Just as I'm getting a little tired of seeing mediocre local theater work, I get to look back on the past season (September through August) and remind myself of how much good stuff I've experienced.
The "best of" list below - called the 15th annual Tony Awards because this is the opinion of one person (me) - is not meant to be definitive. I had to leave out a lot of worthy people (a primary rule of "best" lists is they can't be too long). This is merely a nod to some of the hardworking folks who live in a town that extends little appreciation to the local performing arts.
I didn't get to see everything the 2011-12 season offered, but did take in about 125 shows. I've omitted shows from educational and city-owned institutions because they have assets not available to community playhouses. (They'll be saluted Friday in Theater Chat.)
With fear of nothing more than contradiction, here goes:
Outstanding Theater Group
Las Vegas Little Theatre, the city's oldest community playhouse, once again proved a major source of major works. Working in three performance areas - a mainstage, black box and studio - the organization offered a variety of entertainment, including a fringe festival, an original play and established comedies, drama and musicals. The artistry of the folks there, under the guidance of board President Walter Niejadlik, has resulted in their permeating every category in the laudatory list below.
First runner-up: Signature Productions for their ongoing mastery of the traditional musical. Second runner-up: None.
Las Vegas Little Theatre's October mounting of "Neighborhood 3," a sad and funny tale by Jennifer Haley about a modern society that has lost its order. Troy Head directed in the Fischer Black Box, eliciting expert performances while creating a fragmented world of confusing realities.
First runner-up: Super Summer Theatre/P.S. Productions' June "Crazy for You," written by Ken Ludwig and George and Ira Gershwin, was, under the direction of Phillip Shelburne at Spring Mountain Ranch, a celebration of voice, dance, visuals and musical comedy tradition.
Second runner-up: Super Summer Theatre/First Step Productions' September "Five Guys Named Moe," a jubilant enactment of the hits of Louis Jordan, directed by Steve Huntsman at Spring Mountain Ranch.
Shane Cullum in Olde English Productions' "Iphigenia in Orem" (by Neil LaBute, part of the June Vegas Fringe Festival at Las Vegas Little Theatre) as a man desperately trying to tell an unseen stranger of his dark past. Under the direction of Gus Langley, Cullum fidgeted, laughed and wept, all the while resisting the temptation of histrionics. He embodied the torment of the man.
First runner-up: Evan Litt, for his take-no-prisoners singin', dancin' and wholesomeness in Super Summer Theatre/P.S. Productions' "Crazy for You." Second runner-up: Ben Stobber in Off-Strip Productions/RagTag Entertainment's October "Evil Dead: The Musical," directed by Sirc Michaels at Onyx, for his ability to transform from nerdy Everyman to action-adventure hero.
Mundana Ess-Haghabadi as Eugene Ionesco's Old Woman in Born and Raised's September "The Chairs" at The Box Office. Under the direction of Ruth PePalileo, Ess-Haghabadi commanded the stage in a way that called attention to her every move. Her voice was raspy and coquettish. Yet she seemed weighed down by a too-long life.
First runner-up: Penni Paskett in the title role of Las Vegas Little Theatre's January "Sylvia" by A.R. Gurney and directed by Gillen Brey on the mainstage, for getting us inside a dog's head. Second runner-up: Shannon Winkel for her headstrong, vulnerable Annie Oakley-ish ingenue in Super Summer Theatre/P.S. Productions' "Crazy for You."
Outstanding Supporting Actor
Walter Niejadlik, as a professor trying to counsel a student who's written a very personal essay in Las Vegas Little Theatre's December mounting of Matt Hoverman's "Christmas Shorts," directed by Niejadlik and TJ Larsen at the LVLT Studio, effortlessly projected a teacher's authority mixed with the self-doubt of a very weary man. He became his character without calling attention to the skill involved.
First runner-up: Dakota Granado as several neurotically troubled teenagers in Las Vegas Little Theatre's "Neighborhood 3." Second runner-up: Troy Tinker as a hysterically verbose and vain 17th-century fop in Las Vegas Little Theatre's January "Measure for Pleasure" by David Grimm, directed by Mario Mendez at the Fischer Black Box.
Outstanding Supporting Actress
Kristin Maki, as the woefully put-upon presidential speechwriter in Poor Richard Players' August production of David Mamet's "November" at the Las Vegas Little Theatre Studio, brought to life a befuddled person more cunning and logical than anyone suspects. It was amazing how three-dimensional Maki was able to make this potentially goofy character.
First runner-up: Barbara King for her side-splitting, well-meaning but oh-so-confused spiritualist Madame Arcati in Las Vegas Little Theatre's April production of Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit," directed by Brian Scott on LVLT's mainstage.
Second runner-up: Andee Gibbs, as a formidable and funny pint-sized mother figure in Super Summer Theatre/P.S. Productions' "Crazy for You."
Troy Heard's interpretation of Las Vegas Little Theatre's "Neighborhood 3" was slick, well-performed and spot-on in capturing the script's portrait of disconnected American families. Yet, he never allowed his own cleverness to outshine the story.
First runner-up: Phillip Shelburne for his ability to unify the gifts of a terrific cast and crew into one ball of energy in Super Summer Theatre/P.S. Production's "Crazy for You." Second runner-up: Steve Huntsman for the jubilance and emotional richness he brought to Super Summer Theatre/First Step Productions' "Five Guys Named Moe."
David Sankuer's eerie physical atmosphere for Las Vegas Little Theatre's "Neighborhood 3" created a too-orderly lifeless spirit. Sankuer communicated much about the play before it began.
First runner-up: Steve Huntsman for his lyrical, hypnotic inner-city street in Super Summer Theatre/First Step Productions' "Five Guys Named Moe." Second runner-up: Timothy Burris' "Boo!" of a cabin and forest for Off-Strip Productions/RagTag Entertainment's "Evil Dead: The Musical."
Outstanding Light Designer
Ginny Adams for the pictorial elegance she brought to Las Vegas Little Theatre's "Measure for Pleasure."
First runner-up: Ginny Adams for establishing a strong sense of place in the many places of Las Vegas Little Theatre's "The 39 Steps," by Patrick Barlow, directed by Walter Niejadlik in May on the mainstage.
Second runner-up: Ginger Corbett for the realistic rock-concert atmosphere she brought to Super Summer Theatre/Stage Door Productions' August "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, directed by Terrence Williams at Spring Mountain Ranch.
Outstanding Costume Designer
Sandra Huntsman for her nonstop parade of colorful, mesmerizing and appropriate threads for Super Summer Theatre/P.S. Productions' "Crazy for You."
First runner-up: Penni Paskett for the period glamour (what shoes!) she gave Las Vegas Little Theatre's "Measure for Pleasure." Second runner-up: Steve Huntsman for the smart, stylish yet not overbearing look he lent to Super Summer Theatre/First Step Productions' "Five Guys Named Moe."
Jason Kadish for his incredible knock-your-socks off routines in Super Summer Theatre/P.S. Productions' "Crazy for You." With tap, ballroom and on-the-carhood showmanship, this Vegas newcomer suggests he just might be able to do it all.
First runner-up: Shannon Winkel for exciting group numbers, solos and romantic couplings in Super Summer Theatre/First Strip Productions' "Five Guys Named More." Second runner-up: Erin Marie Sullivan for her tongue-perfectly-set-in-cheek movement in Las Vegas Little Theatre's July "The Great American Trailer Park Musical," written by Betty Kelser and David Nehls, directed by Troy Heard on the mainstage.
Sandy Runkle for reacting to the termination of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas' senior theater program by organizing a senior theater program of her own (speedingtheatre.org). The community owes this spirited lady a hearty bravo.
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at email@example.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.