The 2005 Wilde Awards
It’s official: It truly was ‘One Wilde Night’
More than 200 people from Michigan’s professional theater, LGBT and political communities came together Sept. 1 for “One Wilde Night” – and that’s exactly what they got! From the slick jazz sounds of T-Bone Experience – a trio of very talented teenage musicians who amaze the crowd each year with their music – to the original video featuring TV’s Larry Joe Campbell and Los Angeles-based The ‘313’ improv troupe, it was a night of unexpected surprises and delights!
After a tasty social hour, the evening opened with a speech by U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow. BTL’s Justin Gargis – our very own Vanna White – presented each winner’s award with a flash, sizzle and style that kept the audience laughing – and wondering what he was going to do next. And a very pink and raspy Edna Turnblad – played by actor Matthew Stewart – accepted the award for Favorite Touring Production on behalf of “Hairspray” and co-author Mark O’Donnell.
But it was the night’s musical numbers that really got the crowd energized!
The Actors’ Company returned with yet another original production number, “Gotta Have a Gimmick.” Conceived and directed by Michael A. Gravame, the imaginatively costumed and fast-paced mini-revue humorously instructed the theater community what it needs to do in order to be successful: Do a Catholic show! Do a Jewish show! Do a gay-themed show!
(It also motivated a certain on-stage host to get a gimmick himself: a Wilde-ly colorful outfit that brought down the house upon his introduction!)
The night got steamier, however, when Meadow Brook Theatre hit the stage with a sneak-peak of “The Rocky Horror Show” at Meadow Brook Music Festival. A much muscled and nearly naked Michael Witwer certainly raised the temperature of the room, while fishnet stocking-clad John Michael Manfredi and sultry MaryJo Coppone turned up the heat, as well.
But most importantly, it was a night to honor the professional theater community’s best productions and brightest performers.
Thirteen actors and six productions were singled out for excellence. Of the 19 theaters that received at least one nomination, 11 were honored for their work. Lansing’s BoarsHead Theatre earned the most awards with three, while first time nominee The Abreact walked away with two.
A new wrinkle to the event this year were The Wilde-r Awards, eight “no prize” honors through which other notable occurrences during the 2004/05 theater season were highlighted. “Winners” included The Mosh Pitt and the No Such Group for bringing back “protest theater” and Monika Essen’s set design for “The Last Yankee” at the Jewish Ensemble Theatre.
It was 12:20 in the morning – slightly more than two hours after the 2005 Wilde Awards had come to a close – when the final stragglers wandered away from the courtyard of the Historic Gem Theatre. If that’s not a sign of a successful party, I don’t know what is!
Tidbits: Theater News from Around Town
Benefits at Improv Inferno and Stagecrafters; new season starts
ITEM: Although the disastrous results of hurricane Katrina are nothing to laugh at, the folks at Ann Arbor’s Improv Inferno have decided to celebrate their first anniversary Sept. 10 with a Comedy Marathon to benefit hurricane relief efforts.
The event was the idea of Sabrina Harper, co-owner of Improv Inferno and a native of New Orleans. “I thought it would be a great way of celebrating our anniversary. My parents luckily left right before the storm hit, and are now safe with my brother in Houston. But you look at the news and your heart just breaks. All those people trapped down there, and the devastation. It makes me want to cry just thinking about it. I’m glad that we can do something, however small, to help out,” Harper said.
Starting at 7 a.m. and running until 7 p.m., comedians, improvisers and improv troupes will take the stage for 12 hours of entertainment.
Tickets to the benefit are $5. Patrons will also be asked to make voluntary donations of $2 for every hour of the marathon they attend.
All proceeds will be donated to the Washtenaw County Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Improv Inferno is located at 309 S. Main Street in Ann Arbor.
For information, call 734-214-7080.
Royal Oak’s Stagecrafters opens its 50th season this week with “The Music Man,” and to commemorate this momentous occasion, the community theater troupe is holding a special fundraising event Sept. 20. The fundraiser also commemorates the 20th anniversary of the group’s first performance at the Baldwin Theatre in Royal – which, coincidentally, was also “The Music Man”!
A $25 ticket includes the evening’s performance of the beloved musical, a mini live auction and a celebration at intermission. For $50, a ticket holder also gets dinner at either Lily’s or Pronto! with special “Music Man” meal selections and entertainment by a barbershop quartet.
The Baldwin Theatre is located at 415 S. Lafayette in downtown Royal Oak.
For tickets or information, call 248-541-6430.
The 2005/06 professional theater season gets underway in earnest this week, and Curtain Calls is conserving gas getting ready to hit the road to review not one, not two but three openings this weekend. Associate Critic John Quinn is recalled to active duty to review “Tape” by the Breathe Art Theatre Project at 1515 Broadway, while the man pictured at the top of this column hits the City Theatre for “Altar Boyz” and Lansing’s BoarsHead Theatre for “King o’ the Moon.” Those reviews can be found in next week’s Curtain Calls and Curtain Calls XTRA.
Planet Ant’s opening production, “Two Men in A Box,” will be reviewed in two weeks.
Also opening this week, but not reviewed, are “The Rocky Horror Show” at Meadow Brook Music Festival (which should be spectacular, based on the preview presented at last week’s Wilde Awards) and “An Immaculate Misconception” at the Hilberry Theatre.
See this week’s Theater Events elsewhere on this page for a complete listing of shows running this weekend.
And come back to Curtain Calls each week for the most comprehensive theater coverage anywhere in the state!