First Night's Top 11 of 2011 Winners Announced at Midwinter's First Night Event

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Playwright Nate Eppler, Mas Nashville's FIVE, the Boiler Room Theatre, Lipscomb University's Hairspray, ACT 1's American Buffalo and the national touring company of Memphis, the Musical were the top winners at Sunday night's Midwinter's First Night at Nashville's Keeton Theatre, which also featured the presentation of the BroadwayWorld.com Nashville and Tennessee theatre awards.

Eppler was feted as the First Night Award winner for Outstanding Original Work for his riveting work, Long Way Down, which featured First Night's outstanding leading actress in a play Jennifer Richmond in a production at Street Theatre Company from Johnny Peppers' 3PS Productions. FIVE, the initial cabaret offering from the five women of MAS Nashville (Erin Parker, Laura Matula, Melodie Madden Adams, Cori Laemmel and Megan Murphy Chambers) was named First Night's Outstanding Theatre Event of the Year.

Boiler Room Theatre, whose 2011 season included critically acclaimed productions of Annie Get Your Gun, Crimes of the Heart, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Rocky Horror Show, Oliver!, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and I Do, I Do!, was named as First Night's Outstanding Theatre Company of 2011.

Named as First Night's Outstanding Musical of 2011 was Lipscomb University Theatre's production of Hairspray, directed and choreographed by Justin Boccitto. ACT 1's production of American Buffalo, directed by Ryan Williams, claimed top honors as First Night's Oustanding Play of 2011, and the national touring company's Memphis, the Musical, which played Andrew Jackson Hall at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, was named as First Night's Outstanding Touring Production of 2011, besting productions of Spring Awakening, In The Heights, Wicked and Les Miserables.

With a capacity crowd of 200 people on hand at The Keeton Theatre, First Night founder and executive producer Jeffrey Ellis, who covers theater, opera and dance throughout Tennessee for BroadwayWorld.com, unveiled his choices via First Night's Top 11 of 2011, while the winners of the BroadwayWorld.com Nashville and Tennessee Theatre Awards were announced by co-hosts Britt Byrd, Jamie Free, Katherine Sandoval Taylor and Lar'Juanette Williams.

Last year, Byrd played Janet in the award-winning Boiler Room Theatre production of The Rocky Horror Show, while Williams starred as Effie Melody White in Cumberland County Playhouse's Dreamgirls. Taylor appeared in Street Theatre Company's Ragtime in Concert and Chess in Concert and will star in The Arts Center of Cannon County's upcoming Camelot. Free, a personal trainer and motivational speaker, is also an actor, model and aspiring author.

Midwinter's First Night opened with a performance by Circle Players' cast of Stephen Sondheim's Company (now onstage at The Keeton Theatre), featuring Mike Baum, Rebekah Durham, Jeff Davin, Debbie Kraski, Daron Bruce, Lynda Cameron Bayer, David Bayer, Megan Murphy Chambers, Paul J. Cook (subbing for Scott Rice, who was in rehearsal for Blackbird Theatre's upcoming Pacific Overtures), Russell Qualls and Lindsay Terrizzi Hess. They were accompanied by the show's musical director Wilhelm Peters.

Nashville stage favorites Memory Strong and Kandace Williams presented cabaret sets accompanied by Midwinter's First Night music director Ben Van Diepen (whose wife, JoAnn Coleman, was named best actress in a musical in the BroadwayWorld.com Tennessee Theatre awards for her performance in Chicago at Cumberland County Playhouse in 2011).

The evening's entertainment climaxed with a medley of songs from the Keeton Theatre's upcoming 2012-13 season-which will include Gypsy, 9 to 5 The Musical, Legally Blond, Anastasia, Into the Woods, The Sound of Music and Sweet Charity-featuring Ginger Newman, Melissa Silengo, Antonio Nappo, Daniel Mark Collins, Jennifer Landes Vann, Cori Laemmel, Mallory Gleason, David Williams and Tonya Pewitt.

The complete lists of First Night's Top 11 of 2011 honorees include:

FIRST NIGHT'S TOP 11 OF '11: THE CHOREOGRAPHERS...Micah Shepard, Guys and Dolls, Studio Tenn; Leila Nelson, Little Shop of Horrors, Cumberland County Playhouse; Kate Adams-Johnson, A Chorus Line, The Keeton Theatre; Pam Atha, The Rocky Horror Show, Boiler Room Theatre; Justin Boccitto, Hairspray, Lipscomb University Theatre; Kate Adams-Johnson, Chicago, TKT; Leila Nelson, Chicago, CCP; Harry Bryce, Dreamgirls, CCP; Pam Atha, Pump Boys and Dinettes, Tennessee Rep; Bryan J. Wlas, Hello, Dolly!, The Renaissance Players; and Ryan Bowie, Ain't Misbehavin', Roxy Regional Theatre...and the winner: Kate Adams-Johnson for Chicago at The Keeton Theatre

FIRST NIGHT'S TOP 11 OF '11: THE THEATRE TYPES I'D INVEST IN IF I HAD THE MONEY (for greatest return on my investment): Joanna and Daniel Hackman; Luke Hatmaker; Caleb Pritchett; Tamiko Robinson; Nate Eppler; Nate Eppler and Dietz Osborne; Shawn Whitsell; Blair Allison; Mary McCallum; Matthew Raich; and MaryKathryn Kopp.

FIRST NIGHT'S TOP 11 OF '11: THE TOP THEATRICAL EVENTS OF 2011: Chess in Concert, Street Theatre Company; Funny Girl in Concert, Keeping Scores; FIVE, MAS Nashville; Women's Work 2010, Tennessee Women's Theatre Project; The Ten-Minute Playhouse (Chris Bosen, Nate Eppler and Lauren Shouse); Cinderella, The Enchanted Edition, Show Hope; ABE's Sideshow FRINGE; It's Only Life, Falling Frog Productions; Fool's Games starring Ginger Newman, The Keeton Theatre; and Ragtime in Concert, Street Theatre Company...and the winner is: FIVE, MAS NASHVILLE.

FIRST NIGHT'S TOP 11 OF '11: THE MUSICAL ENSEMBLES: 800 Miles Off Broadway, The Glory Bugles; The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Boiler Room Theatre; Little Shop of Horrors, Cumberland County Playhouse; Ring of Fire, Gaslight Theatre; Hello, Dolly!, The Renaissance Players; The Rocky Horror Show, BRT; Hairspray, Lipscomb University Theatre; Almost Heaven, Roxy Regional Theatre; Altar Boyz, Street Theatre Company; 13 The Musical, Circle Players; and Guys and Dolls, Studio Tenn...and the winner is: The Cast of 800 Miles Off Broadway, The Glory Bugles.

FIRST NIGHT'S TOP 11 OF '11: THE TOP FIVE TOURING SHOWS: Memphis the Musical; Spring Awakening; In the Heights; Les Miserables; and Wicked...and the winner is: MEMPHIS THE MUSICAL!

FIRST NIGHT'S TOP 11 OF '11: THE DIRECTORS: Jessika Malone, Eurydice, Actors Bridge/Belmont University Theatre; Vali Forrister, Becky's New Car, Actors Bridge; Corbin Green, A Streetcar Named Desire, Boiler Room Theatre; Matt Logan, The Glass Menagerie, Studio Tenn; Wes Driver, Magic, Blackbird Theatre; Martha Wilkinson, Annie, Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre; Rene Copeland, All My Sons, Tennessee Rep; Jaime London, 13 the Musical, Circle Players; Kate Adams-Johnson, Chicago, The Keeton Theatre; and Harry Bryce, Dreamgirls, Cumberland County Playhouse...and the winners are: (play) Matt Logan for The Glass Menagerie and (musical) Justin Boccitto for Hairspray.

FIRST NIGHT'S TOP 11 OF '11: THE MUSICALS: Chicago, The Keeton Theatre; Ring of Fire, The Gaslight Theatre; Hairspray, Lipscomb University Theatre; Dreamgirls, Cumberland County Playhouse; 13 The Musical, Circle Players; The Rocky Horror Show, Boiler Room Theatre; Hello, Dolly!, The Renaissance Players; Oklahoma!, CCP; Altar Boyz, Street Theatre Company; Annie Get Your Gun, BRT; and The Drowsy Chaperone, Belmont University Musical Theatre...and the winners is: HAIRSPRAY, Lipscomb University Theatre.

FIRST NIGHT'S TOP 11 OF '11: THE PLAYS: A Perfect Ganesh, Rhubarb Theater; Arcadia, Blackbird Theatre; A Streetcar Named Desire, Boiler Room Theatre; Southern Fried Funeral, Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre; The 39 Steps, Tennessee Rep; Eurydice, Actors Bridge/Belmont University Theatre; Becky's New Car, Actors Bridge; American Buffalo, ACT 1; Trying, Tennessee Women's Theatre Project; The Glass Menagerie, Studio Tenn; and Long Way Down, 3PS Productions...and the winner is: AMERICAN BUFFALO, ACT 1.

FIRST NIGHT'S TOP 11 OF '11: THE PLAY ENSEMBLES: The Bad Seed, Street Theatre Company; The Glass Menagerie, Studio Tenn; Shakespeare's Case, Nashville Shakespeare Festival; Becky's New Car, Actors Bridge Ensemble; A Streetcar Named Desire, Boiler Room Theatre; The 39 Steps, Tennessee Rep; All My Sons, Tennessee Rep; A Few Good Men, Lakewood Theatre; Southern Fried Funeral, Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre; Long Way Down, 3PS Productions; and Holes, Nashville Children's Theatre...and the winner is: THE CAST OF BECKY'S NEW CAR!

FIRST NIGHT'S TOP 11 OF '11: THE TOP ACTORS IN A PLAY: Jeff Boyet, Arcadia, Blackbird; David Compton, Magic, Blackbird; Phil Brady, American Buffalo, ACT 1; Chip Arnold, A Christmas Carol, Studio Tenn; Nate Eppler, The 39 Steps, Tennessee Rep; Brian Webb Russell, Shakespeare's Case, Nashville Shakespeare Festival; Travis Brazil, A Streetcar Named Desire, Boiler Room Theatre; Daniel W. Black, Tuesdays With Morrie, Cumberland County Playhouse; Matthew Rosenbaum, Dancing at Lughnasa, Belmont University Theatre; Eric Pasto-Crosby, All My Sons, Tennessee Rep; and Jeremy Maxwell, The Bad Seed, Street Theatre Company...and the winner is: Phil Brady, American Buffalo!

FIRST NIGHT'S TOP 11 OF '11: THE TOP ACTORS IN A MUSICAL: Michael Holder, Altar Boyz, Street Theatre Company; Matt Baugher, Annie Get Your Gun, BRT; Geoff Davin, The Rocky Horror Show, BRT; Tyler Ashley, Hairspray, Lipscomb University Theatre; Nate Hackmann, Oklahoma!, Cumberland County Playhouse; Christian Bailey Albright-Redden, 13 The Musical, Circle Players; Will Sevier, Annie, Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre; Jeff Boyet, Pump Boys and Dinettes, Tennessee Rep; Britt Hancock, Chicago, CCP; Tyson Laemmel, The Wedding Singer, Circle Players; and Michael Kitts, Chess in Concert and Ragtime in Concert, Street Theatre Company...and the winner is: Christian Bailey Albright-Redden, 13 The Musical!

FIRST NIGHT'S TOP 11 OF '11: THE TOP ACTRESSES IN A PLAY: Tamiko Robinson, Miracle in Rwanda; Wesley Paine, The Fall to Earth, GroundWorks Theatre; Lucy Turner, The Bad Seed, Street Theatre Company; Kim Bretton, Becky's New Car, Actors Bridge; Corrie Miller, A Streetcar Named Desire, BRT; Martha Wilkinson, Southern Fried Funeral, Chaffin's Barn; Nan Gurley, The Glass Menagerie, Studio Tenn; Jennifer Richmond, Long Way Down, 3PS Productions; Denice Hicks, Arcadia, Blackbird; Elizabeth Walsh, The Rainmaker, Chaffin's Barn; and LaToya Gardner, A Raisin in the Sun, Circle Players...and the winner is: Jennifer Richmond, Long Way Down.

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Jeffrey Ellis Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 25 years. He is the recipient of the Tennessee Theatre Association's Distinguished Service Award for his coverage of theatre in the Volunteer State and was the founding editor/publisher of Stages, the Tennessee Onstage Monthly. He is a past fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center and is the founder/executive producer of The First Night Honors, held during Labor Day Weekend, which honor oustanding theater artists in Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors. Midwinter's First Night, held the first Sunday in January after New Year's Day, honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. Further, Ellis directed the Nashville premiere of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show, with Ellis honored by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror.


 
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