The Normy nominating committee saw 22 community and student shows on 14 different stages in 2007. Competition was keen, but there was little dissension during deliberations. In fact, every selection was unanimous.
Best Flesh-and-Blood New Hampshire Villagers
Shrewsbury Players populated Grover’s Corners with walking, talking inhabitants. Thornton Wilder’s Our Town brings out the best in community theaters, and this was no exception. Among the able cast, Bill Lee gets special mention for his spot-on New England accent, and Marguerite Spellman for doing just enough and not too much as Emily Webb.
Best Student production: Grammar School Division:
Were the 35 cast members of When I Grow Up at the Bradley Beach School all first-graders? Or just really short Broadway gypsies with high-pitched voices? Only director Margie Zaccaro knows for sure, and she’s not talking.
The Rabbit-out-of-the-Hat Award
Making a silk purse out of a musical whose best days were 20 years ago is a Normy-worthy achievement. Personals has nothing new to say about online dating, but Holmdel Theatre Company made it work. Chalk it up to director/performer Kelly Bird finding the show and invigorating it.
The Rarely-awarded Triple Play Normy
Monmouth Players is the oldest established community theater in the County, and they were a busy group in ’07. In February, Love Is in the Air was “a unique theater outing”. In April, Daughters was “a real audience pleaser,” and Guilty Conscience was “a tasty treat” in October. They get the Award for all three.
Best Student Production: High School Division:
Shakespeare too difficult for high school kids to master? Not when the Red Bank Catholic Casey Players tackle it. The student cast turned A Midsummer Night’s Dream into a romantic, comedic romp. Besides the kids and director Keith Gissubel, cast-moms Eileen Levine and Joni Gartner share a Normy for their wonderful costumes.
Best Student Production: Community College Division:
Then there’s outdoor Shakespeare. The Tempest was ideally suited to Brookdale’s Great Lawn, especially the prologue’s raging storm. “Bestir, bestir,” the student sailors wailed, and a more realistic tempest on a Great Lawn never existed. A Bard-worthy Normy to director John Bukovec and his Summer Shakespeare Ensemble.
Get ‘em While They’re Young
Phoenix Productions lured a few thousand pre-teen girls to the Count Basie Theatre with a weekend of Disney’s “High School Musical”. It must have worked, because they’re reprising the same show next year for two weekends…along with Joseph/Dreamcoat and Beauty and the Beast. Devoting a year to hooking young audiences on live theater is a worthy endeavor.
Best Cabaret Jump to NYC
If you missed Maggie Graham “doing” divas Streisand, Garland, Merman and others in Ocean Grove, you can catch Carol Channeling (get it?) Saturday nights this month at the Triad Theatre, 158 West 72nd Street in the Big Apple. That’s a New York cabaret engagement, in case you’re wondering.
Best Student Production: University Division:
All in the Timing isn’t easy even for a higher-learning theater, because playwright David Ives is as high-learned as you can get. His plays constitute a virtual stress test of the English language, and all 14 Monmouth University student-actors passed with honors. A Normy to each one. (One to director Jack Burke, too.)
Marybeth Dorman Jacobson and Marissa Caro highlighted productions of Camelot at Phoenix Productions and Spring Lake Theatre Company, respectively. Rather than starting a lifelong feud between the two very special singers, we prevailed on the Committee to award a Normy for Best Camelot Queen to each of them.
The Choreography&Dance Normy
Stacy Coppola choreographed and played Bianca in Kiss Me, Kate at the Park System Barn. Need we say more? Considering that The Barn is doing Pajama Game next summer (“Steam Heat,” anyone?), maybe we should rename this Normy the Stacy.
The Two-Decade-Achievement Award
First Avenue Playhouse has produced eight-to-ten plays annually for 20 years. That alone is Normy-worthy, but a couple of ’07 offerings would qualify even in a slow year. For their productions of the little-known Maltby-Shire revue Closer Than Ever and Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound, as well as for years of dedication to theatre, a richly-deserved Normy for First Avenue producer Joe Bagnole.
Good Things in Small Packages
Over the Rainbow Productions’ intimate Eatontown Playhouse was the perfect venue for the two-character play Mass Appeal. Eric Walby’s Irish-accented Father Farley at the pulpit sanctified the Playhouse for a couple of hours. A Normy to him – and one to Debbie and Mike Schwartz for their producing longevity.
(We considered a new category, The Humbug Award, which would tie Premier Theatre Company for barring critics with VanZandt/Milmore for their offensive Hate Mail, but in the spirit of the season, we’ll give them both a pass.)