Drammys: ‘Snowstorm,’ ‘Mary Poppins,’ lots of love

Portland theater's annual awards party turns into a love-in Monday night, with a special award for Miracle Theatre and a lifetime honor for Tobias Andersen

The 37th annual Drammy Awards, Portland’s celebration of the best and brightest in the year’s theater scene, hit the Newmark Theatre Monday night like a roller coaster of love – for stage managers and dressers and designers, for directors and writers, for the whole crazy game of theater and the people who are held happily hostage by it.

The Snowstorm, Eric Nordin and Jessica Wallenfels’ ambitious original combination of theater, music, and dance that came out of this spring’s Fertile Ground new-works festival, took three awards, including the coveted best production Drammy, and by the crowd reaction, was an immensely popular choice. It was produced by CoHo Productions and Many Hats Collaborations.

Beth Thompson as Bear in best-production winner "The Snowstorm"; mask by Tony Fummeler. Photo: Brud Giles

Beth Thompson as Bear in best-production winner “The Snowstorm”; mask by Tony Fummeler. Photo: Brud Giles

But if any single show dominated the evening, it was a musical by a children’s theater company. As it did in the PAMTA musical-theater awards two weeks ago, Northwest Children’s Theater’s high-flying Mary Poppins swept up in the musicals categories, taking seven awards, including best musical production, direction of a musical (Sarah Jane Hardy, who also took the choreography award), and actor in a musical (John Ellingson, who also won for his Mary Poppins prop design). The show’s large cast and crew stayed in shape hustling onstage multiple times, to loud applause. Hardy spoke passionately about the Portland way of doing children’s theater, which, she said, is to have lots of children as opposed to all adult actors in the shows, and Ellingson gave moving tribute to his husband for his support, remarking that he hoped it would be the last time such a comment would be viewed as a political statement.

Northwest Children's Theatre's "Mary Poppins" dominated the musical-theater awards. Photo: David Kinder

Northwest Children’s Theater’s “Mary Poppins” dominated the musical-theater awards. Photo: David Kinder

After years at the Crystal Ballroom and, before that, at the Benson Hotel, the Drammys moved uptown into the 870-seat Newmark, a hall that provided a touch of class and put the theater awards in an actual theater. If the atmosphere cut back on some of the evening’s trademark rowdiness, it also made hearing from the audience much easier, and gave the evening a grown-up feel. Emcee Dan Murphy kept the crowd titillated with a dizzying succession of costume changes, each time emerging from the wings like a Cher impersonator in a bargain Nevada casino lounge. At one point he and presenter Olga Sanchez, artistic director of Miracle Theatre, showed up onstage in nearly identical electric-blue evening gowns. Sanchez took the style award, Murphy the comedy crown.

Matthew B. Zrebski won the directing Drammy for Theatre Vertigo’s Bob: A Life in Five Acts, and gave an eloquent acceptance speech – so eloquent that ArtsWatch stopped taking notes and just listened. The major acting awards went to a clutch of popular veterans. Luisa Sermol won best actress for her distressed mother in Badass Theatre’s Sans Merci, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival regular Michael Elich took the top-actor prize for Arthur Miller’s The Price at Artists Rep. Todd Van Voris won for supporting actor in Northwest Classical’s Macbeth; Dana Green took the supporting actress trophy for her double turn as a wisecracking mistress and an ice-skating wife in Profile’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone; and Rebecca Lingafelter won for solo performance for Grounded at CoHo. Elisha Henig took the young-performer trophy for The Snowstorm, and brought the house down by profusely thanking his parents, then noting that they had written his acceptance speech.

Luisa Sermol took top actress honors for her harrowing performance in "Sans Merci." Photo: Russell J Young

Luisa Sermol took top actress honors for her harrowing performance in “Sans Merci.” Photo: Russell J Young

Top musical acting awards went to Ellingson in Mary Poppins and Dru Rutledge for Lakewood’s sweet and lovely version of She Loves Me; Cassi Q. Kohl won best supporting musical actress, also for She Loves Me; and Eric Little scared up the best supporting actor in a musical award for his Riff Raff in Live On Stage’s The Rocky Horror Show.

Yussef El Guindi won the original script award for Threesome, his volatile blend of skin and politics, at Portland Center Stage.

Rusty Tennant helped set the scene early on with his acceptance speech for best scenic design, which he won for Post5’s zombiepocalype The Last Days. Racing onstage late from the lobby – he really hadn’t been expecting to win – he noted that he’d worked at big-budget theaters that tossed out whole sets after a run, and made the case for working small and cheap and smart instead. “Seriously, 275 dollars?” he said. “I thought I had no chance. What you’ve honored is sustainability in the theater!”

Miracle Theatre Group won a Special Achievement Award for three decades of presenting Latino theater and other arts, including its innovative Spanish-language touring program. (ArtsWatch’s participant-observer note: I presented the award to Miracle, and was pleased to do so.)

And veteran actor, director, and producer Tobias Andersen, who was also nominated for best director of a musical for Lakewood’s She Loves Me, won this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Introduced movingly by his longtime friend and colleague Allen Nause, Andersen talked briefly of his days in Los Angeles and hanging in Milton Berle’s dressing room and working with science fiction giant Ray Bradbury on a one-man show, The Illustrated Bradbury. He quoted “my hero,” Clarence Darrow, on the beneficial necessity of unions, which, he said, have made it possible for him to do the work he does. Then he got down to his abiding love for the Portland theater community that has made him feel at home. Accepting his award, he noted, “You realize, everyone, that this arrives at the pinnacle of my career, having just closed as Scratch the Cat.” Then he gave what amounted to a benediction for the entire evening: “I cherish this as I cherish all of you. Thank you so much.”

Tobias Andersen accepts his lifetime achievement award beneath a giant photo of himself at ease. Photo: Laura Grimes

Tobias Andersen accepts his lifetime achievement award beneath a giant photo of himself at ease. Photo: Laura Grimes

The winners, in boldface, with other finalists listed below them:

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A PLAY

Todd Van Voris, Macbeth, Northwest Classical Theatre Company

Mujahid Abdul-Rashid, The Piano Lesson, Portland Playhouse

Joseph Costa, The Price, Artists Repertory Theatre

Chris Harder, Intimate Apparel, Artists Repertory Theatre

BEST SCENIC DESIGN

Rusty Tennant, The Last Days, Post5 Theatre

John Ellingson, Mary Poppins, Northwest Children’s Theater

Peter Ksander, The Three Sisters, Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble (PETE)

Alan Schwanke, The Piano Lesson, Portland Playhouse

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Cassi Q. Kohl, She Loves Me, Lakewood Theatre Company

Carmen Brantley-Payne, Show Boat, Lakewood Theatre Company

Signe Larsen, Mary Poppins, Northwest Children’s Theater

Danielle Purdy, tick, tick…BOOM!, triangle productions!

BEST SOUND DESIGN

Em Gustason, The Sweatermakers, Playwrights West

Richard E. Moore, The Turn, The Reformers

Mark Valadez, Grounded, CoHo Productions

Matt Wiens, The Other Place, Portland Playhouse

BEST YOUNG PERFORMER

Elisha Henig, The Snowstorm, CoHo Productions + Many Hats Collaboration

Thom Hilton, Columbinus, Oregon Children’s Theatre, (Young Professionals)

Agatha Olson, The Turn, The Reformers

Haley Ward, Ivy and Bean: The Musical, Oregon Children’s Theatre

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

Eric Little, The Rocky Horror Show, Live On Stage

Andrés Alcalá, Mary Poppins, Northwest Children’s Theater

Paul Harestad, Grease, Broadway Rose Theatre Company

Salim Sanchez, Parade, Staged!

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY

Sarah Jane Hardy, Mary Poppins, Northwest Children’s Theater

Kemba Shannon, The Rocky Horror Show, Live On Stage

Jacob Toth, Grease, Broadway Rose Theatre Company

Jessica Wallenfels, The Snowstorm, CoHo Productions + Many Hats Collaboration

BEST PIT ENSEMBLE

The Rocky Horror Show, Live On Stage

The Music Man, Broadway Rose Theatre Company

The World Goes ‘Round, Broadway Rose Theatre Company

tick, tick…BOOM!, triangle productions!

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Mary Rochon, Mary Poppins, Northwest Children’s Theater

Alison Heryer, The Mystery of Irma Vep, Third Rail Repertory Theatre

Darrin J. Pufall, The Rocky Horror Show, Live on Stage

Mary Rochon, The Jungle Book, Northwest Children’s Theater

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS  IN A PLAY

Dana Green, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Profile Theatre

Sofia May-Cuxim, ¡O Romeo!, Milagro

Rebecca Ridenour, ¡O Romeo!, Milagro

Olga Sanchez, Learn to be Latina, Milagro

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN

Daniel Meeker, Lizzie, Portland Center Stage

Don Crossley, Grounded, CoHo Productions

Daniel Meeker, The Other Place, Portland Playhouse

Peter West, ¡O Romeo!, Milagro

BEST MUSIC DIRECTION

Jeffrey Childs, The World Goes ‘Round, Broadway Rose Theatre Company

James Beaton, Lizzie, Portland Center Stage

Jonathan Quesenberry, She Loves Me, Lakewood Theatre Company

Darcy White, The Rocky Horror Show, Live On Stage

BEST DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL

Sarah Jane Hardy, Mary Poppins, Northwest Children’s Theater

Tobias Andersen, She Loves Me, Lakewood Theatre Company

John Oules, The Rocky Horror Show, Live On Stage

Jacob Toth, Grease, Broadway Rose Theatre Company

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

John Ellingson, Mary Poppins, Northwest Children’s Theater

Drew Harper, tick, tick…BOOM!, triangle productions!

Brian Demar Jones, Bat Boy: The Musical, Funhouse Lounge

Joe Theissen, La Cage aux Folles, Pixie Dust Productions

BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Dru Rutledge, She Loves Me, Lakewood Theatre Company

Chrissy Kelly-Pettit, Mary Poppins, Northwest Children’s Theater

Chrissy Kelly-Pettit, The Music Man, Broadway Rose Theatre Company

Mary Kate Morrissey, Lizzie, Portland Center Stage

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A MUSICAL

Mary Poppins, Northwest Children’s Theater

Grease, Broadway Rose Theatre Company

The Rocky Horror Show, Live On Stage

The World Goes ‘Round, Broadway Rose Theatre Company

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A PLAY

Bob: A Life in Five Acts, Theatre Vertigo

Learn to be Latina, Milagro

¡O Romeo!, Milagro

The School for Lies, Theatre Vertigo

BEST ORIGINAL SCRIPT

Yussef El Guindi, Threesome, Portland Center Stage

Sean Doran, The Turn, The Reformers

Eric Nordin, The Snowstorm, CoHo Productions + Many Hats Collaboration

C.S. Whitcomb, The Seven Wonders of Ballyknock, Lakewood Theatre Company

BEST DIRECTOR OF A PLAY

Matthew B. Zrebski, Bob:  A Life in Five Acts, Theatre Vertigo

Bobby Bermea, Wait Until Dark, Northwest Classical Theatre Company

Olga Sanchez, ¡O Romeo!, Milagro

Jessica Wallenfels, The Snowstorm, CoHo Productions + Many Hats Collaboration

BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY

Michael Elich, The Price, Artists Repertory Theatre

Chris Harder, The Snowstorm, CoHo Productions + Many Hats Collaboration

Heath Koerschgen, The Seven Wonders of Ballyknock, Lakewood Theatre Company

Damon Kupper, The Night Alive, Third Rail Repertory Theatre

BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY

Luisa Sermol, Sans Merci, Badass Theatre Company

Amy Newman, Tribes, Artists Repertory Theatre

Vana O’Brien, 4000 Miles, Artists Repertory Theatre

Jamie Rea, The Snowstorm, CoHo Productions + Many Hats Collaboration

BEST PRODUCTION OF A MUSICAL

Mary Poppins, Northwest Children’s Theater

Grease, Broadway Rose Theatre Company

She Loves Me, Lakewood Theatre Company

The Rocky Horror Show, Live On Stage

BEST PRODUCTION OF A PLAY

The Snowstorm, CoHo Productions + Many Hats Collaboration

The Piano Lesson, Portland Playhouse

The Price, Artists Repertory Theatre

The Three Sisters, Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble (PETE)

INDIVIDUAL AWARDS

Devised work: ¡O Romeo!Milagro

Puppet design: Jason Miranda, When Animals Were People, Tears of Joy

Original music: Amir Shirazi¡O Romeo!, Milagro

Properties design: John Ellingson, Mary Poppins, Northwest Children’s Theatre

Solo performance: Rebecca Lingafelter, Grounded, CoHo Productions

Music performance: Eric Nordin, The Snowstorm, CoHo Productions + Many Hats Collaboration

Fight choreography: Sam Dinkowitz, Wait Until Dark, Northwest Classical Theatre Company

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Miracle Theatre Group, El Centro Milagro

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Tobias Andersen, actor, director, producer

ARTSLANDIA AWARD

Award for emerging theater company, Post5 Theatre

SPOTLIGHT AWARDS

Presented by the Portland Area Theatre Alliance

– Stage Manager, Jenn Lindell

– Crew Member, Jake Newcomb

– Other, Cindi Kinder, school house manager at Northwest Children’s Theatre

PORTLAND CIVIC THEATRE GUILD AWARDS

– PETE (Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble), $4,000 for a mobile professional sound system

Theatre Vertigo, $4,000 for renovations to its new venue, The Shoebox Theatre

Leslie O. Fulton Fellowship: Kristen Mun, $5,000 to create an armory of theatrical weaponry

Mary Brand Theatre for Youth Award: Playwrights West, $2,000 for the Teen West Project at Wilson High School

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