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Kay Kipling announces her annual Sarasota theater awards.

The sets are struck, the costumes all packed away, and another Sarasota theater season is over.

It's time to praise the best in performance, direction and design in shows that ranged from sweeping epics (the Asolo's "Kentucky Cycle") to modern classics (the Asolo Conservatory's "View from the Bridge") to intelligent, intimate explorations of life and death (Florida Studio Theatre's "Wit") to family treats ("The Sound of Music"). Something for everyone, as the saying goes, and plenty to keep theater professionals and talented amateurs busy--and critics, too.

Here's my list of the best in area theater for 1999-2000.


The nominees are:

Jean Brudevold for the Manatee Players' "Kiss of the Spider Woman." Those glamorous gowns for movie star Aurora wove together the right mix of fantasy and mystique for the prisoner who adored her--and for us, too.

Barbara Pope for the Asolo Conservatory's "Triumph of Love." Gender-switching never looked better than it did with a lovelorn princess dressed like an 18th-century Frenchman, all ruffles and feathered hats. Beyond pretty, though, Pope's other costumes also told us what we needed to know about the play's characters, from stern to silly.

Kaye Voyce for the Asolo's "The Merry Wives of Widsor." It was a pleasure to look at Voyce's '50s-era resort wear, especially the softly colored, flatteringly feminine dresses for the women.

Adrienne Webber for the Players of Sarasota production "A Little Night Music." Properly refined and elegant attire for turn-of-the-century ladies and gentlemen whiling away a summer night with their romantic intrigues.

David Covach for the Asolo's "Broad-way." Watching nightclub hoofer David Breitbarth and his chorines change into their costumes for the next dance number was the best part of this affectionate revival of an old George Abbott show.

The winner is: For sheer fun and creativity, the award goes to David Covach for "Broadway."


The nominees are:

Joseph P. Oshry for the Manatee Players' "Kiss of the Spider Woman." Oshry's lighting helped us move seamlessly between the worlds of movie fantasy and grim reality depicted in this Kander-Ebb musical.

James D. Sale for the Asolo's "The Kentucky Cycle." At times as harsh as the story the play tells, Sale's lighting carried us to different periods and places in a production that couldn't be hampered with extensive set changes.

Dan Yerman for the Players of Sarasota production of "Brigadoon." His heart was in the Highlands, with a lighting design that made that disappearing village truly magical.

Chris McVicker for the Players' "A Little Night Music." McVicker's work took us through the changing colors and smiles of a long summer night with atmospheric ease.

Richard E. Cannon for the Asolo Conservatory's "Turn of the Screw." With virtually no set or props in this production, Cannon's lighting was especially important in summoning the various places and moods of James' classic ghost story.

The winner is: McVicker, for "A Little Night Music."


The nominees are:

Lino Toyos for the Players of Sarasota production of "No, No, Nanette." We all wanted to go to the beach when we saw Toyos' Atlantic City seaside cottage--and we could almost hear the waves.

James Kronzer for the Asolo's "The Merry Wives of Windsor." Set design played an important role in transplanting Shakespeare to the 1950s Catskills, and Kronzer's was ingenious, from a vacation hotel to a drive-in movie theatre.

Michael Lasswell for Florida Studio Theatre's "37 Postcards." A tilted house for a crazy family, Lasswells set was the star of this screwball comedy.

Lino Toyos for the Players' "A Little Night Music." Simple and yet so effective in its use of colors and textures to cake us where he wanted us to go.

Michael Lasswell for Florida Studio Theatres "Hysteria." Another surrealistic design for Lasswell, with Sigmund Freud's study in England developing such touches as Dali's famous melting watch.

The winner is: Lasswell, for the night marish demands of 'Hysteria'


The nominees are:

Alan Jay Corey, For the Manatee Players' "Kiss of the Spider Woman." Corey and his musicians made a fuller-than usual orchestra that really helped propel the storyline.

Dick Gessner For the Players of Sarasota production of "The Sound of Music" Smooth, pleasing and truly responsive to the performers.

Rick Bogner for the Players' "A Little Night Music" Soudheim is always a challenge for community theater, but Bogner's musical direction helped the cast meet it.

David Nelson for the Sarasota Golden Apple's "My Fair Lady." Nelson did credit to all the beloved numbers from this Lerner-Loewe classic.

Michael Sebastian for Florida Studio Theatre's Blues in the Night. There was no real book to this show, but Sebastian frequently made sure the blues numbers told us story, anyway.

The winner is: Corey, for "Kiss of the Spider Woman."


The nominees are:

Scott Keys for the Manatee Players' "Kiss of the Spider Woman." Keys switched gears admirably from ensemble prison numbers to Aurora's Hollywoodish moves.

Charlene Clark for the Golden Apple's "My Fair Lady." Her Alfred P Doolittle numbers were rollicking highlights of the production.

Cheryl Carry for The Players of Sarasora production of "Brigadoon." Carty showed her range with numbers romantic rousing and just plain Scottish.

Charlene Clark for thc Golden Apple's "Gypsy." Clark's typically athletic choreography was perfectly suited to the strippers and vaudevillians of this musical.

Scott Keys for the Players' "A Little Night Music," A graceful waltz through thc Swedish countryside.

The winner is: Cheryl Carty, for her versality.


The nominees are:

Scott Keys for the Mantee Players' "Kiss of he Spider Woman." Keys managed high community theater cast--and an at times difficult-to-stage musical remarkably well.

Eberle Thomas for the Asolo's "The Kentucky Cycle." Thomas, who also co-helmed the Asolo's "Nicholas Nickleby" in the past and "The Count of Monte Cristo" this season demonstrated once again his gift for keeping large-scale productions both easy to follow and involving.

Scott Hayes for the Asolo Conservatory's "The Turn of the Screw." Hayes skillfully made sure his actors and his atmosphere built gradually to a fever pitch.

Jim Wise for the Asolo Conservatory's "A View from the Bridge." You had to admire Wises gift for guiding his talented Conservatory student actors, not all of whom were the right ages for their characters through a nevertheless highly affecting version of the Arthur Miller classic.

Scott Keys again, this time for the Players of Sarasota production of "A Little Night Music." Beautiful to look at and listen to, a Soudheim treat in Keys' capable hands.

The winner is: Jim Wise, For "A View from the Bridge."


The nominees are:

David Breitbarth for the Asolo's "Kentucky Cycle." Breibarth played several roles well, hut his finest hour was as union organizer Abe Steinman, courageous and committed.

Erik Uppling, also for the Asolo's "Kentucky Cycle." Uppling shone as Jed Rowen tragically caught up in his family's blood feud.

David Breitbath again, this time for a very different performance--a fine comic one--as jealous husband Francis ford in the Asolo's "The Merry Wives of Windsor."

Dan Matisa in the Asolo Conservatory's "A View from the Bridge." Mostly a calming presence during the play, Matisa's Marco exploded shockingly into vengeance when betrayed.

Victor Helou for the Golden Apple's "Man of La Mancha." The ideal sidekick as Don Quixote's faithful Sancho Panza.

The winner is: Matisa, for the Conservatory's "A View from the Bridge."


The nominees are:

Carolyn Zaput in the Island Player's "Dancing at Lughnasa." Zaput was right on the mark as a feisty Irishwoman whose spirit won't give in to poverty and loss.

Jackie LaBarro as the scheming Queen Aggravain in Venice Little Theatre's "Once upon a Mattress"-bossy, domineering and fun, as long as she's not your mother.

Charlene Clark as the congested Miss Adelaide in the Sarasota Golden Apple's "Guys and Dolls." Clark was well cast as the long-suffering fiancee of a grambler, and she got the laughs she deserved.

Julia Cook in the Asolo Conservatory's "The Monogamist." Breezily amoral, Cook's out-of-her-time hippie chick Sky was a highlight of this show about a man's mid-life-crisis.

Barbara Redmond in the Asolo's "Broadway." As the no-longer-young nightclub entertainer Lil, Redmond enlivened the stage whenever she appeared, with sass, smarts and style.

The winner is: Redmond for "Broadway." Her drunk scene with co-star Bradford Wallace was a comic gem.


The nominees are:

Eve Caballero for the Manatee Players' "Kiss of the Spider Woman." Slinky and polished as the title character, Caballero really heated up the stage on musical number with movie-star flair.

Ellie Plis for Venice Little Theatre's "Once Upon a Mattress." Spunky, cute and winning in every way, Plis was the princess to root for.

Marianne Carson Rhodes for the Players' "The Sound of Music." Here's her resume: perky, good with kids, a fine singer-what more could you ever want in a governess?

Melissa Swenson for the Player of Sarasota production of "A Little Night Music." Graceful and properly worldly wise as actress Desiree Armfelt, Swenson also did a beautiful job on that "Send in the Clowns" thing.

Sharon Scott in Theatre Works' "Mahalia Jackson: The Woman and Her Music." This new show still needs a lot of work on the book, but there's no doubt Scott has the voice and the personality to put over gospel legend Mahalia.

The winner is: Caballero for "Kiss of the Spider Woman"--a community theater performance that had professional panache.


The nominees are:

Troy Pederson in the Manatee Players' "Kiss of the Spider Woman." We knew he was a song-and-dance man from last season's "Crazy for You," but "Kiss" proved he could really develop a character, in this case the funny, sad, romantic homosexual Molina.

Steve Dawson in the Players of Sarasota production of "Barnum." Talk about multi-faceted! As showman. P.T. Barnum, Dawson did it all--sing, dance, act and, oh, yes perform a few circus feats, like walking a high-wire, with aplomb.

Ian Sullivan in the Golden Apple's "My Fair Lady." Sullivan scored with his Henry Higgins, properly frustrating and self-centered, yet still charming.

Chris Caswell in the Players' "A Little Night Music." All right, maybe attorney Caswell had a running start on playing a middle-aged lawyer. He still turned in a strong brief both vocally and as an actor as Fredrik, a man looking for the right woman--not necessarily his wife.

Ian Sullivan again, as the Knight of the Woeful Countenance--and his creator, Cervantes--in the Golden Apple's "Man of La Mancha." Emotionally and dramatically satisfying.

The winner is: A tough choice, but I'll go with Pederson in "Kiss of the Spider Woman." He found new depths as an actor, and we were lucky to watch.


The nominees are:

Sharon Spelman in the Asolo's "Kentucky Cycle." One of the nine-play cycle's most effective pieces is "Fire in the Hole," about the early struggle to unionize coal mine workers, and Spelman's performance as a wife and mother forced to rise to the most painful occasion keyed this production.

Kathleen Butler in Florida Studio Theatre's "Wit." Butler was exceptional as a professor who's always lived an intellectual life and is suddenly faced with her own mortality, ranging from caustic to child-like in an obviously demanding role.

Harmony Schuttler in the Asolo conservatory's "Turn of the Screw." Innocent victim of a haunting or repressed terror to her own young charges? Schuttler's fine performance as a governess was fully ambiguous, as Henry James intended, but always worth watching.

T.J. Geist in the Asolo Conservatory's "A View from the bridge." Perhaps younger than her character was designed to be, Geist nevertheless gave a totally believable performance as a wife torn between her husband, her niece and her own needs and desires.

Isa Thomas in the Asolo's "Collected Stories." Writer-teacher Ruth Steiner is a great character, and Thomas dominated the stage as an intelligent, irascible, ever-sharp woman deserving of our respect.

The winner is: Isa Thomas. She sank her teeth into a great role and never let go.


The nominees are:

Patrick James Clarke for the Asolo's "Kentucky Cycle." Like others in the cast, Clarke played several roles, but he was most memorable as the monster-pioneer Michael Rowen--as strong as any force of nature.

David S. Howard in the Asolo's "Visiting Mr. Green." Playwright Jeff Baron could almost have had Howard in mind when it came to creating the aging, stubborn, frustrating yet funny Mr. Green. The actor scored on every aspect of the character.

David Breitbarth for the Asolo's "Broadway." I found Breitbarth's song-and-dance man Roy Lane irresistibly engaging, both in his quest for show biz success and for the heart of chorus girl Billie Moore. And talk about a quick-change artist!

Edward Dennehy for Theatre Works' "Barrymore." In what's almost a one-man show, Dennehy took on the legendary actor John Barrymore and made him entertainingly bawdy, rakishly charming and touchingly doomed.

Steven Snyder in the Asolo Conservatory's "Turn of the Screw." From seductive guardian to nervous housekeeper to troubled boy, Snyder gave us a smooth, convincing, chameleon-like performance.

The winner is: David S. Howard for "Visiting Mr. Green." One of those cases where the actor simply inhabits the role, so that you almost forget you're watching a performace.


The nominees are:

Florida Studio Theatre's "Wit." A thoughtful production of the Pulitzer Prize winner about a terminal cancer patient that spoke to both the mind and the heart.

The Asolo's "The Kentucky Cycle, Parts I and II." Yes, it was bloody and erratic in writing quality from play to play, but overall this American epic spanning two centuries packed quite a wallop.

The Asolo's "Collected Stories." An always interesting, frequently challenging look at the relationship between a writing student and her mentor, with strong direction and performances by the two-member cast.

The Asolo Conservatory's "A View from the Bridge." A powerful blast of Arthur Miller, from a cast and director attuned to both the personal story and the classic Greek tragedy aspects of the play.

The Asolo Conservatory's "Turn of the Screw." A tour-de-force for actors Steven Snyder and Harmony Schuttler, bringing to life the classic Henry James ghost story with almost no set or props and no other cast-just psychological suspense.

The winner is: A clost call, but I ended up siding with a master: Arthur Miller and "A View from the Bridge."


The nominees are:

The Manatee Players' "Kiss of the Spider Woman." A risk-taking adventure for the Riverfront Theatre, and one that paid off triumphantly.

The Players of Sarasota production of "The Sound of Music." A nearly faultless production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, well-cast and well-executed.

The Players of Sarasota for "A Little Night Music." The Players almost always soar when they do Sondheim, and this production was no exception--rueful, tuneful and memorable.

The sarasota Golden Apple's "Gypsy." One of the best American musicals, and it was given a lively and sometimes exhilarating production.

The Sarasota Golden Apple's "Man of La Mancha." Not an impossible dream at all, but a compelling production, with a fine a cast.

The winner is: The Manatee Players' "Kiss of the Spider Woman." A bold, strongly felt production that exemplifies what community theater can do with the right professionals behind the scenes.
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Author:Kipling, Kay
Publication:Sarasota Magazine
Date:Jun 22, 2000
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