NUTTY PROFESSOR, Blackbird Theatre, Feehely Claim Top Honors at Midwinter's First Night

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The world premiere of a brand-spanking new musical with Broadway in its sights, a relatively young but awe-inspiring theater company and a sparkling, witty new play about Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald led the list of Tennessee's outstanding theatrical achievements in 2012 that was revealed Sunday night at Midwinter's First Night.

The Nutty Professor-the Jerry Lewis-directed musical that features a sterling pedigree, along with the late Marvin Hamlisch's final score and a libretto by the much-heralded Rupert Holmes-was named First Night's Theatrical Event of 2012 at the annual event, presented by BroadwayWorld.com Nashville's contributing editor Jeffrey Ellis.

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Named as First Night's Outstanding Theatre Company of 2012 was Blackbird Theatre-founded by Wes Driver and Greg Greene-which claimed the award in its third season as the professional theater in residence at Nashville's David Lipscomb University. Playwright/director/acting teacher Bill Feehely took the third of the night's most coveted awards for First Night's Outstanding Original Work of 2012 for his new play Outside Paradise, a stylish retelling of the life and times of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre, the Southern belle who stole his heart.

Claiming the First Night Award for Top Touring Show of 2012 was Anything Goes, starring Rachel York and Erich Bergen, which played at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in November.

With Franklin's Boiler Room Theatre filled to capacity, members of Tennessee's theater community gathered Sunday night, January 6, for Midwinter's First Night-the annual salute to the very best in live theater in the Volunteer State that featured the presentation of the BroadwayWorld.com Nashville Theatre Awards and the Tennessee Theatre Awards, along with the announcement of First Night's Top Ten of 2012, critic Jeffrey Ellis' annual lists of the performances and productions he deemed to be the very best on Tennessee stages.

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Midwinter's First Night, which was hosted by Ellis and actress Angela Gimlin, featured performances by The Divas, four women known throughout the theater community for their tremendous talents both onstage and off-, including Mallory Gleason, Amanda Lamb, Memory Strong and Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva. Accompanied by longtime First Night musical director Jane Kelley, the Divas were also joined onstage by Jaclyn Lisenby Brown (who accompanied Lamb on the guitar, including one original song written by Brown) and Jill Sissel, who joined Whitcomb-Oliva onstage for a crowd-pleasing performance of "Pure Imagination."

Amelia Young, introduced as a "diva-in-training" and a member of the 2013 Class of First Night Most Promising Actors, sang "Wonderland" from the Frank Wildhorn musical during the show.

Presenters of the evening's awards were Cody Rutledge, Kate Byrd, Jessica Storvik, LaToya Gardner, Leila Nelson, Weslie Webster, Lauren Marshall Murphy, Ron Murphy and Joshua Stephen Lowery.

Rutledge, Byrd, Storvik, Lowery and Young are joined in the first group of Most Promising Actors announced in 2013 by Emily Marie Hughes and Paige Brouilette. The remainder of the 2013 Class of Most Promising Actors will be introduced in July when the First Night Honorees are revealed.

First Night's Top Ten of 2012 (some categories include more than 10 honorees) include:

  • NUTTY PROFESSOR, Blackbird Theatre, Feehely Claim Top Honors at Midwinter's First NightTHE MUSICALS
    Avenue Q, Street Theatre Company
    Caroline, or Change, Street Theatre Company
    The Color Purple, Circle Players and Tennessee State University
    Fiddler on the Roof, Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre
    Into The Woods, The Larry Keeton Theatre
    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cumberland County Playhouse
    Kiss Me, Kate, The Larry Keeton Theatre
    The Music Man, Cumberland County Playhouse
    next to normal, Boiler Room Theatre
    The Nutty Professor, World Premiere Production
    Pacific Overtures, Blackbird Theatre
    Smokey Joe's Café, Studio Tenn
    Spring Awakening, Roxy Regional Theatre
    A Year With Frog and Toad, Boiler Room Theatre
    WINNER: JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT
  • THE PLAYS
    Boom, Sideshow
    Clybourne Park, Tennessee Repertory Theatre
    The Disappearance of Janey Jones, Tennessee Women's Theatre Project
    God of Carnage, Tennessee Repertory Theatre
    The House of Bernarda Alba, Actors Bridge Ensemble/Belmont University
    Le Belle et la Bete, Nashville Children's Theatre
    The Miracle Worker, Studio Tenn
    The Mountaintop, SistaStyle Productions
    Of Mice and Men, Boiler Room Theatre
    Outside Paradise, Actors Bridge Ensemble/Belmont University
    Pride's Crossing, Lipscomb University Theatre
    Red, Blackbird Theatre
    Time Stands Still, Actors Bridge Ensemble
    The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963, Nashville Children's Theatre
    WINNER: RED
  • ACTRESSES IN A MUSICAL
    KLea Blackhurst, The Nutty Professor, World Premiere Production
    Janette Bruce, Kiss Me Kate, The Larry Keeton Theatre
    Megan Murphy Chambers, next to normal, Boiler Room Theatre
    Brooke Davis, Caroline, or Change, Street Theatre Company
    Melinda Doolittle, Smokey Joe's Café, Studio Tenn
    Kaitlin Doughty, The Wedding Singer, Roxy Regional Theatre
    LaToya Gardner, The Color Purple, Circle Players/Tennessee State University
    Mallory Gleason, Into the Woods, The Larry Keeton Theatre
    Jessica Grove, The Sound of Music, Studio Tenn
    Katie Ladner, Hairspray, Belmont University Musical Theatre
    Lindy Pendzick, The Music Man, Cumberland County Playhouse
    Jennifer Richmond, Avenue Q, Street Theatre Company
    Taylor Tracey, Legally Blonde, The Larry Keeton Theatre
    Jessica Wockenfuss, Backwards in High Heels, Cumberland County Playhouse
    WINNER: BROOKE LEIGH DAVIS
  • ACTORS IN A MUSICAL
    Michael Andrew, The Nutty Professor, World Premiere Production
    Tyler Ashley, The Pajama Game, Lipscomb University Theatre
    Mike Baum, next to normal, Boiler Room Theatre
    Ryan Bowie, The Sound of Music, The Roxy Regional Theatre
    Travis Brazil, Pacific Overtures, Blackbird Theatre
    Ryan Brennan, Footloose, Belmont University Musical Theatre
    Colin Cahill, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cumberland County Playhouse
    Ben Davis, The Sound of Music, Studio Tenn
    Matt DuMont, Spring Awakening, Roxy Regional Theatre
    Michael Holder, Miss Saigon in Concert, Street Theatre Company
    Tyson Laemmel, Pacific Overtures, Blackbird Theatre
    Greg Pendzick, Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge, Cumberland County Playhouse
    Michael Slayton, Pacific Overtures, Blackbird Theatre
    Patrick Waller, Little Shop of Horrors, Tennessee Repertory Theatre
    Derek Whittaker, Fiddler on the Roof, Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre
    WINNER: Matt DuMont
  • ACTRESSES IN A PLAY
    Holly Allen, Pride's Crossing, Lipscomb University Theatre
    Leah Fincher, The Disappearance of Janey Jones, Tennessee Women's Theater Project
    Vali Forrister, The House of Bernarda Alba, Actors Bridge Ensemble/Belmont University
    Vali Forrister, Time Stands Still, Actors Bridge Ensemble
    Shannon Hoppe, Clybourne Park, Tennessee Repertory Theatre
    Emily Landham, The Miracle Worker, Studio Tenn
    Mary McCallum, The Mountaintop, SistaStyle Productions
    Marin Miller, Le Belle et la Bete, Nashville Children's Theatre
    Shelean Newman, God of Carnage, Tennessee Repertory Theatre
    Pat Rulon, Master Class, ACT 1
    Jennifer Richmond, Outside Paradise, Actors Bridge Ensemble/Belmont University
    WINNER: Holly Allen
  • ACTORS IN A PLAY
    David Alford, God of Carnage, Tennessee Repertory Theatre
    Justin Boccitto, Red, Blackbird Theatre
    Ross Bolen, Of Mice and Men, Boiler Room Theatre
    David Compton, Julius Caesar, Nashville Shakespeare Festival
    John Mauldin, Of Mice and Men, Boiler Room Theatre
    Ronnie Meek, Red, Blackbird Theatre
    Eric Pasto-Crosby, Le Belle et la Bete, Nashville Children's Theatre
    Rashad "ThaPoet" Rayford, The Mountaintop, SistaStyle Productions
    Brian Russell, Superior Donuts, Tennessee Repertory Theatre
    J.P. Schuffman, boom, Sideshow
    Clay Steakley, Outside Paradise, Actors Bridge Ensemble/Belmont University
    Shawn Whitsell, The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963, Nashville Children's Theatre
    Derek Whittaker, Clybourne Park, Tennessee Repertory Theatre
  • WINNER: RASHAD 'THAPOET' RAYFORD
  • MUSICAL ENSEMBLES
    Backwards in High Heels, Cumberland County Playhouse
    Caroline, or Change, Street Theatre Company
    Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge, Cumberland County Playhouse
    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cumberland County Playhouse
    next to normal, Boiler Room Theatre
    The Last Five Years, Street Theatre Company
    The Nutty Professor, World Premiere Production
    Pacific Overtures, Blackbird Theatre
    Pippin, Boiler Room Theatre
    Smokey Joe's Café, Studio Tenn
    Spring Awakening, Roxy Regional Theatre
    The Wedding Singer, Roxy Regional Theatre
    Xanadu, The Arts Center of Cumberland County
    WINNER: THE NUTTY PROFESSOR
  • PLAY ENSEMBLES
    Clybourne Park, Tennessee Repertory Theatre
    God of Carnage, Tennessee Repertory Theatre
    The House of Bernarda Elba, Actors Bridge Ensemble/Belmont University
    The Miracle Worker, Studio Tenn
    The Odd Couple, Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre
    Of Mice and Men, Boiler Room Theatre
    Pride's Crossing, Lipscomb University Theatre
    The Shadow Box, ACT 1
    Time Stands Still, Actors Bridge Ensemble
    The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963, Nashville Children's Theatre
    WINNER: THE ODD COUPLE
  • DIRECTORS
    K
    ate Adams, Into the Woods, The Larry Keeton Theatre
    Beki Baker, Julius Caesar, Nashville Shakespeare Festival
    Beki Baker, Pride's Crossing, Lipscomb University Theatre
    Jeremy Benton, Backwards in High Heels, Cumberland County Playhouse
    Kim Bretton, Time Stands Still, Actors Bridge Ensemble
    Rene Copeland, Clybourne Park, Tennessee Repertory Theatre
    Darryl Deason, Xanadu, The Arts Center of Cannon County
    Mike Fernandez, Red, Blackbird Theatre
    Britt Hancock, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cumberland County Playhouse
    Elizabeth Hayes, The Man From Earth, ACT 1
    Matt Logan, Smokey Joe's Café, Studio Tenn
    Matt Logan, The Sound of Music, Studio Tenn
    Jessika Malone, The House of Bernarda Alba, Actors Bridge Ensemble/Belmont University
    Leila Nelson, The Music Man, Cumberland County Playhouse
    Tom Thayer, Spring Awakening, The Roxy Regional Theatre
    Martha Wilkinson, Fiddler on the Roof, Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre
    WINNER: MIKE FERNANDEZ and TOM THAYER
  • CHOREOGRAPHERS
    Kate Adams, Kiss Me, Kate, The Larry Keeton Theatre
    Kate Adams and David Williams, Legally Blonde, The Larry Keeton Theatre
    Pam Atha, Little Shop of Horrors, Tennessee Repertory Theatre
    Jeremy Benton, Backwards in High Heels, Cumberland County Playhouse
    Justin Boccitto, The Pajama Game, Lipscomb University Theatre
    JoAnn M. Hunter, The Nutty Professor, World Premiere Production
    Leila Nelson, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cumberland County Playhouse
    Leila Nelson, The Music Man, Cumberland County Playhouse
    Holly Shepard, Pippin, Boiler Room Theatre
    Emily Tello Speck, Footloose, Belmont University Musical Theatre
    WINNER: Jeremy Benton
  • TOURING SHOWS OF 2012
    Anything Goes
    Mary Poppins
    Rain
    South Pacific
    White Christmas
    WINNER: ANYTHING GOES
  • THEATRICAL EVENT OF 2012
    8, Rhubarb Theater Company
    The Color Purple, Circle Players and Tennessee State University
    Ingram New Works Series, Tennessee Repertory Theatre
    Julius Caesar, Nashville Shakespeare Festival
    Miss Saigon in Concert, Street Theatre Company
    The Nutty Professor, World Premiere Production
    Playhouse Nashville
    Pressure Cooker, Boiler Room Theatre
    Stand by Jim Reyland
    Titanic the Musical, Circle Players
    WINNER: THE NUTTY PROFESSOR
  • PEOPLE TO WATCH
    Delaney Amatrudo
    Ryan Brennan
    Paige Broullette
    Kaitlyn Dobbins
    Hope Dyra
    Sydni Hayes
    Katie Ladner
    Josh Lowery
    Mary-Claire Lutz
    Calvin David Malone
    Kristi Mason
    Wes Matthews
    Carrington Pitts
    Maya Riley
    Dalton Tilghman
    Whitney Vaughn
    Jack Williams
    Amelia Young

Pictured: (top) Mac Pirkle, Jennifer Richmond, Jeffrey Ellis, Wes Driver and Greg Greene; (middle) Wes Driver, Greg Greene, Jeffrey Ellis; and (bottom) Mallory Gleason, Memory Strong, Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva and Amanda Lamb/photos by Rick Malkin

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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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