Last week, I awarded a few tongue-in-cheek Sappie awards. The more I thought about it throughout the week, the more I decided it would be OK to actually give some “real” awards for exceptional performances and productions. And so… welcome to the first ever Sappie Awards! Elgibility for these awards requires that a) I saw the show and b) it happened between August 2013 and June of 2014. (For the record, I saw about 86 different productions during this time period and some of them more than once. So there’s a pretty good sample size here.)
Bear in mind, I’m looking to recognize exceptional work . . . and I really respond when I have have been moved emotionally. These are my opinions and mine alone . . . I am sure that not everyone will agree with my picks . . . and that’s OK. You could always get your own web site. 🙂 Let’s dig in, huh?
SOUND DESIGN: Fitz Patton, TRIBES, Ensemble Theatre
First, I want to recognize Fitz Patton for Sound Design for TRIBES at Ensemble Theatre. This show was all about sound – and the lack thereof for those with hearing impairments – and I remember thinking it was exceptionally well done at the time. As a special runner up, David Levy’s sound design for BIBI helped keep my attention throughout the show. Kudos to both!
COSTUME DESIGN: Noelle Wedig, PLUTO, Know Theatre
One of the most interesting theatre events that I attended this year was the preview event for PLUTO, held before it opened in which the various technical folks got to talk about their design and contributions to the show. It was interesting hearing how Wedig came to her design and she was even handicapped by the fact that she couldn’t reveal any spoilers. What was most amazing about this show was how her costumes were both real world and supernatural and helped maintain the ambience of the play. Congrats Noelle!
I’m not a fan of Greek mythology, but I sure am a fan of folks who use creative elements to help folks like me who don’t always “get” abstract theatre art. I was really impressed with the different tones set by the lighting in this show, especially in the story of King Midas, as well as how the giant pool on stage was used to reflect the light and so on. This young man has a bright future ahead of him. Congratulations, Wes.
This was an exceptionally hard decision for me. Ensemble Theatre’s sets by Brian C. Mehring are some of the finest work in town and I thought the set for TRIBES and OTHER DESERT CITIES were super duper. I loved what the Playhouse did with CLYBOURNE PARK, especially the turntable. The lack of turntable made me want to vote for LES MISERABLES at UC-CCM as the use of chairs was extraordinary. I also enjoyed what CCM did with the set for CARRIE. But after careful thought, I’m settled on Mary Slocum’s work on THE STORY OF MY LIFE in Hamilton’s Mad Anthony Theatre. Her all-white bookshelves gave the musical a transcendent atmosphere that matched the metaphysical nature of the show. And it was functional, allowing the actors to use the space in a creative way. Kudos to Slocum, who also did great work on LIGHT SENSITIVE.
It rained on stage, y’all. Buckets and buckets of real actual water. Opening night, the audience came unglued – and deservedly so. Congrats on this feat (for the record, I was impressed when the KNOW did it with WHEN THE RAIN STOPS FALLING, too).
OK, now on to the acting awards . . . here’s where it gets really tough!
BEST ENSEMBLE (3 or more) PERFORMANCE IN A PLAY: Daniel Britt, Burt McCullom, and Bekka Eaton, Light Sensitive, Mad Anthony Theatre Company
THE IRISH CURSE, Clifton Players: Kevin Crowley, Michael Bath, Buz Davis, Carter Bratton, Pete Wood
EVERY CHRISTMAS STORY EVER TOLD, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company: Sara Clark, William Chase, Justin McCombs
PRIVATE LIVES, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company: Kelly Mengelkoch, Jeremy Dubin, Brent Vimtrup, Sara Clark, Kim Long
CLYBOURNE PARK, Playhouse in the Park: Janie Brookshire, Ben Diskant, Karl Miller
A DELICATE SHIP, Playhouse in the Park: Deonna Bouye, Samuel Ray Gates, Wilbur Edwin Henry, Deidre Madigan, Caley Millken, Michael Place, Rex Young, Sam Rueff
There were so many amazing performances this season but there was something magical about LIGHT SENSITIVE. Perhaps it was my lack of expectations, but moreso I think it was the incredible chemistry exhibited by these three marvelously seasoned actors. I wish I had been able to find a photograph of the three of them because I would like for all of them to get the recognition they deserve. If you missed this show, you missed out.
The Wild Party, Wright State University
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, UC-CCM
Legally Blonde, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera
When I think of an Ensemble award, it seems to me that the entire company has to excel and work as a team to create an exceptional theatrical experience. There’s no question that Les Miserables at CCM did that; I saw both casts and they were equally good. It was an incredible show and everyone performed well together. Kudos.
BEST DUO PERFORMANCE IN A PLAY OR MUSICAL: Ted Deasy and Eli Gelb, The North Pool, Playhouse in the Park
Michael McKeough and Jens Rasumussen, The Twentieth Century Way, Know Theatre
Torie Wiggins and Gavin Lawrence, The Mountaintop, Ensemble Theatre Company
Greta Wohlrabe and PJ Sosko, Venus in Fur, Playhouse in the Park
Sean Jones and Zack Steele, The Story of My Life, Mad Anthony Theatre Company
These two had me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire show. The tension was palpable and their chemistry was special. Every one of these duos brought something special to the table, but there was something extra about Deasy and Gelb.
BEST SOLO PERFORMANCE: Christine Dye in Sarge, Cincinnati Fringe Festival
Raymond McAnally in Size Matters, Ensemble Theatre
Robert Pavlovich in Bibi, Diogenes Theatre Company
Deondra Means, Emergency!, Northern Kentucky University
If there’s a more moving, more intense, and more emotional performance this year, I sure didn’t see it. Christine Dye’s heartbreaking take on the wife of someone resembling Jerry Sandusky’s wife was so devastating I wasn’t even able to write a formal review. She is stunning and I can’t wait to see her on stage again. The other three, however, were very good in their own right. I was moved to tears by both McAnally and Means and Pavlovich made a show that I was in all honesty not dying to see more than watchable.
Lawson Young as Eponine, Les Miserables, UC-CCM
Blaine Krauss as Jean Valjean, Les Miserables, UC-CCM
Kelsey Pohl as Kate, The Wild Party, Wright State University
Jennifer Hickman, Carrie, UC-CCM
Andrew Quiett as Jean Valjean, Les Miserables, Wright State University
This is a hard category; some folks like Raven Thomas in “The 25th Putnam County Spelling Bee” for instance were amazing but didn’t carry the show or didn’t sing enough to justify inclusion in the category. I thought both Blaine Krauss and Julian Decker who shared the role of Jean Valjean were excellent but I will give the vocal nod to Julian based on the particular performances I saw.
Kelsey Pohl, by the way, is one of the most interesting female performers in the area and Jenny Hickman made me feel empathy for Mrs. White, Carrie’s mother, in a way that surprised me.
Andrew Quiett sang his guts out, too, and this really was a difficult award to decide. Anyone of the runner ups have bright futures in musical theatre and could have easily won this category.
BEST DANCE PERFORMANCE IN A MUSICAL: Max Clayton, Singin’ in the Rain, UC-CCM
Blaine Krauss, Singin’ in the Rain, UC-CCM
Katie Wesler, Singin’ in the Rain, UC-CCM
Matt Hill, Singin’ in the Rain, UC-CCM
Samantha Pollino, Singin’ in the Rain, UC-CCM
Yep, a sweep of the category. Seriously, you find me a better dance show than Singin’ in the Rain on the list of shows I saw this year and I’ll give you a dollar. I wanted to give Max a standing ovation after Act One, that’s how good he was in the Gene Kelly role.
BEST LEAD PERFORMANCE IN A PLAY: Jennifer Joplin, Other Desert Cities, Human Race Theatre Company
Reggie Willis, The Whale, Clifton Players
Brent Vimtrup, The Crucible, Xavier University/Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
Rosemary Prinz, 4,000 Miles, Playhouse in the Park
Kelly Mengelkoch, Tribes, Ensemble Theatre
Hands down, the most powerful scene I saw all year was Jennifer Joplin’s breakdown in Other Desert Cities . . . and she had her back to me for most of it. THAT ladies and gentleman is a best performance. Reggie Willis turned in an extremely authentic performance as a 600 pound man in The Whale. Vimtrup was powerful in The Crucible, Prinz was delightfully charming, and Mengelkoch superb in Tribes. But it was Joplin who had me sobbing in the theater. Victory, ma’am.
BEST SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE IN A PLAY: Mike Dennis, Other People’s Money, New Edgecliff Theatre
Maya Farhat, The Crucible, Xavier University/Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
Wes Carman, Pluto, KNOW Theatre
Dale Hodges, Other Desert Cities, Ensemble Theatre
Ted Weil, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Falcon Theatre
Patrick Phillips, The Crucible, Xavier University/Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
Mike Dennis has an incredible presence, but to be honest this was a very difficult decision. Farhat and Phillips both impressed, holding their own with experienced pros from CSC. Hodges brought much needed levity to Other Desert Cities while maintaining a level of gravitas that kept the show together. Wes Carman blew me away in Pluto. Controversial, I suppose, of me to list an actor from the show I was in but I can say pretty authoritatively that I saw his performance more than any other critic in the world and I know how good it was.
Hannah Freeman as Carrie, Carrie, UC-CCM
Joshua Steele as Peter Pan, Peter Pan, Cincinnati Music Theatre
Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone as Elle Woods, Legally Blonde
Andrew Quiett as Jud Fry, Oklahoma, Wright State University
Paige Dobkins as Queenie, The Wild Party, Wright State University
Olive is one of the most tragic characters in all of contemporary musical theatre and Santare made me cry. More than once. She wins.
BEST FEATURED PERFORMANCE IN A MUSICAL: DJ Plunkett as Leaf Coneybear, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, UC-CCM
Alison Bagli as Sue, Carrie, UC-CCM
Matt Hill as Cosmo Brown, Singin’ in the Rain, UC-CCM
Sarah Bishop, Lina Lamont, Singing’ in the Rain, UC-CCM
Matt Hill as Thenadier, Les Miserables, UC-CCM
Emily Schexnaydre as Madame Thenadier, Les Miserables, UC-CCM
Kaela O’Connor as Judy, White Christmas, Greater Hamilton Civic Theatre
Emma Jordan as Madeline True, The Wild Party, Wright State University
Clara Cox as Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, UC-CCM
I used to find Leaf Coneybear annoying until I saw Plunkett find a way to make him lovable, innocent, and charming all the while singing sweetly and with ultimate professionalism . . .most importantly – emotionally moving. He deserves this.
Kimberly Faith Hickman, The Twentieth Century Way, Know Theatre
D. Lynn Meyers, Private Lives, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
Brian Isaac Phillips, The Crucible, Xavier University/Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
Cathy Springfield, The Irish Curse, Clifton Players
The way Tim Douglas blocked his actors was interesting, natural, and kept my attention the entire time. My favorite choice was not having the actors ever leave the stage even when they were “gone.” I really loved this play. I will say Hickman pulled off quite a feat with her management of the breakneck dialogue and character switches in The Twentieth Century Way, Phillips got the most out of inexperienced college students by matching them up with pros, and Meyers brought out a comedic performance from Kelly Mengelkoch that I had never seen. And Cathy Springfield deserves a mention for surviving the management of such strong actors and helping a brand new guy not get lost in The Irish Curse.
Aubrey Berg, Les Miserables, UC-CCM
Diane Lala, Singin’ in the Rain, UC-CCM
Jay Goodlett, Willie Wonka, Jr., Cincinnati Children’s Theatre
Jamie Cordes, The Wild Party, Wright State University
Most people would pick Les Miserables because it had more moving pieces and so on. But Carrie was absolutely powerful. By choosing to focus more on the human story and less on the supernatural, Berg ripped my heart out and stomped on it. And the first time I saw it, I actually thought that chair flew across the room on its own. I wish more people had seen it.
BEST NON TRADITIONAL PIECE: Good Will Hunting, Student Director’s Lab, Wright State University, Zack Steele director
Fake Flowers Don’t Die, Traveling Show, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, directed by Mark Lutwak
Joan the Girl of Arc, Traveling Show, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, directed by KJ Sanchez
Slut Shaming, Fringe Festival, written by Trey Tatum and directed by Bridget Leak
Blogging Behind Bars, Fringe Festival, adapted and directed by Jon Kovach
Good Will Hunting, adapted for the stage? I cried from almost the moment it started until it was over. It was extremely powerful and Andrew Quiett remains one of my favorite actors.
BEST COMMUNITY THEATRE PRODUCTION: White Christmas, Greater Hamilton Civic Theatre, Kevin Brunck, director
Almost, Maine, Village Players, Ft. Thomas, KY
White Christmas was as good (or better) as any production I’ve seen at some of the professional theatres in town. By casting such talented and experienced performers in the lead roles, Brunck put on a show that surprised a lot of people. Personally, I was very impressed with Almost, Maine and it has inspired me to check out more community theatre this year.
Light Sensitive, Mad Anthony Theatre
A Delicate Ship, Playhouse in the Park
Seven Spots on the Sun, Playhouse in the Park
Pluto, Know Theatre
From White Plains, Xavier University
The Twentieth Century Way, Know Theatre
Clybourne Park, Playhouse in the Park
Private Lives, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
Other Desert Cities, Ensemble Theatre
I had a difficult decision with this one, but I think from top to bottom – script, acting, directing – all the pieces worked and were nearly flawless in The North Pool.
BEST PROFESSIONAL MUSICAL: Carrie, UC-CCM
Les Miserables, UC-CCM
Singin’ in the Rain, UC-CCM
Phantom of the Opera, Aronoff Center
The Full Monty, Festival 56
The Wild Party, Wright State University
Again, I was moved greatly this show and while Les Miserables was a spectacular performance, it didn’t make me feel the way Carrie did. Singin’ in the Rain was a visual feast, The Wild Party was a jazzy, sexy show. Phantom of the Opera was a great spectacle, and The Full Monty was a wild romp (that had a lot of heart!). . . but no musical I saw this year moved me the way Carrie did.
So, that’s it. Those are this year’s Sappie Awards. Congratulations to those of you who were mentioned and trust me . . .there’s a list of over 90 productions that I had to weed through to make these difficult decisions. I love theatre and I love that you folks are reading. I hope this recognition is welcome and helpful! Perhaps we’ll do this again next year! But I’ll definitely see you tomorrow for the weekly Monday Matinee post!