Zombie in Love

PAMTAs: a little song and dance

Portland Center Stage scores big at musical-theater awards with 'Fiddler,' 'Lizzie'; 'Zombie' and 'Piazza' also take home hardware

The enduring and still radical classic Fiddler on the Roof led the parade Monday night at the seventh annual Portland Area Musical Theater Awards, scoring wins in six categories, including best production, actor (David Studwell as Tevye the milkman), and director (Chris Coleman). Center Stage dominated the evening, taking three more awards for its current Lizzie Borden rock musical, Lizzie, including outstanding song (House of Borden), score, and orchestrations.

David Studwell took top actor honors for his Tevye in best-production winner "Fiddler on the Roof." Photo: Patrick Weishampel

David Studwell took top actor honors for his Tevye in best-production winner “Fiddler on the Roof.” Photo: Patrick Weishampel

Portland Playhouse’s The Light in the Piazza, which beat out Fiddler for best musical production just two weeks ago at the larger Drammy Awards, took four wins in three categories, including a tie for best actress for Meredith Kaye Clark and Susannah Mars. And Oregon Children’s Theater’s sweet little high school comedy Zombie in Love, another multiple winner at the Drammys, won for best original musical and best performance by a young actor (the rubber-limbed zombie in question, Blake Peebles). Peebles tied with his Zombie costar, Madison Wray, who won for her starring role in OCT’s Fancy Nancy.

A crowd of about 250 settled into downtown’s Dolores Winningstad Theatre for the ceremony, a swift and generally entertaining affair that lasted a little longer than two hours – a veritable 40-yard dash compared to the marathon Tonys and Oscars. Master of ceremonies was the wryly funny actor Darius Pierce, who kept things clipping with a finely calibrated internal stopwatch and an ear for improvisational comedy to go along with his prepared jokes. He noted drily that next year’s PAMTA winner for sound design (Monday night’s went to Brian Moen for Stumptown Stage’s Ain’t Misbehavin’) will make eight in eight years – or one more than the Tonys, which began naming a sound winner just seven years ago and lately announced to considerable protest its plans to drop the category – will have awarded in its entire existence.

Young performer co-winner Blake Peebles in original musical winner "Zombie in Love." Photo: Owen Carey

Young performer co-winner Blake Peebles in original musical winner “Zombie in Love.” Photo: Owen Carey

The mood at the ceremony was convivial and upbeat, lifted by performances of several songs from nominated shows and the smooth onstage accompaniment of a lightly jazzy trio: pianist Reece Marshburn, drummer Ken Ollis, and acoustic bassist Brett McConnell. Singer Julianne Johnson brought the house down with a bluesy, gospelly, sometimes scatted performance of Fats Waller’s Ain’t Misbehavin’, egging the trio on playfully as she shifted tempos.

But the festivities also carried a bit of an unnerving echo underneath. Many winners weren’t on hand to accept their statues, an MIA pattern that dampened the fun. It was especially notable when Portland Center Stage’s name kept being announced. Company manager Don Mason, who once wrote an entertaining essay about the pleasures of being a perennial bit player, filled in at, well, center stage, popping up from his front-row seat in category after category to accept the company’s hardware.  It became a running gag, and he milked it well, at one point promising all of the PAMTA winners that if they brought their statues to the theater, he’d see they got free tickets to Lizzie. Toward the end, under prompting from the audience, he expanded the offer to all of the nominees, too – and joked about whether he’d still have a job in the morning.

Actress co-winners Merideth Kaye Clark (left) and Susannah Mars in "The Light in the Piazza." Photo: Brud Giles

Actress co-winners Merideth Kaye Clark (left) and Susannah Mars in “The Light in the Piazza.” Photo: Brud Giles

The PAMTAs began seven years ago partly to celebrate the achievements of musical theater specifically and partly as a response to the broader-based Drammy Awards, which some musical-theater people felt didn’t pay sufficient attention to musicals. The makeup and methods of the awards are somewhat secretive, although Portland performer and Broadway producer Corey Brunish is acknowledged as their driving force. “The [voting] members are anonymous, even to one another,” PAMTA’s website says. “This way members cannot be influenced by performers, designers, theatre companies or even each other. Opinions cannot be swayed at meetings because there are none. Voting is done by secret ballot. All members see all productions to the degree that it is humanly possible. Members purchase their tickets. No member of the committee is active in the theatre community.”

Monday evening, the crowd was there to celebrate. As Emily Sahler put it after bounding onstage with costar Lisamarie Harrison to accept the best-ensemble award for Broadway Rose’s The Bikinis: “Unbridled joy and love is valid, and we need lots of it.”

PAMTA winners are listed below. You can see the list of nominees (five in each category) here.

 

PRODUCTION

Fiddler on the Roof, Portland Center Stage

 

ORIGINAL MUSICAL 

Zombie in Love, Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

DIRECTOR

Chris Coleman, Fiddler on the Roof, Portland Center Stage

 

ACTRESS (tie)

Meredith Kaye Clark, The Light in the Piazza, Portland Playhouse

Susannah Mars, The Light in the Piazza, Portland Playhouse

 

ACTOR

David Studwell, Fiddler on the Roof, Portland Center Stage

 

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Pam Mahon, Beauty and the Beast, Pixie Dust Productions

 

SUPPORTING ACTOR (tie)

Burl Ross, Spamalot, Lakewood Theatre

Ben Farmer, Spamalot, Lakewood Theatre

 

ENSEMBLE

The Bikinis, Broadway Rose

 

YOUNG PERFORMER (tie)

Blake Peebles, Zombie in Love, Oregon Children’s Theatre

Madison Wray, Fancy Nancy, Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

SCORE

Alan Stevens Hewitt, Tim Maner, Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Lizzie, Portland Center Stage

 

SONG

House of Borden, Alan Stevens Hewitt, Tim Maner, Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Lizzie, Portland Center Stage

 

MUSICAL DIRECTION

Eric Nordin, The Light in the Piazza, Portland Playhouse

 

ORCHESTRATION

Alan Stevens Hewitt, Lizzie, Portland Center Stage

 

CHOREOGRAPHY

Wes Hanson, Kiss Me Kate, Clackamas Repertory Theatre

 

COSTUME DESIGN

Allison Dawe, The Light in the Piazza, Portland Playhouse

 

SET DESIGN

G.W. Mercier, Fiddler on the Roof, Portland Center Stage

 

LIGHT DESIGN

Ann Wrightson, Fiddler on the Roof, Portland Center Stage

 

SOUND DESIGN

Brian Moen, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Stumptown Strages

 

PLAYBILL COVER DESIGN

Julia McNamara, Fiddler on the Roof, Portland Center Stage

 

JAMES PEPPERS MEMORIAL AWARD (three)

Eric Little

John Quesenberry

Drew Harper

Drammy Awards: a Playhouse double play

Portland Playhouse's 'Light in the Piazza' and 'A Christmas Carol' take both top production trophies

Portland Playhouse pulled off a tough double play at Monday night’s Drammy Awards, taking top honors in both major production categories – best play of the season for its stripped-down version of A Christmas Carol, and best musical play for The Light in the Piazza. 

The crowd gets into the action for the opening puppet-show strut to "The Circle of Life." Photo: Henk Pander

The crowd gets into the action for the opening puppet-show strut to “The Circle of Life.” Photo: Henk Pander

The celebration of the best achievements in Portland theater during the 2013-14 season packed the house at the Crystal Ballroom with theater folk and theater fans, many dressed to the nines and others to the twos or threes. The mood was convivial verging on rowdy, punctuated during one long stretch by the drone of a punk band playing loudly somewhere downstairs, and hosted with wit and dash by actor Isaac Lamb, who occasionally ceded the spotlight to his vigorously tap-dancing wife-to-be, Amy Beth Frankel. If anyone caught their act on videotape, it could go viral.

Dapper Isaac Lamb, the Drammys' emcee. Photo: Owen Carey

Dapper Isaac Lamb, the Drammys’ emcee. Photo: Owen Carey

Piazza was the evening’s closest thing to a runaway, walking off with five prizes: best production, actress in a musical (Meredith Kaye Clark), supporting actress in a musical (Jennifer Goldsmith), supporting actor in a musical (David Meyers), and musical direction (Eric Nordin). A Christmas Carol took top awards for ensemble in a play and director in a play (Cristi Miles) in addition to best production.

Well Arts Institute's Youth Program accepted the Mary Brand Award. Photo: Ann Singer

Ann Singer, Well Arts Institute’s youth program coordinator, accepted the $2,000 Mary Brand Award from Julie Accuardi of the Portland Civic Theatre Guild.

Oregon Children’s Theatre took four awards for its sweet and funny high school outcast musical Zombie in Love, and Kristeen Willis Crosser was a double individual winner, taking home the hardware for scenic design (Gidion’s Knot) and lighting design (A Bright New Boise), both at Third Rail Rep. One category, best actress in a play, ended in a tie vote. Amy Newman (Gidion’s Knot) and Maureen Porter (Crooked, CoHo Productions) shared the prize.

After an hour of drinking, preening, and general hobnobbing, the ceremony got off to a rousing start with a long Irish yowl of a song from Chris Murray, who’s starring as the not-quite-murderous Irish lad Christy in The Playboy of the Western World at Artists Rep, followed by a Lion King-style puppet show threading rambunctiously through the crowd. Among the costumed paraders were a donkey, a latke, a fish, a teapot, a snake, and several bottles of booze. They set the tone for much of the rest of the evening: congenial, creative, a little outrageous, fun, and quite long. At the end of the ceremony, Lamb performed a hilarious Portlandified riff on the “River City” song from The Music Man that would’ve made a knockout opening number. By the time it finally came, much of the crowd was already heading for the bars or home – a shame, but an understandable one.

Horsing around at the opening puppet parade. Photo: Henk Pander

Horsing around at the opening puppet parade. Photo: Henk Pander

The 17-member Drammy Committee of writers and theater professionals considered almost 120 productions from the awards’ 36th season. Several current shows opened too late for consideration. This year, after several years of choosing multiple winners in each category, the committee returned to picking a single winner from a pre-announced list of finalists in each category, making the Drammys feel more like the Oscars or Tonys. The finalists in each category are listed here.

The cast of Portland Playhouse's "A Christmas Carol" celebrate their best-production Drammy. Photo: Owen Carey

The cast of Portland Playhouse’s “A Christmas Carol” celebrate their best-production Drammy. Photo: Owen Carey

Grant Turner, founder of Northwest Classical Theatre,  drew appreciative nods during his acceptance speech for his Special Achievement Award. “Take the time to hone your craft,” he advised, “and don’t take (a play) on until you’re able.” He continued: “Believe in your authors, and your audience will believe in you.”  Turner, who started the Shakespeare-centric classical company more than 15 years ago, is moving to eastern Oregon but will return to Portland for specific projects.

Van Voris (left) and Hoffman indulge in some interpretive oratory. Photo: Owen Carey

Van Voris (left) and Hoffman indulge in some interpretive oratory. Photo: Owen Carey

Actors Todd Van Voris and Gavin Hoffman sent titters racing around the room with their dramatic readings of “actual posts on PDX Backstage.” And when the Light in the Piazza company gathered onstage to accept the best-musical award, Susannah Mars drew extended cheers and a couple of boos when she proudly announced, “We did a musical without microphones!

It was that kind of night.

 

2014 DRAMMY AWARD WINNERS

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A PLAY

Michael Fisher-Welsh
The Quality of Life
Artists Repertory Theatre

 

BEST SCENIC DESIGN

Kristeen Willis Crosser
Gidion’s Knot
Third Rail Repertory Theatre

 

BEST PROPERTIES DESIGN

Drew Dannhorn
The Giver
Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

BEST DESIGN AND FABRICATION AWARD

John Ellingson
James and the Giant Peach
Northwest Children’s Theater

 

SPECIAL THEATRICAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Atomic Arts
Trek in the Park
2009-2013

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Jennifer Goldsmith
The Light in the Piazza
Portland Playhouse

 

BEST SOUND DESIGN

Annalise Albright Woods
pool (no water)
Theatre Vertigo

 

BEST YOUNG PERFORMER

Blake Peebles
Zombie in Love
Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

David Meyers
The Light in the Piazza
Portland Playhouse

 

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY 

Dan Murphy
Plaid Tidings
Broadway Rose Theatre Company

 

BEST PIT ENSEMBLE

9 to 5: The Musical
Stumptown Stages

 

PATA SPOTLIGHT AWARDS

Stage Manager: Emma Lewins
Crew Member: Don Crossley
Ballyhoo (formerly known as “Other”): Val and Jim Liptak

 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Jen LaMastra
James and the Giant Peach
Northwest Children’s Theater

 

BEST MAKE UP DESIGN

Caitlin Fisher-Draeger
The Revenants
The Reformers

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A PLAY

Meghan Chambers
Crooked
CoHo Productions / Philip Cuomo and Maureen Porter

 

BEST PROJECTION DESIGN

Jeff Kurihara
The Giver
Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN

Kristeen Willis Crosser
A Bright New Boise
Third Rail Repertory Theatre

 

Catherine Egan accepts her award for movement design for Push Leg's "Nighthawks." Photo: Owen Carey

Catherine Egan accepts her award for movement design for Push Leg’s “Nighthawks.” Photo: Owen Carey

BEST MOVEMENT DESIGN

Catherine Egan
Nighthawks
Push Leg

 

BEST DEVISED WORK

Nighthawks
Push Leg

 

Special Achievement Award winner Grant Turner. Photo: Owen Carey

Special Achievement Award winner Grant Turner. Photo: Owen Carey

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

 Grant Turner
Founding Artistic Director
Northwest Classical Theatre Company

 

BEST MUSIC DIRECTION

Eric Nordin
The Light in the Piazza
Portland Playhouse

 

BEST DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL

Marcella Crowson
Zombie in Love
Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

David Studwell
Fiddler on the Roof
Portland Center Stage

 

BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Merideth Kaye Clark
The Light in the Piazza
Portland Playhouse

 

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A MUSICAL

Plaid Tidings
Broadway Rose Theatre Company

 

Solo performance winner Damon Kupper in front of an image from his show, "Last November." Photo: Owen Carey

Solo performance winner Damon Kupper in front of an image from his show, “A Night in November.” Photo: Owen Carey

BEST SOLO PERFORMANCE

Damon Kupper
A Night in November
corrib theatre

 

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A PLAY

 A Christmas Carol
Portland Playhouse

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCRIPT

Michelle Elliott
Zombie in Love
Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE    

Danny Larsen, Music
Michelle Elliott, Lyrics
Zombie in Love
Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

 

PORTLAND CIVIC THEATRE GUILD AWARDS 

Mary Brand Award $2,000
Recipient: Well Arts Institute

Portland Civic Theatre Award in Support of Theatre $3,000
Recipient: Action/Adventure Theatre

The Leslie O. Fulton Fellowship $5,000
Recipient: Jill Westerby Gonzales

 

BEST DIRECTOR OF A PLAY

Cristi Miles
A Christmas Carol
Portland Playhouse

 

Best actor winner Allen Nause," "The Caretaker" at Imago. Photo: Owen Carey

Best actor winner Allen Nause,” “The Caretaker” at Imago. Photo: Owen Carey

BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY

Allen Nause
The Caretaker
Imago Theatre

 

BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY (tied)

Amy Newman
Gidion’s Knot
Third Rail Repertory Theatre

Maureen Porter
Crooked
CoHo Productions / Philip Cuomo and Maureen Porter

 

Best actress co-winner Maureen Porter, "Crooked," CoHo Productions. Photo: Owen Carey

Best actress co-winner Maureen Porter, “Crooked,” CoHo Productions. Photo: Owen Carey

BEST PRODUCTION OF A MUSICAL

The Light in the Piazza
Portland Playhouse

 

BEST PRODUCTION OF A PLAY

A Christmas Carol
Portland Playhouse

 

 

 

August Wilson or zombies, the kids are alright

Student monologues from Wilson's great plays, and a sprightly Undead musical at OCT, reveal a generation of actors on the rise

The kids are alright.

I’m thinking of the kids (the verging-on-adults, really) onstage at Portland Center Stage Monday night for the regional finals of the August Wilson Monologue Competition: fifteen of them, coolly and beautifully delivering short monologues drawn from Wilson’s brilliant Century Cycle of plays to a packed and cheering house.

And I’m thinking of the kids in the Tuesday morning audience at the Winningstad Theatre, watching a cast of mostly high-school actors in a performance of Oregon Children’s Theatre’s world-premiere musical, Zombie in Love.

 Zombie first, on the theory that when you’re Undead pretty much everything breaks against you, so go ahead and cut to the front of the line for a change. No, no, I insist.

Continues…