‘Mary Poppins’ chimney-sweeps PAMTAs

Portland's eighth musical-theater awards ceremony puts on a rouser of a show; new R&B musical 'Soul Harmony' also scores big

A funny thing happened on the way to the grand wrap-up of the PAMTAs: a helluva show broke out.

The Portland Area Musical Theater Awards ceremony pretty much packed the Dolores Winningstad Theatre to the rafters Monday night, and at times the cheering approached Timbers Army volume. Amid a whole lot of big, grown-up possibilities – Dreamgirls, Parade, She Loves Me, Young Frankenstein, La Cage aux Folles, Carousel, the debut of the new rhythm & blues musical Soul Harmony, and others – that supercalifragilistic bumbershoot-carrying wondernanny Mary Poppins, from Northwest Children’s Theatre, hauled off the biggest chunks of hardware, including the award for best production.

"Mary Poppins" sweeps the night: Sarah Jane Hardy, Chrissy Kelly-Pettit, and John Ellingson Beard,  for Outstanding Production & Director, Female Lead, and Set Design. Photo: David Kinder

“Mary Poppins” sweeps the night: Sarah Jane Hardy, Chrissy Kelly-Pettit, and John Ellingson Beard, for Outstanding Production & Director, Female Lead, and Set Design. Photo: David Kinder

Mary Poppins also took top prizes for lead actress (Chrissy Kelly-Pettit), director (Sarah Jane Hardy), costume design (Mary Rochon), set design (John Ellingson), and a quartet of outstanding young performers (Kaylee Bair, Libby Rouffy, Austin Emmett, Kieran Gettel-Gilmartin). Ellingson, who was also nominated for best actor as the Cockney chimney sweep Bert, fairly popped off the stage with enthusiasm. “I grew up watching Mary Poppins,” he said. “I loved Mary Poppins. I wanted to be Mary Poppins.”

Stumptown Stage’s Soul Harmony was a big winner, too, taking the prize for best original musical. The story of R&B songwriter Deborah Chessler and the hit-making group Sonny Til and the Orioles also took top awards for best original score (Michael Allen Harrison, Alan Berg, Janet Mouser), best original song (The Music Inside, same trio), orchestrations (Harrison), and a special award for outstanding debut performance (De’Sean Dooley, who is Sonny Til’s grandson). Pianist and composer Harrison, in one of his several gracious acceptance speeches, noted the story’s importance in the history of American popular music: “Sonny Til and the Orioles were the bridge between Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.”

"Soul Harmony": from left, Kirk Mouser for Janet Mouser, Alan Berg, Michael Allen Harrison; for Outstanding Original Musical, Score, Song, and Orchestration. Photo: David Kinder

“Soul Harmony”: from left, Kirk Mouser for Janet Mouser, Alan Berg, Michael Allen Harrison; for Outstanding Original Musical, Score, Song, and Orchestration. Photo: David Kinder

Joe Thiessen, resplendent onstage in a bristling bow tie, pulled off an acting double, tying with Drew Harper in Triangle’s Tick, Tick … BOOM! for best leading actor his performance in Pixie Dust’s La Cage aux Folles, and winning the supporting-actor nod outright for Stumptown Stages’ It’s a Wonderful Life.

But for all the suspense about who the winners would be, the hardware almost played second fiddle to the show itself, which for two hours and forty-five minutes was pretty much dazzle-dazzle spectacular. Who would’ve guessed that an awards ceremony could actually be entertaining? And yet, entertaining it was, from Leah Seligman’s opening breathy, broken, crisp and yearning rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s Marry Me a Little to the final unveiling of the best-show winner.

Return emcee Darius Pierce, who probably should just get a lifetime contract for this sort of thing, kept things clipping and puckish without being cocky or nasty (Oscar and Tony hosts, take note). And the show was dotted with some knockout musical performances (after all, it’s about musical theater), among them Don Mason’s bluesy, ’50s-cool Down with Love; Dru Rutledge’s lounge-diva country-blues Willow, Weep for Me; Collin Carver’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed anthem from The Book of Mormon; Kelly-Pettit’s Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag) from Mary Poppins; Lauren Steele and Haley Ward’s comic-kickin’ on-the-road duet Freedom; and Dooley and Monica Rodrigues’s stomping-sweet duet on the title number from Soul Harmony. Cassi q Kohl, looking like a punk polka-dot Carmen Miranda, sashayed onstage waving a kazoo, barked “Hit it, Reece,” to pianist Reece Marshburn, who led the sharp onstage trio, and launched into a roof-rattling comic version of Baby, I’ve Got a Screw Loose for You. The youthful ensemble from Northwest Children’s Theatre’s The Jungle Book performed a vivid Indian-inspired dance; the cast from Staged!’s Parade – the Alfred Uhry/Jason Robert Brown musical tale of the 1917 murder trial of in Atlanta of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank that won the important ensemble-acting award – sang a stirring group number; and eloquent remembrances of dancer/choreographer Elizabeth Erickson and the great actor Ted Roisum, both of whom died earlier this year, brought notes of seriousness and purpose to the evening.

Emcee Darius Pierce, with the Reece Marshburn Trio. Photo: David Kinder

Emcee Darius Pierce, with the Reece Marshburn Trio. Photo: David Kinder


Corey Brunish, the longtime Portland actor/singer and, more recently, successful Broadway producer, was on hand at key moments, and surely his Broadway experience had something to do with the evening’s polished and entertaining sheen. He did miss on one thing: He underestimated the size of the crowd, and didn’t print enough programs to go around. At one point he waved his own program from the stage and offered it for ten bucks. Then he reconsidered, and declared he was going to put it on eBay. If the PAMTAs get any more popular, they’ll have to move upstairs next year to the bigger Newmark Theatre – where, for the first time, the larger Drammy Awards ceremony for  Portland theater of all sorts will be held this year, on June 29.

The cast of Staged!'s "Parade": Outstanding Ensemble winners. Photo: David Kinder

The cast of Staged!’s “Parade”: Outstanding Ensemble winners. Photo: David Kinder

This year’s PAMTA winners, with the nominees. Winners, including multiple winners in some categories, are listed in boldface. Additional event photos by David Kinder are here; he grants permission to right-click and save for your personal use:

Outstanding Male Actor in a Lead Role:

Drew Harper, tick, tick….BOOM!, Triangle Productions

Joe Thiessen, La Cage aux Folles

Nartan Woods, The Rocky Horror Show
John Ellingson, Mary Poppins
Evan Howells, Young Frankenstein

Outstanding Female Actor in a Lead Role:

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

Nattalyee Randall, Dreamgirls
Monica Rodrigues, Soul Harmony
Dru Rutledge, She Loves Me
Cassi Q Kohl, She Loves Me

Outstanding Male Actor in a Supporting Role:

Joe Thiessen, It’s a Wonderful Life, Stumptown Stages

Burl Ross, Young Frankenstein
Eric Little, The Rocky Horror Show
Jonathan Quesenberry, Carousel
Collin Carver, Grease

Outstanding Female Actor in a Supporting Role:

Jennifer Goldsmith, WHODUNIT, Broadway Rose

Claire Rigsby, Grease
Lisa Knox, Young Frankenstein
Emily Sahler, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
Annie Kaiser, The Music Man

Outstanding Ensemble:

Parade, Staged!

La Cage aux Folles, Pixie Dust
Dreamgirls, Portland Center Stage
tick, tick…BOOM!, Triangle
The Music Man, Broadway Rose

Outstanding Young Performer:

Kaylee Bair, Mary Poppins
Libby Rouffy, Mary Poppins
Austin Emmett, Mary Poppins
Kieran Gettel-Gilmartin, Mary Poppins

Josiah Bartell, The Music Man
Alexa Kelly Shaheen, Ruthless!

Outstanding Director:

Sarah Jane Hardy, Mary Poppins
Greg Tamblyn, La Cage aux Folles, Pixie Dust Productions

Chris Coleman, Dreamgirls

Paul Angelo, Parade
Tobias Andersen, She Loves Me

Outstanding Choreographer:

Peggy Taphorn, The Music Man, Broadway Rose

Sarah Jane Hardy, Mary Poppins
Anita Menon & Sarah Jane Hardy, The Jungle Book
Jacob Toth, Grease
Laura Hiszcynskiyj, She Loves Me

Outstanding Musical Director:

Jeffrey Childs, The World Goes ‘Round, Broadway Rose

Alan D. Lytle, The Music Man
Cyndy Ramsey-Rier, Young Frankenstein
Rick Lewis, Dreamgirls
Darcy White, The Rocky Horror Show

Outstanding Costume Designer:

Mary Rochon, Mary Poppins

Sydney Roberts, Dreamgirls
Pat Rohrbach, She Loves Me
Shana Targosz, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
Darrin J Pufall, The Rocky Horror Show

Outstanding Set Designer:

John Ellingson, Mary Poppins

John Ellingson, The Little Mermaid
G.W. Mercier, Dreamgirls 
Owen Walz, Grease
John Gerth, She Loves Me

Outstanding Light Designer:

Robert M. Wierzel, Dreamgirls

Chris Whitten, Carousel
Carl Faber, Mary Poppins
Kurt Herman, Young Frankenstein
Jeff Woods, She Loves Me

Outstanding Sound Designer:

Casi Pacilio, Dreamgirls

Rodolfo Ortega, Mary Poppins
Duane Rodakowski, La Cage aux Folles
Gordon Romei, Parade
Rory Breshears, The Rocky Horror Show

Outstanding Production:

Mary Poppins, Northwest Children’s Theatre

Dreamgirls, Portland Center Stage
Parade, Staged!
La Cage aux Folles, Pixie Dust
Young Frankenstein, Lakewood

Outstanding Playbill Cover Design:

WHODUNIT, Emily Dew

The Rocky Horror Show, Jim Parker
Grease, Emily Dew
110 in the Shade, Lisa Johnston-Smith
Iolanthe, Rachel Barry-Arquit, Joe Ercegg, Matt Erceg, Larry Larsen

Outstanding Original Orchestrations:

Soul Harmony, Michael Allen Harrison

The Jungle Book, Rodolfo Oretega and Archana Mungara
The Babes are Back!, Jonathan Quesenberry

Best Original Musical:

Soul Harmony, Michael Allen Harrison, Alan Berg, Janet Mouser

The Jungle Book, Anita Menon, Sarah Jane Hardy, Rodolfo Ortega, Archana Mungara
The Little Mermaid, Milo Mowery, Rodolfo Ortega
The Babes are Back!, Donald Horn, Teddy Deane

Best Original Song:

The Music Inside, Michael Allen Harrison, Alan Berg, Janet Mouser

Soul Harmony, Michael Allen Harrison, Alan Berg, Janet Mouser
Don’t Get In That Car, Teddy Deane
Sisters in the Ocean, Rodolfo Ortega

Best Original Score:

Soul Harmony, Michael Allen Harrison, Alan Berg, Janet Mouser

The Little Mermaid, Milo Mowery, Rodolfo Oretga
The Jungle Book, Rodolfo Ortega, Archana Mungara
The Babes are Back!, Teddy Deane

Special Awards:

De’Sean Dooley for Outstanding Debut, in Soul Harmony
Kelly Jung for Breakthrough Performance, in The Little Mermaid
Portland Opera for Nurturing Musical Theatre
Benjamin Scheuer for Outstanding One-Man Show, The Lion

 

2 Responses.

  1. Judy Cohen says:

    What a wonderful evening. My favorites won and I realize I need to expand my theatre circle. I wish I had seen Soul Harmony. Also need to pay attention to Northwest Children’s Theatre. Put the OBAMA’s on my June 2016 calendar.

  2. Marie says:

    It was a great evening; thanks to Corey Brunish for producing this event.

    As mom of one of the winning Mary Poppins young performers, I’m so glad you ended up awarding all four kids. They worked so well together and had such a great experience! We’ve been in the NWCT audience for years, and Sarah Jane has really taken this theater to the next level in the last few years. Can’t wait for 2015-2016!

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