Theatre Tampa Bay Awards highlighted by drinking games and freeFall windfall

The nominees, the winners, the jokes and big smiles as local actors and other stage professionals receive honors.

click to enlarge SOME CHORUS LINE: Matthew McGee leads the fun and crowded opening number. Actors Chris Rutherford, Meg Heimstead, Brian Shea and Jim Sorensen join in. - DANIEL VEINTIMILLA
DANIEL VEINTIMILLA
SOME CHORUS LINE: Matthew McGee leads the fun and crowded opening number. Actors Chris Rutherford, Meg Heimstead, Brian Shea and Jim Sorensen join in.

click to enlarge ON WITH THE SHOW! Scott Daniel and award-winner Matthew McGee pose with dancers from the University of Tampa's Dance Program at the Theatre Tampa Bay Awards. - MATTHEW MCGEE VIA INSTAGRAM
MATTHEW MCGEE VIA INSTAGRAM
ON WITH THE SHOW! Scott Daniel and award-winner Matthew McGee pose with dancers from the University of Tampa's Dance Program at the Theatre Tampa Bay Awards.

Attended mainly by theater scene regulars, the 4th Annual Theatre Tampa Bay Awards offered more comedy, fewer musical numbers — a snappy opener with several nominees plus solos from Lulu Picart (Disenchanted!) and Kelly Pekar (Into the Woods) — and a slew of awards for freeFall Theatre. The St. Petersburg-based company swept the honors, with The Burnt Part Boys (Outstanding Production, Musical; Outstanding Ensemble, Musical) and the CL 5 star-reviewed The Normal Heart (Outstanding Production, Play; Outstanding Ensemble, Play) receiving the majority of plaques — a record seven awards, including awards in two of four musical acting categories, and for set and lighting design and Outstanding Director (Musical) for Eric Davis. freeFall’s productions of The Mikado and The Normal Heart brought home three awards each, including an Outstanding Lead Actor, Musical, for co-host Matthew McGee.

click to enlarge GORILLA GALS: Former Artistic Director Bridget Bean accepts a smooch from her successor, award-winner Ami Sallee. - DANIEL VEINTIMILLA
DANIEL VEINTIMILLA
GORILLA GALS: Former Artistic Director Bridget Bean accepts a smooch from her successor, award-winner Ami Sallee.

Nine different productions were honored for excellence with the 20 categories spread among six member theaters of the alliance. One of the biggest awards of the night went to one of the smallest companies in its only show of the season. Ami Sallee earned the Outstanding Director, Play honors for Gorilla Theatre’s stirring and CL-five-star-reviewed one-person show, An Iliad. In the highly competitive Outstanding Lead Actress, Play category, Cassandra Small was tapped for her powerful turn as the matriarch of Stageworks’ A Raisin in the Sun. Michael Nichols received the Outstanding Actor, Play, for his performance as the Chief in freeFall’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Hosts — comedic favorites McGee and Jonelle Meyer — got hearty laughs in what was definitely the bawdiest Theatre Tampa Bay Awards show to date. From Meyer mimicking a retiree theater patron with a Jersey accent to McGee's saucy ad-libs to onstage drinking games in which enlisted actors and directors — such as Stageworks Artistic Director Karla Hartley — took a swig whenever a name of someone they had carnal history with was read aloud. The crowd roared when Hartley slung one back upon hearing "Roxanne Fay."

The crowd roared even louder when the perpetually casual, slacks-wearing Hartley emerged in a lavish silver gown designed by actor Scott Daniel. She even showed some leg in a chorus line number.

Vets Rene Gonzalez of Spanish Lyric Theatre company and Anna Brennen (retired Artistic Director of Stageworks) won honorary awards for their lifetime achievements. Gonzalez wistfully said he wished he had another 55 years and Brennen got some guffaws with her off-the-cuff admission about not knowing whether to say "blacks" or "African-Americans."

No longer chosen by popular vote, the plays and personnel that were honored had undergone a competitive review by a panel of experts selected by the artistic directors of the eligible professional theaters. Some categories weren't represented. Husband-wife playwrights Jack Gilhooley and Jo Morello lamented that TTBA didn't honor new plays, and while at the podium actor Jim Sorensen asked Theatre Tampa Bay why it didn't honor stage managers. Whether those categories have enough public exposure is up for debate.

A complete list of nominees and recipients follows:

Recipients are marked with an asterisk (*).

Outstanding Featured Actor, Play
Larry Alexander, The Normal Heart, freefall Theatre
Alan Bomar Jones, Two Trains Running, American Stage Theatre Company
Greyson Lewis, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, freefall Theatre
Alex Perez, Shipwrecked! An Entertainment, New Stage Theatre & Conservatory
* ranney, Two Trains Running, American Stage Theatre Company
Jim Sorensen, The Normal Heart, freefall Theatre

Outstanding Featured Actor, Musical
Robert Aronson, The Mikado, freefall Theatre
Scott Daniel, The Wiz, American Stage Theatre Company
* Jim Sorensen, The Burnt Part Boys, freefall Theatre
Patrick Ryan Sullivan, The Mikado, freefall Theatre
Chris Vaughn, The Burnt Part Boys, freefall Theatre

Outstanding Featured Actress, Play
* Roxanne Fay, The Normal Heart, freefall Theatre
Elizabeth Fendrick, All New People, Jobsite Theater
Georgia Mallory Guy, The Divine Sister, Stageworks Theatre
Dana Kovar, A Thousand Clowns, Hat Trick Theatre Productions
Nicole Jeannine Smith, The Divine Sister, Stageworks Theatre
Gi Young Sung, Shipwrecked! An Entertainment, New Stage Theatre & Conservatory

Outstanding Featured Actress, Musical
Colette Boudreaux, West Side Story, The St. Petersburg Opera
* Whitney Drake, Little Shop of Horrors, New Stage Theatre & Conservatory
Jaime Giangrande-Holcom, Return to the Forbidden Planet, Jobsite Theater
Eileen Sanders, Little Shop of Horrors, New Stage Theatre & Conservatory
Ericka Womack-Brown, Little Shop of Horrors, New Stage Theatre & Conservatory 

Outstanding Sound Design
* Eric Davis, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, freefall Theatre
Karla Hartley, Two Trains Running, American Stage Theatre Company
Karla Hartley, The Divine Sister, Stageworks Theatre
Todd Olson, Around the World in 80 Days, American Stage Theatre Company
Todd Olson, The Birds, American Stage Theatre Company

Outstanding Costume/Wig/Makeup Design
Mike & Kathy Buck Designs, Around the World in 80 Days, American Stage Theatre Eric Davis, The Burnt Part Boys, freefall Theatre
* Eric Davis/Scott Daniel,The Mikado, freefall Theatre
Melinda Kajando, The Sugarbean Sisters, Stageworks Theatre
Trish Kelley, God of Carnage, American Stage Theatre Company

Outstanding Lighting Design
Keith Arsenault, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tampa Repertory Theatre
Ian Beck, Miracle on South Division Street, A Simple Theatre
Kaylin Guess, Inventing Van Gogh, Jobsite Theater
Joseph P. Oshry, Around the World in 80 Days, American Stage Theatre Company
Joseph P. Oshry, The Birds, American Stage Theatre Company
* Mike Wood, The Burnt Part Boys, freefall Theatre
Mike Wood, The Divine Sister, Stageworks Theatre
Mike Wood, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, freefall Theatre

Outstanding Set Design

Scott Cooper, Miracle on South Division Street, A Simple Theatre
* Matt Davis, The Burnt Part Boys, freefall Theatre
Jeffrey Dean,The Birds, American Stage Theatre Company
Jerid Fox, Around the World in 80 Days, American Stage Theatre Company
Steven K. Mitchell, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, freefall Theatre

Outstanding Choreography/Fight Direction
Scott Daniel, Little Shop of Horrors, New Stage Theatre & Conservatory
Eric Davis, The Mikado, freefall Theatre
Jack Holloway, Land of the Dead, Hat Trick Theatre Productions
Jack Holloway, Unnecessary Farce, Hat Trick Theatre Productions
* Cheryl Lee, West Side Story, The St. Petersburg Opera

Outstanding Lead Actor, Play
Bryant Bentley,Two Trains Running, American Stage Theatre Company
Eric Davis, The Normal Heart, freefall Theatre
Jack Holloway, All New People, Jobsite Theater
Matthew McGee, The Divine Sister, Stageworks Theatre
* Michael Nichols, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, freefall Theatre
Jim Wicker, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tampa Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Lead Actor, Musical
Larry Alexander, The Mikado, freefall Theatre
Dick Baker, The Mikado, freefall Theatre
Glenn Glove, The Mikado, freefall Theatre
Nick Lerew, The Burnt Part Boys, freefall Theatre
* Matthew McGee, The Mikado, freefall Theatre

Outstanding Lead Actress, Play
Roxanne Fay, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, freefall Theatre
Perri Gaffney, Steel Magnolias, American Stage Theatre Company
Fanni Green, Steel Magnolias, American Stage Theatre Company
Caroline Jett, The Sugarbean Sisters, Stageworks Theatre
Georgina McKee, Venus in Fur, Stageworks Theatre
Rosemary Orlando, The Sugarbean Sisters, Stageworks Theatre
* Cassandra Small, A Raisin in the Sun, Stageworks Theatre

Outstanding Lead Actress, Musical
* Katie Berger, The Burnt Part Boys, freefall Theatre
Kaitlyn Costello, West Side Story, The St. Petersburg Opera
Stefanie Izzo, West Side Story, The St. Petersburg Opera
Meghan Colleen Moroney, A Fiddler on the Roof, freefall Theatre
Sharon E. Scott, The Wiz, American Stage Theatre Company

Outstanding Musical Director
Jana Jones, Return to the Forbidden Planet, Jobsite Theater
Michael Raabe, A Fiddler on the Roof, freefall Theatre
Michael Raabe, The Wiz, American Stage Theatre Company
Mark Sforzini, West Side Story, The St. Petersburg Opera
* Emi P. Stefanov, The Mikado, freefall Theatre

Outstanding Director, Musical
* Eric Davis, The Burnt Part Boys, freefall Theatre
Eric Davis, A Fiddler on the Roof, freefall Theatre
Eric Davis, The Mikado, freefall Theatre
William Leavengood, West Side Story, The St. Petersburg Opera

Outstanding Director, Play
Eric Davis, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, freefall Theatre
Karla Hartley, The Divine Sister, Stageworks Theatre
Bob Devin Jones, Two Trains Running, American Stage Theatre Company
Todd Olson, Around the World in 80 Days, American Stage Theatre Company
* Ami Sallee, An Iliad, Gorilla Theatre
Larry Silverberg, The Normal Heart, freefall Theatre

Outstanding Ensemble, Musical
* The Burnt Part Boys, freefall Theatre
A Fiddler on the Roof, freefall Theatre
Little Shop of Horrors, New Stage Theatre & Conservatory
A Marvelous Party, American Stage Theatre Company
The Mikado, freefall Theatre
West Side Story, The St. Petersburg Opera

Outstanding Ensemble, Play
Around the World in 80 Days, American Stage Theatre Company
The Divine Sister, Stageworks Theatre
Hound of the Baskervilles, Jobsite Theater
* The Normal Heart, freefall Theatre
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, freefall Theatre
Two Trains Running, American Stage Theatre Company

Outstanding Production, Musical
* The Burnt Part Boys, freefall Theatre
A Fiddler on the Roof, freefall Theatre
Little Shop of Horrors, New Stage Theatre & Conservatory
The Mikado, freefall Theatre
West Side Story, The St. Petersburg Opera

Outstanding Production, Play
Around the World in 80 Days, American Stage Theatre Company
An Iliad, Gorilla Theatre
Inventing Van Gogh, Jobsite Theater
* The Normal Heart, freefall Theatre
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, freefall Theatre
Two Trains Running, American Stage Theatre Company

JUDGES’ SPECIAL CITATIONS:
Brendan Ragan: Solo Performance
An Iliad requires a single actor of tremendous power and versatility. Ragan, lean and agile, is convincing in every role he plays, from the fearsome warrior Achilles to the mischievous, slightly fey god Hermes. His storytelling benefits from a mercurial, I-just-thought-of-this-other-thing delivery and a graceful economy of gesture. The performance hits home with force and raises haunting questions about the persistence of war.

Eric Davis, Matthew McGee: Revised Lyrics for freeFall Theatre’s The Mikado
For precise, varied, nuanced and perfectly accented lyrics that skillfully update KoKo’s “Little List” with contemporary political and cultural insights — including zingers that would make W.S. Gilbert proud.

Garry Allan Breul: Suncoast AIDS Theatre Project
The ebullient founder has kept the project alive for 12 years co-writing plays and directing over 35 fun, whirlwind productions and concerts raising thousands for cash-strapped HIV/AIDS charities — all this despite his own serious health issues. But SATP is not just about good deeds. It’s about good theater. Very good theater.

TTB BOARD OF DIRECTORS SPECIAL CITATIONS:
Anna Brennen: Visionary Leadership
In a field dominated by men, the creatively combative, combatively creative producing artistic director led Stageworks for 30 years and produced “dangerous” plays and educational outreach championing themes for audiences often underserved — women, LGBT, religious minorities, people of color and youth at risk.

Rene Gonzalez: Visionary Leadership
After founding Spanish Lyric Theatre in 1959, Rene presided over its growth and expansion for 55 years, producing shows in both Spanish and English and touring from Miami to Alabama. SLT is, proudly, the longest-running Hispanic theater company in the United States.

Jon Palmer Claridge, president of the Theatre Tampa Bay Awards, contributed to this report.

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