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Nashville Theatre's Top Performances of '09: The Men

Nashville Theatre's Top Performances of '09: The Men

While the women in Nashville theatre might garner more critical attention, showier roles and sparklier costumes, the men, clearly, are no slouches themselves. Capable and committed, the men who assay roles on Nashville stages are a pretty impressive collection of actors who can take on the most traditional of roles one week, while tackling parts that require them to be more experimental and brave the next. In 2009, Nashville's best actors showed their range while strutting themselves in some of the best productions we've seen in years. So, here goes, the Top 10 Men of 2009...Nashville theatre-style:

  • Cee Anthony, Eat the Runt, GroundWorks Theatre. As one-half of the Merritts in Avery Crozier's black comedy, directed by veteran A. Sean O'Connell, Anthony gave an impressive turn as the con-man in a Brooks Brothers suit. Underplaying his character's rather obvious traits, thereby creating a portrayal that was more believable and accessible, Anthony proved himself onstage, sharing it with some of the region's best-known players.

  • Jeff Boyet, A Christmas Story, Tennessee Repertory Theatre. Cast as the "Old Man" in A Christmas Story, the stage adaptation of the Bob Clark movie that runs on an endless loop on TBS every holiday season, Jeff Boyet proved himself adept at moving from one scene to the next, one character to the next, with seamless ease. Wonderfully gruff as the Old Man, he was funnier and understated as young Ralphie's schoolteacher, with only a dress and oversized rear end to help create the illusion. But perhaps most impressive in his performance was his chemistry with Jamie Farmer as his wife; their interplay was fun and buoyant and more than a little sexy.

  • Nate Eppler, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Boiler Room Theatre. Gracefully hilarious and superbly low-key, Nate Eppler infuses every role he plays with a wit and intelligence other actors can only hope to achieve after years of hard work. For Eppler, however, it seems effortless. While he won critical acclaim and audience approval for his broader roles, including See How They Run and his self-written Filthy Rich at Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre, it was Eppler's performance as German patent clerk Albert Einstein in Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile that seemed to be written for his very obvious and very appreciated skill set.

  • Nathan Fleming, The Great American Trailer Park Musical, Street Theatre Company. As the mullet-sporting teenager who grows up to be the toll road collector in the wacky and completely entertaining Great American Trailer Park Musical, Fleming gave a no-holds-barred performance as a redneck who cheats on his wife with the stripper who just moved into the trailer next door. Doesn't exactly sound like a sympathetic figure, huh? But in Fleming's talented hands, the role was sympathetic and likable. Hell, who wouldn't want to have a beer with him? And it helps that he sings good...real good.

  • Ciaran McCarthy, Jesus Christ Superstar, Boiler Room Theatre. Fresh off the national tour of The Wedding Singer, McCarthy made Nashville news with his superb performance as Judas in the Jamey Green/Billy Ditty mounting of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar. Broodingly sexy and sung with a mixture of bravado and internalized pain, McCarthy breathed new life into the character. In short, McCarthy gave a tour de force performance that was at once athlectically robust and achingly tortured. His is definitely a star on the rise, so if you have the opportunity to see him on a local stage, do it. Do it before he becomes a really, really big star.

  • J. Dietz Osborne, Filthy Rich, Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre. As urbane and sophisticated as he can be onstage, Dietz Osborne can be just as goofy and crazy, lending credence to the theatrical saw that if you want to be truly believable onstage you have to be willing to look awfully foolish while doing it, which Osborne did gleefully in Filthy Rich, Nate Eppler's hilarious mash-up of Grey Gardens and Anastasia, with a few more shows thrown in for inspiration. His superb timing and obvious zeal for performing have made him one of the Barn's stars over the years and his fearless selection of roles in other venues only prove his range.

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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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Oklahoma! in NashvilleOklahoma!
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War Horse in NashvilleWar Horse
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