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CL's 21st Annual Charlotte Theater Awards

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We can't keep giving Poindexter points for the pioneering synergy between Children's Theatre and the Char-Meck Public Library, but we can take note of how ImaginOn is becoming a more proactive player under his leadership, both regionally and nationally. Little Wachovia Playhouse hosted regional auditions under the auspices of MTA, and the big McColl Family Theatre hosted portions of the annual gathering of America's community theaters, AACTFest 2007. Thanks in large part to the ImaginOn he helped to shape, Charlotte was more ready for its close-up when the nation's grassroots companies came calling.

DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR

Alan Poindexter becomes the second artist to capture CL's lifetime triple crown of director's honors, winning his first Best Musical Director award to go along with five comedy crowns and four drama wins. Considering what he had to work with, Poindexter's comedy achievement in 2007 with Go, Dog. Go! is every bit as noteworthy as his sugarless trips to Oz and Yuletide London. Three Poindexter presentations are among our top 11. Ho hum, another year at the office.

ACTRESS OF THE YEAR

One of these years, Tonya McClellan will get a lead role she can get her teeth into, but until then, she's Charlotte's go-to gal for screamingly funny cameos and hyper-eccentric supporting comedy roles. What joy she brought to the gems she won with -- in two categories! Like Simmons, she spread it around during 2007, with top-notch performances at Children's, Actor's, and Epic Arts Rep. And if you saw her in Intimate Apparel, you know she can also do drama.

ACTOR OF THE YEAR

There's just a certain visceral charisma when Robert Lee Simmons steps into the spotlight. It was adamantine -- and fiercely explosive -- as he jumped at his dad as Mohammed in Omnium Gatherum. Then there was the glib, suave, devilish dreamboat when he blazed so capriciously at Duke Power Theatre in the title role of Mr. Marmalade. Yet in spite of the jackboot thuggishness he brought to the totalitarian interrogator of The Pillowman, Simmons could morph from bad cop to the airy side of Ariel believably. In a heartbeat.

SHOW OF THE YEAR

Whether you revere art, family, the imagination, or just down-and-dirty police work, Martin McDonagh's corrosive The Pillowman is an equal-opportunity offender. One of the jack-in-the-box horrors of this wickedly condescending, expertly manipulative drama nearly propelled me out of my seat -- and its aftertaste insinuated itself into my dreams. Only something this unforgettable could dislodge BareBones' Mr. Marmalade from the top spot. Superb ensemble with breakout performances from Chip Decker and Billy Ensley complementing Simmons' menace. Fine set by Stan Peal, haunting lighting from Hallie Gray, and phantasmagoric makeup from Michael Simmons. Wow.

COMPANY OF THE YEAR

When they tell you they do "experiential theatre" at Carolina Actors Studio Theatre, they mean business. The revolving "boxagon" is the cherry atop the cake, but the Simmons Family ladles plenty of icing underneath -- beginning when you walk into their lobby and pursuing you when you sneak away to the john. In 2007, the main dish experience also rose several notches, particularly onstage with two of our Top 10, plus solid efforts on Topdog/Underdog, Autobahn, and Dracula. Offstage, my fave was the car theming of Autobahn, with driver's license photos for the cast photos in the program and ticket stubs that looked like traffic citations.

Why all the food imagery? Could be those free Fuel Pizza Friday Nights. And can't one of our theaters be tucked away from a big boulevard? The arrival at CAST is more different and rewarding than ever.

COMEDIES

Best Comedy: Mr. Marmalade – BareBones Theatre Group

Best Actor: Robert L. Simmons – Mr. Marmalade (Mr. Marmalade)

Best Actress: Beth Yost – Mr. Marmalade (Lucy)

Best Director: Scott Ripley – The Clean House

Best Supporting Actress: Tanya McClellan – Natural Selection (Yolanda, Penelope and Ms. Fjeldstad)

Best Supporting Actor: Jeremy DeCarlos – Natural Selection (Zhao Martinez)

DRAMAS

Best Drama: The Pillowman – Actor's Theatre of Charlotte

Best Actor: Billy Ensley – The Pillowman (Katurian K. Katurian)

Best Actress: Kim Watson Brooks – Intimate Apparel (Esther)

Best Director: Craig Kolkebeck and Thom Tonetti – American Buffalo

Best Supporting Actress: Elise Wilkinson (Abby) – Fiction

Best Supporting Actor: Robert L. Simmons – Omnium Gatherum (Mohammed), The Pillowman (Ariel)

Best Cameo Appearance, Female: Tonya McClellan – Holes (Madame Zeroni)

Best Cameo Appearance, Male: Matt Cosper – Holes (Trout Walker)

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