A Sterling year onstage: nominations for Edmonton’s theatre awards

Andrew MacDonald-Smith stars in Crazy For You, Citadel Theatre. Photo by David Cooper Photography

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

A musical comedy in which a town and its citizens are transformed by putting on a show — a notion that Edmonton can enthusiastically get behind — proved the top choice of jurors as the 30th annual Sterling Award nominations were announced Monday at the Varscona Theatre.

That show is Crazy For You. And the Citadel/ Theatre Calgary co-production directed by Dayna Terkatch scooped up nominations in eight of the 24 Sterling categories, including outstanding musical production and recognition of Andrew MacDonald-Smith’s captivating star performance as the star-struck rich kid who saves a theatre.

The juror gave double Sterling nods for Cory Sincennes’ set and riotous costumes, Gerald King’s lighting, and Don Horsburgh’s musical direction. In an unusual appreciation for the way the musical moved and danced onstage and raised the stakes on the fine art of the pratfall, both Terkatch’s choreography and Jonathan Purvis’s fight direction got nominations in the same category.

Actor Mathew Hulshof presided over Monday’s announcement — the prelude to the June 26 Sterling Gala at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre to celebrate the best of Edmonton theatre this past season.

If Crazy For You is reworked from an earlier Gershwin musical, the two other most nominated productions of the season have roots in other creations, as well. The indie Edmonton Actors Theatre production of Stupid Fucking Bird by the American playwright Aaron Posner is up for Sterling awards in seven categories; Chris Craddock’s adaptation of the Miriam Toews’ novel Irma Voth has six nominations.

Andréa Jorawsky as Irma in Irma Voth, Theatre Network. Photo by Ian Jackson/ EPIC Photography

Irma Voth, which premiered at Theatre Network in a Bradley Moss production, garnered Craddock an Outstanding New Play nod, along with nominations for director Moss, for Andréa Jorawsky in the title role, and for Kendra Connor in the supporting role as Irma’s feisty kid sister, along with Sterling salutations for designer Megan Koshka and for the multi-media ingenuity of Ian Jackson.

Cast of Stupid Fucking Bird, Edmonton Actors Theatre. Photo by Mat Simpson.

Stupid Fucking Bird, a sassy, irreverent and apt retrofit of Chekhov’s The Seagull was recognized by the jurors with nominations in the independent theatre category, as well as for director Dave Horak. Four of the performances from its crack ensemble received nominations: Mat Simpson in the leading actor category, and Ben Stevens, Robert Benz, and Melissa Thingelstad as supporting actors.

Here’s a life-and-art reverb you won’t see anywhere else across the country this awards season. The late great theatre actor/ director/ impresario after whom Edmonton’s awards are named, actually showed up as a character onstage in a play this year — and as of Monday it’s a Sterling-nominated play at that.

Darrin Hagen’s Witch Hunt At The Strand, which launched the Workshop West season, is one of the five nominees for outstanding new play. And Davina Stewart’s grandly imperious performance as the redoubtable Mrs. Haynes in a story unearthed from an ignominious chapter in our civic history, is up for a Sterling in the supporting actress category.

Two of the other nominees in the intriguing New Play category have a local resonance, too. Matthew MacKenzie’s (very) black “comedy” Bust, which premiered at Theatre Network, is set in Fort McMurray post-fire. And Stewart Lemoine’s For The Love of Cynthia, a comedy fable that premiered in the Teatro La Quindicina season, was written to be the first production in the newly refurbished Varscona Theatre. It involves a festive opening of traditional boundaries — the kingdom of Cynthia, about as big as a farm, is west of Drayton Valley and south of Lodgepole — and the creation of a play-with-in-a-play to celebrate.

The other new play nominee is unusual in provenance, too: Sister Sister, a dark-hued sibling dysfunction comedy by the American playwright Barbara Blumenthal-Erlich. Its debut production happened in Edmonton AB, at Northern Light, directed and designed by Trevor Schmidt. One of Louise Lambert’s two Sterling nominations is for her performance in Sister Sister; the other is her supporting work as the Nurse in the Freewill Shakespeare Festival’s production of Romeo and Juliet.

Farren Timoteo as Black Stache in Peter and the Starcatcher, Citadel Theatre. Photo by Ian Jackson, Epic Photography.

In all, the Citadel comes away with 19 Sterling nominations, the most by far of any theatre company. In addition to the eight for Crazy For You, five — including outstanding production, director, musical director, and costume design — are for James MacDonald’s production of the Peter Pan prequel fantasy Peter and the Starcatcher, and the riotous star performance from Farren Timoteo as Black Stache, the one-handed pirate king and upstager whose evolving identity will not escape you.

Theatre Network received seven nominations in all, Edmonton Actors Theatre six for Stupid Fucking Bird. Of the Freewill Shakespeare Festival’s five nominations, four are for Marianne Copthorne’s Romeo and Juliet. Teatro La Quindicina’s five nominations, two are for Witness to a Conga, a Lemoine comedy in the outstanding production category, in which a man dances his way out of a heart-heavy boyhood into joyful forward momentum.  

Northern Light, and the indie company MadFandango (for Nancy McAlear’s production of Bryony Lavery’s enigmatic The Believers) will hoist a glass at the Sterling gala with four nominations apiece. After that, the nominations are dispersed pretty equally amongst companies of every size, from the Mayfield (Jesus Christ Superstar) to  Cardiac (Peter Fechter: 50 Minutes) and Wild Side Productions (10 out of 12).

The theatre for young audiences categories are dominated by Bello (a Concrete Theatre/ L’UniThéâtre co-production of a new Vern Thiessen play) and Hansel and Gretel (an original musical from Alberta Opera).

Zak Tardif, Onika Henry in Concrete Theatre’s Bello. Photo by Kim Clegg

On Sterling gala night at the Mayfield, hosted by Nadine Chu and Mark Meer, the Citadel’s Cheryl Hoover will be going home with the Margaret Mooney Award for achievement in administration. Betty Hushlak will receive the Ross Hill award for career achievement in production. To Maralyn Ryan, actor/ director/ playwright/ teacher/ mentor and founding artistic director of the highly influential St. Albert Children’s Theatre, goes the Sterling for most valuable contribution to Edmonton theatre.

The 2017 Sterling Award nominations

Outstanding Production of a Play: Romeo & Juliet (Freewill Shakespeare Festival); Disgraced (Citadel Theatre / Hope and Hell Theatre Company); Irma Voth (Theatre Network); Witness to a Conga (Teatro La Quindicina); Peter and the Starcatcher (Citadel Theatre)

Timothy Ryan Award for Outstanding Production of a Musical: Crazy for You (Citadel Theatre / Theatre Calgary); Million Dollar Quartet (Citadel Theatre); La Cenerentola (Edmonton Opera); Jesus Christ Superstar (Mayfield Dinner Theatre); Ah, Romance! (Plain Jane Theatre Company)

Outstanding New Play (award to playwright): Irma Voth by Chris Craddock (Theatre Network); Witch Hunt at the Strand by Darrin Hagen (Workshop West Playwrights Theatre); For the Love of Cynthia by Stewart Lemoine (Teatro La Quindicina); Sister Sister by Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich (Northern Light Theatre); Bust by Matthew Mackenzie (Theatre Network)

Outstanding Director: Dave Horak, Stupid Fucking Bird (Edmonton Actors Theatre); Bradley Moss, Irma Voth (Theatre Network); James MacDonald, Peter and the Starcatcher (Citadel Theatre); Jim Guedo, 10 out of 12 (Wild Side Productions); Nancy McAlear, The Believers (MadFandango Theatre Collective)

Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Andrew MacDonald-Smith, Crazy for You (Citadel Theatre / Theatre Calgary); Mat Simpson, Stupid Fucking Bird (Edmonton Actors Theatre); Farren Timoteo, Peter and the Starcatcher (Citadel Theatre); Shaun Johnston, Annupurna (Shadow Theatre); Steve Pirot, The Preacher, The Princess, and A Crow (Azimuth Theatre)

Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Andréa Jorawsky, Irma Voth (Theatre Network); Stephanie Wolfe, The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (Teatro La Quindicina); Louise Lambert, Sister Sister (Northern Light Theatre); Gianna Vacirca, The Believers (MadFandango Theatre Collective); Patricia Gomis, Moi, Monsieur, Moi! (L’UniThéâtre / Workshop West Playwrights’ Theatre)

Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Robert Markus, Jesus Christ Superstar (Mayfield Dinner Theatre); Sheldon Elter, Love’s Labour’s Lost (Freewill Shakespeare Festival); Robert Benz, Stupid Fucking Bird (Edmonton Actors Theatre); Ben Stevens, Stupid Fucking Bird (Edmonton Actors Theatre); Jesse Gervais, Romeo & Juliet (Freewill Shakespeare Festival)

Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Kendra Connor, Irma Voth (Theatre Network); Melissa Thingelstad, Stupid Fucking Bird (Edmonton Actors Theatre); Davina Stewart, Witch Hunt at the Strand (Workshop West Playwrights Theatre); Louise Lambert, Romeo & Juliet (Freewill Shakespeare Festival); Robin Craig, Sense & Sensibility (Citadel Theatre)

Outstanding Independent Production: Stupid Fucking Bird (Edmonton Actors Theatre); 9 Parts of Desire (The Maggie Tree in association with Theatre of the New Heart); 10 out of 12 (Wild Side Productions); The Believers (MadFandango Theatre Collective); Peter Fechter: 59 Minutes (Cardiac Theatre)

Outstanding Set Design: Cory Sincennes, Crazy for You (Citadel Theatre / Theatre Calgary); Chantel Fortin, Witness to a Conga (Teatro La Quindicina); Megan Koshka, Irma Voth (Theatre Network); Trevor Schmidt, Sister Sister (Northern Light Theatre); Stephanie Bahniuk, Stupid Fucking Bird (Edmonton Actors Theatre)

Outstanding Costume Design: Deanna Finnman, La Cenerentola (Edmonton Opera); Megan Koshka, Peter and the Starcatcher (Citadel Theatre); Leslie Frankish, Sense & Sensibility (Citadel Theatre); Cory Sincennes, Crazy for You (Citadel Theatre / Theatre Calgary); Leona Brausen, Cocktails at Pam’s (Teatro La Quindicina)

Outstanding Lighting Design: Kerem Çetinel, Fortune Falls (Catalyst Theatre); Scott Peters, 10 out of 12 (Wild Side Productions); T. Erin Gruber, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Citadel Theatre); Daniel van Heyst, Annapurna (Shadow Theatre); Gerald King, Crazy for You (Citadel Theatre / Theatre Calgary)

Outstanding Multi-Media Design: Joel Adria, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Citadel Theatre); Ian Jackson, Irma Voth (Theatre Network); Matt Schuurman, La Raccourcie (L’UniThéâtre); T. Erin Gruber, The Believers (MadFandango Theatre Collective); Misha Hlebnicov, Peter Fechter: 59 Minutes (Cardiac Theatre)

Outstanding Score of a Play or Musical: Jason Kodie, Perception (L’UniThéâtre); Aaron Macri, The Preacher, The Princess and A Crow (Azimuth Theatre); Matthew Skopyk, Romeo & Juliet (Freewill Shakespeare Festival); Allan Gilliland, Sense & Sensibility (Citadel Theatre); Jenny Boutros & Etelka Nyilasi, 9 Parts of Desire (The Maggie Tree in association with Theatre of the New Heart)

Outstanding Musical Director: Don Horsburgh, Crazy for You (Citadel Theatre / Theatre Calgary); Bob Foster, Million Dollar Quartet (Citadel Theatre); Van Wilmott, Jesus Christ Superstar (Mayfield Dinner Theatre); Erik Mortimer, Peter and the Starcatcher (Citadel Theatre); Nicolas Samoil, Bonnie and Clyde: The Two Person, Six Gun Musical (Northern Light Theatre)

Outstanding Choreography or Fight Direction: Samantha Jeffery, Henry V (Grindstone Theatre / The Malachites); Laura Krewski, Jesus Christ Superstar (Mayfield Dinner Theatre); Dayna Tekatch, Crazy for You (Citadel Theatre / Theatre Calgary); Amber Borotsik, Bone Wars (Punctuate! Theatre); Jonathan Purvis, Crazy for You (Citadel Theatre / Theatre Calgary)

Outstanding Production for Young Audiences: Bello (Concrete Theatre, L’UniThéâtre); Bone Wars (Punctuate! Theatre); Hansel and Gretel (Alberta Opera)

Outstanding Artistic Achievement, Theatre for Young Audiences: Farren Timoteo, Director, Hansel and Gretel (Alberta Opera); Deanna Finnman, Costume Design, Hansel and Gretel (Alberta Opera); Stephanie Bahniuk, Set and Lighting Design, Hansel and Gretel (Alberta Opera); Mieko Ouchi, Director, Bello (Concrete Theatre, L’UniThéâtre); Vern Thiessen and Brian Dooley, Writing and Translation, Bello (Concrete Theatre / L’UniThéâtre)

Individual Achievement in Production: Adam Turnbull, Chris Kavanagh, Angie Sotiropoulos; Matt Currie 

Morgan Grau, Sarah Feutl, Graham Mothersill in The Fall of the House of Atreus. Photo supplied.

Outstanding Fringe Production: Scaramouche Jones (Blarney Productions); The Fall of the House of Atreus: A Cowboy Love Song (Troglodyte Theatre); Bat Boy: The Musical (Straight Edge Theatre / Patient Mango Theatre); Shakespeare’s Sirens: a burlesque revue (Send in the Girls Burlesque); Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Scona Alumni Theatre Co.)

Outstanding Fringe New Work (award to playwright): The Fall of the House of Atreus: A Cowboy Love Song by Jessy Ardern (Troglodyte Theatre); Trail and Error by Linda Wood Edwards (Northern Sabbatical Productions); Prepare for the Worst! by Trevor Schmidt & Darrin Hagen (Guys in Disguise); Shakespeare’s Sirens: a Burlesque Revue by Ellen Chorley, Morgan Smith and C. J. Rowein (Send in the Girls Burlesque); The Unsyncables by Rebecca Ann Merkley (Dammitammy Productions)

Outstanding Fringe Director: Luc Tellier, Never Swim Alone (Blarney Productions / Cowardly Lion Productions); Dave Horak, 70 Scenes of Halloween (Edmonton Actors Theatre); Corben Kushneryk, The Fall of the House of Atreus: A Cowboy Love Song (Troglodyte Theatre); Braydon Dowler-Coltman, Scaramouche Jones (Blarney Productions); Brent Felzien and Neil LaGrandeur, Cowboy: A Cowboy Story (Accidental Humour Co.)

Outstanding Fringe Performance by an Actor: Graham Mothersill, Good with People (Trunk Theatre); Garett Ross, The Dirty Talk (Atlas Theatre); Chris Scott, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Scona Alumni Theatre Co.); Robert Benz, Scaramouche Jones (Blarney Productions); Ben Stevens, Never Swim Alone (Blarney Productions / Cowardly Lion Productions)

Outstanding Fringe Performance by an Actress: Jenny McKillop, Airswimming (Praise Doris Productions); Nadine Veroba, Bat Boy: The Musical (Straight Edge Theater / Patient Mango Theatre); Sarah Feutl, The Fall of the House of Atreus: A Cowboy Love Song (Troglodyte Theatre); Jayce McKenzie, Salt Water Moon (Whizgiggling Productions); Kendra Connor, Airswimming (Praise Doris Productions); Ellen Chorley, Trail and Error (Northern Sabbatical Productions)

The Margaret Mooney Award for Outstanding Achievement in Administration: Cheryl Hoover

The Ross Hill Award for Career Achievement in Production: Betty Hushlak

The Sterling Award for the Most Valuable Contribution to Theatre in Edmonton: Maralyn Ryan




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