BILL'S BEST OF 2014
THE ENVELOPE PLEASE....
The hardest part of such a task is to pick winners. Every nomination is a winner, there are no losers. Picking the "best" is not only subjective, but it's also emotionally draining. In so many cases, I loved all the nominees. It's like trying to pick your favorite child out of 60 children.
As I worked on this over the last two weeks, I changed my mind numerous times about who would get each award. I'm satisfied with the results, but there were many close calls.
For the first time this year, I will provide a Certificate for these awards to any actor or company that requests one. If you would like a hard copy, framed (unless I run out of credit) version of your award, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll need to know where to mail or otherwise deliver your certificate.
So thank you to all of you who choose to work in an endeavor you love for very little reward. May this list be my personal STANDING OVATION to all of you.
BRAVO! You made a difference to all of us who sit in a dark room, in total awe of what you do.
DRAMA, LARGE COMPANIES, BEST PLAY:
1. Shadowlands, Denver Center Theatre Company
Shadowlands was the only Denver Center Theatre Company production I saw this year. In the case of Shadowlands, it was more than enough. It was a knockout.
I admitted in my glowing review of Shadowlands that I may be biased; like C.S. Lewis, the central character, I also lost my wife to a despicable disease. The script hit me like a ton of bricks, but in the end, I think Lewis’ experience, and mine as well, is universal. We all have, or we all will, suffer great loss at some time in our lives.
My takeaway from Shadowlands is that one can have a profound conversation about the most painful subjects without getting a satisfactory resolution, and live theater is an excellent way to start those conversations. The highest praise one can give a play is that it is life changing.
For me, Shadowlands was exactly that.
The Whipping Man, Curious Theatre, my second choice in a field of four outstanding productions.
DRAMA, LARGE COMPANIES: BEST ACTOR
|Graeme Malcolm, Shadowlands.|
Malcolm takes C.S. Lewis’ words and makes them dance before your eyes. It’s not easy to convey the deep thoughts and emotions that Lewis was living through. Malcolm articulated them as if they are each a small pearl of wisdom gained through the most painful experiences imaginable.
Cajardo Lindsey, The Whipping Man.
I can’t say it any better than I did in my review:
‘Watching Cajardo Lindsey's Simon is like time traveling. Lindsey is a walking, talking house slave from the old South of 1865, and he is pitch perfect at every turn. He masters the shuffling gait of the tired old slave. He speaks with the sing song delivery of slavery's slang. And he sings. Acapella. Beautifully.”
DRAMA, LARGE COMPANIES: BEST ACTRESS
|Carley Cornelius, Venus in Fur|
Venus in Fur asks a lot of its two actors. They are each actually portraying two characters, acting out a play within a play. Cornelius made it look natural, easing between her two characters as if both characters are actually living inside her. She can bring the heat, and she did, flirting, teasing, and strutting about the stage in high heels, fishnet stockings, and a big helping of leather.
Ask anyone who saw Cornelius in Venus in Fur. They will all tell you the same thing. She was unforgettable.
Christy Brandt as Carol, The Last Romance, Arvada Center (Creede Repertory Theatre).
|Christy Brandt, The Last Romance.|
Brandt showed me, and probably a lot of others, how to fall in love in your golden years. I can assure you, falling in love at any age is a beautiful thing to watch; Brandt made it sparkle and shine.
DRAMA, LARGE COMPANIES: BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Sean Thompson, as the Young Man, The Last Romance, Arvada Center (Creede Repertory Theatre).
Thompson’s role was, admittedly, quite small. That said, though, his impact was huge. He strolled on and off stage at designated intervals, singing opera. The effect was spellbinding; his voice was honey smooth. He delivered the Young Man that the Old Man remembers. Those memories have not faded over the years, and Thompson literally made them sing.
John Hutton as Warnie, Shadowlands, Denver Center Theater Company.
Hutton gave C.S. Lewis (Graeme Malcolm) a sounding board and the love of a brother. A better brother is difficult to imagine.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Edge Theatre Company
It’s a strange tale of life in a small Irish town. You will perhaps find the accents difficult at first, but this is one powerful story of a highly dysfunctional family. It will grab you by the throat, and it won’t let you go. Beauty Queen was a triumph for The Edge, and a must see for anyone who doubts the power of live theater to bring you to the edge of your seat.
Grounded, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company.
It’s a chilling story of modern war, and it’s right on target. It raises profound ethical questions about warfare that you probably never considered. No matter where you are on the political spectrum, Grounded forces you to confront the reality of the hell we have unleashed on others, at little risk to ourselves.
Minimizing risk and maximizing enemy casualties sounds like a great accomplishment; in reality is fraught with moral, ethical, and emotional consequences.
Grounded is back on the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company stage (The Dairy Center in Boulder) for a brief reprise. If you haven’t already seen it, plan to do so January 8-18.
DRAMA, SMALL COMPANIES: BEST ACTOR
Steve Emily as Martin, The Goat or Who is Sylvia, Springs Ensemble Theatre.
It’s not an easy role; marital problems are always tricky. It’s especially awkward if you are cheating on your spouse with a goat. A real, live, barnyard goat. Emily attacks the role with gusto, breaking the news to his spouse and defending his goat friend to all who will listen. Emily has a way of making the incredible nearly believable; the fantasy nearly a reality.
And that, folks, takes some fine acting.
Daniel Traynor, as Tom, The Glass Menagerie, PHAMALY.
Traynor has mastered his art. He is one of the primary reasons people don’t refer to PHAMALY as a disabled theater company anymore. It’s a theater company. Period. It can, and always does, compete with the best companies in Colorado. Take a bow, Mr. Traynor. I’m giving you a standing ovation.
Laura Norman as The Pilot, Grounded, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company.
It’s a one woman show. Norman alone on the stage for 85 minutes that seem to fly by. She is a joy to watch; it’s hard to imagine any other actor doing Grounded as well as Laura Norman. Take your seats, fasten your seat belts, and put your tray table in the full upright position. And expect some serious turbulence on this flight.
Anne Sandoe as Olive, The Women of Lockerbie, Coal Creek Theatre of Louisville.In what is by far the best production I have ever seen at Coal Creek, Anne Sandoe stands alone. She leads the women of Lockerbie through the depths of tragedy, focusing on healing the afflicted. It’s a riveting performance in a remarkable script.
Andrew Uhlenhopp as Colonel Nathan Jessup, A Few Good Men, Spotlight Theatre Company
“You want the truth? You CAN’T handle the truth.”
Mr. Uhlenhopp has the dubious honor of playing a role defined on film by a pretty good actor: Jack Nicholson. Rather than strike fear in Uhlenhopp’s heart, he takes 1 part Nicholson, adds 2 parts of piss and vinegar, and arms himself with eyes like flamethrowers. He is truly scary as Colonel Nathan Jessup. I haven’t met him offstage, but I hope he’s a little less intense in real life. Sir. Yes sir.
Robert Kramer as Tilden, Buried Child, The Edge Theatre Company.
Robert Kramer brings the crazy. Don’t look into his eyes…there’s evil there.
Emma Messenger, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Edge Theatre Company.
In what may have been the best performance I saw this year, from anyone, anywhere, Emma Messenger served notice on the Denver theater community that she has arrived. Everyone I know who saw her in Beauty Queen marvels at the performance. It’s unanimous. She hit it out of the park.
Missy Moore as Shelley, Buried Child, The Edge Theatre Company.
Moore is like a Timex watch; she takes a licking and keeps on ticking. This is a very physical role, and Moore is assaulted more than once by her cast mates. No one can doubt Missy Moore’s dedication to her acting. She took a role that would repel a lot of actresses, and she nailed it.
Gruesome Playground Injuries, Triptych Theatre Company
Unquestionably the most intense play in the micro company category, Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries is a powerful look at the lifelong dysfunction of two childhood friends. Unable or unwilling to learn from their mistakes, they stumble and bumble through crisis after crisis. This is a compelling script done by a first rate cast.
Miracle on 34th Street, Spark Theatre.
This is the classic Christmas story told to a tiny audience by a very capable cast. The intimacy of the venue increases the power of the script exponentially. You are so close to Kris Kringle you cannot help but believe he IS the real Santa Claus. Oh. And the kids. The cutest, most lovable kids take the Spark stage and charm the audience with their innocence and their belief in the basic goodness of people.
DRAMA, MICRO COMPANIES, BEST ACTOR:
Wade Livingston as Santa, Miracle on 34th Street, Spark Theatre
It’s a small room; you can see Kris Kringle (Wade Livingston) up close and personal. He’s so real, so alive, and so convincing, you’ll walk out after the show wondering if maybe, just maybe, he might be the real thing.
|Wade Livingston, Miracle on 34th Street.|
Jamie Wollrab as Doug, Gruesome Playground Injuries, Triptych Theatre Company.
Wollrab runs the entire time span for Doug, from his early childhood to middle age. His little boy character is as convincing as his confused, misguided adult character.
Kaity Gray as Doris, Miracle on 34th Street, Spark Theatre Company.
She’s the love interest, although her character isn’t actually looking for a mate. Gray is a joy as a mother, as a Macy’s executive, and as a date/mate for Fred. She’s a very focused actress, who knows how to tell a story with more than just words. She’s got the eyes, the gestures, and the appropriate pauses to make it all work.
Laila Ayad as Kayleen, Gruesome Playground Injuries, Triptych Theatre Company.
Ayad brings the acute self awareness of an awkward girl growing up nearly friendless. She is particularly adept at portraying the fear and danger that comes of making bad choices when it comes to the men in her life.
Marq Del Monte as Mort, Awaiting the Apocalypse, Denver’s Dangerous Theatre.
Del Monte adds the sass to the staff at the Smithereens Cafe, and every time he acts out to get their attention he steals the scene. They don’t need salsa at this cafe; Del Monte is all the hot stuff they need.
Matthew Davis as Fred Gailey, Miracle on 34th Street, Spark Theatre Company.
Davis is superb at playing every guy’s worst insecurity: fear of rejection. He knows he wants to get to know Doris (Kaitie Gray), but he’s too shy to make a move until he’s 100% certain he won’t be rejected. Davis seems to know that pain, and he makes the audience feel it with him. We are all cheering for him when he wins Doris over.
COMEDY, LARGE COMPANIES, BEST PLAY:
The Servant of Two Masters, Theatreworks
The Servant of Two Masters was a feast for all fans of comedy. It’s an unlikely script for Theatreworks, written in 1745 by Italian Carlo Goldini (not exactly a household name). Theatreworks updated it to Venice Beach California, sometime in the 1960s. The result was one of the funniest, hippest, and most successful comedies seen in Colorado in a very long time.
In my view, Theatreworks took a substantial risk on Servant, and was richly rewarded for that risk. The Servant of Two Masters is on my short list of plays that will endure in my memory bank as long as the bio hard drive lasts.
The Lying Kind, Theatreworks.
There’s a common element here, and that’s casting. Theatreworks made a statement this year about making us laugh. Message received, acknowledged, and much appreciated.
1. Sammie Joe Kinnett as Truffadino, The Servant of Two Masters, Theatreworks.
Sammie Joe is the common element in both The Servant of Two Masters and The Lying Kind. Let’s just call him The Master of Two Comedies this season. Whether he is playing Truffadino, the gluttonous, goofy guy with two masters, or Gobbel, the blundering, bumbling cop in The Lying Kind, Kinnett puts on a master class for everyone in the room. I’m not sure if Sammie Joe has hit the top of his game yet. The more I see him, the better he gets.
|Doug Atkins, Psycho Beach Party.|
Doug Atkins’ role here is as a teenage girl with multiple personalities. He’s a gender bender with a bunch of his best friends in his head.
Need I say more? I think not. Atkins does a tour de force performance that puts the “psycho” in Psycho Beach Party.
Need I say more? I think not. Atkins does a tour de force performance that puts the “psycho” in Psycho Beach Party.
COMEDY, LARGE COMPANIES: BEST ACTRESS
Eryn Carman as Smeraldina, The Servant of Two Masters, Theatreworks.
"Men are all bastards, so just pucker up and take your medicine."
Eryn Carman has arguably the best line in the show, and as painful as it is to admit it, she’s right about the guys in The Servant of Two Masters. She’s sexy, she’s sassy, and she’s smart. Carman played her 1745 role like a woman way ahead of her time.
Tracy Warren as Karin and Barb Reeves as Vivian, Church Basement Ladies, A Second Helping, BDT Stage.
The Minnesota Church Underground…a little known centrist movement trying to figure out the 1960s. Tracy Warren and Barb Reeves lead a stellar cast through the social upheaval of war, feminism, and changing sexual expectations. If that doesn’t sound funny to you, you would be wrong. It’s hilarious.
COMEDY, LARGE COMPANIES: BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Julian Bucknall as Reverend Shandy, The Lying Kind, Theatreworks.
When the Vicar comes for a visit, things get crazy. Bucknall is fetching in fish net stockings, and the laughs are nonstop. For a proper man of the cloth, he has a LOT of explaining to do. Thanks, Julian. I’ll never look at a Vicar the same again, but I'll surely be smiling about wondering what else he's wearing.
Wayne Kennedy as The Pastor, Church Basement Ladies, A Second Helping, BDT Stage.
Wait…a second man of the cloth? Wayne Kennedy is the only male in the cast, and he has his hands full with the basement ladies. His transformation from a respectable parish minister to a new age hippie flower child is worth the price of admission.
Billie McBride as Garson, The Lying Kind, Theatreworks.
Ms. McBride is stunning as the feeble, forgetful, and marginally unfaithful Garson, putting on her best little old lady hat and commanding the stage. She serves imaginary tea to the cast, she walks with her invisible “trolley,” and ends up in a compromising position between two cops on the couch. You have to see it to believe it. I am giggling just remembering her performance.
Kate Berry as Mrs. Forrest, Psycho Beach Party, Theatreworks.
Berry plays a great Mommy Dearest role here as Chicklet’s mother. Alternating between evil and droll, she plays the heavy with glamour.
Sylvia, Ashton & Abster Productions.
I know…Sylvia has been done many times by many companies in Colorado in the past few years. Still, the script is marvelous; it hits us in the laugh zone because we have all have or know someone who has a dog. Sylvia is a dog that we can’t help but love, and Sylvia the play will still be funny in 50 years.
Art, Springs Ensemble Theatre
Springs Ensemble scores with Yasmina Reza’s Art, deviating briefly from their normally serious and heavy titles. Art is at the intersection of funny and profound, making us question our values and the definition of “art.” Surprisingly, we have a good time doing it, and the laughs are those that we get when the script hits close to home.
Kurt Keilbach as William Shakespeare, William Shakespeare in the Land of the Dead, Theatre Company of Lafayette.
One of the best parts of my hobby is seeing productions in small community theaters. Every performance is personal for the cast, and for the audience sitting just feet from the actors. They are there not for the money or the glamour. They are there because they are passionate about theater. That passion is a special thing to witness.
Kurt Keilbach took on the role of William Shakespeare at the Mary Martin Theater in Lafayette, and he did the bard proud. He’s a human, approachable, and funny Shakespeare, not the literary icon on the pedestal we have built for him. I like the Keilbach version of Shakespeare much better than the literary mythical version.
John Ashton as Greg, Sylvia, Ashton & Abster Productions.
John Ashton is a very accomplished actor, and he brings his considerable stature to a role where he has trouble choosing between his wife and his dog. One never doubts his dilemma as he loses the ability to differentiate between people and animals he loves.
Amie MacKenzie as Sylvia, Sylvia, Ashton & Abster Productions.
It’s the title role for a reason, and MacKenzie is not just the lead. She’s the star of this show. It’s 90 minutes of physical labor, rolling on the floor, walking on her hands and knees, and displaying all the actual physical characteristics of a dog. MacKenzie does it all with precision, grace, and humor.
Emily K. Harrison as Dale Prist, 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche, Square Product Theatre Company.
Harrison has played this role before, and she’s marvelous in it. The script is exactly as stated in the title. If you haven’t seen it, catch it next time it’s in the area. Hopefully, Emily will do this show again for those who haven’t yet met The Lesbians.
Tupper Callum as Tom, Phyllis, and Leslie, Sylvia, Ashton & Abster Productions.
Playing three roles (1 male, 1 female, and one of undetermined gender) is no small feat. Callum is hilarious in each role, showing us what a versatile guy he can be. Seriously, his stage time was limited, but his impact was huge.
Matt Radcliffe as Yvan, Art, Springs Ensemble Theatre Company.
Radcliffe is wonderful; he brings a sense of both innocence and impotence to the conflict. His conversion from arbitrator to advocate is priceless.
COMEDY, SMALL COMPANIES: BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jessica Robblee as Ginny, 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche, Square Product Theatre Company.
Ginny is straight, or so she thinks. Robblee goes on a funny, poignant voyage of self discovery, and embraces her attraction to women. In the process, I think it’s fair to say that she definitely loves quiche. Those who have seen the show will know what I mean by that.
Abby Apple Boes as Kate, Sylvia, Ashton & Abster Productions.
A woman scorned…for a dog? Abby Apple Boes is confused, dejected, and angry about Sylvia. No marriage needs a third “person” in the equation, and Abby gives us a Kate with a bite as well as a bark.
MUSICAL, LARGE COMPANIES, BEST PLAY:
1. Mary Poppins, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
This is a very difficult category; the nominees are all wonderful shows. That said, though, the nod here goes to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s ambitious and wildly successful version of Mary Poppins.
This show soars, pops, crackles, and entertains at every turn. The soundtrack is sprinkled with hit songs (Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Chim Chim Cheree, A Spoonful of Sugar, Practically Perfect), the cast is first rate, and the story touches everyone at every age.
Sisters of Swing, BDT Stage
BDT Stage puts on great musicals, and Sisters of Swing is among the best. It’s a near perfect nostalgic ride through a special period in history and music. From start to finish, the cast recreates the 1940s in careful detail. Great music, great singing, great dancing, and a great time, with dinner included.
Jim Hogan as Huey Calhoun, Memphis, Arvada enter.
He sings. He dances. He acts. Triple threat Jim Hogan makes Memphis work. Hogan naively believes he can change the world. And he does. Hogan makes things happen on stage as Huey, those things happen to be wonderful to watch. I’ve seen Memphis before; it was a touring Broadway production. Memphis at the Arvada Center was better, and the difference was Jim Hogan.
Tarzan the Stage Musical, Arvada Center.
Ogilvie is a picture perfect Tarzan. With his washboard abs and a loincloth, he becomes the ape man. The fact that he is gorgeous, though, does not distract the audience from seeing his immense acting and singing talents. He is the whole package, and a joy to watch.
Aisha Jackson as Felicia, Memphis, Arvada Center.
Jackson has the voice of a songbird, the grace of a Goddess, and a "light up the room" smile. Oh. And she can also dance. Like a star. No wonder Huey falls in love with her Who wouldn’t?
Mary Poppins, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.
In a regrettable error, Jennifer DeDominici was left off the list of nominees I published for Best Actress in a Large Company Musical. She should have been on the list. Her performance was amazing, as was the entire production. I humbly apologize to Ms. DeDomonici and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center for the omission.
Keith L. Hatten as Delray, Memphis, Arvada Center.
Hatten’s voice can send chills down your spine, and he’s no slouch on the dance floor either. He brings indignation, anger, and hostility to Delray that makes the conflict credible.
Tom Auclair as George Banks, Mary Poppins, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.
Auclair plays George to the hilt, meaning that he will not be the Father of the Year. He’s a rules oriented disciplinarian, and has no time for affection. It’s a memorable performance from a first rate actor.
MUSICAL, LARGE COMPANIES: BEST SUPORTING ACTRESS
She Loves Me, Arvada Center.
Flirty, feminine, and fabulous, Lorae struts her stuff for the guys at the Parfumerie. She rocks her costume dresses, and has a “sit up and take notice” stage presence.
Sally Hybl as Winifred Banks, Mary Poppins, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.
Sally Hybl is an arresting Winifred; she may have the strongest voice in a cast of approximately 25, including the ensemble. When she sings, you can't help but cherish every note.
1940s Radio Hour, Lake Dillon Theatre Company
This is a crackerjack production of a fun, relevant, and engaging script.
1940's Radio Hour is a reminder of what's best about America, and the sacrifices necessary to preserve our ideals. Most of us now sacrifice little, but a few of us still sacrifice everything. That's worth remembering during the holidays...and every day all year long.
|Paula Jayne Friedland & Janine Gastineau|
It’s a Stephen Sondheim revue, with a script to tie the songs together in a new context. Janine Gastineau and Paula Jayne Friedland have put their personal spin on the music and on our intimate relationships, and that spin is special. This show was a gift from Janine and Paula to Sondheim fans.
Tally Sessions as Jerry Lukowski, The Full Monty, Aspen Theatre Company.
As the lead character, Sessions gets the chance to display not just his acting chops, but also his talent for singing and dancing. He takes full advantage of the opportunity; he is unquestionably a true "triple threat." Juggling his Dad in exile duties with his dwindling career opportunities, Sessions brings the emotion and the beefcake to the story.
Adam Shelton as Bobby, Company, Equinox Theatre Company.
Shelton has a rich, full, voice to match his first rate acting skills. He can convey his mood with saying or singing a word; his facial gestures are that good. He’s a complicated Bobby, and Shelton is convincing about the awkwardness of his friends’ efforts to fix him up with the “right” girl.
MUSICAL, SMALL COMPANIES: BEST ACTRESS
Mallory Jo as Millie, Thoroughly Modern Millie, First Company.
First Company put together a marvelous production, and Mallory Jo can take a lot of credit for the results. She sings, dances, and charms her way through the story, never skipping a beat. Her voice is marvelous, her range is impressive, and her energy is infectious.
Mica Dominguez-Robinson as Marta, Company, Equinox Theatre Company.
With a marvelous voice and abundant acting talent, Dominguez-Robinson anchors the Company cast. Singing Sondheim should be her speciality.
Grant Haralson as Wally Ferguson, 1940s Radio Hour, Lake Dillon Theatre Company.
He was the delivery boy who wanted to be a radio star. Haralson delivered a stock character, not as a stereotype, but as a lovable, charming, and starkly real person. He made us believe he could be a star.
Richard Jarrett as “Keno” Walsh, The Full Monty, Aspen Theatre Company.
Jarrett’s main duty here was to warm up the crowd for the rest of the cast. He didn’t just warm them up; he put the heat in the Aspen Theatre tent. His strip show had the ladies howling, hollering, and probably salivating. I’ve seen several productions of The Full Monty, but none hit a fever pitch like the one Jarrett laid on the crowd in Aspen.
Ensemble nomination: Janine Gastineau/Paula Jayne Friedland, Love, Marriage, and Other Natural Disasters, A New Steven Sondheim Revue, Gastineau/Friedland Production.
It was a very short run…one performance only. Be there or miss it entirely. I was there, and it was fabulous.
Brittany Jeffery as Ginger Brooks, 1940s Radio Hour, Lake Dillon Theatre Company.
If you’re looking for a gum chewing blond with attitude, take a look at Brittany Jeffery. She seems to relish the role, even when sticking her chewing gum back in her mouth after removing it from her microphone stand. There can be a lot of chaos on the stage during 1940s Radio Hour, but if Brittany is involved, keep your eyes on her. She loves being the center of attention.