So Many Choices: The CEA Balancing Act

One hundred people and productions were nominated for the 2009 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards in theater, which were bestowed Aug. 30 at Below Zero Lounge before a big, happy, socializing crowd. Let's say that again: 100 nominations. No single company d

One hundred people and productions were nominated for the 2009 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards in theater, which were bestowed Aug. 30 at Below Zero Lounge before a big, happy, socializing crowd. Let’s say that again: 100 nominations.

And that’s not the half of it. When local theater critics assemble the nominations in 20 categories, we typically consider at least 10 or 15 candidates for each, often more. That means the number of potential nominees is between 200 and 300, a measure of the depth and breadth of Cincinnati’s theaters and the work they present annually.

The 13th annual CEAs revealed several things. No single company dominated this year, as 11 different organizations received awards for work on 15 separate productions. Ensemble Theatre received three for three different productions during a season characterized by many as its strongest ever: Annie Fitzpatrick was named for her supporting role as an uptight adult sister in Mauritius, and Adrian Sparks and Neva Rae Powers were cited as the season’s best visiting performers for The Seafarer and Grey Gardens, respectively.

Know Theatre, Covedale Center, New Stage Collective, Cincinnati Music Theatre and Cincinnati Shakespeare had shows with multiple wins. Know’s lovely and poetic Eurydice was recognized for Sean Savoie’s lighting design and Doug Borntrager’s special effects and for Robert Pavlovich’s supporting performance as Eurydice’s father. Covedale’s staging of Guys and Dolls was cited for its ensemble cast and for Lesley Hitch’s supporting performance as the daffy Adelaide. At Cincinnati Shakespeare, season opener Amadeus earned Bruce Cromer another acting CEA for his portrait of the envious composer Salieri. Heidi Jo Schiemer’s costumes for Amadeus also won an award.

As Willy Loman’s put-upon wife Linda in New Edgecliff Theatre’s Death of a Salesman, Kate Wilford was recognized in public voting as the season’s outstanding lead actress in a drama. Her arrival at Below Zero at the moment of her award’s announcement was a hilarious point in a loosely organized but loving evening.

Two community theaters received CEAs in public voting: Cincinnati Music Theatre’s Gypsy was designated outstanding community theater production, and two cast members, Pamela Day and Derek Johnson, were honored. Footlighters1776, in which veteran actor Gary Rogers played Ben Franklin, earned the award for outstanding leading actor in a musical.

In categories voted by critics, the Cincinnati Playhouse’s production of the powerful Blackbird, directed by Michael Evan Haney (pictured), was the year’s outstanding drama. New Stage Collective’s final production, the bittersweet Sondheim musical A Little Night Music, directed for NSC by Joe Deer at Know Theatre, was named the year’s outstanding musical.

The now-closed New Stage Collective also produced the year’s outstanding local premiere, Christopher Shinn’s two-person contemporary drama, Dying City. The critics chose a Cincy Fringe Festival production, A Perfectly Wonderful Evening, about a dinner conversation between comedian Groucho Marx and poet T.S. Eliot, as the season’s best alternative show. Chris Wesselman directed.

In other critical achievement categories, the Playhouse’s inventive staging of Love Song won a CEA for Narelle Sissons, and Andrew Palermo, a 1994 College-Conservatory of Music grad, was recognized for his energetic choreography for Two Gentlemen of Verona, which he directed with current CCM students.

Jennifer Perrino, Tim Perrino and Denny Reed — the founders of Cincinnati Landmark Productions, operators of the Showboat Majestic and Covedale Center — were inducted into the CEA Hall of Fame.

Check out the full list of 2009 winners and nominees here and a photo gallery from the Aug. 30 event here.

CONTACT RICK PENDER: [email protected]