Our rollout of this year’s Award Winners continues. We started with the My Cinema Awards (check them out, they’re awesome), followed by the My Games Awards (they’re awesome too) and the My TV Award winners (um… awesome!). And now at the end we happily send for the winners of the 2012 My Theatre Awards!
Stay tuned for Emerging Artists, Fan Favourites, Performers of the Year, Honorary Award winners and all that jazz. But, in the meantime, we promise you this is the last of the lists!
First refresh yourself on the Nominees.
Now, The 2012 My Theatre Award Winners Are:
Best Actor in a Play
Ben Sanders in French Without Tears (Shaw Festival)
There were a lot of standout leading actors in national companies this year. This category was stacked with some of our longstanding favourites and veteran actors in career-best performances, but no one managed to top the breakout performance from a young Shaw actor named Ben Sanders who made the unlikely French Without Tears into one of the most indelible character portraits of 2012.
Best Actress in a Play
Nancy Palk in Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Soulpepper Theatre Company)
Soulpepper’s brave followup to Stratford’s legendary production of this Eugene O’Neill classic was seen as a strangely Oedipal rehashing by some, but we couldn’t have appreciated it more for bringing what is widely considered the Greatest North-American Play to a new generation of theatre-goers, starring the current generation of Canadian theatre legends. First among that venerable cast was Nancy Palk in the play’s most demanding and memorable role, morphine-addicted Mary Tyrone. Hers was one of the first performances by a leading actress we saw all year and hers remains the best (in a very strong year for leading actresses, mind you).
Best Actor in a Musical
Jeremy Jordan in Newsies (Disney Theatrical Group- Broadway)
The variety in skill set displayed by the seven men nominated in this category is astounding. Two portrayed real-life legends (Charlie Chaplin and Jerry Lee Lewis), one brought one of the western world’s most famous fictional characters to life (Charlie Brown). The others played icons of the musical theatre canon ranging from an operatic pirate to a Broadway producer to a status-quo-defying ragtime musician. They sang, they danced, they played instruments, they made us laugh and broke our hearts. And no one did it better than superstar-on-the-rise Jeremy Jordan as Jack Kelly- the intense, charming, haunted and brave leader of the Newsies.
Best Actress in a Musical
Arlene Duncan in Caroline, or Change (Acting Up Stage/Obsidian Theatre)
Here’s how good Arlene Duncan was in Caroline, or Change: we hated Caroline, or Change. We did, we thought it was stupid. But Arlene Duncan is winning this award anyway. She’s winning this award, even though we hated the show she’s winning it for, because her work in the show we hated was inarguable. It was brilliant. It was emotionally stirring and inspiringly commanding and vocally perfect. And who are we to quibble with perfection?
Best Supporting Actor in a Play
Gregory Prest in Long Days’s Journey Into Night (Soulpepper Theatre Company)
If you’ve been reading our work all year, you already know just how much of a genius we consider Soulpepper’s young leading man to be. But we need to explain to you why that is. Part of it is consistency; we’ve literally never attended a Soulpepper production and been let down by a Gregory Prest performance. But a lot of it was his astounding performance as the soulful and tortured Edmund in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. That was the moment when Prest went from a strong company member and one-time My Theatre Award nominee to an actor who we honestly believe to be one of the best in the country. Interestingly, he’s joined in this category by perhaps the strongest competition of our entire 2012 Awards Season. Between Dennis, Pettle, Bogert-O’Brien, Peterson, Happer and Powell there lies more talent than we could have imagined falling into a single category at the start of this season. All of them are considered My Theatre favourites for performances beyond even just the great ones mentioned in this year’s awards. But nothing and no one could beat Gregory Prest as Eugene O’Neill’s theatrical version of himself.
Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Laura Condlln in The Matchmaker (Stratford Festival)
Stratford’s most tragically underrated leading lady has never been underrated by us. We love her. And with every performance she shows us something entirely new, whether it be the cripplingly depressed heroine of Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis at CanStage or an enchantingly witty hat seller in a rom-com on the festival stage. In a different year, the latter role, mid-sized but scene-stealing and plot-moving as it was, might have bumped Condlln into the leading category. But a strong leading actress field and fewer great supporting turns left a space for her to swoop in and take the win out of the hands of My Theatre favourites like Bethany Jillard and Claire Jullien, and breakouts like Hannah Miller in The Crucible. The warmth and intelligence of Condlln’s turn in The Matchmaker (and her rat-a-tat chemistry with co-star Mike Shara) won this one.
Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Sean Arbuckle in The Pirates of Penzance (Stratford Festival)
There are only two nominees in this year’s My Theatre Awards who managed to garner nominations in two different acting categories (excluding Best Ensemble). Best Actress winner Nancy Palk is one. Best Supporting Actor in a Musical winner Sean Arbuckle is the other. He brought humanity, nuance and refreshing complication to his leading role in 42nd Street, but it was as the Pirate King of Penzance that Sean Arbuckle made his strongest mark on the 2012 Stratford season. He was sidesplittingly hilarious in a role that can often be too hammy to be funny while also carving out a remarkable emotional arc for his character. He handled the classically tinged vocals well and generally delivered one of the most memorably delightful performances of the season full stop.
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Alana Hibbert in Ragtime (Shaw Festival)
We were thrilled to see Alana Hibbert finally get her due with a role as great as Sarah in The Shaw Festival’s hit production of Ragtime. A longtime standout in smaller roles with smaller companies, Hibbert’s breakout performance as the tragic Sarah was enough to win her Best Supporting Actress in a Musical despite heavy competition from performers who completely stole the shows they’re nominated for (Lael Van Keuren came in a very close second for her role in Sister Act). Ragtime was a great piece with a strong cast all around but Hibbert distinguished herself among them as the star performer, at least in our eyes.
Outstanding Ensemble Member/Actor in a Small Role
Newsies – Ryan Steele & Christopher Gattelli (Disney Theatrical Group- Broadway)
The best way for us to explain to you why Newsies won all three of these awards (and why we lumped them all together) is for you to watch the video embedded below. This adorable show was nothing without its mind-boggling ensemble of dancers (The best of whom was Ryan Steele as “Specs”. He’s the one dancing circles around all the other astoundingly good dancers). Here they are at The Tony Awards showing off Gattelli’s witty and impressive choreo.
Thomas Moschopoulos for Elektra (Stratford Festival)
The Greeks can be alienating, often directed either stiffly or with so much zany avant garde interpretation that the story gets lost and the populist (or even semi-populist) audience goes with it. And then Thomas Moschopoulos directed Elektra at The Stratford Festival. There was so much smart modernity to his interpretation, so much insight into legendary characters that revitalized them in fascinating ways that, far from undermining, actually elevated the text. The performances he was able to stir from his actors, the pacing, the use of the chorus, the use of the Tom Patterson space- there wasn’t a single misstep in Moschopoulos’ production; an unexpected favourite even among those who’ve never before liked a Greek play.
Michel Gauthier for The Blue Dragon (Mirvish Productions)
We see a ton of theatre and at this point we know how it’s all made. It is thus incredibly rare that something can surprise us on a stage-magic level. Most of the nominees in this category created sets that were metaphorically meaningful, appealing to the eye, made good use of space and facilitated movement. But only one gave us that old can’t-see-the-strings-making-Peter-Pan-fly feeling of wonder. Robert Lepage’s Blue Dragon was an interesting enough piece from a storytelling and performance point of view, but it was Michel Gauthier’s design wizardry that made it special. It was a high-tech, beyond multi-functional, dynamic masterpiece of cinematic theatricality. So much so that we could never quite predict what it might look like ten seconds down the road.
Best Lighting Design
Jeff Adelberg for Medea (Actors’ Shakespeare Project)
Lighting is usually an ancillary element to many of us, pretty window dressing that can either add spice to good content or highlight the flaws in a weak show. In Medea, the lighting design became a character. Light was the force of nature pushing Medea, it was the influence of the Gods, it was tangible. She called upon the sun and the circular chandelier descended from the ceiling to encircle and protect her. It was one of the only shows in memory where we couldn’t stop talking about the lights.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Soulpepper Theatre Company)
We already have two winners from this production so we hate to repeat ourselves by telling you again here how spectacular it was. What we’ll do instead is tell you how amazing the other nominees were so you can glean the brilliance of Long Day’s based on the fact that it beat them. The Crucible was the ever-reliable Soulpepper’s second best play of the year, a thrilling, terrifying, visceral production that was superbly acted. Stratford’s inventive Elektra was brought to life by our Best Director winner and was the surprise of the season. Cymbeline closely followed it as a creative and entertaining take on a troubled and challenging text with strong performances and insightful direction. Then there was The ASP’s startling Medea starring Best Actress nominee Jennie Israel and Shaw’s wonderful French Without Tears starring Best Actor winner Ben Sanders. It was a great slate and Long Day’s was the best of them.
Ragtime (Shaw Festival)
What we liked about The Shaw Festival’s hit production of Ragtime was that it was that rarest of things- a brand new production of a musical that’s not actually that old. For the most part, musicals stick to their original stagings like glue. There becomes a generally accepted way of staging and performing every new musical and that won’t be tampered with for decades to come. We don’t like to reward productions like that. Newsies, Chaplin and Wanderlust were all new productions, judged mostly on the strength of their material and original casts. 42nd Street and The Pirates of Penzance were classics re-staged as classics that old must be. But Ragtime is a musical with material that’s fresh enough to be contemporary but tested enough that it was the production on trial, not Ragtime itself. The Shaw Festival is not known for directorial risks but they put enough thought and care into every detail of their own, original Ragtime that it was a start-to-finish thrill for the eyes, the ears, the heart and the mind.
Best Actor in a Regional Production
Eli Ham in Macbeth (Humber River Shakespeare Company)
This was one of the strongest categories of the year. There were more standout performers in this lot than most seasons have in their entire list of nominees (that may be a slight exaggeration, but you catch our meaning). From Gord Rand‘s visceral solo turn in the haunting 20th of November to the performance of thrice-nominated Michael-David Blostein‘s career thus far (as the Emcee in Cabaret) to rising star Paolo Santalucia’s soulful and charming Romeo, this was a tough year to be in competition for Best Actor in a Regional Production. That is unless you are Eli Ham, whose thrilling and thoughtful take on Macbeth was the sort of performance that makes one re-evaluate a character you thought you knew.
Best Actress in a Regional Production
Courtney Lamanna in Cabaret (Hart House Theatre)
Speaking of actors who breathe new life into iconic characters, Courtney Lamanna’s dynamically unalloyed Sally Bowles was a revelation to those of us who could never wrap our heads around your average Cabaret. Despite the sparkling charm and dynamo vocals that gave Lamanna’s Sally her power over life (and Cliff), the greatest achievement of her performance was the vanity-free way she abandoned those qualities to let Sally’s ugliness, pettiness, and desperation bubble up. In doing so, Lamanna took an icon and made her human.
Best Supporting Actor in a Regional Production
Michael Underhill in Polaroid Stories (Happy Medium/Heart & Dagger/Boston Actors Theater)
Michael Underhill’s Narcissus astounded this season with his beautiful vulnerability. Not only did he surprise and excite during his monologues, he delivered captivating chemistry with his castmates. Underhill wins this year for his true ability to support his castmates onstage while creating his own unique character.
Best Supporting Actress in a Regional Production
Juliet Bowler in The Pillowman (Flat Earth Theatre)
Juliet Bowler impressed twofold as Tupulski: she took a traditionally male role and utterly owned it without either feeling the need to specifically “feminize” the character or “masculinize” herself, and she was the scariest Tupolski we could possibly imagine. Her performance chilled us to the bone, and filled us with rage, shock, and horror as each new facet of her character was revealed.
Best Ensemble in a Regional Production
Polaroid Stories (Happy Medium/Heart & Dagger/Boston Actors Theater)
Few productions this year rivaled the dynamite trio of three of the best Boston theatre companies’ combined efforts in Polaroid Stories. By assembling an award-winning cast and nurturing each cast member’s story, this ensemble brought life and energy into mythology.
Best Director for a Regional Production
Adam Brazier for Cabaret (Hart House Theatre)
Take the paragraph we just dedicated to Best Actress winner Courtney Lamanna and apply it to an entire production. In directing Cabaret, Adam Brazier completely ignored decades of theatrical history and one of the most famous films ever made and just staged the story as he saw it. The story he saw (and thus the story his audience saw) was darker, sadder, and more hauntingly true-feeling. From his inspired Sally to his omnipresent puppet master Emcee to the infuriating unpleasantness of the twist he gave “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”, Brazier’s Cabaret simply told a stronger story than Cabaret ever has on its own.
Best Designer for a Regional Production
Jay Pooley for The Loyalists (Single Thread Theatre)
Our smallest category of the year only featured three nominees, all very different. My Name is Rachel Corrie designer Mariuxi Zambrano brought director Mumbi Otu‘s metaphorically rich vision of a sand-filled stage to fruition thoughtfully, while playwright/director Kat Sandler paired with designer Alain Richer to create a practical set that perfectly and simply encapsulated the characters who lived there in her complicated black comedy Delicacy. But we decided to reward the most ambitious of this year’s design nominees- Jay Pooley, the architect/designer who created an entire, interactive 1813 town on a little piece of land in modern downtown Toronto.
Best Regional Production
The Pillowman (Flat Earth Theatre)
Sarah Gazdowicz’s expert direction and overwhelmingly talented cast made for the show of the year. Cameron Gosselin as Katurian gave the type of monologue that could convince you of anything. James Bocock and Juliet Bowler had stunning power as Ariel and Tupolski. It was the type of production that makes you want to go home and think about your life and then go out and make theatre.
Best New Work
Alligator Pie by Soulpepper Creative Ensemble (Soulpepper Theatre Company)
This year’s Best New Work nominees were, for the most part, creators of happiness. They were playwrights who saw into our hearts (Modern Love), told us the truth (The Best Brothers) and made us laugh (Potted Potter). They created fiction within reality (Campbell House Story), reality within fiction (Delicacy) and explored the lives of people who sometimes can’t tell the difference (True Believers). But they all made us smile and see ourselves in the stories they told and inspired us to be storytellers ourselves. None more so than the five incomparably multi-dimensional artists who make up Soulpepper’s Creative Ensemble. A more talented and inspiring group of individuals would be hard to find and a piece more inventive, moving, and simply fun than Alligator Pie seems impossible.
Best Dance Performance
Guillaume Cote in Hamlet (National Ballet of Canada)
Each of the four nominees in this category is an astounding technical dancer. That, we feel, should be almost taken for granted (as insane as that sounds). The reason we chose these four is other criteria. Christopher Stalzer we chose for the delight of his character performance and impeccable comic timing in the dated but lovely Fille Mal Gardee. Greta Hodgkinson we chose for her ethereal beauty in Act II of The National Ballet of Canada’s moving Giselle. James Greenan- our only dance nominee to come from a world outside of ballet- is nominated for the charismatic command he brought to the lead role in the perpetually astounding marathon that is Riverdance. But it was Canada’s leading man who stole this award the moment he began the silent soliloquy that opens Hamlet‘s first balletic act (point of interest: his wife won this award last year). It was a tour-de-force display of technical virtuosity and acting ability far beyond that of any other principal dancer on the national stage.
Best Opera Performance
The Ensemble of Gianni Schicchi (Canadian Opera Company)
The Canadian Opera Company is known for technical brilliance and acting mediocrity. But, as we pointed out in the preceding category, we like to take technical brilliance for granted when it comes to comparing professional performers who have dedicated their lives to an art form as strict in technique as dance or opera. So our nominees here are the performers from The COC’s 2012 season who most moved us with their character performances as well as the emotional content of the technically brilliant vocals that we are taking mostly for granted. As such, the most memorable performers of the year are the Ensemble of the wonderfully funny and refreshingly bright Gianni Schicchi. All of a sudden the entire COC stage seemed lit up with character details and line deliveries that told a story rather than just hit notes. It was as if the company was a whole new place and opera was a medium more filled with performers looking to make an emotional connection and storytelling mark.
Best Ballet or Opera
Giselle (National Ballet of Canada)
The second act of The National Ballet of Canada’s 2012 production of Giselle was one of the most beautiful things we have ever seen. From the moment the great Heather Ogden entered as Myrtha with that stunning sequence of bourrées towards downstage right, the pleasant but middling memory of the somewhat silly first act was washed away completely and replaced by pure wonder. The most demanding and sublime corps work we’ve ever witnessed paired with Ogden, Guillaume Cote and Greta Hodgkinson’s evocative performances to create an otherworldly effect of sheer ballet brilliance.
Best Fringe/Summerworks/Showcase/Cabaret Performance
Brent Carver at The Global Cabaret Festival (Young Centre)
This category encases a wider variety of performances than any other in this year’s awards. From sketch performers to cabaret hosts to indie theatre actors, the spectrum seems largely incomparable. And perhaps it is. But the reason we paired Fringe, Summerworks, Showcase and Cabaret performers together is to assess a particular skill they’ve all mastered- the art of making an impact in only an hour. It’s by this criteria that we chose our winner, the performer amongst these standout nominees who made the biggest impact within his small, short performance. The legendary Brent Carver’s Global Cabaret performance stayed with us not because he’s legendary but because it exemplified the magic and joy that made him a theatrical legend in the first place.
Best Fringe/Summerworks/Showcase/Cabaret Production
The Taming of the Shrew (Shakespeare Bash’d)
The previous category celebrating the strange landscape of shows from summer festivals to concerts and cabarets celebrated what can be achieved by a single performer onstage with a microphone. Here we celebrate productions that went beyond that within similar time and money constraints. These are the companies who pushed the boundaries of what a fringe show can be, and the music directors who sought to present something new and big and exciting with a small idea and a lot of friends. Amongst the six inventive and engaging nominated productions, it was Shakespeare Bash’d that did the most within the confines of the Fringe Festival for their hit production of The Taming of the Shrew. With little money, little time, and even less space, they created an inaugural production that was wildly entertaining while telling one of Shakespeare’s trickiest tales with a deft hand and a big heart.
Best Student Actor
Mike Maloney in Stars of Tomorrow (Boston Conservatory)
While few student productions were reviewed this season, Mike Maloney stood out as a favorite performer, dazzling in his one-man show and graduate student capstone. Maloney was able to blend humor, sincerity, and skill in short skits and songs. His storytelling ability was unmatched and, with his charming personality, Maloney is sure to already be onto bigger and better things.
Best Student Actress
Georgia Ladd in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (BU on Broadway)
Spelling Bee was one of the strongest shows to come out of BU on Broadway in a while. There was no weak link and many onstage were talented both musically and comedically. Even so, Georgia Ladd stood out as Ms. Peretti. Her jokes were subtle and extremely well-timed, and her part of “The I Love You Song” literally brought tears to our eyes. But it was her ability to take an oft-overlooked role and make it her own clinched her this year’s Best Student Actress award. Ladd’s equally impressive voice and acting ability made her an inspiring example of up-and-coming student talent, and anyone you can make us cry from laughter and longing in the same 20 minutes wins forever.
Congratulations to all of this year’s winners and Thank You for a great season at the theatre!