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Fifth Annual Onstage and Backstage Honors: Robert's Reviews' 2004 Triangle Theater Awards

January 14, 2005 - Triangle-Wide:


The Fifth Annual Triangle Theater Awards often copied but never duplicated salute outstanding achievement onstage and backstage. TTA 2004 is the first installment of these yearly honors to be jointly selected by Scott Ross, Todd Morman, Alan R. Hall, and yours truly. It is the latest version of a series of awards that I pioneered at The Raleigh Times in the mid-1980s. (Some people still cite my Raleigh Times selections on their resumes.)

Then and (mostly) now, all the other local news media were content to publish a 10 best list and let it go at that. The Raleigh Times, which covered more Triangle theater than all its competitors combined, generously allowed me to publish a list of onstage and backstage honors that served as the predecessor for the 2000 and 2001 Triangle Theater Awards published in Spectator Magazine and the 2002 and 2003 awards (published our Jan. 2, 2003 and Jan. 1, 2004 issues, respectively) and reprinted online by Classical Voice of North Carolina. (To view the 2003 Triangle Theater Awards, click here [inactive 9/05].)

Robert’s Reviews still covers more Triangle theater than all its competitors combined, and it is gratifying to see my friend Byron Woods shamelessly copy our Triangle Theater Awards formula in The Independent Weekly’s Jan. 5th issue. In his Dec. 29th column, Woods compared the 33 TTA 2004 award categories to the number of categories in the annual awards selected by the Raleigh, NC News & Observer (1), the Tony Awards® (21), etc. We have 33 categories because they best spotlight the extraordinary artistic achievement of all segmentsof the Triangle theatrical community. We at Robert’s Reviews have always emphasized the contributions of each show’s creative team, which gets short shrift at other publications, so it is only fitting that we should honor their best efforts in the 2004 Triangle Theater Awards.

It is always tough to winnow all the deserving candidates down to five finalists, and then to select a winner in each category. Scott Ross, Alan Hall, and I separately reviewed this year’s previews and reviews, and then Scott and I spent several hours together, on two different days, finalizing the selections.

Even though Robert’s Reviews provides this area’s most comprehensive theater coverage, we probably missed a few shows last year due to illness or the unavailability of tickets; and we may have overlooked some worthy candidates in the shows that we did review. If so, we apologize in advance. We have done our best to avoid those pitfalls. (Unlike some of the local mainstream news media, we will be happy to consider printing Letters to the Editor that disagree with our choices....)

The Fifth Annual Triangle Theater Awards, presented below in the form of an abbreviated awards-show script, includes our rationale for each selection, but skips the emcee’s lame monologue and inane running commentary, the tacky production numbers, and the endless acceptance speeches. Enjoy! R.W.M.

BEST ACTOR, DRAMA: Marshall Botvinick in The Chosen (Theater Or); Ray Dooley in Not About Heroes (PlayMakers Repertory Company); Paul Garrett in Waiting for Godot (Burning Coal Theatre Company); Robert Terrell “Terry” Milner in The Gardens of Frau Hess (Raleigh Ensemble Players); and Michael Winters in King Lear (PlayMakers Repertory Company). WINNER: Ray Dooley.

In a growing gallery of indelible portraits, Ray Dooley’s performance as the World War I soldier-poet Siegfried Sassoon in Not About Heroes (PlayMakers Repertory Company)ranked as one of his most magnificent. Here were anger, compassion, loss, kindness, despair, literary generosity (a rare thing among writers), and physical and emotional trauma played with acute veracity and a staggering intensity of feeling. S.R.

BEST ACTOR, COMEDY: Joe Brack in Floating Rhoda and the Glue Man (Raleigh Ensemble Players); John T. Hall in You Can’t Take It With You (Raleigh Little Theatre); John C. McIlwee in The Man Who Came to Dinner (University Theatre at N.C. State); Rob Smith in Sylvia (Towne Players of Garner); and Matthew Spangler in A Paradise It Seems: The Short Stories of John Cheever (Wordshed Productions). WINNER: Joe Brack.

In Floating Rhoda and the Glue Man (Raleigh Ensemble Players), Joe Brack exhibited, at an impossibly youthful age, pluperfect timing and expressive gesture. To quote from Barry Unsworth’s Morality Play: “There was … an instinct for playing … a meeting of instinct and knowledge, a natural impulse of the body … something that can neither be taught nor learned.” Whatever it is, Brack has it. S.R.

BEST ACTOR, MUSICAL: Sebastian Bach in Jekyll & Hyde (North Carolina Theatre); Fred Gorelick in Follies (University Theatre at N.C. State); Norm Lewis in Ragtime(North Carolina Theatre); Lou Diamond Phillips in The King and I (North Carolina Theatre); David Staller in My Fair Lady (North Carolina Theatre). WINNERS: Norm Lewis and Lou Diamond Phillips (tie).

In the North Carolina Theatre’s gala productions of Ragtime and The King and I, respectively, Norm Lewis and Lou Diamond Phillips gave powerful, passionate performances Lewis as aggrieved African-American ragtime pianist Coalhouse Walker, Jr., futilely battling against racism in New York, circa 1905, and Phillips as the imperious but progressive mid-19th century King of Siam, trying to modernize his backward country but brooking no opposition to his plans. Lewis and Phillips are two of the finest actors ever to trod the boards at Raleigh memorial Auditorium. R.W.M.

BEST ACTRESS, DRAMA: Betsy Henderson in The Gardens of Frau Hess (Raleigh Ensemble Players); Charity Henson in Luminosity (PlayMakers Repertory Company); Brenda Lo in In the Heart of America (Raleigh Ensemble Players); Melissa Lozoff in Oleanna(Jordan M. Smith/Ghost & Spice Productions); and Jan Doub Morgan in Women’s Minyan (Theater Or). WINNER: Charity Henson.

In Luminosity (PlayMakers Repertory Company), the production’s most astonishing presence, and the one on whom the play’s success depended, was that of Charity Henson. She inhabited her character to such a degree, and with so much empathy, that her frustrations became ours, and we had an equal share in her quest and its ultimate triumph. S.R.

BEST ACTRESS, COMEDY: Hannah Blevins in A Paradise It Seems: The Short Stories of John Cheever (Wordshed Productions); Janet Doughty in Sylvia (Towne Players of Garner); Kathryn Fuller in The Servant of Two Masters (Peace College Theatre); Lynne Guglielmi in Floating Rhoda and the Glue Man (Raleigh Ensemble Players); and Morrisa Nagel in Comic Potential (Actors Comedy Lab). WINNERS: Janet Doughty and Kathryn Fuller (tie).

While playing the canine title role in Sylvia (Towne Players of Garner), Janet Doughty’s was cute as a speckled pup a speckled pup with fleas and a bit of a stubborn streak, especially when it comes to chewing up her new owners’ shoes. With her infectious grin and irrepressible high spirits, this gifted comedienne proved once again why she is one of the Triangle’s finest comic actresses. R.W.M.

With the supreme confidence of a master clown, Kathryn Fuller tossed off prodigious feats of histrionic (and athletic) legerdemain without breaking stride or letting us know she knew how funny she was. In The Servant of Two Masters (Peace College Theatre), Fuller had complete control, even as various parts of her body seemed to fly off in several directions at the same time. S.R.

BEST ACTRESS, MUSICAL: Sutton Foster in Little Women: The Musical (Theater Previews at Duke et al.); Patty Goble in The King and I (North Carolina Theatre); Julia Murney in Ragtime (North Carolina Theatre); Meredith Sause in Vincent: An Evening of Edna St. Vincent Millay (Manbites Dog Theater); and Elena Shaddow in My Fair Lady (North Carolina Theatre). WINNER: Sutton Foster.

In Little Women: The Musical (Theater Previews at Duke et al.), Tony Award winner Sutton Foster was terrific as Jo March, a spunky teenaged tomboy growing up in Concord, Massachusetts. Jo revels in writing blood-and-guts stories and adapting them for herself and her three sisters to perform for their neighbors, and Sutton doesn’t just play Louisa May Alcott’s intrepid heroine she becomes her. R.W.M.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA: Vaughan Michael in Waiting for Godot (Burning Coal Theatre Company); Brian Patrick Mullins in 90 IN 90 (Burning Coal Theatre Company); Kareem Nemley in Poor Superman (Raleigh Ensemble Players); Rusty Sutton in Our Town (Towne Players of Garner); and Jerry Zieman in The Diary of Anne Frank (Raleigh Little Theatre). WINNER: Vaughan Michael.

As the overbearing Pozzo in Waiting for Godot (Burning Coal Theatre Company), Vaughan Michael conveyed a sense of power over others as unquestioned noblesse oblige. Never more alive than when attention is focused upon him, Michael was equally at home with the anguish of a master who needs his slave as much, if not more, than the servant needs him. S.R.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY: Michael Armstrong in Sylvia (Towne Players of Garner); Chris Chiron in A Paradise It Seems: The Short Stories of John Cheever(Wordshed Productions); David Harrell in Floating Rhoda and the Glue Man; Jordan Smith in The Tempest (Shakespeare & Originals); and Tim Upchurch in The Man Who Came to Dinner (Towne Players of Garner). WINNER: Chris Chiron.

Tall, curly-haired, charismatic Chris Chiron quietly stole the show in A Paradise It Seems: The Short Stories of John Cheever (Wordshed Productions), with his passionate performance as poor bewildered Neddy Merrill, whose fateful decision to swim home from a Sunday-afternoon party through his neighbors’ backyard pools has disastrous (and entirely unexpected) consequences for him, his marriage, and his home. R.W.M.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, MUSICAL: David Henderson in A Christmas Carol (Theatre in the Park); George Merritt in Jekyll & Hyde (North Carolina Theatre); Frederick B. Owens in The King and I (North Carolina Theatre); Michael Rupert in Ragtime(North Carolina Theatre); and Jim Weitzer in Little Women: The Musical (Theater Previews at Duke et al.). WINNER: George Merritt.

In Jekyll & Hyde (North Carolina Theatre), Broadway veteran George Merritt a superb actor and a brilliant baritone repeated the role of John Utterson, Dr. Jekyll’s increasingly concerned friend and lawyer, that he played on the Great White Way. Merritt made Utterson one of the show’s most memorable characters. R.W.M.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA: Mariette Booth in The Rocker (Theatre in the Park); Sylvia Dante in Women’s Minyan (Theater Or); Sarah Kocz in Romeo and Juliet (Raleigh Parks and Recreation Arts Program and Live Wire Theatre Company) and Taking Sides (Wordshed Productions and Ghost & Spice Productions); Carole Marcotte in Poor Superman (Raleigh Ensemble Players); and Jenn Suchanec in Safe House (Burning Coal Theatre Company). WINNER: Sarah Kocz.

In the Pullen Park production of Romeo and Juliet (Raleigh Parks and Recreation Arts Program and Live Wire Theatre Company), Sarah Kocz was a real treat as Juliet’s earthy Nurse, thus adding another laurel to her acting crown. R.W.M.

As the widow of a murdered Jewish pianist in Taking Sides (Wordshed Productions and Ghost & Spice Productions), Ronald Harwood’s fervid re-imagining of a singular de-Nazification inquiry into the possible anti-Semitism and Nazi Party affiliation of the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, Sarah Kocz brought her particular brand of unassailable intensity to the smallest of the play’s five roles. S.R.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY: Maria Chrysanthou in A Paradise It Seems: The Short Stories of John Cheever (Wordshed Productions); Meg Dietrich in Sylvia(Towne Players of Garner); Gina Kelly in The Servant of Two Masters (Peace College Theatre); Jan Doub Morgan in The Man Who Came to Dinner (University Theatre at N.C. State); and Sharon Pearce in The Man Who Came to Dinner (Towne Players of Garner). WINNER: Jan Doub Morgan.

Jan Doub Morgan’s turn as a gently mad spinster in The Man Who Came to Dinner (University Theatre at N.C. State) was inspired. She floated into her scenes on a cloud of pixilated lunacy, pirouetting like a demented prima ballerina and indulging in facial reactions that would have done Gloria Swanson’s Norma Desmond proud. S.R.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, MUSICAL: Yolanda Batts and Dorothy R. Brown in Follies (University Theatre at N.C. State); Maureen McGovern in Little Women: The Musical(Theater Previews at Duke et al.); Kate Shindle in Jekyll & Hyde (North Carolina Theatre); and Donna Wandrey in My Fair Lady (North Carolina Theatre); WINNER: Maureen McGovern.

Maureen McGovern was perfectly cast as Marmee, the matriarchal rock of the (temporarily) fatherless family in Little Women: The Musical (Theater Previews at Duke et al.). Her crisp characterization of this imaginative and resourceful mother was one of the show’s highlights. R.W.M.

BEST SOLO PERFORMANCE: Julian “J” Chachula, Jr. in Underneath the Lintel (Flying Machine Theatre Company at The ArtsCenter); Lenore Field for Shirley Valentine (Ghost & Spice Productions); Jill Greeson in “I Think You Think I Love You” in Shorts in Winter (The ArtsCenter); Christine Morris in Silver River (Manbites Dog Theater); and Laurie Wolf in 50! Evolution of a Butch Lesbian (Manbites Dog Theater). WINNER: Christine Morris.

In Silver River (Manbites Dog Theater), Christine Morris gave the sort of performance that you recall when everything else has fallen away a performance with an aura of singular greatness that people still feel in recalling Laurette Taylor’s Amanda in The Glass Menagerie. Morris gave us not merely a woman but an entire community in a performance of such complete honesty that it became something beyond acting. S.R.

BEST ENSEMBLE, DRAMA: The Chosen (Theater Or); The Lonesome West (Wordshed Productions); Luminosity (PlayMakers Repertory Company); Sonnets for an Old Century (Manbites Dog Theater); and Women’s Minyan (Theater Or). WINNER: Luminosity.

Apart from the aforementioned Charity Henson, Ray Dooley performed one of his patented marvels in Luminosity (PlayMakers Repertory Company); Tandy Cronyn gave her role splendid texture; Earl Baker, Jr. was ideally cast in a brief but terribly important part; Melissa Hickey provided a beautiful, wounded dignity that was, ultimately, a kind of benediction; Bjorn Thorstad embodied both the excitement of a man in love with his craft and the unbearable tension by which tradition erodes the soul of an otherwise decent man; and Chandler Williams, Kenneth P. Strong, and Jeffrey Blair Cornell all gave especially vivid performances. S.R.

BEST ENSEMBLE, COMEDY: Floating Rhoda and the Glue Man (Raleigh Ensemble Players); A Paradise It Seems: The Short Stories of John Cheever (Wordshed Productions); The Servant of Two Masters (Peace College Theatre); Stones in His Pockets (Actors Comedy Lab and Theatre in the Park); and Sylvia (Towne Players of Garner). WINNER: Sylvia.

In Sylvia (Towne Players of Garner), Rob Smith and Janet Doughty were hilarious as Greg, a burned-out big-city business executive, and Sylvia, a spunky stray dog that Greg meets in the park, and brings home to keep, much to the consternation of his sternly disapproving wife (wonderfully played by Meg Dietrich). Michael Armstrong was a scream, in three sharply etched cameos, as Greg’s obstreperous fellow dog lover Tom, Kate’s hard-drinking old friend Phyllis, and the owlish gender-bending psychiatrist Leslie. R.W.M.

BEST ENSEMBLE, MUSICAL: Follies (University Theatre at N.C. State); The King and I and Ragtime (North Carolina Theatre); Little Women: The Musical (Theater Previews at Duke et al.); and Pump Boys and Dinettes (Raleigh Little Theatre). WINNER: Little Women.

In Little Women: The Musical (Theater Previews at Duke et al.), the four March sisters the “little women” of the title were memorably impersonated not only by the irrepressible Sutton Foster as Jo, but by Jenny Powers as the romantic but sensible Meg, Megan McGinnis as kind-hearted but sickly Beth, and Amy McAlexander as beautiful but jealous and insecure Amy. Maureen McGovern was delightful as Marmee, and John Hickok was charming as Professor Fritz Bhaer, the introspective German immigrant who finds a new life (and a new love) in Jo March. Danny Gurwin was sweet as Laurie, Jo’s handsome Concord suitor whose average intellect never quite captures Jo’s imagination (or her heart); and Jim Weitzer was terrific as Laurie’s patriotic but somewhat formal tutor, John Brooke, who gradually unthaws under Meg’s melting gaze. Robert Stattel cut a fine figure as Mr. Laurence, and Janet Carroll doubled delightfully as wealthy and oh-so-proper Aunt March and, later, as Jo’s nosy Irish-immigrant landlady Mrs. Kirk. R.W.M.

BEST ORIGINAL PLAY: Little Women: The Musical by Allan Knee (libretto), Jason Howland (music), and Mindi Dickstein (lyrics) (Theater Previews at Duke et al.); The Man Who Tried to Save the World by Jerome Davis and Floraine Kay (Burning Coal Theatre Company); A Paradise It Seems: The Short Stories of John Cheeverby Matthew Spangler (Wordshed Productions); Silver River by Romulus Linney (Manbites Dog Theater); and Vincent: An Evening of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Dorrie Casey (Manbites Dog Theater). WINNERS: Little Women and Silver River (tie).

Little Women: The Musical (Theater Previews at Duke et al.), with libretto by Allan Knee, music by Jason Howland, and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, should not only find success on the Great White Way, but also be a strong candidate to win the Tony Award for Best Musical. What makes this version of Little Women superior to all the previous musical adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s novel is its superior structure, character development, and scope, not to mention the memorable melodies. R.W.M.

Romulus Linney’s luminous, compassionate, and redemptive new play Silver River received its world premiere at Manbites Dog Theater. Under Manbites Dog artistic director Jeff Storer’s simple, yet inspired direction, this stunningly crafted monodrama provided the great Christine Morris with a superb vehicle in which to exhibit the full range of her seemingly illimitable brilliance. At the core of her story is a mystery, masterfully set out in the first act, the solution to which drives the second and shatters all preconceived notions we may have entertained of guilt, innocence, or the thin line between commission and omission. S.R.

BEST ONE ACT: “Cupid’s Beau” by Babs Lindsay and “I Think You Think I Love You” by Kelly Younger (Shorts in Winter at The ArtsCenter); and “The Rental” by playwright Mark Harvey Levine, “Something Went Wrong” by Matt Casarino, and “Young Love” by Jay Hanagan in the Ten by Ten in the Triangle festival (The ArtsCenter). WINNER: “I Think You Think I Love You.”

Kelly Younger’s short play “I Think You Think I Love You” (Shorts in Winter at The ArtsCenter) was a comedic tour-de-force that required breathtaking control of the material and, in Jill Greeson, got it. Essentially a long, rambling, and incident-filled monologue by a dutiful daughter about her attempt to dispose not only of her mother’s ashes but that of a feral cat, the play was superbly crafted and often wildly funny. S.R.

BEST DIRECTOR, DRAMA: Joseph Haj for Not About Heroes (PlayMakers Repertory Company); David Hammond for Luminosity and The Tragedy of King Richard II (PlayMakers Repertory Company); David Henderson for Waiting for Godot (Burning Coal Theatre Company); Joseph Megel for The Chosen (Theater Or) and Nixon’s Nixon (Manbites Dog Theater); Deb Royals for The Gardens of Frau Hess (Raleigh Ensemble Players); and Jeff Storer for Silver River and Sonnets for an Old Century (Manbites Dog Theater). WINNER: David Hammond.

David Hammond’s direction of Luminosity (PlayMakers Repertory Company) had everything from a subtly placed glance to an act of shocking violence juxtaposed with the saving of a life and a riveting coup de theatre in which staging, performance, lighting, and music combined to create a moment possible only in the theatre, and then only when so many extraordinary human elements coalesce. S.R.

By adding a pithy prologue drawn from another play possibly penned by Shakespeare, and by staging the show in ambiguously modern/medieval costumes on a soaring set of a glass-walled skyscraper rising from medieval ruins both magnificently designed by Bill Clarke, PRC artistic director David Hammond created a Richard II for our time. He transformed this Shakespearean tragedy from a venerable historical drama into a modern morality tale, as apt in the 21st century as in was in the 16th. Thus, PRC’s emotionally wrenching presentation of The Tragedy of King Richard II was more than a pageant or a mere reenactment of some long-forgotten 14th-century political contretemps. It was a pre-Election 2004 special, a warning to the theatergoing public about the dangers of choosing a weak and indecisive leader in time of great peril at home and abroad. R.W.M.

BEST DIRECTOR, COMEDY: Dr. Kenny Gannon for The Servant of Two Masters (Peace College Theatre); Beth Honeycutt for The Man Who Came to Dinner and Sylvia (Towne Players of Garner); Heather Willcox for Floating Rhoda and the Glue Man (Raleigh Ensemble Players); Rod Rich for Comic Potential (Actors Comedy Lab) and Stones in His Pockets (ACL and Theatre in the Park); and Matthew Spangler for in A Paradise It Seems: The Short Stories of John Cheever (Wordshed Productions). WINNER: Dr. Kenny Gannon.

The commedia approach was alive and surprisingly well in Dr. Kenny Gannon’s production of The Servant of Two Masters (Peace College Theatre). This spirited and often wildly amusing take on of the Goldoni farce features a raucous mélange of pop culture references, borrowings (both judicious and in-), in-jokes, running-gags, demented arias, comic athleticism so inspired it borders on genius, and an overall zaniness for its own sweet sake. S.R.

BEST DIRECTOR, MUSICAL: David Bennett for My Fair Lady (North Carolina Theatre); Casey Hushion for Jekyll & Hyde and The King and I (North Carolina Theatre); Joe Locarro for Ragtime (North Carolina Theatre); John C. McIlwee for Follies (University Theatre at N.C. State); and Susan H. Schulman for Little Women: The Musical (Theater Previews at Duke et al.). WINNER: Susan H. Schulman.

In Little Women: The Musical (Theater Previews at Duke et al.), Tony-nominated director Susan H. Schulman superbly orchestrated the humor and the pathos in Louisa May Alcott’s perennially popular autobiographical story of life on the home front during the American Civil War. Thanks to Schulman’s savvy staging, this Theater Previews at Duke version of Little Women, which opens on Broadway Jan. 23rd, has a chance to become the musical version of this classic coming-of-age novel. R.W.M.

BEST CHOREOGRAPHER: Antoinette DiPietropolo for Ragtime (North Carolina Theatre); Tito Hernandez for The King and I (North Carolina Theatre); Michael Lichtefeld for Little Women: The Musical (Theater Previews at Duke et al.); Michele Lynch for Jekyll & Hyde (North Carolina Theatre); and Matthew-Jason Willis for A Christmas Carol (Theatre in the Park). WINNER: Antoinette DiPietropolo.

In Ragtime (North Carolina Theatre), Antoinette DiPietropolo expertly reproduced Graciela Daniele’s Tony-nominated musical staging from the original Broadway production, and filled the show’s traveling set (rented from NETworks Production Company by NCT for this production) with flash and movement. The subtle but insidious undercurrents of racism in early 20th-century society have never been depicted in dance so brilliantly in New York or in Raleigh. R.W.M.

BEST COSTUME DESIGNER: Jan Chambers for Silver River (Manbites Dog Theater); Shannon Clark for Poor Superman (Raleigh Ensemble Players); Bill Clarke for Luminosityand The Tragedy of King Richard II (PlayMakers Repertory Company); David Serxner for The Man Who Came to Dinner (Towne Players of Garner); and Catherine Zuber for Little Women: The Musical (Theater Previews at Duke et al.). WINNER: Catherine Zuber.

Little Women: The Musical (Theater Previews at Duke et al.) featured an awesome array of mid-19th century American women’s and men’s fashions beautifully reproduced by Catherine Zuber. The March sisters, their beloved Marmee, and the men in their lives have a wardrobe to die for. R.W.M.

BEST LIGHTING DESIGNER: Shannon Clark for Poor Superman (Raleigh Ensemble Players); Christopher Popwich for Waiting for Godot (Burning Coal Theatre Company); Kenneth Posner for Little Women: The Musical (Theater Previews at Duke et al.); Justin Townsend for Not About Heroes (PlayMakers Repertory Company); and Peter West for Luminosity (PlayMakers Repertory Company). WINNER: Peter West.

Peter West’s designs for Luminosity (PlayMakers Repertory Company) were splendidly functional yet beautiful in and of themselves. They also aided the director, David Hammond, in assembling that stunning first act climax one of the most effective moments ever attempted on a local stage. S.R.

BEST MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Julie Florin for Follies (University Theatre at N.C. State); McCrae Hardy for The King and I, Jekyll & Hyde, My Fair Lady, and Ragtime(North Carolina Theatre); Glenn Mehrbach for Smokey Joe’s Café (Raleigh Little Theatre); Diane Petteway for A Christmas Carol (Theatre in the Park); and Andrew Wilder for Little Women: The Musical (Theater Previews at Duke et al.). WINNER: McCrae Hardy.

North Carolina Theatre resident musical director McCrae Hardy once again demonstrated his virtuosity and versatility by mining all the musical gems in the scores of The King and I, Jekyll & Hyde, My Fair Lady, and Ragtime. His deft baton made NCT’s musicals sound every bit as good as they look. R.W.M.

BEST SCENIC DESIGNER, DRAMA: Shannon Clark for Poor Superman (Raleigh Ensemble Players); Bill Clarke for Luminosity and The Tragedy of King Richard II (PlayMakers Repertory Company); McKay Coble for Not About Heroes (PlayMakers Repertory Company); Rob Hamilton for Taking Sides (Wordshed Productions and Ghost & Spice Productions); and Rick Young for The Diary of Anne Frank (Raleigh Little Theatre). WINNER: McKay Coble.

In Not About Heroes (PlayMakers Repertory Company), McKay Coble outdid her own considerable past work with her “monochromatic” unit set, the tone of which the was a sort of dusty silver-gray the color of ashes, taking in the destruction of war and its appalling human waste. It was beautifully in keeping with the play, and the production, and an eloquent statement in itself. S.R.

BEST SCENIC DESIGNER, COMEDY: Roger Bridges for Morning’s at Seven and You Can’t Take It with You (Raleigh Little Theatre); Rob Hamilton for in A Paradise It Seems: The Short Stories of John Cheever (Wordshed Productions); Scott Honeycutt for The Man Who Came to Dinner (Towne Players of Garner); Ann Meilahn for The Tempest (Shakespeare & Originals); and Crawford “Corky” Pratt for The Man Who Came to Dinner (University Theatre at N.C. State). WINNER: Scott Honeycutt.

For The Man Who Came to Dinner (Towne Players of Garner), Scott Honeycutt performed his usual marvels with the cramped Garner Historic Auditorium stage. He re-created the bourgeois trappings of an Ohio family’s overly-ornate living room, with double doors that lead to the unseen library, a staircase to the rooms above, and the agreeable suggestions of a vestibule and kitchen off-stage. S.R.

BEST SCENIC DESIGNER, MUSICAL: Derek McLane for Little Women: The Musical (Theater Previews at Duke et al.); Mark Pirolo for A Christmas Carol (Theatre in the Park); Crawford “Corky” Pratt for Follies (University Theatre at N.C. State); Bill Rodgers, Brent Menschinger, and Rick Young for Cinderella (Raleigh Little Theatre); and Rick Young for Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris(Raleigh Little Theatre). WINNER: Derek McLane.

For Little Women: The Musical (Theater Previews at Duke et al.), Derek McLane designed a splendid multilevel set. He did a simply magnificent job of creating the airy attic and other areas of the middle-class March home and a middling New York City boarding house for this classic novel-turned-Broadway musical. R.W.M.

BEST BUS-AND-TRUCK SERIES: Broadway at Duke; Broadway Series South; The Carolina Theatre; Duke Performances; and N.C. State University Center Stage; WINNER: Broadway Series South.

In 2004, Broadway Series South brilliantly mixed National Tours of three current Broadway shows (Mamma Mia!, The Producers, and Rent) with traveling versions of other hit musicals, such as Cats, Fame, 42nd Street, The Graduate, Les Misérables, Oklahoma!, and Oliver! Add Cirque Dreams, David Copperfield: An Intimate Evening of Grand Illusion, and Lord of the Dance and two shows for kids (Blue’s Clues Birthday Party and Dora the Explorer Live!) and you have something, quite literally, for everyone! R.W.M.

BEST COLLEGIATE/COMMUNITY THEATER: Meredith Performs Theatre of Raleigh, NC; N.C. Central University Department of Theatre of Durham, NC; Peace College Theatre of Raleigh, NC; University Theatre at N.C. State of Raleigh, NC; and Wordshed Productions of Chapel Hill, NC. WINNER: Wordshed Productions.

Working on a shoestring budget and performing most of its shows in Swain Hall on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Wordshed Productions regularly mounts praiseworthy productions of new plays adapted from the stories of famous American authors, plus selected contemporary plays on timely topics. In 2004, Wordshed’s superlative productions of A Paradise It Seems: The Short Stories of John Cheever, adapted by Wordshed co-founder Matthew Spangler, and The Lonesome West by Martin McDonagh made Triangle critics’ top 10 lists. Although less successful, Wordshed’s provocative presentation of Taking Sides by Ronald Harwood also pricked the consciences of Triangle theatergoers. R.W.M.

BEST COMMUNITY THEATER: Actors Comedy Lab of Raleigh, NC; The ArtsCenter of Carrboro, NC; Raleigh Little Theatre of Raleigh, NC; Theatre in the Park of Raleigh, NC; and The Towne Players of Garner, NC. WINNERS: Raleigh Little Theatre and The Towne Players of Garner (tie).

Raleigh Little Theatre (big budget) and The Towne Players of Garner (small budget) both had exemplary seasons. RLT patrons enjoyed two clever comedies (Morning’s at Seven and You Can’t Take It with You), two stirring dramas (The Diary of Anne Frank and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), and three vivacious musicals (Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, Pump Boys and Dinettes, and Smokey Joe’s Café), plus four delightful entertainments (Cinderella, Honk!, The Little Prince, and The Phantom Tollbooth) for children of all ages and a staged reading of Holding On (co-sponsored by Actors Comedy Lab).

RLT’s productions of Cinderella, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Pump Boys and Dinettes, and You Can’t Take It with You received HONORABLE MENTION in Robert’s Reviews’ Jan. 6th issue.

Towne Players of Garner patrons enjoyed three rib-tickling comedies (The Cemetery Club, The Man Who Came to Dinner, and Sylvia) and a timeless drama (Our Town), performed for free as part of the Garner Centennial Celebration. Towne Players artistic director Beth Honeycutt superbly staged all four shows and adapted Little Women by Louisa May Alcott for a performance by young actors.

Sylvia made Robert’s Reviews’ top 10 list, and The Man Who Came to Dinner appeared in our HONORABLE MENTION section. R.W.M.

Under Beth Honeycutt’s hell-for-leather direction The Man Who Came to Dinner proved as merrily vicious and as happily indestructible as ever. (Her own performance as that oversexed harpy Lorraine Sheldon was as droll as her direction.) S.R.

BEST PROFESSIONAL THEATER: Burning Coal Theatre Company of Raleigh, NC; Manbites Dog Theater of Durham, NC; North Carolina Theatre of Raleigh, NC; PlayMakers Repertory Company of Chapel Hill, NC; and Raleigh Ensemble Players of Raleigh, NC. WINNERS: Manbites Dog Theater and PlayMakers Repertory Company (tie).

All five finalists had stellar years in 2004, but the artistic accomplishments of two of these critically acclaimed theater companies Manbites Dog Theater (small budget) and PlayMakers Repertory Company (big budget) really stood out. Saluted by the Drama League as one of “America’s 50 best regional theatres” and designated by American Theatre Magazine as of one of “America’s leading theatre companies,” PlayMakers placed three of its five 2004 productions (King Lear, Luminosity, and Not About Heroes) on one or more Triangle theater critic’s top 10 list.

PlayMakers’ artistic director David Hammond deserves the fullest measure of thanks for the miracle that was Luminosity first for finding the play and second for directing it with consummate style and sensitivity. And in Stephen MacDonald’s epistolic memory-play Not About Heroes, the guest director Joseph Haj did masterly work, imbuing the production with an exquisite grace of movement and emphasis. S.R.

And OBIE-winning British director Mark Wing-Davey wowed Triangle audiences with two different EPIC versions of William Shakespeare’s epic tragedy King Lear. (Robert’s Reviews included Luminosity in its 2004 top 10 and listed PRC presentations of Not About Heroes and The Tragedy of King Richard II in our newsletter’s HONORABLE MENTION section.

Manbites Dog Theater tied for BEST PROFESSIONAL THEATER honors, with a delightful production of Nixon’s Nixon, superlatively staged by guest director Joseph Megel and starring Derrick Ivey as the spitting image of the disgraced president and Carl Martin as Nixon Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; a luminous world premiere of Silver River, sensitively staged by Manbites Dog artistic director Jeff Storer and brilliantly performed by Christine Morris; and an intriguing production of Brooms, an original experimental play written and performed by Both Hands’ co-founders and co-artistic directors Cheryl Chamblee and Tamara Kissane, with Beth Popelka and Nicole Quenelle completing the all-female cast. (Note: An encore production of Nixon’s Nixon is now playing at Manbites Dog Theater at 8:15 p.m. Jan. 14, 15, 20-22, 28, and 29.)

Manbites Dog, which operates on a fraction of PRC’s budget, nevertheless landed two of its own productions Nixon’s Nixon and Silver River and one show from its “Other Voices” series Brooms (Both Hands Theatre Company) on one or more of this area’s four 10 best lists. (Robert’s Reviews included Silver River in its 2004 top 10 and listed Manbites Dog presentations of Nixon’s Nixon, Sonnets for an Old Century and Manbites Dog “other Voices” series productions of 50! Evolution of A Butch Lesbian (Laurie Wolf), Macbeth (Tiny Ninja Theater), and Vincent: An Evening of Edna St. Vincent Millay (Dorrie Casey et al.) in our newsletter’s HONORABLE MENTION section.) R.W.M.

TRIANGLE THEATER MAN/WOMAN OF THE YEAR: Actress/director/producer Diane Gilboa of Theater Or; director David Hammond of PlayMakers Repertory Company; actress/director/adapter Beth Honeycutt of the Towne Players of Garner; actor/director/designer John C. McIlwee of University Theatre at N.C. State; and actress/director/producer Deb Royals of The Justice Theater Project. WINNERS: Diane Gilboa and David Hammond (tie).

This year’s finalists were a very special group. Towne Players of Garner co-founder and artistic director Beth Honeycutt regularly works miracles on the miniscule stage of The Garner Historic Auditorium. In 2004, she directed The Cemetery Club, Little Women, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Our Town, and Sylvia; she adapted Little Women for the young actors who attended the Towne Players’ free three-week camp for middle- and high-school students; and she played man-crazy actress Lorraine Sheldon in The Man Who Came to Dinner.

University Theatre at N.C. State director of theater John C. McIlwee is a true Renaissance man of the theater. In 2004, he played the title role in The Man Who Came to Dinner as a curmudgeon’s curmudgeon; he directed Follies and co-directed Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, with great style and wit; and he designed a highly impressive array of period costumes for Follies, The Man Who Came to Dinner, and The School for Scandal all for University Theatre. McIlwee also starred in An Evening of Cabaret for the French Heritage Society and The Secret Garden for the North Carolina Kid’s Theatre.

In 2004, Deb Royals co-founded The Justice Theater Project, with Megan Nerz. Royals subsequently directed that company’s warmly applauded socially conscious productions of A Lesson Before Dying and Nickel and Dimed; she also directed The Gardens of Frau Hess for Raleigh Ensemble Players and several youth theater productions; she taught theater and dance; and she played she played Molly Ivors and later Gretta Conroy in James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’ (Burning Coal Theatre Company). On April 25, 2004, the Raleigh News & Observer named Royals Tar Heel of the Week.

But it was Theater Or co-founder and producing artistic director Diane Gilboa (small budget) and PlayMakers Repertory Company artistic director David Hammond (big budget) whose outstanding theatrical achievements in 2004 tied for THEATER MAN/WOMAN OF THE YEAR honors.

In 2004, Diane Gilboa not only produced Theatre Or’s widely applauded inaugural production of The Chosen in Durham and Raleigh, but she also produced Voices from the Holy Land: A Festival of Staged Readings of Cutting-Edge Plays by Israeli playwrights at six different venues on three university campuses and in two synagogues in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill over 11 days. Producing Voices from the Holy Land has to rank as one of the most awesome logistical and artistic achievements in Triangle theater history. Gilboa recruited three of this area’s finest directors (Jerome Davis, John Feltch, and Joseph Megel) and some of its best actors (Bob Barr, Nanci Burrows, Lenore Field, Greg Hohn, Jan Doub Morgan, Kevin Poole, Kendall Rileigh, David Ring, Sharlene J. Thomas to name a few); arranged locally and internationally known facilitators to guide post-show discussions about the ongoing and seemingly insoluble Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and also found time to portray Hannah, an ultra-Orthodox wife sorely tempted by her defiantly secular former husband to betray her beliefs, in Hard Love. Consequently, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, has invited Gilboa to come to New York in February to speak on using theater as a tool help bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In 2004, David Hammond brilliantly directed the American premiere of British playwright Nick Stafford’s Luminosity and staged an extraordinary production of Shakespeare’s timely tragedy Richard II for PlayMakers Repertory Company, as well as produced all five plays of that PRC presented last year. Now in his 20th season as PlayMakers’ artistic director, Hammond also taught acting and directing for the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Dramatic Art; took 65 undergraduates to London for a theater course as part of the UNC Summer School Abroad Program; conducted his annual 50-hour Shakespeare workshop for New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Acting Program; served as a script evaluator for the National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communications Theatre Residency Program for Playwrights and as a member of the Advisory Panel of the American National Theatre. He also narrated Pelleas and Melisande for the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle; lectured on Richard II for the UNC Program in the Humanities and Human Values; and was the featured speaker for the North Carolina Theatre Conference.

Bravo, David and Diane. R.W.M.

Note: Robert’s Reviews will be happy to present framed copies of the 2004 Triangle Theater Awards to winners on opening nights of their theater company’s next production or on any other suitable occasion. To arrange an awards presentation., please e-mail RobertM748@aol.com and type AWARDS in the Subject: line.