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The 2013 Houston Theater Awards: Celebrating the Best in Local Theater

An exceptional year brings new work and performances center stage.

Finalist: Tim Thomson for Ravenscroft (­Mildred's Umbrella Theater Company)

Best Visiting Production/Touring Show: Peter Pan (Theatre Under the Stars)

Cathy Rigby was there not only to soar over the crowd but, thanks to new mechanical devices, to do the kind of flips and twirls that called on her gymnastic skills and delighted the audience. That she was doing it as she turned 60 years old only added to the timelessness of this rejuvenated musical version of J.M. Barrie's tale of the boy who would not grow up. With Brent Barrett as a tony, almost sexy Hook and an exasperated Mr. Darling, and a ­Vegas-inspired Tiger Lily (Jenna Wright) surrounded by Cirque du Soleil-like Indians, the show moved quickly along, never dull, often ­adventure-filled and poignant. Great songs like "Tender Shepherd," "I've Gotta Crow," "Flying" "I Won't Grow Up" and "Never Never Land" retain their enduring appeal. And when audience members clapped their hands, it wasn't just to save Tinker Bell.

Finalists: A Chorus Line (Theater Under the Stars), Jersey Boys (Gexa Energy Broadway at the Hobby Center) and Spamalot (Theater Under the Stars)

Best Honorary Houstonian:

Guy Roberts (Prague Shakespeare

Company and Main Street Theater)

Guy Roberts says he has been approached countless times after a Shakespeare play in which he's performed and/or acted and been thanked by audience members for finally making William Shakespeare's work understandable. "I never change a word," he says with a grin. The Texas actor, who fell in love with Prague and started an English-language Shakespeare theater company there, has paired well in repeated visits to Houston with Artistic Director Rebecca Greene Udden's Main Street Theater. After last year's Richard III (and appearing in Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia triology), Roberts returned this year with a Henry V complete with taiko drums and bloody battle scenes. Directing and playing the lead role, he once again produced compelling, exciting theater. The bad news is that he's not due back till February 2014, when he is bringing a production of Macbeth to Main Street Theater.

Finalists: Writer/actor Stephan Fales (Confessions of a Mormon Boy, Missionary Position at Theater LaB Houston) and visiting director Gus Kaikkonen (Paradise Hotel, The Crucible, Wild Oats at the University of Houston).

Best New Theater Company:

Bayou City ­Theatrics

An incredible and dynamic first season in a variety of venues and under the artistic direction of Colton Berry brought us delight after delight. On Halloween week, the nightclub Vue served up The Rocky Horror Show with Tye Blue lighting up the stage in heels and fishnet stockings. New Year's Eve had a one-night performance of Rent at the Stag's Head Pub, followed in January with two weeks of Into the Woods, with its huge cast and intriguing sets successfully shoehorned into the Midtown Art Center's intimate venue. We met Audrey, the carnivore plant in Little Shop of Horrors, for two weeks in February and March at Frenetic Theater. In May we were given two weeks of Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida, this time at the Barnevelder Movement/Arts Complex, and Bayou City Theatrics returned there for a two-week run of a rarely produced musical, Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party, with a powerful and haunting performance by Danica Dawn Johnston as Queenie.

Best Choreography for a Musical:

Luke Hamilton for Fiddler on the Roof

Fiddler on the Roof creates a sense of family, but equally important is its creation of a community, one struggling with conflicts, rivalries and an ever-present threat of oppression while revered traditions butt head-on with innovative expressions of freedom. The gifted choreography of Luke Hamilton captured this sense of community as the stage filled with lovers courting or villagers celebrating an event. The colorful costumes by Lisa Garza swirled in peasant arabesques, and even in scenes of conflict, the movements were graceful and compelling. The vitality of the good-at-heart emerged in triumphant sweeps, and the ­fiddler himself leaped from rooftop to center stage to join in the ebullience. And "If I Were a Rich Man" combined a star turn with backup dancers in a delightful blend. With a talented cast of 64, Luke Hamilton had his hands full and succeeded brilliantly where a lesser choreographer might have ­faltered.

Finalist: Mitzi Hamilton for A Chorus Line (Theatre Under the Stars)

Saddest Theater News:

The Closing of ­Theater LaB

We knew it had to come eventually to 1706 Alamo, intimate home to Gerry LaBita's Theater LaB Houston. We just weren't prepared for the heartache and the void. The property has been sold, leaving scrappy, innovative TLH scrambling for a home. We've spent countless evenings at the tiny venue on Alamo, almost bumping our head on the lighting grid hanging from the low ceiling, never knowing what wonders LaBita would present. As one of Bayou City's most impressive impresarios — our own theatrical Diaghilev — LaBita showcased the most memorable of new works, golden nuggets he found on his many trips abroad or in New York City. He mined theater's underground and came up with surprising treasures, turning the cramped 65-seat house into the Hippodrome. With its adult fare — musicals, dramas, monologues, revues — TLH consistently sold out, ran in the black for 19 years (an unprecedented record) and presented more than 120 Houston premieres. Just a cursory inventory reveals the depth of its vision: My Children! My Africa!; The Kathy & Mo Show; Assassins and Passion; Box Office of the Damned; Eating Raoul; Shopping & Fucking; My Queer Body; Die! Mommy! Die!; The Tale of the Allergist's Wife; Kiki and Herb; Spymonkey's Stiff; Killer Joe; Top Gun! The Musical; Mrs. Farnsworth; Fat Pig; China: The Whole Enchilada; The Little Dog Laughed; Confessions of a Mormon Boy; and, lest we forget, Debbie Does Dallas. There was definitely something for everybody at 1706 Alamo. Once you saw a show at TheaterLaB, you never forgot it. Provocative and edgy as a razor, Theater LaB was the best of the best. It will be sorely missed. Please reappear soon.

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3 comments
Ryan Cope
Ryan Cope

That photo… That was an awesome awesome play.

slumpville
slumpville

I would love to see a category or even categories for new work next time around. I am really surprised Tiffany Fuller wasn't nominated for costume design for last year's Panto at Stages. It was one of the most amazing costume designs I have ever seen. I was also surprised that John Dunn wasn't nominated for his role in Chinglish with Black Lab Theater. He learned Chinese for the role and gave an amazing performance.

 
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