Syracuse Area Live Theater (SALT) Awards nominees, sorting out the
familiar from the unfamiliar. Only after that do readers look for the
intro commentary over here. Hardy perennials are well represented:
Robert Moss, Josh Mele, Dan Tursi, Bill Molesky, Gennaro Parlato, John
Nara and Christine Lightcap. Familiarity does not diminish the SALT
Academy’s regard for their talents. New this year are not only the
names of out-of-towners in the region for one performance, like
Patricia Dell in Kitchen Theatre Company’s Souvenir, but
more than a dozen hard-working regulars who are being recognized for
the first time. The great majority of the nominees have never won
SALT Academy voters are hailing the new
artistic regime at Syracuse Stage with Best Director nominations for
producing artistic director Tim Bond and his associate Rajendra Ramoon
Maharaj. On the other hand, three shows from the last term of the Moss
era were nominated, The Bomb-itty of Errors, Doubt and The Lieutenant of Inishmore, as against only one from the new, Bond’s heartfelt debut Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Maharaj’s multicultural Godspell may
have been ignored as a co-production with the Syracuse University Drama
Department. Ping Chong’s hand-clapping retelling of lives of the
“undesirable,” Tales from the Salt City, was not completely ignored as it was nominated for Best Original New Production.
Perhaps confusing to the unwary is the nomination of Souvenir under Play of the Year, Professional. Tim Bond had indeed announced a production of Souvenir for Syracuse Stage in January 2009, which was replaced by Stephen Sondheim’s Putting It Together.
As mentioned, however, Ithaca’s Kitchen Theatre produced the touching,
absurd comedy about the world’s worst soprano, Florence Foster Jenkins,
last June. SALT members evidently commuted en masse to see it: Souvenir is also nominated for Best Production of the Summer Season, just as Dell is nominated for Actress of the Season.
Among community theater groups, whose
partisans will dominate the audience on SALT Awards night, it does not
appear likely that one company will sweep the evening the way John
Nara’s Simply New Theatre did last year. Instead, a different trend has
emerged this year: the SALT Academy’s love affair with the intimate
venue at Jazz Central, 441 E. Washington St. Until musician Larry
Luttinger took the lead in developing the site, this was an abandoned
paint store a block from the State Office Building. It lacks proper
dressing rooms, and performers sometimes have to make their entrances
by going out to the sidewalk in the snow and coming back through the
front door. Even the seats were retrieved from Storer Auditorium at
Onondaga Community College. Jazz Central is the home base for Rarely
Done Productions and is also favored by Simply New and Salt City Center
for the Performing Arts.
What this means is that under a category like Leading Actor in a Play, all nominees appeared at Jazz Central: Garrett Heater and Bill Molesky in The Importance of Being Earnest, Tom Minion in Romance and Gennaro Parlato in The Eight: Reindeer Monologues. Half the nominated male Supporting Actors in a Play strutted their stuff on East Washington: J. Brazil in Reindeer Monologues, Rob Fonda in Dog Sees God and Alan Stillman in Romance. In
one of those quirks of Academy voting, Stillman has to compete against
himself in this category: He also appeared as Renfield in Appleseed
Productions’ Dracula in the basement of Atonement Lutheran Church, another intimate venue.
The Slumdog Millionaire of this year’s voting is the Talent Company’s The Producers,
with a whopping 11 nominations, an unmatched record. Those include:
Michael Groesbeck, choreography; Jeanette Reyner, costumes; Nadine
Cole, musical direction; Dan Tursi, Jimmy Wachter and David Witanowski,
supporting actor; Katie Lemos, leading actress; Ryan Boyle and Joe
Spado, leading actors; Christine Lightcap, director; and the show
itself for Best Musical. That could be stretched to 12 if you count
Reyner’s nomination for Best Non-Performing Person.
Also nominated for Non-Performing Person is The Post-Standard’s venerable
and much-loved reviewer Neil Novelli. If the SALT Awards are ready to
say that critics make a contribution to the theater, it puts them ahead
of the Oscars and the Tonys.
One welcome innovation this year is the elimination of
the Touring Road Show Performance, which in all cases but one belonged
to Famous Artists. Those touring professional artists might have been
happy to cite a SALT Award on their resume, but the trophies always
stayed in Murray Bernthal’s office.
Retained from last year is two-tiered
voting, in which the first puts up the nominees and the second picks
from that list. Last year it was clear that some voters changed their
minds about favorites when they saw who else had been nominated. The
category to watch this year is Best Actress in a Play: Binaifer Dabu,
Kate Huddleston, Rosemary Palladino-Leone, Aubry Panek and Karis
Wiggins. All five gave performances richly deserving awards, but
attracted differing sizes of audiences. More importantly, each has
delivered superlative work over the years, acquiring passionate bands
of supporters. While we do not know the identity of Academy members, it
seems likely that the vote will go not to individual performances but
the cumulative impressions from a variety of roles.
The Syracuse New Times SALT Awards will be
presented on April 26, 7 p.m., at Syracuse Stage, 820 E. Genesee St.
Tickets are $25 at the door or $20 by mail using check or credit card
to New Times SALT Tickets, 1415 W. Genesee St., Syracuse 13204. For information, call 422-7011.
Play of the Year: The Bomb-itty of Errors,
Doubt, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Syracuse
Stage); Souvenir (Kitchen Theatre Company).
Director of the Year: Tim Bond, Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj, Robert Moss, Anthony Salatino, M. Burke Walker.
Play of the Year: Agnes of God, The Importance
of Being Earnest, Safe Sex, Three Viewings (Simply New); Dog Sees God
(Rarely Done); Picasso at the Lapin Agile (Wit’s End Players).
Musical of the Year: Bath
House: The Musical, Children’s Letters to God (Rarely Done); Side by
Side by Sondheim (Salt City Center for the Performing Arts); Sweeney
Todd (Wit’s End); The Producers (Talent Company).
Leading Actress in a Musical: Jodie Baum, Sweeney Todd (Wit’s End); Elizabeth Abriola Fern, Cathleen O’Brien, Side by Side by Sondheim (Salt City); Katie Lemos, The Producers (Talent Company).
Supporting Actress in a Musical:
Lorraine Grande, Bye, Bye, Birdie (Cazenovia College); Tina Lee, Sarah Naughton, Sweeney Todd (Wit’s End); Danielle Lovier, High School Musical (Talent Company).
Leading Actor in a Musical: Ryan Boyle, Joe Spado, The Producers (Talent Company); Josh Mele, Sweeney Todd (Wit’s End); Dana Sovocool, Side by Side by Sondheim (Salt City); Jimmy Wachter, Color Me Streisand (Rarely Done).
Supporting Actor in a Musical:
Alec Funiciello, Children’s Letters to God (Rarely Done); Andrew King, Sweeney Todd (Wit’s End); Dan Tursi, Jimmy Wachter, David Witanowski, The Producers (Talent Company).
Leading Actress in a Play: Binaifer Dabu, Plaza Suite (Appleseed); Kate Huddleston, Karis Wiggins, Agnes of God (Simply New); Rosemary Palladino-
Leone, Three Viewings (Simply New); Aubrey Panek, The Eight: Reindeer
Monologues (Simply New).
Supporting Actress in a Play: Jodie Baum, Dog Sees God (Rarely Done); Susan Blumer, The Importance of Being Earnest (Simply New); Jodi Bova, The Eight: Reindeer Monologues (Rarely Done); Katharine Gibson, Agnes of God (Simply New); Erin Race, The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 (Appleseed).
Leading Actor in a Play: Garrett Heater, Bill Molesky, The Importance of Being Earnest (Simply New); Tom Minion, Romance (Rarely Done); Gennaro Parlato, The Eight: Reindeer Monologues (Rarely Done).
Supporting Actor in a Play: J. Brazill, The Eight: Reindeer Monologues (Rarely Done); Rob Fonda, Dog Sees God (Rarely Done); Lanny Freshman, Picasso at the Lapin Agile (Wit’s End); Alan Stillman, Dracula (Appleseed); Alan Stillman,
Romance (Rarely Done).
Director of the Year/Play: Judith Harris, Garrett Heater, John Nara, Dan Tursi.
Director of the Year/Musical: Christine Lightcap, David Lowenstein, Dan Tursi, David Witanowski.
Musical Director of the Year:
Jon Balcourt, Nadine Cole, Roy George, Sarah Pickett.
Non-Performing Person of the Year: Navroz Dabu, Marie Felice, Neil Novelli, Karen Procopio, Jeanette Reyner.
Production of the Season: A Few Good Men
(Cortland Repertory Theatre); All Shook Up, Les Miserables
(Merry-Go-Round Playhouse); Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Playboy of the
Western World (Hangar Theatre); Souvenir (Kitchen Theatre Company).
Actress of the Season: Patricia Dell, Souvenir (Kitchen); Noel Molinelli, All Shook Up (Merry-Go-Round); Maureen Quigley, Church Basement Ladies (Merry-Go-Round); Morgan Reis, Leading Ladies (Cortland Rep).
Actor of the Season: Aaron Berk, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Hangar); David Sattler, All Shook Up (Merry-Go-Round); Jonathan Self, A Few Good Men (Cortland Rep); Scott Wakefield, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (Cortland Rep); Tad Wilson, Les Miserables (Merry-Go-Round).
Todd Ellis, Kate Huddleston, Millie Sovik, Dan Tursi.
HALL OF FAME
(No Longer Active)
Earl Colvin, Barbara Gibbons, Arthur Storch, Kevin Surrette, Holly Wilson.
CHOREOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
Caira Cramer, High School Musical (Talent Company); Michael Groesbeck, The Producers (Talent Company); Ken Prescott, Nunsensations (Talent Company); Shannon Tompkins, Sweeney Todd (Wit’s End).
COSTUMER OF THE YEAR
Garrett Heater, The Importance of Being Earnest (Simply New); Niki Raymond, Safe Sex (Simply New); Jeanette Reyner, The Producers (Talent Company); Barbara Toman, Communicating Doors (Appleseed).
Color Me Streisand (Rarely Done); With a Twist of Love (Rarely Done); Tales from the Salt City (Syracuse Stage); The Blue Vein Society (Paul Robeson Company); Tony and the Soprano (Kitchen).