Time to Weigh TAG Nominees

If you've seen most of the performances, it's more fun finding who got nominated for the Theatre Arts Guild awards than learning later about the winners. Not that any playgoer wouldn't want to attend the 43rd annual TAG Awards Gala in August.

      But then you face the disappointment of finding some of your favorites cast aside by the voters. Now you've still got 170 or so in the running for 30 honors. And you can join me in gleeful second-guessing.

      Most of my picks made the first cut that took place early in July when a committee counted nominations and narrowed it to the top five or six. I saw at least three plays where every cast member was award-worthy: Distant Music, Three Tall Women and Tuesdays with Morrie.

      Surprisingly, they didn't all get nominated. Bill Hutson's Morrie and Ruth Rath's role as the senior of Edward Albee's tall women couldn't miss, and both should win in the lead actor and actress comedy/drama categories.

      But Scott Kurz, terrific as the Irish immigrant bartender in Brigit Saint Brigit's Distant Music, was nominated as supporting actor despite his lead role, while co-star Laura Leininger is up for supporting actress, and their other co-star Kevin Barratt was left off the lists. Also neglected was Chris Shonka, Hutson's co-star who was recently honored by the Omaha Community Playhouse.

      And Rath was joined only by Chris Fowler, not the other two women in the Blue Barn play, which should win for outstanding drama, despite strong competition from Tuesdays with Morrie and the Barn's Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol. It's no criticism of Fowler to wonder why his minor role as The Boy or Brendan JD Reilly's in Dark Play at the University of Nebraska at Omaha made a list of featured actors that omitted Rob Baker's powerful performance in A Thousand Clowns at the Playhouse.

      The only musical I saw where every cast member deserved a nomination was And the World Goes 'Round, the show Gordon Cantiello created for a fundraiser that revived at the Jewish Community Center. That's why it produced an oddity: nomination for outstanding musical at the JCC and for outstanding special event at the Children's Care Respite Center fundraiser, plus supporting bids for Kathy Tyree and Tiffany White-Welchen.

      I suspect those decisions inspired some head-scratching on ballot-counting Saturday.

      My guess is that it won't win either category, with the once-only staged reading of August: Osage County at Playhouse taking the honor. Much as I enjoyed Cantiello's Kander-Ebb revue, my pick for top musical and director is Carl Beck and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

      And my argument for those two choices: Beck took what I didn't consider that great a show when the touring company came to the Orpheum and gave it far superior treatment at the Playhouse. That's why eight of his cast members won nominations for supporting or featured roles.

      Speaking of musicals, for my money, Kirstin Kluver should be a shoo-in for her performance as Adelaide in the Playhouse Guys and Dolls. Oddly, her Nathan Detroit, Jonathan Hickerson, didn't make the ballot, which leaves top actor in a musical up for grabs.

      I might have different favorites if I'd seen the Candy Project's summer production of [title of show]. I got a pleasing taste of it when several cast members, including Bill Grennan, whose lead role was nominated, performed at the Playhouse 21 and Over karaoke night. Another regret in this category: missing Dan Tracy who was nominated for the title role in Creighton's Floyd Collins.

      Since much of it takes place in a cave, it's a safe guess that Matt DeNoncour's lighting design might contend with the married couple, Bill Van Deest for Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol and Carol Wisner for Three Tall Women, both frequent honorees. But the nominee with the most memorable lighting was probably Steven L. Williams for UNO's Dark Play which also won an acting nomination for Grennan and directing for Amy Lane.

      Evidently special events can't be included in other categories or Ms. Lane might be up for directing two powerful staged readings at the Playhouse, In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play and August: Osage County. And if that were the case, everyone tells me Susie Baer Collins' crazy matriarch from Osage would give Ruth Rath and Kathy Wheeldon a battle for lead actress.

      Other omissions deserve mention: Nary a nominee, such as John or Tyrone Beasley or Carl Brooks, from the John Beasley Theater. Perhaps too few saw Paul Boesing's performance in The Vertical Hour, one among many worthy ones from the late SkullDuggery Theatre. Andrew McGreevy's efforts might be recognized with an award for outstanding new script with his Brick: An a Capella Musical.

      Voting ends July 23 with awards presented 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 7, with Dave Wingert as emcee at Hilton Omaha. 

posted at 10:39 pm
on Thursday, July 14th, 2011

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