It was a spread-the-wealth evening Monday, as nine South Florida theater companies took home Carbonell Awards at the 41st annual event at the Broward Center. Still, Miami’s Zoetic Stage was the big winner with six awards – three each for the Stephen Sondheim musical Passion and for Michael McKeever’s new play, After.
Then again, judging by who walked off with the top awards, it was a good night for the Maltz Jupiter Theatre and GableStage. The former copped the best musical production Carbonell for Me and My Girl, while the latter took the top play production prize for Marco Ramirez’s boxing tale, The Royale.
The relatively smooth ceremony was again produced by McKeever and directed by Stuart Meltzer, both of whom earned Carbonells on Monday. McKeever was again cited for best new work – After – a nearly annual occurrence. He was a no-show at the ceremony, because his Daniel’s Husband – last year’s new play winner – opens tonight at off-Broadway’s Cherry Lane Theatre. Meltzer was very much in evidence at the Broward Center, accepting McKeever’s Carbonell and his own for directing Passion.
Passion is one of Sondheim’s darker musicals, which most theater companies shy away from. Calling it “a passion project” for himself, Meltzer added “We’re theater people. We don’t necessarily do what makes sense.”
Jeni Hacker appeared in both Zoetic productions and picked up Carbonells for her work in each. She was named best actress in a musical for Passion’s obsessive Fosca and best supporting actress in a play, for her portrayal of angry wife and mother Connie in After. Also in After was Mia Matthews, cited as the year’s best actress in a play, for her performance as Julia, in denial about her bullying son.
The Maltz Jupiter, usually a major Carbonell winner, had to settle for two awards. In addition to best musical production, the north Palm Beach County theater won for best male performer, Me and My Girl’s lead, Matt Loehr, who already had three Carbonells to his credit.
GableStage’s The Royale was one of three productions – along with Passion and After – to earn three Carbonells. Joe Adler took home his umpteenth Carbonell for best director of a play, while his leading actor, Aygemang Clay, received the best actor award in his professional debut.
Palm Beach Dramaworks won in two design categories for its Night of the Iguana, best lighting design (Paul Black) and sound design (Matt Corey). MNM Productions, a relatively new troupe which performs at the Kravis Center’s Rinker Playhouse, gained its first Carbonell, with its mounting of the Kander and Ebb revue, The World Goes ’Round, singled out for best ensemble.
Other companies that picked up one Carbonell this year were: Slow Burn Theatre (supporting actress in a musical, Leah Sessa in Heathers), Island City Stage (costume design, Peter A. Lovello, Perfect Arrangement) and Area Stage (scenic design, Jodi Dellaventura, The Nether).
The ceremonies opened with a medley of songs from the best musical winners of the Carbonells’ first 40 years and later featured a slide projection montage of South Florida directors over those four decades. Also given a tribute was popular publicist Charlie Cinnamon, who died in November, just days before his 95th birthday.
A new award was inaugurated in Cinnamon’s honor and its first recipient was area philanthropist, board member and avid audience member Jerry Cohen. The prestigious George Abbott Award for outstanding achievement in the arts went to Judith Mitchell, CEO of the Kravis Center. And the Ruth Foreman Award for a stage company that has made significant contributions to the community went to Fort Lauderdale’s Florida Children’s Theatre.