Anything Goes, Stolen Shakespeare Guild
John Floyd (Charlie), The Foreigner, Richardson Theatre Centre
Kris Allen (Beast), Beauty and the Beast, North Texas Performing Arts
Alex Rain (Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd), The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
Chuck E. Moore (Di Lirio), Deliriums Daughters, Rover Dramawerks
Jessica Peterson (Bonnie), Anything Goes, Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Sue Goodner (Elsa Von Grossenknueten), Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, Allen’s Community Theatre
Gary E. Payne (Moonface Martin), Anything Goes, Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Braylen Nelson (Pugsley), The Addams Family, Artisan Center Theater
Gustavo Rodriguez (Ellard), The Foreigner, Richardson Theatre Centre
John Grissom (Capt. Matthew A. Markinson), A Few Good Men, Runway Theatre
Brittany Brown (Doatsey Mae), The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
Penny Elaine (Bernice Roth), Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, Allen’s Community Theatre
Jim Lemons (Lurch), The Addams Family, Artisan Center Theater
Carlos Strudwick (Dance Solo), The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
The Addams Family, Artisan Center Theater
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
JORDAN THOMAS (Associate Theatre Critic)
Best Performances of 2019:
Mikki Lewis – Esmeralda – The Hunchback of Notre Dame – Artisan Center Theater
If you have not seen a performance by Mikki Lewis, you are sincerely missing out on something magical. Having seen her on stage through the years at varying theaters, I can attest that Lewis truly embodies every character she plays with genuine nature and undeniable talent. As Esmeralda, Mikki Lewis was phenomenal. Her voice was powerful and tender in all the right moments, her emotion was evident in every note and movement, and to top it off she was beyond gorgeous too. Without a doubt this was my favorite performance of the year.
Shaun Senter – Quasimodo - The Hunchback of Notre Dame – Artisan Center Theater
This was my first-time seeing Shaun Senter on stage and based on this performance I would happily travel leaps and bounds to see him on stage again. From the moment Senter walked on stage he was sensational. He embodied the character of Quasimodo literally from head to toe. His voice made my heart melt and his portrayal of the character truly touched my soul.
David Midkiff – Jesse Tuck – Tuck Everlasting – Casa Manana
David Midkiff was in his prime as Jesse Tuck in Tuck Everlasting. The original cast recording of this musical is one I’ve played on repeat for quite some time. Midkiff’s voice met and exceeded all expectations I could ever image. His playfulness and old youthfulness were spot on. I wish I could see him in this role again and again!
Corbin Ross – Hugo - Tuck Everlasting – Casa Manana
Corbin Ross was the comedic highlight of Tuck Everlasting. His number, “Hugo’s First Case” was my overall favorite solo performance of the year. He was bubbly, innocent, fun, beyond cute and everything the character is meant to be!
Haley Cain – Star to Be – Annie – Gateway Performing Arts
Haley Cain is a powerhouse. With a fairly small role, she made such an impact on the overall production of Annie. Cain’s stage presence, optimism and determination as the Star to Be fully took over the busy NYC scene around her. Along with her rich effortless belt, this leaves Haley Cain on my list of best performances of 2019.
Heather Reddick – Hannigan – Annie – Gateway Performing Arts
How can one balance so well to be so loved and to be so hated? Heather Reddick can surely tell you, because her performance as Hannigan in Annie nailed it. Reddick’s performance of “Little Girls” was powerful and show stopping. Her acting was not stereotypical of the character or annoying as I find most portrayals of Hannigan to be. Heather Reddick brought out a new side of the character that was real and true.
David Helms – Bumbrack/Teacher – Peter and the Starcatcher – North Texas Performing Arts Repertory Theater
David Helms was simply delightful in this production. When I thought of the best performances of 2019 his moments on stage as Teacher in Peter and the Starcatcher stood out immediately for the laugh-out-loud joy they brought me. Kudos to David Helms for a performance I have no doubt brought happiness and overflowing laughter to all who witnessed it.
Best Animation Design – Kevin Schreiber – Christmas City, USA - Gateway Performing Arts
If you saw Gateway Performing Arts’ brand-new original production of “Christmas City, USA” you know exactly what I’m talking about! For this production Gateway Performing Arts used custom animations that moved in sync with an onstage turntable, real vehicles and moving set pieces to transport the audience into the story. The program states that a four-minute animation (240 seconds) has 60 frames per second (14,400 frames), and each frame took about 2.5 minutes to render. Just one of their many animated segments took 600 hours to complete. The dedication to excellence in this area was not in vain as it was a real highlight of the overall production.
Best National Tour – Dear Evan Hansen – Music Hall Fair Park
I’ve seen Dear Evan Hansen more times on Broadway and on tour more than my wallet wants to admit. This story is so special and the music, lighting design and actors could not tell the story more beautifully. Many, many thanks to LuckySeat for the multiple lottery wins during the Dallas run!
STACEY UPTON (Associate Theatre Critic)
What I found notable this year was the excellent ensemble work I saw throughout the DFW area. From the smallest role to the largest, in these productions every person brought excellence to the craft of acting. To that end I'd to highlight 5 of the top ensembles from the 23 local shows I saw in 2019:
- RAGTIME presented by Family Music Theatre
- TWELVE ANGRY MEN presented by Richardson Theatre Center
- ANNIE presented by Gateway Performing Arts
- LIZZIE presented by Imprint Theatre Works
- STEEL MAGNOLIAS presented by North Texas Performing Arts Repertory
Best Production: RAGTIME by Family Music Theatre
Best Director: Ashley H. White, LIZZIE, Imprint Theatre
Best Music Director: Dr. Sam Germany, RAGTIME, Family Music Theatre
Best Actress: Sydney Cornelius, Sarah, RAGTIME, Family Music Theatre
Best Actor: Christion Draper, Coalhouse Walker, Jr. RAGTIME, Family Music Theatre
Best Supporting Actress: Heather Reddick, Miss Hannigan, ANNIE, Gateway Performing Arts
Best Supporting Actor: Audie Preston, Juror 11, 12 ANGRY MEN, Richardson Theatre Center
Best Set Design: Joel Keys, RAGTIME
Best Lighting Design: Daniel Spiropolous, LIZZIE
Best Costumes: Tie: Jessie Wallace, LIZZIE, and Emily Croy, AN IDEAL HUSBAND, Mesquite Arts Theatre
Best Choreography: Stacia Woodlan, RAGTIME
JAZMIN WILSON (Associate Theatre Critic)
This year has been rather interesting for me. I’ve been attending college, working, writing, and have even had the pleasure to become an associate critic for John Garcia’s The Column in the year of 2019. I’ve seen a handful of great shows, many of which come to my mind when I am sitting here at the dawn of the new year to reflect on the past year’s best performances. I find it exciting that I am now able to recount my favorites and honor the talented performers I saw once again. So, without further ado, my favorites are as follows.
Favorite Show: The Few
Resolute Theatre Project
Recounting the talent that I witnessed upon viewing this show is not only thrilling, but a privilege. The chemistry and emotional complexity that was brought to this production by the talented Lindsay Hayward, Danny Macchietto, and Jake Pierce Blakeman have proved hard to neglect, ranking in as my favorite show of the year. Not only was the acting “in your face,” raw, and passionate, for it was above all vulnerable, making the emotional arc of the show even more intimate. The actors took me on a ride during this show, perfectly executing the highs and comedic moments to bluntly contrast the lows, making this the most enjoyable production I’ve seen not only this year, but in quite a while.
Favorite Lead Actor: Danny Macchietto as “Bryan” in The Few
Resolute Theatre Project
I said it in my review of the show, and I am here to say it again. Danny Macchietto was perfectly cast in this role. There was something about his characterization that was just so perfectly tragic that I could not help but to notice it. Something below the surface was begging to be helped, to be saved from the tragedy that Bryan’s life had become, and the effortless portrayal of suffering was enough to draw me to this performer for the entire length of the show.
Favorite Lead Actress: Delaney Gebhart as “Katherine Plumber” in Newsies
Music Theatre of Denton
Not only was Gebhart probably my favorite portrayal of Katherine ever, she was a blast to watch on stage. Every time she entered my eyes followed her, her character’s every emotion absolutely radiating for all to see. With Delaney Gebhart’s Katherine, I saw struggle. I saw joy. I saw fear. Most importantly, I saw talent, and an excellent execution of it. Something about it was just so gleeful and bubbly that I could not bear to wipe the smile off my face.
Favorite Supporting Roles: Rebecca Roberts and Ryan Janke as “Essie” and “Ed” in You Can’t Take It with You
Artisan Center Theater
These two were my absolute favorite when I saw this show. It was the first show I had seen as a critic for The Column, and it set the standards quite high. These two danced around excitedly for the entirety of the show, always making their own scenarios and conversations in the backgrounds of scenes. Roberts and Janke had hilarious chemistry that had my guest and I laughing the entirety of the night with their characters’ shenanigans, showcasing the comedic nature of the show itself with their effortless comedic delivery in even the way they moved about the stage.
Jake Pierce Blakeman as “Matthew” in The Few
Resolute Theatre Project
The absolutely heart wrenching performance that Blakeman brought to this character has truly been on my mind since I saw it. If I were to see any show again, it would be this one, not only due to its overall plot and emotional arc, but because of the sheer range of the acting capabilities. Blakeman is a prime example of the intensity I found so captivating about this show, as his character held most of the comedic relief moments as well as the bursts of rage that ended in slamming doors or heated arguments. He was tender one moment and incredibly tense the next, and his acting was a perfect driving force for the show’s emotional tone.
Sutton Moss as “Annie” in Annie
Rockwall Summer Musicals
I remember sitting in my seat, watching this young lady belt out Tomorrow like it was absolutely no big deal, and feeling absolutely awestruck. It is clear that Moss is gifted in her own right, and I hope to one day see her on Broadway with the same spunky charm she brought to Annie. She’s got a lot of talent and a very bright future ahead of her, for sure, and I hope to see her name in lights somewhere and hear her voice again, effortless and clear as a bell.
Ashley Reeves as “Miss Hannigan” in Annie
Rockwall Summer Musicals
Ashley Reeves as Miss Hannigan was my favorite member of the adult cast, both acting and voice wise. As stated in my review, “Little Girls” is my favorite number in the entirety of the show, and the ease and desperation in which she belts out this grumpy little tune really does it for me. She moves about the stage as you would expect, (like a drunken lunatic), but what tops it off is that you can truly see how deeply miserable she is past her irritable demeanor.
Best Costumes: Annie
Rockwall Summer Musicals
I don’t at all imagine that it is easy to have been a part of the costume crew of this musical due to the sheer size of the cast, each and every one of them needing a hyper specific outfit to fit their character. Mary Nichols had her work cut out for her, especially designing costumes for a show where the costumes are so well known and important, but she most definitely delivered. Each orphan had something unique to their getup, each homeless person their own bit of flair, and Miss Annie of course donning her iconic red dress. Remarkable how each member of the ensemble is able to find individuality in the expert design of the costumes.
Best Set Design: You Can’t Take It with You
Artisan Center Theater
What made this show even more intriguing was the style of the stage, the audience set up as a square formation around the stage. Artisan Center Theater and their set design team of Jeff Watson, Eric Luckie, Daniel Orges, and Jennifer Dooley really went out of their way to utilize this unique space, interacting with every little corner of the layout. Every inch of stage we could see was made to look like a part of the house, wallpaper, photographs, china cabinets, and the like decorated the stage with a timeless sense of home and overall added a great deal to the setting of the show.