Monday, April 4, 2011

Theater preview: Tonight, Carbonells honor best in South Florida theater

By Hap Erstein

Tonight,‭ ‬the South Florida theater community gets together for the‭ ‬35th annual Carbonell Awards,‭ ‬the citations for excellence among area professional theaters that has been shrouded in controversy in recent years.

‭Last year,‭ ‬as you may recall,‭ ‬the awards board of directors announced the program would be suspended to study and fix the perceived deficiencies in the system.‭

Predictably,‭ ‬perhaps,‭ ‬the cry of outrage over not having the Carbonells was far louder than the yelps of disappointment over the way the awards were being run.‭ ‬So if the suspension was a ploy by the board to get the dissatisfied to appreciate what we have,‭ ‬it worked.

I can’t think of a single awards programs anywhere that hasn’t had problems and charges of inequities,‭ ‬and the benefits of having awards‭ ‬--‭ ‬added media attention to resident theater,‭ ‬career boosts to winners,‭ ‬bragging rights for grant applicatons,‭ ‬etc.‭ ‬--‭ ‬clearly outweigh not having them.‭

Going into tonight’s ceremony at the Broward Center’s Amaturo Theatre,‭ ‬Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties each have‭ ‬36‭ ‬nominations,‭ ‬followed by Broward theaters‭’ ‬27.‭

Actors‭’ ‬Playhouse of Coral Gables’s‭ ‬Miss Saigon pulled in the most nominations‭ (‬11‭) ‬of any production this year,‭ ‬and should be battling it out with the Maltz Jupiter’s‭ ‬La Cage aux Folles and‭ ‬Mack and Mabel at Broward Stage Door for Best Musical.‭ ‬Personally,‭ ‬I thought the Maltz’s standout production of‭ ‬Anything Goes deserved to be vying for the award,‭ ‬but while it did earn seven nominations‭ ‬--‭ ‬two for director-choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge and three for the show’s performers‭ ‬--‭ ‬Tari Kelly,‭ ‬Bret Shuford,‭ ‬Tom Beckett‭ ‬--‭ ‬it failed to make the top award cut.‭

(Full disclosure:‭ ‬I am a Carbonell judge,‭ ‬which means I was one of seven people who traveled throughout South Florida last year,‭ ‬seeing the‭ ‬42‭ ‬shows that a larger group of recommenders agreed were award-worthy in some category.‭ ‬Then the judges met to discuss the merits of the performances,‭ ‬design work and productions to generate a slate of nominees.‭ ‬But the final vote by the judges is done by e-mail,‭ ‬so I am as in the dark about the eventual winners as anyone.‭)

The Best Play Carbonell looks to be a battle among Mosaic Theatre’s flawlessly performed‭ ‬Collected Stories‭;‬ the controversial‭ ‬Blasted at GableStage,‭ ‬of which I wasn’t a fan‭;‬ and Palm Beach Dramaworks‭’ ‬American Buffalo.‭ ‬Here too,‭ ‬since we are quibbling,‭ ‬Dramaworks‭’ ‬production of‭ ‬Freud’s Last Session is a puzzling no-show in this category.

Easier to project are the categories for Best Ensemble,‭ ‬which seems likely to be won by the Maltz’s‭ ‬12‭ ‬Angry Men and Best New Work,‭ ‬which should go to Christopher Demos-Brown’s‭ ‬When the Sun Shone Brighter at Florida Stage.

Unless I am wrong about the winners,‭ ‬which I usually am.‭ ‬In any event,‭ ‬you can read a full report of the event and the egregiously overlooked tomorrow right here.

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