The Robbie Awards
If it's true that all the world's a stage, then it's entirely possible that that world resides in a galaxy made up of phony awards programs, at least in the minds of pretend theater critics who have a deadline to meet and a column to write. Therefore, without further ado, we bring you the Third Annual Robbie Awards, which celebrate the highs and lows of the past theater season and remind our readers that they take in the stage at their own peril.
The Kick Off Your Sunday Shoes And Please Never Put Them Back On Again Under Any Circumstances Award for Worst Musical to . . . Desert Stages Footloose
Things happened this year that were more horrible than Desert Stages' production of Footloose, which finally sputtered to a close just last week. Things like, um, well, uh . . . actually, come to think of it, this jaw-dropper was as bad as things got around here, on- or offstage, all year long. Flat-footed dancing and off-key bellowing are never any fun, but wrapped around a remake of a cheesy '80s movie musical and handed to a grinding herd of (count 'em!) 30 teenagers to enact, this combination becomes a special kind of torture the kind that deserves a Robbie award, for example.
The "Ill Have Fries with That!" Award for Nicest Theatrical Surprise to . . . Broadway Palm Dinner Theatres The King and I
They sang and danced while we chomped chocolate mousse pie and sipped gin-tonics, except that after the first few minutes, we set down our forks and ceased our imbibing because we were mesmerized at a dinner theater, no less! by the goings-on onstage. With the help of some amazing costuming and some stunning vocal prowess, Jennifer Davis-Johnson sold this stuffy old Rodgers and Hammerstein classic like mad, Anna-ing up a storm in John White and Mary Atkinson's giant hoop-skirted confections. Nineteenth-century Siam never looked or tasted so good.
The It Couldnt Happen To a Nicer Whisk Award for Most Astonishingly Bad Lead Performance to . . . Joseph Kremer in Nearly Naked Theatres Night of the Iguana
Oh, for the days when Joseph Kremer had yet to give a bad performance! That golden era is behind us now that we have seen our Joe shriek and sputter his way through this wildly uneven take on the Tennessee Williams classic. We want to blame Kremer's director, David Weiss, for allowing him to play the lead at the same manic speed for more than two hours, but we who've been wowed by Joe in so many roles, even that of a dancing, singing kitchen whisk in Beauty and the Beast have to wonder why he didn't seem to know his lines on opening night. Ah, well, there's always next season.
The Edward Everett Horton Award for Best Use of Homophobic Stereotypes to . . . North Valley Playhouses Diet! The Musical!
It refused to entertain us, but Diet! The Musical! certainly never stopped insulting our intelligence (or our ears!) during its three-week run in April. Not content to stop at making fun of folks with glandular problems, playwrights Susan and Kenneth LaFave dragged into their second act an effeminate gay character so odious, so repulsively hateful in its depiction of homosexuals that he (as enacted by the profoundly under-talented Mark Shannon, dressed in iridescent pink ladies' slacks and a glittery blouse with six inches of lace at the cuffs) set the human rights movement back a hundred years. The only thing more lame than this unapologetically stupid, homophobic, tin-eared tuner is the sad campaign that poor Mr. LaFave, a former critic himself, attempted to launch after New Times dared to trash his mind-bendingly dreadful "musical." Fortunately, no one cared to hear La LaFave's case perhaps because they'd seen this loathsome show! and he eventually returned to whatever it is that former critics do when they're not writing crappy musicals.
The Teeny Weeny Chili Beanie Award for Best Vanishing Act By A Local Theater to . . . Unnamed Theater Company
It's a good thing the guys over at Side Bar Productions didn't waste any time coming up with a name for their new theater company before it vanished in a puff of theatrical smoke last month. After announcing a "name the theater" contest and sending out media kits for their debut production of Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song Trilogy (featuring perennial fairy agitator Mark Shannon!), the company disappeared without a trace. Their phone number is disconnected; their season schedule appears frozen, and a single sentence on the company's Web site tells us not where they went, only that they have "a great deal of sadness" about their cancellation. Thus, we'll never know whether Unnamed's vanishing act is a good thing or not.
The Who Died and Left You a Crown of Thorns? Award for Most Pretentious Theater Press Kit to . . . Ted Neeley in Jesus Christ Superstar
It could happen to you: You spend your whole adult life pretending you're Christ, and after a while, you start believing you can part the Red Sea. This must be what was behind the Christ-complex nonsense in Ted Neeley's media kit for the recent Theater League production of Jesus Christ Superstar. The kit included a list of high-and-mighty "Interview Guidelines" that asked reporters to only ask Neeley about "The process of finding a Judas who could live up to and honor [original Judas actor] Carl Anderson's memory and talent." Or "The fans that wait for him at the stage door in every market, some of whom have traveled from as far as Europe and South America." Holy god! Give this guy a Robbie!
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.