With its productions of the musical "Cabaret" and the comedy "Over the River and Through the Woods" each receiving multiple awards, and the thriller "Sleuth" garnering one, the Little Theatre of Alexandria (LTA) emerged from this year's Washington Area Theatre Community Honors (WATCH) awards ceremony at the Birchmere on Sunday, March 6, with the second highest total of awards among the 25 participating theater companies from Virginia, Maryland and Washington.
As the awards ceremony came down to the final four awards, the big "Direction of a Play," "Direction of a Musical," "Outstanding Play" and "Outstanding Musical" awards, most eyes were on their programs to see if LTA or the Vienna Theatre Company would emerge the big winner. A third company, the Silver Spring Stage of Maryland, took both the "Direction of a Play" (Pauline Griller-Mitchell) and "Outstanding Play" ("Bedroom Farce"), which left LTA and the Vienna company the only ones in position to walk out claiming the most total awards.
In a finish few could have predicted, tabulation of the ballots revealed a tie for best direction between Frank D. Shutts II who directed "Cabaret" at LTA and Gloria DuGan who directed "Evita" at the Vienna Theatre Company. This was out of five nominees. There were also five nominees for Outstanding Musical. Again there was a tie — it was between LTA's "Cabaret" and Vienna's "Evita."
The final tabulation showed that the Vienna Theatre Company had seven awards, all for "Evita," which made both the company and the production the winner of the most awards. LTA still emerged as having the second most awards (six) and being the only company to have awards given for work on more than two productions.
IN ADDITION to the tie for Direction and for Best Musical, "Cabaret" earned the award for Outstanding Musical Direction for Christopher A. Tomasino.
Vienna's "Evita" earned nods for two of its stars, Molly Wilmesherr in the title role and Ryan Khatcheressian as "Che," as well as for Stephanie Pencek in the cameo role "Mistress." It also won awards for lighting designer AnnMarie Castrigno and hair designer Arthur Rodger.
LTA's comedy "Over the River and Through the Woods" garnered two awards, both for outstanding acting. Bernard Engle received the "Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play" while Elissa Hudson took the "Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play" award.
While Engle is a veteran of productions at LTA and other community theaters throughout the region, Hudson is new to the stage. Indeed, her acceptance speech was short and sweet: "First time on stage. First nomination. First win. Wow!"
The mystery thriller "Sleuth" earned Ken Crowley his third WATCH award, this time the "Special Effects" award which he shared with co-designer Russell Wyland. His previous two awards were shared with his wife Patti in the category of Lighting Design.
Other winners with ties to Alexandria stages included Karen Jadlos Shotts, currently starring in LTA's "Pack of Lies," who won the award for "Outstanding Performance by a Lead Actress in a Play" for her work in "The Miracle Worker" at the Arlington Players, and Anna Hawkins who designed sound for last fall's "George Washington Slept Here."