Best of Show: The Boys from Syracuse, Aubrey Berg, College-Conservatory of Music; Copenhagen, Ed Stern, Ensemble Theatre; The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Mark Wing-Davey, Playhouse; Romeo & Juliet, Brian Isaac Phillips, Cincinnati Shakespeare; The Syringa Tree, Michael Haney, Playhouse; The Wild Party, Aubrey Berg, CCM.
Best of the Best: The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a fantasia about the father of the atomic bomb. It was that rare work that achieves a perfect oneness between play and production, thanks to brilliant direction by Wing-Davey. Playwright Carson Kreitzer promises to be an important new voice in American theater.
Outstanding Ensembles: A Flea in Her Ear, Playhouse; The Boys from Syracuse, CCM; The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Playhouse.
Best of the Best: The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer.
Outstanding world premiere: The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Playhouse.
Outstanding local script: None this year. (Expect a long dry spell in this necessary category to be broken with next year's awards.)
Outstanding regional premieres: Copenhagen, ETC; The Gimmick, Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival; Lebensraum, IF Theatre Collective; The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Playhouse; Promenade, CCM; Proof, Playhouse; The Syringa Tree, Playhouse; The Wild Party, CCM.
Outstanding efforts: Congratulations to the entire Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival team for cool resolve and endless commitment. They walked through the fire of artistic and financial crises and came out stronger than ever.
Congratulations to Know Theatre Tribe for its gumption and resolve in premiering still controversial Corpus Christi. Sell-out audiences saw a deeply committed ensemble and the terrific use of the Gabriel's Corner playing space by director Michael Burnham.
Congratulations to community troupe Showbiz Players, which dared to take on the non-professional premiere of The Civil War and pursued a dream of national competition.
Most valuable players on stage: The sensational CCM musical theater Class of 2004, who dazzled, particularly in The Boys from Syracuse and The Wild Party. Taylore Mahogany Scott was breathtaking at Cincinnati Shakespeare, with roles ranging from a gender-bending Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet to a woman in a shattering marital break-up in Gingham Dog.
Most valuable players backstage:
Aubrey Berg is the man who orchestrates College-Conservatory of Music's musical theater season, which last season was filled with rare work brilliantly executed, including The Boys from Syracuse, Promenade and The Wild Party.
Composer David Kisor, who wrote the most amiable, funny, smart and charming songs imaginable for not one but two family musicals in 2002-03: an expanded Frog Princess for Ensemble and a rockin' Peter Rabbit for Children's Theatre.
Reba Senske is the busiest costumer in Cincinnati, and boy, are we glad. She demonstrates how clothes illuminate character - and plays - for College-Conservatory of Music and Ensemble Theatre.
If you've been enjoying the Enquirer's Footlights Series (and if you haven't, why not?) join me in a big THANKS to local actor and League of Cincinnati Theatres member Jim Stump. The Shakin' the Winter Blues Away Cabaret and May's Bar Tour couldn't have happened without him, or without the enthusiastic participation of the League.
What follows are what I consider the outstanding performances of the 2002-03 season. But when choosing the best of the best, it would, for the most part, be an unfair competition between Playhouse in the Park, arguably one of the best regional U.S. theaters, and Cincinnati's midtier companies. So in some categories, you'll find Best Midtier Performance awards.
Outstanding actor in a lead role: Bruce Cromer, Underneath the Lintel, Ensemble; Curzon Dobell, The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Playhouse; Kenn E. Head, Jesus Hopped the "A" Train, Cincinnati Shakespeare; Daniel Talbott, Ah, Wilderness!, Playhouse; Greg Thornton, Copenhagen, Ensemble.
Best of the Best: Curzon Dobell, The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer.
Best Midtier Performance: Greg Thornton, Copenhagen.
Outstanding actress in a lead role: Judith Hawking, The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Playhouse; Dale Hodges, Copenhagen, Ensemble; Shannon Koob, The Syringa Tree, Playhouse*; Lynn Milgrim, Ah, Wilderness!, Playhouse; Taylore Mahogany Scott, The Gimmick and The Gingham Dog, Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival; Amy Warner, The Guys, Ensemble (*Syringa Tree was double cast but only Shannon Koob was reviewed).
Best of the Best: Judith Hawking, The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer.
Best Midtier Performance: Taylore Mahogany Scott, The Gimmick, Gingham Dog.
Outstanding featured performance - actor: Robert Elliott, Proof, Playhouse; Christopher Guthrie, Romeo & Juliet, Cincinnati Shakespeare; James Martinez, Jesus Hopped the "A" Train, Cincinnati Shakespeare; Steven Rattazzi, The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Playhouse; Jeffries Thaiss, A Flea in her Ear, Playhouse.
Best of the Best: Robert Elliott, Proof.
Best Midtier Performance: Christopher Guthrie, Romeo & Juliet.
Outstanding featured performance - actress: Blaire Chandler, The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Playhouse; Kelly Eviston, Dracula: The Untold Story, Northern Kentucky University Summer Dinner Theatre; Sherman Fracher, Romeo & Juliet, Cincinnati Shakespeare; Dale Hodges, The Credeaux Canvas, Ensemble Theatre.
Best of the Best: Blaire Chandler, The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer.
Outstanding lead performance in a musical: Todd Almond, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Ensemble Theatre; Kyle McDaniel, A New Brain, CCM; Angel Reda, The Wild Party, CCM; Eric Santagata, The Wild Party, CCM; Betsy Wolfe, The Boys from Syracuse, CCM.
Best of the Best: (tie) Eric Santagata, The Wild Party; Betsy Wolfe, The Boys from Syracuse.
Outstanding featured performance in a musical: Kierran Giovanni, The Wild Party, CCM; Mikio Hirata, Pacific Overtures; Playhouse; Jason Ma, Pacific Overtures, Playhouse; Geoff Packard, A New Brain, CCM; Angel Reda, The Boys from Syracuse, CCM; Betsy Wolfe, A New Brain, CCM.
Best of the Best: Jason Ma, Pacific Overtures.
Outstanding choreography: Diane Lala, The Wild Party, CCM; Darren Lee and Francis Jue, Pacific Overtures, Playhouse; David Wanstreet, The Boys from Syracuse, CCM.
Best of the Best: David Wanstreet, The Boys from Syracuse.
Outstanding musical direction: Greg Anthony, The Wild Party, CCM; M. Michael Fauss, Pacific Overtures, Playhouse; Roger Grodsky, The Boys from Syracuse, CCM; David Kisor, The Rockin' Adventures of Peter Rabbit, The Children's Theatre.
Best of the Best: Roger Grodsky, The Boys from Syracuse. And didn't he look fine at the podium on opening night as he conducted in his senatorial robe (over his tux) and olive leaf head wreath?
Outstanding musical contribution: Roger Grodsky, who dug through boxes of original sheet music and notes from 1938 to re-create the original orchestrations for The Boys from Syracuse, a gift not just to CCM but the world of music theater; Joel Hoffman, who improvised dramatic counterpoint and undercurrents to Lebensraum for IF Theatre Collective.
Emerging theater production and director: Lebensraum, Ed Cohen, IF Theatre Collective; The Maids, Brian Robertson, The Performance Gallery; Square One, Rebecca Bowman, New Edgecliff; 12 Angry Men, Lyle Benjamin, Queen City Off-Broadway; Two Trains Running, Luther Gibson, Know Theatre Tribe.
Best of the Best: The Maids, Brian Robertson.
Emerging theater outstanding performance - actress: Michelle Becker, Avow, Ovation; Burgess Byrd, Pretty Fire, Know Theatre Tribe; Elizabeth Harris, Square One, New Edgecliff; Corinne Mohlenhoff, In Flame, Women's Theatre Initiative; Corinne Mohlenhoff, Sympathetic Magic, IF Theatre Collective; Ghillian Porter, Affections for an Alley Cat, Know Theatre Tribe; Carrie-Ellen Zappa, In Flame, Women's Theatre Initiative.
Best of the Best: (tie) Elizabeth Harris, Square One, and Corinne Mohlenhoff, In Flame.
Emerging theater outstanding performance - actor: Eric Day, 12 Angry Jurors, Queen City Off-Broadway; Joe Hornbaker, Illuzzio, Stage First; Matt Johnson, Square One, New Edgecliff; David Scott Morgan, Dracula: The Untold Story, Northern Kentucky University Summer Dinner Theatre; Reggie Willis, Master Harold...and the Boys, Queen City Off-Broadway; Reggie Willis, Two Trains Running, Know Theatre Tribe.
Best of the Best: Reggie Willis, Master Harold....
Outstanding performance by a Cincinnati native in a Broadway touring show: (tie) Lee Roy Reams and Angie Schworer knocked us dead as an over-the-top director and a va-va-voom secretary in The Producers.
Outstanding staged reading: The Gospel According to Fishman, New Voice Theater.
Favorite moment: The pure bliss of the closing moment of Ah, Wilderness! at Playhouse, where a young man stands silhouetted before a lush full moon and a star-strewn sky and knows that the world is an astonishing place and that all things are possible.
Honorable mentions: Allan Mangaser was haunting as a traditional Japanese wife who enacts a ritual suicide in Pacific Overtures at Playhouse; Michael Pemberton's fabulous fandango (live and on video monitor) as J. Edgar Hoover in The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer at Playhouse.
Favorite twosome: Eric Santagata and Angel Reda turned the air electric playing out an abusive relationship (and they did it singing and dancing) in The Wild Party at CCM.
Honorable mention: Michael Shooner and Sherman Fracher embodied upscale, middle-aged misery as the wealthy Capulets in Cincinnati Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet.
Favorite threesome: Betsy Wolfe as a love-starved wife confused by twin "hubbies" Eric Santagata and Brian Sears in CCM's The Boys from Syracuse.
Honorable mention: Bill Hartnett, Corinne Mohlenhoff and Matthew Pyle asking provocative questions about living space in IF's Lebensraum.
Note on design: nominations are for cohesive excellence in design, including sets, costumes, lighting, sound and even original score. Excellence in one aspect of design doesn't qualify for nomination.
Outstanding achievement in technical theater:
Phil Monat, who created unforgettable images of moonlit night, star-drenched sky and so much more as lighting designer for Playhouse in the Park's Ah, Wilderness!
Carus Waggoner and Rick Couch for creating a Middle-earth full of magical creatures, tall as trees, scary as a giant spider, awful as Gollum in Ovation Theatre's Two Towers, this season's entry in the continuing saga of The Lord of the Rings.
Design - Big Budget: A Flea in her Ear, James Wolk, Elizabeth Covey and Dennis Parichy, Playhouse; Ah, Wilderness, Joseph Tilford, David Kay Mickelsen, Phil Monat and Fabian Obispo (composer), Playhouse; The Boys from Syracuse, Paul Shortt, Rebecca Senske and Elizabeth Lammer, CCM; The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Douglas Stein, Catherine Zuber, David Weiner, Marc Gwinn and Ruppert Bohle (video designer), Playhouse; Pacific Overtures, Neil Patel, Paul Tazewell and Michael Phillipi, Playhouse; The Wild Party, Mark Halpin, Dean Mogle, Steven Mack and Tim Ryan, CCM.
Best of the Best: There's no way to choose. These stellar designs could stand against the best in the nation.
Design - Medium Budget: Cyclops, Boryana Kostadinova Semerdjieva and Peter Radevski, Xavier University; The Frog Princess, Brian Mehring, Reba Senske and Brian Griffin, Ensemble; Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Brian Mehring, Shannon Rae Lutz and John Curley, Ensemble; Jesus Hopped the "A" Train, Will Turbyne, Heidi Jo Scheimer, Zack Brown and Christopher Guthrie, Cincinnati Shakespeare; Romeo & Juliet, Will Turbyne, Heidi Jo Scheimer, Zack Brown and Christopher Guthrie, Cincinnati Shakespeare; Twelfth Night, Ronald Shaw, Gretchen Vaughn and Terry Powell, Northern Kentucky University.
Best of the Best: The Frog Princess, Ensemble.
Design - Low Budget: Illuzzio: Brent Hodge, Angela Pascale and Cincinnati Costume Company, Stage First; Lebensraum: Tim Binzer, Peter Kaspzycki, David Levy, Dee Anne Bryll and Scott Baker, IF Theatre Collective; The Maids: Sarah Mansfield, Stephanie Cotton-Snell and Brian Griffin, The Performance Gallery.
Best of the Best: The Maids, Performance Gallery.
Student design: Promenade, Joshua Minter, Amethyst Tymoch, Mat Stowall and Peter Shiplett, CCM.
Great Dames & Good Plays
Taylore Mahogany Scott
The 2002-03 Jackie Awards
Critic's picks for fine fall theater-going
Marsalis proves reputation deserved
Over The Rhine showcases lead singer, lead guitarist
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Giant 'Hot Dog' creators relished their roll
Warren County Scoutmaster pitches camp with 'Survivor'
'Benji' hoping to boost pet adoptions
Kendrick: Alive & well
His wines make Sensation
Two fine reds up for auction
Grazers given two goes at great eats
Get to it!