In less than a week, Theatre Arts Guild voters must pick their favorites from 150 or so nominees in 39 productions. I saw 30 of the 39, and many others that weren’t nominated, including some that were badly neglected on the ballots.
Of the three funniest plays I saw, only Lend Me a Tenor (Omaha Community Playhouse) received appropriate recognition, with nods for best comedy, director, two lead actors, a supporting actor and four featured actors. It was even nominated in the ensemble category for its curtain call, a great finishing touch which should help Carl Beck win for directing.
With three of its deserving women given featured nods, they could split votes and give Mary Kelly an edge for her nurse Annie in In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play). I especially enjoyed one of the Tenor trio, Laura Leininger as Maria, but she was even better in Tartuffe (Brigit St. Brigit Theatre).
It was another of my three funniest, and was nominated as outstanding comedy, but won no attention for a terrific cast that included John Durbin in the title role. His Equity status shouldn’t have hindered his nomination given nods for other Equity talents such as Kim Gambino in the Blue Barn’s Bug.
But by far the best comedy omitted from the nominations was the Circle Theater’s One for the Road, and Laura Marr’s performance in that Willy Russell play was an even more egregious omission. The only nominated lead comedic performance that compares with Marr’s work and the forementioned roles by Durbin and Leininger was the brilliant Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek as Max in Lend Me a Tenor.
Before fans of other nominees get excited, let me add a few qualifiers: I’m a huge fan of On Golden Pond, but I don’t think of it primarily as a laugh-fest, so the above comments don’t detract from my appreciation of its poignant moments nor of the lead performance by Dennis Collins or the featured role by Don Harris.
And I was away from Omaha during the run of the much-nominated Becky’s New Car. That leaves one other nominee in the comedy category, the Vibrator Play, another drama with merit far beyond its comedic moments. (https://hoyoskitchen.com)
Enough of the funny stuff. I’ll be surprised if Spring Awakening (Blue Barn) doesn’t beat out the Playhouse Hairspray for best musical. But, even with three Hairspray gals competing for best supporting actress in a strong five-woman group, I won’t bet against Bailey Carlson, a real scene-stealer as Penny.
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