Stage Revival

The Big Easy Theater Awards honor local entertainers for achievements in the past year

Tuesday April 24, 07
by Will Coviello,

At the Big Easy Theater Awards, the evening's first presenter, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, saluted the local arts community as the presentations began: "We do entertainment better than any place in the world."

The evening at Harrah's Casino Theater was a festive return of the annual awards presentation, celebrating both individual achievements and the revitalization of the theater community following a disruption by Katrina.

For the first time, the Big Easy Theater Awards were held separate from the Big Easy Music Awards (scheduled for Tuesday, April 24, at the Sugar Mill). Sponsored by Gambit Weekly, Harrah's New Orleans Casino, Pernod Ricard, John Jay and Adler's Jewelers, the event recognizes acting, directing, writing and technical achievement in comedy, drama and musicals.

The awards, held April 16, featured many familiar faces, like Ricky Graham who was honored as entertainer of the year and closed the live performances with a moving song about New Orleans from his show I Know What It Means.

There were also new faces accepting awards. The sleeper production The Woolgatherer, staged by Michael Aaron Santos and Ashley Ricord's InSideOut Productions at The Big Top Gallery, won best drama.

Some of the evening's big winners included All Kinds of Theater's The Last Madam, Shut Up, Sweet Charlotte staged at Le Petit Theatre and Brandt Blocker's Musical of Musicals: The Musical. The Last Madam, a play about French Quarter madam Norma Wallace adapted from Christine Wiltz's biography, won for best director, best original work, best supporting actress and best actress. Jeffery Roberson and Ricky Graham starred in the farce Shut Up, Sweet Charlotte, which won best comedy, best director for comedy and best costumes. Brandt Blocker's Musical of Musicals won best director for a musical and best lighting design. Along with other awards, Brandt Blocker's production company won a total of five honors. Jefferson Performing Arts Society also won a total of five awards for four different shows.

Loyola professor Don Brady was honored with a lifetime achievement award. He's directed more than 50 plays and 12 operas, been in 30 motion pictures and 40 commercials and has taught at Loyola for more than four decades.

The evening featured performances from some of the previous year's shows. Amy Alvarez sang a piece from South Pacific. Becky Allen and Bob Edes reprised a duet from The Sophie Tucker Show. Paris Robertson stunned the crowd with a song from Living All Alone: The Phyllis Hyman Story. The cast of Rivertown Repertory Theatre's production of Urinetown did a crowd-pleasing number. And Liz Argus and Joan Spraggins gave captivating performances, respectively, from the productions Musical of Musicals and One Mo' Time.

The evening featured a look back at not just a year of shows, but a very different year. One Mo' Time's creator Vernel Bagneris characterized the arts' place in New Orleans and its recovery as many people living in FEMA trailers worked to put on shows. "Theater is not dessert," he told the crowd. "It's an intricate part of the meal."

Big Easy Theater Awards for 2006

Entertainer of the Year
Ricky Graham

Lifetime Achievement Award
Don Brady

Best Musical
The Full Monty
Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre

Best Drama
The Woolgatherer
InSideOut Productions

Best Comedy
Shut Up, Sweet Charlotte
Magna Puella & Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre

Best Director -- Comedy
Jeffery T. Roberson
Shut Up, Sweet Charlotte

Best Director -- Drama
Carl Walker
The Last Madam
All Kinds of Theater

Best Director -- Musical
Leslie Castay & Brandt Blocker
Musical of Musicals: The Musical
BBP Entertainment

Best Choreographer -- Musical
Alton Geno
All Night Strut
Brandt Blocker Presents

Best Musical Director
Alan Payne
Jefferson Performing Arts Society

Best Actress in a Musical
Amy Alvarez
South Pacific
Rivertown Repertory Theatre

Best Actor in a Musical
Richard Hutton
Man of La Mancha
Jefferson Performing Arts Society

Best Actess in a Comedy
Angie Joachim
Over the Tavern
Jefferson Performing Arts Society

Best Actor in a Comedy
Lucas Harms
The Nerd
Actor's Theatre of New Orleans

Best Actress in a Drama
Cristine McMurdo-Wallis
The Last Madam

Best Actor in a Drama
Kris Shaw
Jefferson Performing Arts Society

Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Cammie West
The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told
To Do Productions

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy
Brian Peterson
L'Imitation of Life
Running With Scissors

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama
Jessie Terrebonne
The Last Madam

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama
Harold K. Evans
Anthony Bean Community Theater

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Scott Sauber
A Year with Frog & Toad
Brandt Blocker Presents

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Liz Argus
Musical of Musicals: The Musical

Best Original Work for Theater
The Last Madam
Jim Fitzmorris & Carl Walker

Best Set Design
Jeff Becker
Catching Him In Pieces
Mondo Bizarro Productions

Best Lighting Design
Su Gonczy
Musical of Musicals: the Musical

Best Costume Design
Cecile Casey Covert
Shut Up, Sweet Charlotte

Best University Production
Directed by Timothy K. Baker
Delgado Community College

Best Performance by a Child
Ethan Andersen
Over the Tavern