Monday, April 6, 2009

ArtsBuzz: GableStage, Mosaic win big at 33rd Carbonells

The Mosaic Theatre's The Seafarer
won the 2008 Carbonell for best play.

By Hap Erstein

FORT LAUDERDALE -- In a year that saw a near-revolt among some of the participating theaters, several of whom charged that South Florida’s Carbonell Awards were broken and badly in need of repair, the 33rd annual awards for excellence in professional theater in South Florida were handed out this evening at Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

Plantation’s Mosaic Theatre Co. and Coral Gables’ GableStage were the big winners, with several major companies shut out or nearly so, all but guaranteeing that the controversy over the awards will continue to rage.

The Seafarer, Conor McPherson’s Irish tall tale of a poker game with the devil, was named the 2008 calendar year’s best production of a play. The Mosaic show won in five categories, including best director (Richard Jay Simon), best actor (Gregg Weiner), best supporting actor (Dennis Creaghan) and best scenic design (Sean McClelland). Mosaic also walked off with the Carbonell for best supporting actress in a play, which went to Kim Morgan Dean in Lee Blessing’s A Body of Water.

Oscar Cheda won the 2008 Carbonell for best actor
in a musical, and Stacy Schwartz won
for best supporting actress in the same category.
They appeared in GableStage's The Adding Machine.

GableStage has only done two musicals in its history and both have won Carbonells as the season’s best. This year it was for the musical version of Elmer Rice’s classic cautionary play of mechanization, The Adding Machine. In addition to best production of a musical, the contemporary opera was cited for best director (Joseph Adler), best musical director (Eric Alsford) and all four acting categories for a musical -- best actor (Oscar Cheda), actress (Maribeth Graham), supporting actor (Jim Ballard) and supporting actress (Stacy Schwartz).

Going into Monday’s ceremony, the musical awards looked like a tight race between The Adding Machine and the Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s acclaimed The Full Monty. But the Jupiter troupe managed only one win, for Ron DeJesus’s choreography of the show about unemployed mill workers who create an impromptu strip act.

Coral Gables’ Actors Playhouse is also a perennial competitor in the musical categories, and it received 11 nominations between two of its shows, 1776 (7 noms) and Footloose (4). But the company came up empty against the near sweep by The Adding Machine. While it was little consolation, Actors Playhouse’s artistic director Davis Arisco received the previously announced George Abbott Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, named for the renowned Broadway director, writer and producer who called Miami his home in the latter years of his life.

Also coming up short on Monday was Boca Raton’s Caldwell Theatre, losing in six categories for its musicals Pete ‘N’ Keely and She Loves Me, plus the play Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh. The shutout comes as the Caldwell’s artistic director Michael Hall announces that this will be his final season at the helm of the company.

Doing only slightly better was Manalapan’s Florida Stage, named for having 2008’s best new work, William Mastrosimone’s Dirty Business, a look at politics and the underworld in the Kennedy era. That means Florida Stage went 1-for-8, including five nominations for its summer musical about The Mamas and the Papas, Dream a Little Dream.

Elizabeth Dimon (seen here with Tom Kenaston) won
the 2008 best actress Carbonell for her work in Souvenir.

That leaves Palm Beach Dramaworks as the “big” winner in Palm Beach County, though it prevailed in only two of its 15 nominations, the most nods of any theater this year. Its two wins were for its summer play-with-musical, Souvenir, the story of real-life concert singer wannabe, Florence Foster Jenkins. Lake Worth’s Elizabeth Dimon was named the best actress in a play and Erin Amico was singled out for her outlandish costumes.

Other resident Carbonell winners were Promethean Theatre for best ensemble production (Two Sisters and a Piano) and The Naked Stage’s 4.48 Psychosis, for best lighting design (Sevim Abaza) and best sound design (Marty Mets).

Carbonell Awards were also given for non-resident road shows and there was little consensus among the five categories. The tour of the Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd was named best production and Judy Kaye was best actress for her Nellie Lovett.

Jim Brochu was victorious as the season’s best actor, playing Zero Mostel in the biographical Zero Hour at Broward Stage Door, Julian Gamble was named best supporting actor for his performance as a hot-headed juror in Twelve Angry Men and Nancy Opel emerged as best supporting actress for the title role in The Drowsy Chaperone.

The Carbonell board of directors have suspended the awards for road shows for 2009.

During the evening, a special tribute honored the Carbonell Awards co-founder and executive director Jack Zink, who covered the arts for each of the region’s three major newspapers during his nearly 40-year career. Zink died last summer.

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