Saluting Dayton's 2021-22 Theater Season

Jul. 9—In the midst of a pandemic including the surge of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, numerous theater organizations across the Miami Valley returned full scale during the 2021-2022 season which was nothing short of a feat.

Over the past 12 months, performing and supporting theater became a delicate balance of closely monitoring COVID-19 cases and growing accustomed to mask-wearing for actors and audience. But even though the arts landscape was forced to adjust to situations beyond its control, including a handful of COVID outbreaks among productions leading to abrupt cancellations, troupes nonetheless beckoned theatergoers, literally at one point, to leave their troubles outside. From professional and collegiate stages to community theaters, a variety of outstanding shows showcased an impressive array of actors, directors, designers, and musicians.

However, not all companies were able to rebound. The Nerve, a professional, millennial-centric troupe specializing in an edgy, off-Broadway vibe, folded in June. Even so, their final season brought poignant drama ("The Dream of the Burning Boy") and hearty laughs ("Friend Art").

Also notable on professional stages: Dayton Live provided a terrific Premier Health Broadway Series bolstered by the knockout local premiere of "Hamilton" (all 16 performances went on as scheduled in spite of the pandemic and a winter storm) and an exquisite "Fiddler on the Roof"; The Human Race Theatre Company said farewell to retiring artistic director Kevin Moore and hello to incoming artistic director Emily N. Wells while simultaneously producing the kooky "Airness," compelling gender-identity drama "Everything That's Beautiful," charming "My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend" starring dynamic triple threat Charissa Bertels, and wonderfully nostalgic "Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help"; La Comedia Dinner Theatre excelled with "Disney's The Little Mermaid" and "Phantom"; Clark State Performing Arts Center presented splendid tours of "Hairspray" and "Waitress"; and freshly rebranded TheatreLab Dayton, formerly Dare to Defy Productions, pulled out the stops with a fascinating, intimate, riveting and gender-bending "Cabaret" that deserves a return engagement.

In addition, Wright State University scored with a joyous "Mamma Mia!," an outside-the-box, thrillingly danced "Sweet Charity" featuring a Broadway-ready Tassy Kirbas, and a visceral production of Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize-winning socioeconomic drama "Sweat." Also notable across campuses: Miami University's lovely, gorgeously sung "The Light in the Piazza"; Sinclair Community College's whimsical "The Lightning Thief"; Clark State College's lively "Something Rotten!,"; and the University of Dayton's immersive "Laced," a timely look at the LGBTQ+ community.

At community theaters, Dayton Theatre Guild's imaginative "The Old Man and the Old Moon," Beavercreek Community Theatre's delightful "Something Rotten!" and multiple standouts from the Dayton Playhouse ("Hello, Dolly!" particularly conjured Broadway's Golden Age) were key. Some troupes were also unafraid to introduce audiences to little known yet engaging material, evidenced most notably in the Miami Valley premieres of INNOVAtheatre's heartfelt oratorio "Considering Matthew Shepard" and Greater Hamilton Civic Theatre's vocally sublime presentation of Academy Award-winning composer Michel Legrand's short-lived Broadway musical "Amour."

Elsewhere: "Paul Laurence Dunbar: A Sesquicentennial Celebration" offered meaningful tributes to Dayton's literary pioneer; Muse Machine returned for the first time since 2020 with a first-rate take on "The Addams Family"; and Epiphany Lutheran Church's dazzlingly down-home "Bright Star" reshaped and deepened the material to innovative levels that surpassed the original Broadway production.

I didn't see every show across the region during the season, but the following acknowledgments reflect the over 55 shows which were viewed and evaluated. Congratulations to the winners, contenders and the entire Miami Valley theater community for producing art in these challenging times.

BEST TOURING PRODUCTION

"Hamilton," Dayton Live

Contenders: "Come From Away," Dayton Live; "Dear Evan Hansen," Dayton Live; "Fiddler on the Roof," Dayton Live; "Hairspray," Clark State Performing Arts Center; "Mean Girls," Dayton Live; "That Golden Girls Show! A Puppet Parody," Dayton Live; "Waitress," Clark State Performing Arts Center

BEST PROFESSIONAL PRODUCTION OF A PLAY

"Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help," Human Race Theatre Company

Contenders: "Airness," Human Race Theatre Company; "The Dream of the Burning Boy," The Nerve; "Everything That's Beautiful," Human Race Theatre Company; "Friend Art," The Nerve; "Looped," Human Race Theatre Company; "Who's Holiday!," Human Race Theatre Company

BEST PROFESSIONAL PRODUCTION OF A MUSICAL

"Cabaret," TheatreLab Dayton, Square One Salon and The RubiGirls

Contenders: "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder," La Comedia Dinner Theatre; "Company," TheatreLab Dayton; "Disney's The Little Mermaid," La Comedia Dinner Theatre; "My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend," Human Race Theatre Company; "Phantom," La Comedia Dinner Theatre; "Something Rotten!," TheatreLab Dayton

BEST COMMUNITY THEATER PRODUCTION OF A PLAY

"The Old Man and the Old Moon," Dayton Theatre Guild

Contenders: "American Son," Dayton Playhouse; "August: Osage County," Dayton Playhouse; "Morning's at Seven," Dayton Theatre Guild; "The Norwegians," Dayton Theatre Guild; "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," Beavercreek Community Theatre; "Women in Jeopardy!," Dayton Theatre Guild

BEST COMMUNITY THEATER PRODUCTION OF A MUSICAL

"Something Rotten!," Beavercreek Community Theatre

Contenders: "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," INNOVAtheatre; "110 in the Shade," Lebanon Theatre Company; "Amour," Greater Hamilton Civic Theatre; "Children of Eden," INNOVAtheatre; "Hello, Dolly!," Dayton Playhouse; "Into the Woods," Dayton Playhouse; "The Wedding Singer," Springboro Community Theatre

BEST COLLEGIATE PRODUCTION OF A PLAY

"Sweat," Wright State University

Contenders: "Circle Mirror Transformation," Wright State University; "Laced," University of Dayton; "Lend Me a Tenor," Wright State University

BEST COLLEGIATE PRODUCTION OF A MUSICAL

"Sweet Charity," Wright State University

Contenders: "Head Over Heels," Miami University; "The Lightning Thief," Sinclair Community College; "Mamma Mia!," Wright State University; "Something Rotten!," Clark State College

BEST SPECIAL THEATRICAL EVENT

"Bright Star," Epiphany Lutheran Church

Contenders: "The Addams Family," Muse Machine; "Considering Matthew Shepard," INNOVAtheatre and Sorg Opera House; "Kevin Moore: At the Heart of the Human Race: A Farewell Celebration," Human Race Theatre Company; "The Light in the Piazza," Miami University Opera Theater; "Paul Laurence Dunbar: A Sesquicentennial Celebration," Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and Dayton Live

BEST NEW WORK

Charissa Bertels, Christian Duhamel and Ed Bell's "My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend," Human Race Theatre Company

Contenders: Philip Drennen and Skyler McNeely's "Charlie and Doggy and the Song at the Edge of the World," TheatreLab Dayton; Shanti Reinhardt's "Otis," Dayton Playhouse FutureFest; Cary Simowitz's "All the Oxytocin in Your Fingertips," Dayton Playhouse FutureFest; Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder's "Everything That's Beautiful," Human Race Theatre Company

BEST LEADING ACTOR IN A PLAY

Chris Hahn as Larry Morrow, "The Dream of the Burning Boy"

Contenders: Mike Beerbower as Gus, "The Norwegians"; Brad Bishop as the Old Man, "The Old Man and the Old Moon"; A.J. Breslin as Kevin, "Friend Art"; Jose Gutierrez del Arroyo as Pablo Picasso, "Picasso at the Lapin Agile"; Aidan Lord as Max, "Lend Me a Tenor"; Josh Aaron McCabe as Luke, "Everything That's Beautiful"; Brandon Shockney as Nick Carraway, "The Great Gatsby" (Dayton Playhouse); Zack Steele as Ed "Shreddy Eddy" Leary, "Airness"

BEST LEADING ACTRESS IN A PLAY

Kelly Mengelkoch as Jess, "Everything That's Beautiful"

Contenders: Cecily Dowd as Linda O'Shea, "Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help"; Becky Howard as Violet Weston, "August: Osage County"; Teresa Lynn as Kendra Ellis Connor, "American Son"; Mady McCabe as Tracey, "Sweat"; Marcy McGuigan as Tallulah Bankhead, "Looped"; Alex Sunderhaus as Cindy Lou Who, "Who's Holiday!"

BEST LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

Danny Arnold as Tevye, "Fiddler on the Roof"

Contenders: Stephen Christopher Anthony as Evan Hansen, "Dear Evan Hansen"; Chris Beiser as the D'Ysquith Family, "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder"; Jared Dixon as Aaron Burr, "Hamilton"; Pierre Jean Gonzalez as Alexander Hamilton, "Hamilton"; Zach King as Nick Bottom, "Something Rotten!" (TheatreLab Dayton); Andrew Levitt as Edna Turnblad, "Hairspray"; Sean Miller-Jones as Dusoleil, "Amour"; Bobby Mitchum as Robert, "Company"; Matthew Wade as Erik/Phantom, "Phantom"; Michael Wadham as Nick Bottom, "Something Rotten!" (Beavercreek Community Theatre)

BEST LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Charissa Bertels as Herself, "My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend"

Contenders: Jisel Soleil Ayon as Jenna, "Waitress"; Charity Farrell as Sally Bowles, "Cabaret"; Nadina Hassan as Regina George, "Mean Girls"; Adee McFarland as the Witch, "Into the Woods"; Tina McPhearson as Dolly Gallagher Levi, "Hello, Dolly!"; Niki Metcalf as Tracy Turnblad, "Hairspray"; Jillian Mitchell as Eve, "Children of Eden"; Maite Uzal as Golde, "Fiddler on the Roof"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A PLAY

Jason Podplesky as Mike O'Shea, Father Lovett and Betty Heckenbach, "Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help"

Contenders: Cole Frasher as Tito Merelli, "Lend Me a Tenor"; Rasell Holt as David "D Vicious" Cooper, "Airness"; Franklin Johnson as John Stokes, "American Son"; Gwyn Lee as Cat, "Laced"; Justin McCombs as Will, "Everything That's Beautiful"; Jeff Sams as Homer Bolton, "Morning's at Seven"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A PLAY

Mierka Girten as Theresa (Terri) Carmichael, "Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help"

Contenders: Reanne Acasio as Astrid "Cannibal Queen" Anderson, "Airness"; Christine Brunner as Josephine (Jo) O'Shea, "Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help"; Lauren Everett as Molly, "Friend Art"; Barbara Jorgensen as Esther (Esty) Crampton, "Morning's at Seven"; Wendi Michael as Esther Franz, "The Price" (Dayton Theatre Guild); Zavi Odetta as Cynthia, "Sweat"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

Joshua Stucky as Fraulein Schneider, "Cabaret"

Contenders: Marcus Choi as George Washington, "Hamilton"; Warren Egypt Franklin as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, "Hamilton"; Jose Gutierrez del Arroyo as Shakespeare in "Something Rotten!" (Beavercreek Community Theatre); Brent Hoggatt as Shakespeare, "Something Rotten!" (TheatreLab Dayton); Daniel Kushner as Motel, "Fiddler on the Roof"; Mitchell Lewis as Oscar Lindquist, "Sweet Charity"; Dylan McGill as Prosecutor General and Boss, "Amour"; Chris Nelson as Cornelius Hackl, "Hello, Dolly!"; Ty Smith as Nostradamus, "Something Rotten!" (TheatreLab Dayton)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Charlotte Kunesh as Young Alice Murphy, "Bright Star"

Contenders: Ta'rea Campbell as Angelica Schuyler, "Hamilton"; Lindsey Cardoza as Nostradamus in "Something Rotten!" (Beavercreek Community Theatre); Clare Hingsbergen as Rona Lisa Peretti, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee"; Tori Kocher as Ursula, "Disney's The Little Mermaid"; Katelyn Quinn as Whore and Claire, "Amour"; Jessica E. Sherman as Heidi Hansen, "Dear Evan Hansen"; Maggie Weckesser as Wednesday Addams, "The Addams Family"

BREAKTHROUGH MALE PERFORMANCE IN A PLAY

Thomas Cole as Jason, "Sweat"

Contenders: Marcus Antonio as Chris, "Sweat"; Nathan Evans as Little Charles Aiken, "August: Osage County"; Jax Heritage as Morgan, "Everything That's Beautiful"; Brendan Sheehan as Victor Franz, "The Price" (Dayton Theatre Guild); Eli Young as Albert Einstein, "Picasso at the Lapin Agile"

BREAKTHROUGH FEMALE PERFORMANCE IN A PLAY

Mandy Shannon as Barbara Fordham, "August: Osage County"

Contenders: Lizzie Huelskamp as Becky O'Shea, "Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help"; Aleksandra "Sasha" Kozlova as Germaine, "Picasso at the Lapin Agile"; Liz Lindon as Rachel, "The Dream of the Burning Boy"; Donya Rahimi as Maria Merelli, "Lend Me a Tenor"; Isabella Roberts as Morgan, "Everything That's Beautiful"; Cassandra Steimle as Suzanne, Countess and Admirer, "Picasso at the Lapin Agile"

BREAKTHROUGH MALE PERFORMANCE IN A MUSICAL

Alex Everett as the Emcee, "Cabaret"

Contenders: Nick Abouzeid as Young Jimmy Ray Dobbs, "Bright Star"; Griffin Greear as Uncle Fester Addams, "The Addams Family"; Sam Horton as William Barfèe, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee"; Ben Locke as Charlie, "Charlie and Doggy and the Song at the Edge of the World"; David Potts as Rapunzel's Prince, "Into the Woods"; Eric Riedel as Fabrizio Naccarelli, "The Light in the Piazza"; Kevin Willardson as Barnaby Tucker, "Hello, Dolly!"

BREAKTHROUGH FEMALE PERFORMANCE IN A MUSICAL

Tassy Kirbas as Charity Hope Valentine, "Sweet Charity"

Contenders: Julia Brosas as Portia, "Something Rotten!" (TheatreLab Dayton); Paige Chapman as Franca Naccarelli, "The Light in the Piazza"; Sarah Green as Sophie Sheridan, "Mamma Mia!"; Kara Hancock as Amy, "Company"; Isabel Rawlins as Morticia Addams, "The Addams Family"; Carolina Sullivan as Clara Johnson, "The Light in the Piazza"

BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY

Margarett Perry, "Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help"

Contenders: Joe Deer, "Lend Me a Tenor"; Michelle Hayford, "Laced"; Kevin Moore, "Everything That's Beautiful"; Jeff Sams, "The Old Man and the Old Moon"; Shaun Patrick Tubbs, "Sweat"; Jenna Valyn and A.J. Breslin, "The Dream of the Burning Boy"

BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL

(tie) Philip Drennen, "Cabaret" and Megan Wean Sears, "Bright Star"

Contenders: Nicholas Brown, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," Marya Spring Cordes, "Sweet Charity"; Chris Harmon, "The Lightning Thief"; Ryan Heinrich, "Amour"; Greg Hellems, "Mamma Mia!" Mackensie King, "Company"; Matt Owens, "Something Rotten!" (Beavercreek Community Theatre); Angie Thacker, "Something Rotten!" (TheatreLab Dayton)

BEST LOCAL CHOREOGRAPHY

Brandon Kelly, "Sweet Charity"

Contenders: Jessica Eggleston, "The Lightning Thief"; Lula Elzy, "The Addams Family"; Ashley Goos, "Head Over Heels"; Greg Hellems, "Mamma Mia!"; Sandra Muskopf-Hyde, "Something Rotten!" (Beavercreek Community Theatre); Megan Wean Sears, "Bright Star"; Gage Wayne, "Something Rotten!" (TheatreLab Dayton)

BEST TOURING CHOREOGRAPHY

Andy Blankenbuehler, "Hamilton"

Contenders: Andy Blankenbuehler, "CATS" (Dayton Live); Christopher Evans, "Fiddler on the Roof"; Michele Lynch, "Hairspray"; Casey Nicholaw, "Mean Girls'; Abbey O'Brien, "Waitress"

BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY

Pam Knauert Lavarnway, "Lend Me a Tenor"

Contenders: Michael S. Brewer, "Sweat"; Andrew Darr, "Picasso at the Lapin Agile"; Chris Harmon, "Morning's at Seven"; Tamara L. Honesty, "Everything That's Beautiful"; Scott J. Kimmins, "Who's Holiday!"; Eric Moore, "Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help"; Red Newman, "The Price" (Dayton Theatre Guild); Red Newman and David Shough, "The Norwegians"; Jeff Sams, "The Old Man and the Old Moon"

BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL

Pam Knauert Lavarnway, "Mamma Mia!"

Contenders: David Castellano, "The Addams Family"; Gion DeFrancesco, "Head Over Heels"; Sean Mayo, "Into the Woods"; Nicholas Muni, "The Light in the Piazza"; Mary Slocum and Ryan Heinrich, "Amour"; Edith Dinger Watkins, "Something Rotten!" (TheatreLab Dayton)

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY

Janet G. Powell, "Airness"

Contenders: Carol Finley, "The Old Man and the Old Moon"; Anne Heitker, "Picasso at the Lapin Agile"; Barbara Jorgensen, "Morning's at Seven"; Janet G. Powell, "Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help"; Cat Schmeal-Swope, "Looped"; Zoe Still, "Lend Me a Tenor"

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL

Theresa Kahle, Anne Potter and John Faas, "Hello, Dolly!"

Contenders: Ara Beal, "Something Rotten!" (TheatreLab Dayton); Emercita Erb, "Phantom"; Anne Heitker, "Something Rotten!" (Beavercreek Community Theatre); Lisa Martin-Stuart, "Head Over Heels"; Melanie Mortimore, "The Light in the Piazza"; Michelle Sampson, "Mamma Mia!"; Nikki Sherck, Alisa Vukasinovich and Zoe Still, "The Addams Family"; Zoe Still, "Sweet Charity"

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY

John Falkenbach, "The Old Man and the Old Moon"

Contenders: Ara Beal, "Friend Art"; Matthew P. Benjamin, "Lend Me a Tenor"; Matthew P. Benjamin, "Sweat"; Matthew Evans, "Laced"; John Rensel, "Airness"; David Shough, "The Norwegians"

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL

Natasha Katz, "CATS" (Dayton Live)

Contenders: Matthew P. Benjamin, "Mamma Mia!"; Matthew P. Benjamin and Gabe Reichert, "Bright Star"; Jessy Henning, "The Lightning Thief"; Gabe Reichert, "Something Rotten!" (TheatreLab Dayton); John Rensel, "My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend"; Richard Lee Waldeck, "Into the Woods"

BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A PLAY

Jay Brunner, "Everything That's Beautiful"

Contenders: Jay Brunner, "Looped"; Julian Crocamo, "Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help"; James Dunlap, "Sweat"; Aaron Poland, "Lend Me a Tenor"; K.L. Storer, "The Old Man and the Old Moon"; Eli Young, "Picasso at the Lapin Agile"

BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A MUSICAL

Mick Potter, "CATS" (Dayton Live)

Contenders: Dan Brunk, "The Lightning Thief"; Alex Lusht, "The Light in the Piazza"; Jacob McGlaun," The Addams Family"; Aaron Poland, "Sweet Charity"; Grace Randall, "Mamma Mia!"; Nevin Steinberg, "Hamilton"

BEST ORCHESTRA

"The Light in the Piazza," Musical Director: Benjamin Smolder

Contenders: "The Addams Family," Musical Director: Jeffrey Powell; "Amour," Musical Director: Betsy Horton; "Bright Star," Musical Director: David Brush; "Cabaret," Musical Director: Norman Moxley II; "Considering Matthew Shepard," Musial Director: Sarah Plaugher; "Fiddler on the Roof," Musical Director: Jonathan Marro; "Hairspray," Musical Director: Patrick Hoagland; "Sweet Charity," Musical Director: F. Wade Russo

BEST PROPERTIES

Tristan Cupp and Aubrie-Lee Dentino, "The Lightning Thief"

Contenders: Marijo Farley, "Amour"; Sarah Gomes, "Airness"; Sarah Gomes, "Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help"; Jason Hamen and Adrienne Ausdenmoore, "Bright Star"; John Lavarnway, "Mamma Mia!"; John Lavarnway, "Sweet Charity"; Shannon Sellars, "The Addams Family"

BEST PROJECTION DESIGN

Peter Nigrini, "Dear Evan Hansen"

Contenders: Erica Kerman, Patricio Guerra, Connor Harmon, and Emma Todys, "The Light in the Piazza"; Finn Ross and Adam Young, "Mean Girls"

ADDITIONAL ARTISTIC ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

—Nick Abouzeid's rendition of "Heartbreaker" in "Bright Star"

—Jay Brunner's music for "Everything That's Beautiful"

—Sha-Lemar Davis as Lil in "Friend Art"

—Philip Drennen as David in "Company"

—Ben Essex as Adolpho in "The Drowsy Chaperone" (Springboro Community Theatre)

—Charity Farrell's rendition of "Cabaret" in "Cabaret"

—Dylan Glick as Dorothy in "That Golden Girls Show! A Puppet Parody"

—Chap Hollin as Helene in "Sweet Charity"

—Digger Howard as Chef Louis in "Disney's The Little Mermaid"

—Thomas Kail's Tony-winning direction of "Hamilton"

—Sari Ketter and Shelley Butler's recreation of Bartlett Sher's Tony-nominated direction of "Fiddler on the Roof"

—Tassy Kirbas' rendition of "If My Friends Could See Me Now" in "Sweet Charity"

—Daniel Kushner's rendition of "Miracle of Miracles" in "Fiddler on the Roof"

—Mady McCabe as Marty in "Circle Mirror Transformation"

—Skyler McNeely's original music for "Friend Art"

—Jay Mills' musical direction and accompaniment of "110 in the Shade"

—Brett Ryback's musical direction and accompaniment of "My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend"

—Jessica E. Sherman's rendition of "So Big/So Small" in "Dear Evan Hansen"

—Jeremy Smith as Prince Eric in "Disney's The Little Mermaid"

—Kim Toft as Lizzie Curry in "110 in the Shade"

—The Vocal Quartet of "Sweet Charity": Tanner Gleason, Melissa Matarrese, Lily Rowan and Alex Tischer