Every summer since 2004 I have published my Critic’s Choice,
my choices for the best in South Sound theater. This year I am going to do it
differently. Since The News Tribune has cut back on the number of my theater
reviews they publish, I have not reviewed as many plays in Tacoma and Lakewood
as I used to, and I have had to completely stopped reviewing shows in smaller
venues in places like Puyallup and Gig Harbor. I live in Olympia and cannot
afford the commute for reviewing plays I don’t get paid for. I reviewed only 38
plays this season. In the not too distant past I typically reviewed 50 to 60
plays in a season.
Picking the best actor or best director would not be fair to
the theaters whose performances I did not review. So, instead of ranking I am honoring
those actors, directors, set designers and so forth whose work is worthy of
Jana Tyrrell turned
in an award-worthy performance in “Next to Normal” at Capital Playhouse, which
was directed by her husband, Brian Tyrrell. This stylized and hard-hitting
musical-drama was made surreally beautiful by Bruce Haasl’s set and lighting by Matt Lawrence.
Kristin Burch electrified
audiences with her portrayals of Nancy in “Oliver” at Capital Playhouse and as
Roxie Hart in “Chicago” at Tacoma Musical Playhouse.
|Bruce Haasl as Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar at Harlequin Productions. Set by Linda Whitney|
Bruce Haasl knocked
my socks off four years ago as Judas in Jesus in Jesus Christ
Superstar at Capital Playhouse, and did it again as Jesus in the same show at Harlequin.
Put this guy on stage, any stage, and he owns it.
Superstar at Harlequin and Next to
Normal at Capital Playhouse both took South Sound musical theater to a
higher level. (I’ve heard that the same can be said for Ragtime, now at Tacoma Musical Playhouse, but I did not get to see
Deya Ozburn is the South Sound’s Meryl Streep. She grabbed our hearts and wouldn’t
let go as Martha in “The Children’s Hour” at Lakewood
The Children’s Hour at Lakewood Playhouse was as riveting and heartfelt as a
drama can be. Teen actor Kira Zinck’s
portrayal of the hateful Mary Tilford was breathtaking. Zinck is a young actor
to watch for.
|Kira Zinck and Carol Richmond in The Children's Hour. Photo by Dean Lapin|
Joy Luck Club at
Tacoma Little Theatre, directed by David
Hsieh, was a wonderful show with a large ensemble cast and unique staging.
Ingrid Goebel’s comic
stylings in The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood at Olympia Family Theatre
clearly puts her in the rank of best comic actors.
Theatre is a new theater company that has taken big
risks with world premieres of locally written plays and has blended professional-level
adult and children’s theater in the most exciting and entertaining ways. Kudos
to OFT for their hilarious The
Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood and their world premiere of Cinder Edna by playwright and composer Ted Ryle, adapted the play from the
children’s picture book by Ellen Jackson, and their world premiere of The Abolitionist’s Wife by Sky Meyers and Barbara Gibson. Ryle,
Meyers and Gibson are all local playwrights.
Kate Hayes’ knockout performance as The Artful Dodger
in “Oliver” at Capital Playhouse puts her in the ranks of the best youth actors
in the South Sound area if not anywhere.
The great Scott C.
Brown proves that Fringe Theatre is
still alive and vital in his disturbing portrayal a hostage in Lee
Blessing's Two Rooms, which was performed in
both Seattle and a one-night-only performance at Lakewood Playhouse.
Pug Bujeaud’s originality of vision as a director was
something extraordinary in the presentation of not one but two versions of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir
Dogs, with separate ensemble casts, one all-male and the other all-female.
Jon Douglas Rake beautifully cloned Bob Fosse’s
choreography for Chicago at Tacoma Musical Playhouse.
Brie Yost turned in a masterful job of directing the excellent
ensemble cast in a soul stirring The Laramie Project at Tacoma Little Theatre.
|(From L to R Michael Cooper, Jeremy Thompson, Martin J. Mackenzie, Mark
Peterson, Jefri Peters, Rachel Fitzgerald, Russ Coffey). Photo by Galen
Linda Whitney is superlative in so many ways. Her set
design and direction of Jesus Christ Superstar at Harlequin was phenomenal
and was aided by outstanding lighting and video by Amy Chisman. The work of the tech gods on this production was comparable
to that of much larger theaters with bigger budgets.
Special recognition goes to director Marilyn Bennett and the cast and crew of The Importance of Being Earnest for outstanding staging and
Musical reviews, mostly bombastic rock shows have become
standard fare at both Centerstage! Theatre in Federal Way and Harlequin in
Olympia. This year’s It’s Only Rock and
Soul at Centerstage with performances by DeWayne Andrews Jr., Bobby Barnts, Stacie Calkins, Trista Duvall, Jesse
Smith, Ashanti Mangum, Meg McLynn and Zack
Wheeler was the kind of musical event I wish I could have videotaped to enjoy
regularly at home.
OK, I said I wasn’t going to do a “Best Of” this year, but
how about the best musical to play at two different theaters. That honor goes
to the smashingly delightful Legally
Blonde at Tacoma Musical Playhouse and Capital Playhouse, starring Leah Wickstrom at TMP and Bailey Boyd at Capital.
The Israel Horovitz Award for outstanding drama goes to…
Israel Horovitz for Gloucester Blue.
Credit Scot Whitney for making
Horovitz and honorary citizen of Olympia.
Congratulations to all for a stunning season!