The 2006 Spokies

by Michael Bowen & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & hey may represent just one guy's opinion, and the regional theater scene may have expanded to more than any one person can take in, but here they are anyway: the 2006 Spokies, honoring the year's best in local theater (since June 2005).

Thanks to all who responded to my call for suggestions on my "Stage Thrust" blog; some have been incorporated here, while others have not.

This is a limited and subjective list of selections in some specific ways. While I did not see A Christmas Carol at the Civic, or Beauty and the Beast at CdA, I discussed them with our reviewer for those shows, Ann M. Colford. I also missed Sexual Perversity in Chicago at the Civic's Studio Theater, along with any number of shows at CenterStage, Lake City Playhouse, Ignite! Theater -- not to mention the readers theater productions at Interplayers and several other college and high school and community shows that I'm (probably) soon going to hear about.

Disagree all you want (and you will, and you should). But keep in mind that the purpose here is to celebrate the hours of memorization, drudgery, frustration and sweat that backstage crews and chorus members go through all the time in this small city. And all because they know that live theater isn't like flipping through a book or gazing at a DVD. In a prerecorded, thoroughly edited era, theater people deliver -- right this second -- stuff worth thinking about. And have been doing so, at a high level, for at least the past year -- as you're about to see.

And the winners are...

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN & r & DAN HEGGEM, OF MICE AND MEN, INTERPLAYERS & r & From broad daylight to dusk, along with the coolest lighting effect of the year, Heggem's scheme added to the mood.

BEST SET DESIGN & r & PETER HARDIE, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, CIVIC & r & Down on the bayou, a '50s master bedroom done with elegance. You could sense the skeeters flittering over the veranda. Audiences felt they were in that room.

Also noteworthy: John Hofland, The Mystery of Irma Vep, Interplayers; Jamie Flanery (with Kimberly Crawley's props and furnishings), The Dazzle, Actors Rep

BEST COSTUMES & r & SUSAN BERGER AND JAN WANLESS, MY FAIR LADY, CIVIC & r & During the Ascot Gavotte, one elegant black and white ensemble after another. The tableau had to look amazing, and it stepped right up the to (fashion) plate.

Also noteworthy: Berger and Wanless, The Music Man, Civic

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY & r & TROY NICKERSON AND RYAN CALLAN, MY FAIR LADY, CIVIC & r & From ballet to street antics, from "poor Professor Higgins" to "Get Me to the Church on Time," the sheer variety and exuberance here was outstanding.

Also noteworthy: Ross Cornell, Footloose, CdA Summer Theatre

BEST ENSEMBLE & r & BORN YESTERDAY, ACTORS REP & r & Christina Lang, Dexter Ankrom, Michael Weaver, Patrick Treadway, Ann Whiteman, John Oswald and others: Under Tralen Doler's direction, the deepest and best onstage teamwork this season -- one of three such examples from ARt.

Also noteworthy: Absurd Person Singular and The Dazzle, Actors Rep

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, PLAY OR MUSICAL & r & JEAN HARDIE AS BIG MAMA, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, CIVIC & r & "Both nurturing and nosy, [she] waddles around after her family, using conviviality to mask pain."

Also noteworthy: Ann Whiteman as Mrs. Hedges, Born Yesterday, Actors Rep

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, PLAY OR MUSICAL & r & DAVID GIGLER AS ALFRED DOOLITTLE, MY FAIR LADY, CIVIC & r & "Gigler creates a detailed and very funny comic portrait: wiping his nose on his sleeve, hogging chairs, toying with expensive instruments...."

Also noteworthy: Jason Snow as Lumiere, Beauty and the Beast, CdA Summer Theatre; Doug Dawson as Marcellus Washburn, The Music Man, Civic; Todd Hermanson, Rev. Shaw, Footloose, CdA Summer Theatre

BEST ACTOR, COMEDY & r & CHRISTOPHER BANGE, MULTIPLE ROLES, THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP, INTERPLAYERS & r & "Bange's quartet of weirdos ... is the scream of this show, with four of his personas on display." His inspired high jinks with Damon Mentzer delved into campy hilarity.

(The acting candidates were so numerous that I split them up along genre lines, just to honor more good work.)

Also noteworthy: Damon Mentzer, multiple roles, Irma Vep; Kevin Connell as Elyot Chase, Private Lives, Civic; Michael Weaver as Harry Brock, Born Yesterday, Actors Rep

BEST ACTOR, DRAMA & r & TROY NICKERSON AS LENNIE, OF MICE AND MEN, INTERPLAYERS & r & A child's infectious enthusiasm in a hulking man's body, with adult awareness just on the edge of awakening -- Nickerson was riveting.

Also noteworthy: George Green as George, Of Mice and Men, Interplayers; Mathew Ahrens and Tralen Doler as Homer and Langley Collyer, The Dazzle, Actors Rep

BEST ACTOR, MUSICAL & r & PETER RIOPELLE AS NATHAN DETROIT, GUYS AND DOLLS, CDA SUMMER THEATRE & r & "He combines a downtrodden slump and a nasal whine with self-inflicted jokes aimed at his own short stature."

BEST ACTRESS, COMEDY & r & CHRISTINA LANG AS BILLIE DAWN, BORN YESTERDAY, ACTORS REP & r & She got us all giggly and excited. The civics lesson she was teaching was only part of it.

BEST ACTRESS, MUSICAL & r & KENDRA KIMBALL AS ELIZA DOOLITTLE, MY FAIR LADY, CIVIC & r & "Kimball's Eliza isn't a performance that's merely 'good for community theater.' It's just very good, period."

Also noteworthy: Callie McKinney Cabe as Miss Adelaide, Guys and Dolls, CdA Summer Theatre; Jean Hardie as Mother Superior, Nunsense II, CenterStage; Danae Lowman as Marian Paroo, The Music Man, Civic

BEST DRAMA & r & THE DAZZLE, ACTORS REP & r & "Tragedy," says one of the Collyer brothers, "is when a few of us sink to the level where most of us usually are." For two hours, Michael Weaver's cast in The Dazzle elevated us out of the ordinary.

Also noteworthy: Of Mice and Men, Interplayers; Mrs. Warren's Profession, Actors Rep


BEST ACTRESS, DRAMA & r & KAREN NELSEN AS KITTY WARREN, MRS. WARREN'S PROFESSION, ACTORS REP & r & Duplicity, business dealing, resentment, maternal love -- Nelsen ran the gamut in the season's subtlest performance.

Also noteworthy: Ann Whiteman as Isabel Hastings Hoyt, The Golden Age, Actors Rep; Caryn Hoaglund as Vivie Warren, Mrs. Warren's Profession, Actors Rep; Wonder Russell as Catherine, Proof, Civic Studio

BEST DIRECTOR, PLAY & r & MICHAEL WEAVER, MRS. WARREN'S PROFESSION, ACTORS REP & r & Meaningful groupings on spare set in a very talky play -- Weaver deployed his Shavian troops for visual impact.

Also noteworthy: Jessica McLaughlin, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Civic

BEST DIRECTOR, MUSICAL & r & TROY NICKERSON, MY FAIR LADY, CIVIC & r & "Nickerson and his talented cast have stepped up to one of the highest peaks in American musical theater and nearly reached the top."

Also: Michael Wasileski, Footloose, CdA Summer Theatre

BEST LOCAL MUSICAL & r & MY FAIR LADY, CIVIC & r & "A visually attractive, sometimes raucous, often quite moving rendition of a beloved musical."

Also noteworthy: Beauty and the Beast, CdA Summer Theatre.

BEST COMEDY & r & BORN YESTERDAY, ACTORS REP & r & "The season's deepest ensemble, most energetic direction, most loathsome crook, best inspiration in a tight skirt and most delight taken in skewering corporate sleaze."

Also noteworthy: The Mystery of Irma Vep, Interplayers