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Orange Curtain Review 2023 Award Winners!

PC: Rocco Zappia

Best Costumes

Luis Cornejo – La Cage Aux Folles @ The GEM Theatre

La Cage aux Folles is populated with bold, larger-than-life characters, from the kind-hearted and flamboyant Albin to the ultra-conservative Eduoard Dindon.  Costume Designer Luis Cornejo’s looks perfectly reflect the characters’ personalities.  They also provide the show with the glamor and humor it wants to showcase and greatly contribute to making La Cage aux Folles one of the standout shows of the year.

Best Set

Lawrence E. Moten III – Appropriate @ South Coast Repertory

Best Set goes to Lawrence E. Moten III for his work on Appropriate at South Coast Repertory.

In my review, I said:

“This set is gorgeous for so many reasons. I don’t have enough time to talk about this off-kilter Southern Gothic set design from Lawrence E. Moten III, but I’ll try. The outside frame of the stage is arched in a crooked fashion. The windows are lit with a dark navy blue light covering the glass chandelier in the middle of the stage. There are multiple doors and passages and rooms the actors inhabit. The set is a character in its own right when it comes to this show.” The set felt so open and expansive, mainly because of this incredible design from Moten.

Best College Show

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Vanguard UNI

The Drowsy Chaperone is about the joy musical theater can bring to the sad, lonely and depressed.  Vanguard University’s production of it certainly delivers the message.  From beginning to end, the show was a delight. A top-notch cast acted, danced, sung and roller-skated their hearts out.  The costumes were fun and glitzy.  The story was equal parts heartwarming and hilarious.  It had everything you could want from a night of musical theater.

Best Young Actress

Sidney Aaron Aptaker (Charlotte Corday) The Revolutionists @ Curtis Theatre

Sidney Aaron Aptaker Best Young Actress for Curtis Theatre & Begins and Ends with ‘A’ presents: The Revolutionists.

In my review, I said: 

“Sidney Aaron Aptaker understood the assignment and convincingly played unhinged in one moment and perfectly friendly in the next. How she does it, don’t ask me.”

Charlotte Corday is such an exciting character to play. There are two sides to her character. On one end, the character is an assassin and is not afraid to do it, and she’s talking about murder. On the other end, Corday is amiable when she gets to know people. Aptaker was able to express this character’s story on stage with a clear and natural path as they went through the night.   

PC: Steve Wylie

Best Young Actor

Logan Booth (Christopher) A Curious Case @ Saddleback College

Best Young Actor goes to Logan Booth for his performance as Christopher in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time @ Saddleback College. 

In the review, I said: 

“I could see sweat coming off of Logan Booth’s face. The energy and effort coming from this young actor were phenomenal to watch. I had to change my seat to get a closer view.” 

Logan’s acting on the night I reviewed was very impressive, and, like good actors do, he brought the character to life.  It was an incredible performance I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Best Makeup

Marci Alberti & Paul Hadobas (prosthetics) – Beauty & the Beast @ Cypress College

Best Makeup goes to Marci Alberti & Paul Hadobas (prosthetics) for their makeup work in Cypress College’s Beauty & the Beast. This show has such a large cast, and the characters looked terrific. The Beast looked amazing. When the makeup stood out, it stood out in all the right ways.

photo credit: Kerrin Piché Serna

Best Featured Actor

Cody Aaron Hanify (Karl/Steve) Clybourne Park @ Costa Mesa Playhouse

Best Featured Actor to Cody Aaron Hanify for his characters in Clybourne Park Karl & Steve. 

From my review:

“The show is double cast, so all of the actors play two parts in this show, and I enjoyed both characters from actor Cody Aaron Hanify, who plays both Karl and Steve, respectively. While Cody made both characters distinctive through his acting, the audience was able to notice the similarities between the two characters despite the two existing decades apart. What impressed me about this individual performance from Hanify is how convincingly he could express such dated, backward ideas without outwardly appearing malicious. You hate this character, but you’re also like, what will he do next? The character exemplifies the lengths some people would go or will go to keep things the way they are, even to the detriment of others.”

I said a lot of it in my review of Cody’s performance. It was good; maybe too good at the part. His delivery was the right fit for the character. It was apparent what he was doing the whole time, and still, you’re wondering what this guy would do. It was a ticking time bomb of a performance that was exciting.

Best Director

Anna Miles – In the Green @ Wayward Artist

Best Director this year goes to Anna Miles for In the Green at the Wayward Artist. While there are many different factors in how well a play is presented on the stage, the importance of a director in a production is vital. The director should not only understood the material but have a vsion for it.  It’s that ability that makes it possible to transform something mediocre into something special. “In The Green” was so special,  I had to see it twice. In my review, I wrote:  “The direction from Anna Miles in this piece is laser-focused and purposeful but also loose and free.”  I still completely agree with what I said there. It was indeed something unique, and it grabbed me by the heartstrings. The play felt supremely crafted, no doubt in mind, especially after listening to the original performances from “In The Green.” Anna Miles is one of the big reasons, if not the most significant, why this show was so excellent.

photo credit: Kerrin Piché Serna

Best Featured Actress

Mia Anderson (Bev/Kathy) Clybourne Park @ Costa Mesa Playhouse

Best Featured Actress goes to Mia Anderson (Bev/Kathy) in Clybourne Park @ Costa Mesa Playhouse. 

In my review, I said:

“Josimovic is a chameleon of sorts, as her portrayal of both characters was understated. Like her co-star Hanify, she was able to link her characters together through her performance on stage. Josimovic made some excellent choices with both characters, and they worked well. What’s impressive was how well she made the characters feel different but similar in other moments.”

Photo credit by Doug Catiller

Best Original Orange County Show

Matinicus The Story of Abigail Burgess @ Chance Theater

Matinicus: The Story of Abigail Burgess is based on the real-life events of a teenage girl’s heroism in keeping the lighthouse lights burning during a harrowing storm.  It’s an incredible story, and, in bringing it to the stage, the Chance Theater does it justice.  Aubrey Saverino’s performance of Abigail and the various people Abigail interacts with was engaging and exhilarating.  The direction was great.  The set and costume design was effective.  With Mantinicus, the Chance blew us all away! 

Photo Credit: Matt Mazany

Best Lighting

Alecia Bennett – In the Green @ Wayward Artist

Best Lighting goes to Alecia Bennett for In The Green at Wayward Artist. Bennett’s lighting in this show was incredible. She used an exciting palette of colored lighting in the play. She made it very easy to pinpoint where the action was during each moment. Her lighting added a lot of texture to the set and was essential for showing the play’s mood, which was very dramatic and rhythmic.

Best Sound Design

Dave Mickey – Rent @ Chance Theater

Best Sound Design goes to Dave Mickey for Rent at Chance Theater. Sound design is essential for any play, but a musical has unique challenges when it comes to sound design. When you have a great talent on stage, and the sound design is on point, you’ll have a much better show. The show sounded wonderful. You are close to the stage, and for about an hour, you are back in 1980s New York.

Photo credit by Doug Catiller

Best One-Person Show

Matinicus The Story of Abigail Burgess @ Chance Theater

Matinicus: The Story of Abigail Burgess is based on the real-life events of a teenage girl’s heroism in keeping the lighthouse lights burning during a harrowing storm.  It’s an incredible story, and, in bringing it to the stage, the Chance Theater does it justice.  Aubrey Saverino’s performance of Abigail and the various people Abigail interacts with was engaging and exhilarating.  The direction was great.  The set and costume design was effective.  With Mantinicus, the Chance blew us all away! 

Best Actor in a Musical

Gavin Cole (Roger) Rent @ Chance Theater

Best Actor in a Musical goes to Gavin Cole for Rent at the Chance Theater. This might be a record for me, but I saw three versions of Rent within three months — and three different variations of the character Roger—the troubled, rocker lead of the musical.  One of the beautiful things about theatre is you can watch the same script, but with a different director and production behind it, so much can change.  On the night I reviewed Rent, Gavin’s vocals were strong and clear but in a rock style and not too polished. To my ears, that’s what the show calls for. It’s a rock musical, and Roger, being a rock musician, portraying this type of singing right is pivotal to this show. Cole delivers in his performance, both in his singing and acting, throughout.

Best Actress in a Musical

Amanda Godoy (Jutta) In the Green @ Wayward Artist

This year’s Best Actress in a Musical goes to Amanda Godoy for her performance as Jutta in In the Green at the Wayward Artist. Amanda plays a strict but loving religious dictator and acts excellently and sings her heart out in this production. The performance was unique and creatively put together. Godoy’s convincing portrayal was one of the reasons.

Best Featured Actor in a Musical

Myles Davis (Nicky/Trekkie Monster/Bad Idea Bear) Avenue Q @ Wayward Artist

I saw Myles Davis in the production of Avenue Q at the Wayward Artist in Santa Ana. He plays not one but three different characters throughout the show, singing and talking through the show while also acting out the parts of  Nicky, Trekkie Monster, and Bad Idea Bear with puppets.

A Note from Review on the show: 

“Myles Davis, not Miles Davis, plays a wonderful sax melody on the alto sax. He also plays multiple characters (Trekkie Monster/Bad Idea Bear) incredibly well. Kelsey Redmond and Davis are hilarious as mischievous bears who don’t mind causing a little chaos.”

Myles’ singing and his control of the puppets was impressive and embodied the characters he was portraying in my eyes.  

Best Featured Actress in a Musical

Audrey Crabaño (Hildegard-Mouth) In the Green @ Wayward Artist

Best Featured Actress in a Musical goes to Audrey Crabano for In the Green at the Wayward Artist. Crabano played Hildegard’s mouth in this production. I was impressed with the whole cast and the choreography.  Crabano has a great voice, which worked well with being the mouth of the group.  It’s one of the best musical performances I’ve seen in Orange County this year. 

Best Choreography

Emily-Mae Kamp – In the Green @ Wayward Artist

Best Choreography goes to Emily-Mae Kamp for her choreography for In the Green at the Wayward Artist. Emily-Mae Kamp’s choreography was creative and a little outside the box, like most of this show, but entertaining. This musical’s actors were so committed to the movements and the piece that it was hard not to get invested in what was happening. A big part of that was the choreography from Kamp.

 

 

 

Photo by Peter Konerko

Best Actor

Jamison Jones (Beauregarde “Bo” Lafayette) Appropriate @ South Coast Repertory

Best Actor goes to Jamison Jones in Appropriate at South Coast Repertory. This was one of the early shows I saw in the year. sometimes things stick with you, and I couldn’t forget this production or the memorable performance from Jamison Jones as “Bo” Lafayette. Jones’s portrayal was confident and refined. Right after, he also did another character because he was double-billed at the time. Well cast in this part, he had the look and attitude the character required.

Photo credit: Francis Gacad

Best Actress

Danielle Heaton (Marie-Antoinette) The Revolutionists @ Curtis Theatre

As far as we are concerned, this was the best performance from any actor or actress in Orange County. This year’s dual award goes to Danielle Heaton for her role as Marie Antoinette in Curtis Theatre & Begins and Ends with ‘A’ production of The Revolutionists.  

As stated in my review: 

“Danielle Heatons Marie-Antoinette knocked this role out of the park. She just amped up the comedy with every moment she had.”  

Best Writing

Simon J.O. Martin – Weirdo @ Larking House

Best writing goes to Simon J.O. Martin for his play Weirdo or (make nice) @ The Larking House. 

In the review, I said: 

“The writing in this play mixes childhood wonder and trauma, dancing back and forth at a furious pace that seems to mesh well. The playwright Simon J.O. Martin does an excellent job of communicating the relationship between the cousins as we watch how the external factors in the play affect their relationship. If I might attempt to sum up the double message in this play as simplistically as possible–things do get better, but also, life can be tough.”

The writing in this play stood out because the writer did an excellent job of covering the traumatic moments we have as kids. But the whimsical narrative effectively made the show feel more like a journey you are going on with the characters instead of a stale experiment in childhood trauma. 

Photo by Doug Catiller, True Image Studio

Best Ensemble

Ride the Cyclone @ Chance Theater

Best Ensemble this year goes to Ride the Cyclone at the Chance Theater. The cast in this specific production of Ride the Cyclone was something special. You can have a bunch of talented actors on the stage, but that doesn’t always equate to that cast having the chemistry to take the story to the next level. Every show that was nominated in this category had a strong cast, and there are even shows that I enjoyed more overall than this production. That being said when I thought of a cast that not only worked but they elevated each other. The choice was clear. Ride the Cyclone is a pretty popular show, but I don’t think this version at the Chance will be forgotten anytime soon. 

Best Musical

In the Green @ Wayward Artist

Best Show & Musical goes to In the Green at the Wayward Artist. Sometimes, the Best Musical is also the best show, and on this occasion, In the Green covered both categories.   

From my review: 

“After stepping out of In the Green at the Wayward Artist, the bravery to do something new and unorthodox ran through the machinery of this production. From hiring a vocal looping Charango player to the decision to put on a musical about a 12th-century nun, somehow, it all worked, and they did it with passion and style.”

That is precisely how I felt about the show at the time and how I still feel about it now. It did a lot with very little space. It is a tiny theatre, but the creative choreography and unique musical approaches jelled on the night I watched and was, at the very least, one of the more unique and entertaining musicals I’ve seen in a while.  

danielleheaton.com

Best Performer

Danielle Heaton (Marie-Antoinette) The Revolutionists @ Curtis Theatre 

As far as we are concerned, this was the best performance from any actor or actress in Orange County. This year’s dual award goes to Danielle Heaton for her role as Marie Antoinette in Curtis Theatre & Begins and Ends with ‘A’ production of The Revolutionists.

As stated in my review:

“Danielle Heatons Marie-Antoinette knocked this role out of the park. She just amped up the comedy with every moment she had.”

Best Show

In the Green @ Wayward Artist

Best Show & Musical goes to In the Green at the Wayward Artist. Sometimes, the Best Musical is also the best show, and on this occasion, In the Green covered both categories.   

From my review: 

“After stepping out of In the Green at the Wayward Artist, the bravery to do something new and unorthodox ran through the machinery of this production. From hiring a vocal looping Charango player to the decision to put on a musical about a 12th-century nun, somehow, it all worked, and they did it with passion and style.”

That is precisely how I felt about the show at the time and how I still feel about it now. It did a lot with very little space. It is a tiny theatre, but the creative choreography and unique musical approaches jelled on the night I watched and, at the very least, was one of the more unique and entertaining musicals I’ve seen in a while. 

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