The jaws that dropped last year around this time at the annual Suzi Bass Awards nominations event were back in working order as nominations for the 2013–14 season were announced Monday night, with mostly straightforward, expected nominations that spread wealth throughout Atlanta’s local theater community.
A local version of the Tony Awards — named after the late Atlanta actress Suzi Bass — the Suzis handed out trophies for the first time for the 2004–05 season. This year’s awards ceremony is November 3. A full list of nominees can be found here.
Last season, the group only doled out one nomination to Serenbe Playhouse’s acclaimed Hair, but this year was altogether different. Brian Clowdus, Serenbe Playhouse’s artistic director, saw his take on Oklahoma! lead the way with 11 nominations in nine categories, including Best Musical and himself for Best Director. It will be competing against fellow Best Musical contenders Chicago (The Legacy Theatre), Harmony (Alliance Theatre), Mary Poppins (Aurora Theatre) and The Rocky Horror Show (Actor’s Express). Oklahoma! is probably the favorite, but Harmony and Mary Poppins could be spoilers.
Clowdus claimed to be on “cloud nine” after the nominations.“Oklahoma! got a lot of nominations; The Wonderful Wizard of Oz got a few nominations,” he says. “Those were our two biggest shows to date and it’s nice to get recognition for those. I’m happy. Different from last year. We don’t do this for the awards, but it’s great to get recognition. For me, it’s nice to see my actors and designers and choreographer nominated.”
As a freelance director, Clowdus also led both the cast of Stage Door Player’s Godspell and Fabrefaction’s Shakespeare’s R&J to ensemble nominations.
In the running for Best Play are two productions from the Alliance Theatre, Choir Boy and The Geller Girls; two from Actor’s Express, End of the Rainbow and Venus in Fur; as well as Georgia Shakespeare’s One Man, Two Guvnors and True Colors Theatre Company’s Race. Picking a winner here won’t be easy. The only surprise is that Theatrical Outfit’s lauded Dividing the Estate didn’t make the cut.
The race for Best Actor in a Play seems competitive while the race for Best Actress in a Play seems way less so. Lead Actor in a Play nominees are Neal A. Ghant and Andrew Benator in Race, Aaron Muñoz for One Man, Two Guvnors, Bart Hansard for Aurora Theatre’s Lombardi, Bruce Evers for Theatrical Outfit’s Best of Enemies and previous winner Joe Knezevich for Georgia Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In the running for Lead Actress in a Play are Carolyn Cook (last year’s winner for Horizon Theatre’s Time Stands Still) for Lombardi, Elisabeth Omilami for Best of Enemies, Mary Lynn Owen for Actor’s Express’ Six Degrees of Separation, Natasha Drena for End of the Rainbow and Veronika Duerr for Venus in Fur.
It’s a fine field, with Drena the likely winner. End of the Rainbow was highlighted by some superb musical numbers, but was considered a drama with music. The biggest disappointment of the evening was the exclusion of Suzanne Roush in this field from Essential Theatre’s Ravens & Seagulls. It was easily one of the finest female performances of the entire season.
The musical acting awards aren’t as easy to predict. Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical nominees are Christy Baggett for Cowgirls (Horizon Theatre), Galen Crawley for Mary Poppins, Mary Nye Bennett for Spamalot (Atlanta Lyric Theatre), Randi Garza for The Rocky Horror Show and Sarah Charles Lewis for Annie (Atlanta Lyric Theatre). It’s an undeniably talented lot, but if you heard a loud pop from West Midtown last night, it was these performers high-fiving that Drena is in the drama field instead.
Competing for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical are Alan Kilpatrick for The Producers (Atlanta Lyric Theatre), Andy Meeks for Mary Poppins, Bart Hansard for Spamalot, Craig Waldrip (last year’s winner) for The Rocky Horror Show and Logan Denninghoff for Guys and Dolls (Atlanta Lyric Theatre).
In the running for Best World Premiere are Janece Shaffer’s The Geller Girls, Steve Yockey’s Pluto (Actor’s Express), Karla Jennings’ Ravens & Seagulls, Meg Miroshnik’s The Tall Girls (Alliance Theatre) and Suehyla El-Attar’s Third Country (Horizon Theatre). Schaffer’s wonderful The Geller Girls — perhaps her best work — should win here.
Some performers will be looking to add to their Suzi collection, while others will be looking for their first. After winning Best Featured Actor in a Musical two years running — for Aurora Theatre’s Clyde ‘n Bonnie: A Folktale and Actor’s Express’ Kiss of the Spider Woman — Bryant Smith will be competing for his third consecutive Suzi in that category, this time for Oklahoma! Bart Hansard is nominated for both Best Actor in a Play and Best Actor in a Musical. He, Jeremiah Parker Hobbs and Marci Millard all received three nominations this year. One of Atlanta’s busiest, most respected performers, Hansard is overdue for a win.
In all, 17 professional theater companies were nominated in 29 categories. The Alliance led the overall field with 35 nominations, while Actor’s Express was second with 23.
Besides Clowdus, the nominations made some other artistic directors happy. Anthony Rodriguez, artistic director of Aurora Theater, was pleased to see many of his shows make the cut. “The work on Mary Poppins — we are very excited about,” Rodriguez says. “I felt we did some exceptional work. I am very happy that the ensemble of The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown got recognized, and the guys from Lombardi, Carolyn Cook and Bart Hansard. It’s also nice to see Chris Moses [nominated for Featured Actor in a Play for the show] back on stage.”
Perhaps the proudest man of the night was Freddie Ashley, artistic director of Actor’s Express. All of his shows from the 2013–14 season were nominated in some category. “That is not a frequent occurrence,” he says. “It’s unexpected. I’m always excited this time of year. It’s prom season for the theater community; a great way to lift everyone up. I’m proud to be part of it.”