First Night's Top Ten of 2010: Nashville's Best Directors


If theater audiences in Nashville and Middle Tennessee owe a huge debt of gratitude to the directors who helm the year's finest productions, you can only imagine how the actors lucky enough to work with those insightful, creative men and women must be! The Top Ten Directors of 2010 have resumes anyone would be proud to claim as their own and when you consider that they - year after year - excel at what they do, then you cannot help but be impressed by the breadth and depth of their abilities. Frankly, it boggles the mind. These are Nashville's best directors of 2010...

  • Michele Colvin, Brigadoon, Cumberland County Playhouse, Crossville. Lerner and Loewe's classic musical about the mythic Scottish hamlet that appears but once every 100 years is romantic and moving, directed and choreographed with skill and panache by Michele Colvin who proves her mettle in every scene, every moment, every nuance expressed in this spectacularly produced work. Colvin's mastery is evident throughout the show in every possible way. This Brigadoon encapsulates musical theater at its finest, that which makes musical theater so transformative, so affecting and so transcendent: It whisks audiences away to another time, another place, insisting upon the complete suspension of disbelief to be caught up in its dream-like tale of such romantic proportions that you cannot help but lose yourself in the exquisitely performed scenes and awesomely rendered songs. Colvin's spot-on choreography (she generously gives a nod in the program to the original dances created by the legendary Agnes DeMille for the original Broadway production) is a highlight of the show, particularly in Act Two's sword dance (performed by Austin Price, Chaz Sanders, Michael Ruff and Elliott Cunningham) and her dual roles as director and choreographer are perhaps at their zenith in Act Two's opening "The Chase," which is evocatively underscored by Murphy's orchestra and brought so vividly to life through Colvin's actors.

  • Scot Copeland, The Diary of Anne Frank, Nashville Children's Theatre. No matter how many times you see The Diary of Anne Frank, you cannot helped but be moved by the story and the renewed realization that such horrors as the Holocaust actually took place in a civilized world. Perhaps even more horrifying is the notion that some people insist the Holocaust never happened, that it is merely a fabrication by the Jewish-controlled media and political reactionaries attempting to foist an untruth upon the world. How important then is this play - now onstage at Nashville Children's Theatre in a stunning production helmed by NCT producing director Scot Copeland - designed for younger audiences? Frankly, its impact is immeasurable, but it most certainly presents the story of young diarist Anne Frank in such a way that younger audiences should never be able to forget the Holocaust, nor should they ever question the reality of those dark days in the human experience. The story is rendered even more timely, and even more heartbreaking, by the January 11, 2010, death of Miep Gies, the brave Dutch woman who was one of the Frank family's protectors during their more than two years of hiding in the "secret annex" of the company building owned by Frank. Throughout her life, Gies kept the Anne Frank story alive through her many works and efforts and her loss must have affected this company beyond measure as they were in the final days of rehearsals before the show's opening. The timing and the impact of Gies' death makes Copeland's interpretation of the time-honored work by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett even more astoundingly heart-rending and moving.

  • Rene Dunshee Copeland, To Kill A Mockingbird, Tennessee Repertory Theatre. Nashville theater audiences owe a huge debt of gratitude to Tennessee Rep's creative team - led by producing artistic director Rene Dunshee Copeland, scenic and properties designer Gary Hoff, costume designer Trish Clark, lighting designer Phillip Franck and technical director Tyler Axt - for the exceptional production of To Kill A Mockingbird. It is one of the finest acted Tennessee Rep productions in the company's storied 26-year history, and it shows that even the best-known and most beloved literary creations can be reimagined and mounted in a manner both unexpected and surprising. Copeland has made some very judicious cuts to playwright Christopher Sergel's script which result in a production that is eloquently moving in tone and depiction, yet somehow completely contemporary and timely. Copeland's deftly directs her cast through the plot, which is well known to virtually any American who can read, with inventiveness and attention to detail.

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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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