Judges spread the love around when the 39th annual Carbonell Awards were presented Monday evening at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
No single production dominated South Florida theater’s highest honor. Instead, a dozen productions or artists from eight theaters were recognized for their work in 2014. Companies in Miami-Dade County won 13 of the 20 competitive Carbonells, while Palm Beach County theaters got 7, and Broward troupes were shut out.
Unlike years when actors took home their second or third Carbonell, this year all eight winners of acting awards were first-timers.
GableStage, the much-honored theater at Coral Gables’ Biltmore Hotel, added to its total of 55 Carbonell Awards and edged out the region’s other theaters by winning four.
Natalia Coego was honored as best actress in a play for her performance in Joshua Harmon’s Bad Jews; her castmate and fellow New World School of the Arts grad Mark Della Ventura was named best supporting actor in a play. Both gave funny, emotional acceptance speeches, thanking GableStage artistic director Joseph Adler for casting them as Jewish characters (Coego’s family is Cuban, Della Ventura’s Italian). Sound designer Matt Corey won his sixth Carbonell Award, this time for his work on GableStage’s production of Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop. Arielle Hoffman took home the best supporting actress award for playing the angry teen daughter of the title character in Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale at GableStage.
Two of the proudest actors to take the stage during the ceremony weren’t winners, not this year anyway. A beaming Avi Hoffman accepted the award for his daughter Arielle, who’s now in rehearsal for an Off-Broadway play. He insisted that henceforth, he and wife Laura Turnbull — both previous Carbonell winners — should be referred to as Arielle’s dad and mom. Later, when Turnbull came out to help present the final awards of an evening that stretched for more than three hours, she introduced herself exactly that way.
Like Coego, Della Ventura and Hoffman, best actor in a play winner Nicholas Richberg is a first-time Carbonell honoree. He received the award for his performance as the swashbuckler Black Stache in Peter and the Starcatcher, a co-production of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and the University of Miami. The show was also honored with a pair of design Carbonells for Yoshinori Tanokura’s set and Eric Haugen’s lighting.
On the musical side, all four honored actors were also first-time winners. Clay Cartland, who morphed from man to slug in The Trouble With Doug at the Theatre at Arts Garage in Delray Beach (a feat he repeated during the number Metamorphosis/Doug Revealed at the Carbonell show), was named best actor. Ann Marie Olson, who played the wife of the doomed Leo Frank in Parade at Slow Burn Theatre in Boca Raton, was honored as best actress before singing the moving duet All the Wasted Time with Tom Anello. Costars Chris Crawford and Mariand Torres, who performed the rocking title song from Murder Ballad with castmate Mark Sanders early in the evening, were chosen best supporting actor and actress for their work in the edgy musical at Actors’ Playhouse in Coral Gables. The three and fellow cast member Blythe Gruda also earned the show the award for best ensemble production.
The biggies, best production of a play and best production of a musical, went to The Foreigner at Maltz Jupiter Theatre and Assassins at Miami’s Zoetic Stage, which performs at the Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater. Directors at the two companies also won top honors, but not for those productions.
Stuart Meltzer was named best director of a play for the Zoetic world premiere of Michael McKeever’s Clark Gable Slept Here, which also took home the Carbonell for best new work. Marcia Milgrom Dodge was chosen best director of a musical for the Maltz’s The King and I, which also won the costume design Carbonell for Leon Weibers. Also in the musical category, Manny Schvartzman was honored for his musical direction for the second straight year, this time for Slow Burn’s Parade, and Ron Hutchins got the choreography Carbonell for his work on 42nd Street at Boca Raton’s Wick Theatre.
In contention for Carbonells but going home empty-handed this time around were nominees from Palm Beach Dramaworks, New Theatre, Island City Stage, The Naked Stage, Mad Cat Theatre, Outré Theatre, the Boca Raton Theatre Guild and Primal Forces.
In addition to the Carbonells, which are named for the late sculptor and award designer Manuel Carbonell, several special awards are presented each year.
Scott Shiller, the Carbonell board president and outgoing executive vice president of the Arsht Center, was honored with the George Abbott Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts; next month, he’ll assume his new position as president and CEO at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Actress and TV host Iris Acker received the Howard Kleinberg Award, and The Naked Stage was honored with the Ruth Foreman Award for its popular annual 24-Hour Theatre Project.
Carbonell scholarships of $1,000 each were awarded to high school seniors Gena Yvonne Sims of Miami’s New World School of the Arts, Danielle Angela Jensen of Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and Jacob Poser of West Palm Beach’s Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts.
The glamorous show and ceremony at the Broward Center’s Amaturo Theater, which helps raise money for those scholarships, featured performances from all of the nominated musicals. In addition to the numbers from Parade, Murder Ballad and The Trouble With Doug, a Zoetic quartet (Nick Duckart, Nicholas Richberg, Gabriel Zenone and Irene Adjan) offered an artfully sung performance of The Gun Song from Assassins. And Michele Ragusa, who played Anna in the Maltz’s King and I, sang a crystalline Hello, Young Lovers from the show.
The Carbonell gathering, dubbed “theater prom” by the dressed-to-the-nines community, was produced and directed for the fourth time by winners McKeever and Meltzer, partners in Zoetic Stage and in life. Their show had its unpredictable moments, most courtesy of acceptance speeches that ranged from moving to quirky, but it was a start-to-finish entertaining celebration of South Florida’s theater community.
CARBONELL AWARD WINNERS 2014
Best New Work: Clark Gable Slept Here, Michael McKeever, Zoetic Stage.
Best Ensemble Production: Murder Ballad, Actors’ Playhouse.
Best Production of a Play: The Foreigner, Maltz Jupiter Theatre.
Best Director: Stuart Meltzer, Clark Gable Slept Here, Zoetic Stage.
Best Actor: Nicholas Richberg, Peter and the Starcatcher, The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and the University of Miami.
Best Actress: Natalia Coego, Bad Jews, GableStage.
Best Supporting Actor: Mark Della Ventura, Bad Jews, GableStage.
Best Supporting Actress: Arielle Hoffman, The Whale, GableStage.
Best Production of a Musical: Assassins, Zoetic Stage.
Best Director: Marcia Milgrom Dodge, The King and I, Maltz Jupiter Theatre.
Best Actor: Clay Cartland, The Trouble with Doug, Theatre at Arts Garage.
Best Actress: Ann Marie Olson, Parade, Slow Burn Theatre Company.
Best Supporting Actor: Chris Crawford, Murder Ballad, Actors’ Playhouse.
Best Supporting Actress: Mariand Torres, Murder Ballad, Actors’ Playhouse.
Best Musical Direction: Manny Schvartzman, Parade, Slow Burn Theatre Company.
Best Choreography: Ron Hutchins, 42nd Street, The Wick.
Best Scenic Design: Yoshinori Tanokura, Peter and the Starcatcher, The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and the University of Miami.
Best Lighting Design: Eric Haugen, Peter and the Starcatcher, The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and the University of Miami.
Best Costume Design: Leon Weibers, The King and I, Maltz Jupiter Theatre
Best Sound Design: Matt Corey, The Mountaintop, GableStage.