It was a big year for Mary Poppins in metro Phoenix. During Monday, September 21’s 25th annual AriZoni Theatre Awards of Excellence ceremony, held at Tempe Center for the Arts, Phoenix Theatre’s production of Mary Poppins waltzed off (sans umbrella) with the best overall production for a contracted musical. It's one of 19 awards earned by Phoenix Theatre for works performed during the 2014-15 season.
The term “contracted” applies to theaters affiliated with Actor’s Equity Association, a labor union representing actors and stage managers. In Arizona, we have just four: Childsplay, Phoenix Theatre, and Southwest Shakespeare Company based in metro Phoenix — plus Arizona Theatre Company, which is based in Tucson but also performs at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix.
The tale of the flying nanny garnered several additional awards in the contracted theater musicals category, including director for Michael Barnard, actress in a major role for Shana Bousard, actor in a major role for Toby Yatso, choreography for Sam Hay, scenic design for Robert Kovach, and several more.
Yatso, a faculty member at the School of Music at Arizona State University, also went home with the actor in a major role award for a contracted play — for his performance in Phoenix Theatre’s production of Buyer and Cellar. He’ll perform with Phoenix Theatre again this season as the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz and Princeton/Rod in the mildly naughty musical Avenue Q. He'll also direct two productions for ASU’s Lyric Opera Theatre.
A total of 42 theaters, all based in the Valley, participate in the AriZoni Theatre Awards. Nearly one-third are youth theaters, which were recognized during a ceremony held earlier Monday evening. Awards are based on adjudicator scores, which means there’s a whole lot of judging going on during the season beyond the armchair theater criticism volleyed between audience members.
These 42 theaters include several affiliated with Phoenix-area colleges and universities. Theaters that don't participate include Black Theatre Troupe, Class 6 Theatre, Orange Theatre, Teatro Bravo, Space 55, and others.
Three shows shared the overall production award for non-contracted play: Hale Centre Theatre’s Lend Me a Tenor, Scottsdale Community Players’ The Wallace and Ladmo Show, and Stray Cat Theatre’s The Brothers Size. Another three shared the overall production award for non-contracted musical: Hale Centre Theatre’s My Fair Lady, and both The Soul of Broadway: Act II and Young Frankenstein performed by Fountain Hills Theater.
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Ron May, artistic director for Stray Cat Theatre, earned the director award for contracted play (Buyer and Cellar at Phoenix Theatre) and non-contracted play (The Brothers Size at Stray Cat Theatre). The latter also went to Damon Dering for Nearly Naked Theatres’ Valhalla. The director award for non-contracted musical went to both Damon J. Bolling for Dreamgirls at Desert Foothills Theatre and Cambrian James for My Fair Lady at Hale Centre Theatre.
The nearly three-hour ceremony featured performances from Dreamgirls (Desert Foothills Theater), My Fair Lady (Hale), Spellbound (Southwest Shakespeare Company) and Follies (Theater Works) — plus the usual riffs on life in theater land and jokes fathomed only by hard-core theater nerds.
If you’re among them, you can visit the AriZoni Awards website for a complete list of this year's winners.