“We gladly accept this award on their behalf ...” became the on-going theme of the ninth annual New Hampshire Theatre Awards, which were held at last Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Palace Theatre in Manchester.
It was ironic that so many winners were unable to accept their awards as there were several people representing Mount Washington Valley theater companies who would've gladly accepted those awards. Alas, despite numerous nominations, the valley's M&D Productions, Advice to the Players and Mount Washington Valley Theatre Company went home empty handed.
But it isn't all bad news for theater in the valley. In many categories all three local theater companies made it to the top three.
The Mount Washington Valley Theatre Company's production of “Hair” was a top three in nearly every category they were finalists in. “Hair” received recognition for best production-musical, best director-musical, Nathaniel Shaw; best music director, Todd Lindamood, best choreographer, Nathaniel Shaw; best lighting designer, Victoria Miller; best sound designer, Phil Zychowski; best costume designer, Shana Goldberger; best supporting actor-musical, Evan Smith as Hud; best supporting actress-musical, Liz Clark Golson as Jeannie. Two of the three final spots for best actors were filled by actors in “Hair”: Patrick Roberts as Claude and Jesse Havea as Berger.
M&D Productions' production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” received four top three nods: best production-drama/comedy; best director-drama/comedy, Richard Russo, best supporting actress-drama/comedy, Heather Hamilton as Stella Kowalski; and best sound designer, Ken Martin.
Advice to the Players received top three for best supporting actor-drama/comedy for Robert Bates as Polonius in “Hamlet” and best supporting actress-drama/comedy for Candace Clift as Dromio of Syracuse in “The Comedy of Errors.”
Much like in a court case, New Hampshire theaters from all corners of the state are judged by a jury of their peers. Every theater that submits show to be adjudicated most go out and do the same for other companies. Each production is seen by six adjudicators with their scores being averaged together to create the list of finalists and, ultimately, the winners.
As for the award ceremony, it is tailored to be a clone of such big gala showcases as the Tony Awards and Academy Awards. All the hallmarks of a bloated award ceremony are here including poorly scripted dialogue for the presenters, which is then delivered stiltedly and flatly by said presenters. The presentation rivaled even the Oscars in its running time, clocking in at around four hours in length.
So where did the time go? Much of the evening was given over to an ongoing and, supposedly, comedic discussion of the merits of dramas versus musicals. The evening was also punctuated by performances from several of the nominated productions.
The show opened with a hilarious and well-written and performed parody of “You Won't Succeed On Broadway” from “Spamalot,” which featured shout outs to both M&D and Advice to the Players.
Nearly all the performances were musical numbers, but Andrew Codispoti, of Advice to the Players, performed the “To be or not to be” soliloquy from “Hamlet.” Another highlight was the Peacock Players' lively and impressively danced and sung “It's Your Wedding Day” from the musical version of the Adam Sandler movie “The Wedding Singer.”
Betty Thomson, 84, received the lifetime achievement award. She was feisty and funny in her acceptance and warned the band to not even think about playing her off. When it was brought to her attention she had a message she said, “That's OK hun, because you aren't getting me off yet.” She earned her time and she was going to talk as long as she pleased and most of the audience seemed just fine with that.
To see highlights from the ninth annual New Hampshire Theatre Awards click here.