BWW Feature: DFW Fresh Faces of 2017
Our readers have spoken, and the winners of the 2017 BroadwayWorld Awards were announced earlier this week. We are thrilled to support and celebrate each and every one of the winners and nominees, and we're grateful for everyone who participated in the reader's choice voting process. We understand that the arts are not a competitive sport, but we're always happy to acknowledge local artists.
This year, rather than picking my own pocketful of favorite performances, I'm exited to instead announce a handful of fresh faces I discovered in 2017 that I'm eager to see back onstage in 2018. Having lived in Dallas a mere three years, I frequently catch performers onstage for my first time, even if they've been long-term staples in our community. Who will I "find" this year? I can't wait!
Here, in alphabetical order, are my 2017 Fresh Faces:
If you caught PIPPIN at The Firehouse Theatre this year, you know it was quite a spectacle with frequent surprises one after the other. But, with impeccable comic timing and a hypnotizing stage presence, Morgen Amelbert (fresh out of high school) dominated the stage, never allowing herself to be upstage by the sequins, tumblers, and aerial dancers. Singing in the show's original male-intended key, the production didn't do Morgan any favors, but her charisma and control onstage were absolutely indestructible.
I could write an entire article about the young talent at Casa Manaña, especially considering the recent Broadway-caliber performances of talents like Charlie H. Ray and Molly Franco. But, a budding career is in the works of another young actress: Josie Dawn, who made an epic splash in the title role of DISNEY'S THE LITTLE MERMAID before rocking her face off in the ensemble of BLOODY BLOODY Andrew Jackson, has the "it factor" that cannot be taught. There's a constant twinkle in her eye that offers an infectious joy - and there's a truckload of talent on top of that. We haven't seen her onstage enough yet, but I'm sure we will soon.
Gabie Hocson might look like the adorable little girl next door but, when she opens her mouth to sing, you'd better be sitting down. Gabie's credits include Veronica Sawyer in Squee Productions' HEATHERS, Kira in Westminster College of the Arts' XANADU, Ti Moune in Art Center Theatre's ONCE ON THIS ISLAND and she'll soon appear as the Mistress in Music Theatre of Denton's EVITA (which, full disclosure: I am directing). If you're looking for a masterclass in acting a song, look no further than this future star's stage appearances.
The word on the street is that 6th grade science teacher Rare Orion hadn't stepped onstage until a casual karaoke night only a few years ago. Flash forward to today, and Rare has starred as Huey Calhoun in two productions of MEMPHIS, Radames in AIDA, and a handful of celebrated productions at Uptown Players and several other local theatres. His voice is twice the size of his body, and his career is seemingly unstoppable. Rare is currently booked in the upcoming ATTPAC experimental Elevator Project ELEMENTAL: Nature's Rhapsody, and I'm certain there will be lots more of him onstage later in the year.
Now, I'm sure Cherish Robinson was a discovery to few people this year other than me; I understand that she already has a solid reputation around town. But her star quality onstage of Mainstage Irving-Las Colina's SISTER ACT was one of DFW's sharpest musical theatre moments in recent memory. If she's not onstage again soon, I'll be the first in line to protest.
Melissa Rosenberg might be a recent transplant to DFW (with a handful of national tours under her belt), but she's already been onstage twice at Casa Manaña, in FUNNYMAN at Circle Theatre, and in Brick Road Theatre's A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE (if you blinked, you might have missed her). But, if you were lucky enough to catch Rebecca Lowrey's poolside Under The Sea concert, you know Melissa's sassy mermaid spin proved she's more than ready for her local star turn.
Now, it is possible that, if you saw Jason Philip Solís more than once this year (lucky you!), you may not have even known. Jason (along with Joshua Sherman), created more laughs in GUTTENBERG! THE MUSICAL! at Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre than should be allowed in community theatre...especially one that, sadly, only sold about 5% of the seats when I attended. He later chewed up the scenery of Onstage in Bedford's DISASTER when he recreated the role of Levora Verona, wailing on the female vocals without any hesitation before transforming into Fester for THE ADAMS FAMILY to great acclaim. Jason is a unique talent who deserves some major opportunities and I'm eager to see what 2018 brings for him.
This year, I'm challenging myself (and the entire BroadwayWorld team) to support as many play as we do musicals. And with that, I'll note that I'm extremely excited to see what Imprint Theatreworks has up their sleeve this year. Their season announcement in August (not to mention their epic efforts during North Texas Giving Day) showed DFW that they're ready to hit the ground running with passion, humor and lots of heart. I'm ready, are you?
Did you discover a new talent or theatre company this year? Let us know on social media!