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  • Writer's pictureJavier

Theater Dish - Artie Snub Edition

"Stagefright" by JAVIER

With Steve Carell

TV and film star Steve Carell is making his Broadway debut in the fabulous revival of Uncle Vanya, now playing at Lincoln Center through June 16. Surprise, surprise, Mr. Carell did not get a Tony nomination for his brilliant performance. Neither did the play, which was eligible for Best Revival. Strange things happen on Broadway; if there are five eligible revivals, then only three can be nominated, no matter how wonderful. There are usually five nominees per category. Back in the day, a show could only be called a revival if it had played on Broadway before. In theory, if a play by Shakespeare had never been on Broadway, it could have been considered a new play. Plays that had successful runs off-Broadway could be in the new play category, but not anymore; now, productions of all established plays are considered revivals.

There are plenty of Tony Award oddities on the record. T.S. Eliott won a Tony for the book of Cats in 1983, even though he’d been dead since 1965 and had written “Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats” in 1939! Wait, when The Sound of Music opened on Broadway back in 1960, in a move that was either clueless or remarkably advanced in its thinking, the Tony committee decided that all the Von Trapp kids would be eligible in the Best Featured Performance by an ACTRESS – including the boys! (I wonder how William Snowden and Joseph Stewart, the original Kurt and Friedrich felt about that!) More recently, the three kids who alternated in the title role of Billy Elliott jointly won the Tony as Lead Actor in a Musical, suggesting that the award was not actually for acting but for direction. And remember Side Show? Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley played the cojoined Hilton twins, and the show’s producers wanted to put them on the ballot as a single performance.

With Eden Espinosa

Well, that’s Broadway, where millions of dollars dictate the rules. Several shows will close in the next few weeks or months due to the lack of awards. Limpicka was an early casualty. Despite getting three Tony nominations, including one for its star, Eden Espinosa for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical, and another for featured actress, Amber Iman, the show shuttered on May 19th after 41 performances. 

It is a markedly different story in Buffalo and the Arties, where all shows have limited runs and most of the nominated shows have already closed. In some instances, it feels as if shows nominated for the Arties closed yearsss ago, and no one considers extending a show on the basis of how many Arties it got. The Arties are just about throwing a party to celebrate what a wonderful theater town we have. Back in the day, there were even scenes from nominated new plays performed at the Arties -- (bad idea Dorothy, bad idea).

Steve Jakiel and Lou Colaiacovo  as Fauci and Kramer

So, Carell wasn’t nominated. There were so many shows in Buffalo this past year, I hear that in the supporting categories alone, there were 227 eligible performances. It seems almost impossible to narrow this down to five people per category. Under these circumstances, I shouldn’t refer to unnominated performances as Artie “snubs.” Getting an Artie nomination is an amazing combination of talent, opportunity, and luck. It would be impossible for every worthy performance to get a nomination. Still, just for fun, let’s remember some of the excellent work that didn’t get an Artie nod.

Before I get in trouble for snubbing anybody in my list of Artie snubs, I will start with Steve Jakiel and Lou Colaiacovo who were brilliant portraying Fauci and Kramer in Drew Fornarola’s uncannily timely new play. When I saw Steve’s performance, he totally got into my head as Anthony Fauci. This week, with Fauci back in the news, I realized Steve looks nothing like the guy, but that’s the magic of a fully realized theatrical performance. This was under the brilliant and unnominated direction of Kate Powers (we shall see more of her next season).

With Kate Powers

With Tina Rausa and Priscilla Young-Aker

Similarly, Priscilla Young-Aker and Tina Rausa superbly embodied Supreme Court justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg in Sisters in Law, directed with an astute eye by Josie DiVincenzo.

One-person shows are always hard (I will NEVER do one, FYI), Lindsay Brandon Hunter, unnominated for What the Constitution Means to Me, and Lisa Ludwig, unnominated for The Twelve Days of Christmas, kept me thoroughly engaged. Lindsay did get a nod for playing Martha in Death of a Streetcar Named Virginia Woolf, and Ludwig already has so many Artie trophies that we hear she uses them as place card holders when she give dinner parties.

Other performances that resonate in my head include Gerald Ramsey in Master Harold and the Boys; Chris Kelly as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest; and while I agree that Phil Farugia was outrageous in Natural Horse, so were Todd Benzin, Aleks Malejs, and Annette Daniels Taylor. In the musical world, who could forget Alex Anthony Garcia as Orsino in Twelfth Night, or Vinny Murphy as Will Parker and Colleen Pine as Ado Annie in Oklahoma? Pamela Rose Mangus was a feisty Aunt Eller in that show, and Michael Wells was impressive as Jud. Garcia was also good as Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, as was Susana Breese playing the General with a libido. There was so much to praise in The Color Purple that Anika Pace and Nathania Sampaio got overlooked. Not as flashy as Morticia, but I loved Anna Fernandez in Kinky Boots, and the role wasn’t huge, but there was something special about Debbie Pappas Sham in Beautiful. Kim Piazza was delightfully deranged in Reefer Madness. Anne DeFazio was vivid in Grumpy Old Men. Mary Gurich slayed em in Chicago as the countess of the klink, Matron Mama Morton. 

There are so many supporting performances for women that a nomination is a miracle, but let’s remember those Belfast girls: Cassie Cameron, Lily Jones, and Renee Landrigan among them. Renee was also pretty wonderful as Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest. Melinda Capeles was just as memorable as Gwendolyn, in the same play. Charmagne Chi transformed herself in Kindertransport, and also transformed herself as Columbia in Rocky Horror. Kerrykate Abel Smith was marvelous in A Great Wilderness – so was Diane DiBernardo, but let’s be glad she got a nod for her equally amazing work in Light Fantastic.

Ricky Needham must have cancelled himself for work in Rocky Horror, Murder Ballad, and Gutenberg. Ditto for Gregory Gjurich in Chicago and La Cage aux Folles. Kris Bartolomeo was such fun as Frank N Furter in Rocky Horror – and maybe they should make drag brunch at Hombre y Lobo eligible – that would surely garner nominations! Yes, Little Shop was divine, but Joe Greenan and Amanda Funicello made it that way as Seymour and Audrey. 

What happened with Brendan Didio? Brilliant in The Sound Inside and The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence, and Go Dog, Go! There should be a category just for him.

With Paul Todaro, Margaret Massman, and Vincent O'Neill

Vincent O’Neill made a stunning come-back (or is it a return?) in Faith Healer, directed by none other than unnominated Josephine Hogan, with another fabulous but unnominated performance by Margaret Massman. Paul Todaro carries the mantle for all of them with his nomination for playing the title role. By the way, congratulations to Vincent on his retirement from UB. He is now Associate Professor Emeritus.

With Nicole Cimato and Aimee Walker

Productions with two leads are also hard. I so loved both Aimee Walker and Nicole Cimato in Chicago (both Chita and Gwen were nominated for the Tony and they both lost). Nicole got the Artie nod; Aimee (an Artie winner for Damn Yankees) didn't. They were equally wonderful. I hope they put Chita in the obit section, she did perform in Buffalo. So, for Merrily We Roll Along, both boys are nominated, but it’s worth mentioning that Alexandra Watts did help a lot! I cry every time I hear The Walk in the Sand; thank you Greg Gjurich and Daniel Lendzian who starred in and were unnominated for La Cage aux Folles.

With Alexandra Watts and her boys

Like every year, once the Arties are over, people quickly forget who won or who was nominated. Hopefully none of the winners will endure a trophy mishap this year – they are glass! I hear there is a fee for a replacement now, since it’s happened so often. For those of you who have more than one (or four), you should follow Ellen and Oprah’s lead and drop out of the race. (Julie Andrews tried that once: she couldn’t, and she lost).

four people in fancy clothes
The way we were. Always handsome, that's Doug Weyand in the back, appearing in the 1992 BUA production of "Romance / Romance," with Ann Mosner. Seated in the front are Jeff Nicoloff and Erika Insana.

And before we say goodbye to the 2023-24 season, a very special congratulations to Doug Weyand, 29-time Artie nominee, 3-time Artie winner, and this year’s Career Achievement Award honoree! Well done, Doug! I love to say I discovered him, but who knows? He first appeared with BUA in a production of the musical Romance, Romance back in 1992(?), directed by Brian Fraley, with choreography by Lynn Kurdziel-Formato. Doug would know the exact year, because he maintains the Artie Archives. I do recall that he was 16, and I was18.

I also claim to have discovered Mary Craig (NOT!) who was in the very first BUA production of A…My Name is Alice, that I remember, January 1992, directed by Kelli Bocock-Natale, and musical direction by Theresa Quinn (We did discover her!). Jokes aside, a new theater season is upon us. Speaking of Mary Craig, she will be joined by Sandra Gilliam and Verneice Turner in a reading of Running of Faith, freedom seeker stories recorded by William Still, father of the Underground Railroad. Produced by Celeste Lawson, the show will run June 23 at 7:30, and June 24 at 4 p.m. at the Paul Robeson Theater.

First of the 2024-2025 Artie Award season, the classic Noel Coward comedy, Private Lives at the Irish Classical opens this week, under the direction of Chris Kelly, now starring Artie nominee Ben Michael Moran with Anna Fernandez, Darryl Semira, Jenn Stafford, and Maria Pedro. The hilarious musical The Producers also opens this week at the Lancaster Opera House, under the direction of Artie nominee Eric Deeb Weaver, with a truly all-star cast. Well-Behaved Women a song cycle by Carmel Dean, also opens at the MusicalFare cabaret space this week.

I attended the recent Shea’s High School Musical Theatre Awards and had a marvelous time! Congratulations to Matt Refermat, winner of the inaugural Michael Shea Award for Theatre Educator of the Year, for his work on the 2024 JFK High School musical, The Sound of Music. Inspiring the next generation! Good for you, Matt!

With Curtis and Sarah


Big news just in! After many months of rumors, the board of directors of Ujima Company happily announced the appointment of Curtis Lovell as Artistic Director of the company’s ensemble effective July 1st, 2024. Curtis will take over from founding Ujima member, Sarah Norat Philips, who had been serving as interim Artistic Director, following the passing of Ujima founding Artistic Director Lorna C. Hill, who was Curtis's mother. Congratulations!

four people at a wedding
So proud of Curtis! (With Tioga, and Amilcar -- such a beautiful family!)
a mother and a baby
Curtis and I go way back. Here's a shot of Curtis and Lorna. It seems like yesterday to me!


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