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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.

  • Joseph Robinson, Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Nashville Dinner Theatre at Senior Center for the Arts. Wearing a heavy costume onstage in the middle of summer in Nashville is no walk in the park, but thanks to his effortlessly graceful performance, Joe Robinson as The Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast made it look awfully easy. With a gorgeous voice to match his wonderfully nuanced performance, Robinson created a particularly appealing Beast and his chemistry with Melissa Bailey, playing Belle, made the production one of the year's very best.

  • Patrick Waller, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Nashville Children's Theatre. Patrick Waller may well be the best actor in Nashville - at least the Nashville Scene thinks so and I'm inclined to agree. He's charming and handsome, attributes that a lot of actors possess, but what sets Waller apart from the scores of wannabes is this: TALENT. He can do anything, apparently. He's definitely the go-to-guy at Nashville Children's Theatre, where this season he played Tom Sawyer in the Ken Ludwig-Don Schlitz Broadway tuner about Mark Twain's devil-may-care hero, as well as the pre-pubescent Alexander in the musical adaptation of Judith Viorst's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. In 2010, he'll play Huck Finn in Tennessee Rep's Big River, a role tailor-made for him and one that will win him even more legions of loyal fans.

  • Sam Whited, A Christmas Story, Tennessee Repertory Theatre. When director Rene Dunshee Copeland was casting the stage adaptation of A Christmas Story for Tennessee Rep's 25th Anniversary Season, I have no doubt there was only one name at the top of her list...Samuel Whited. One of Nashville's most prolific actors, he's also one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet and with his cherubic face, who else could possibly be a better Ralphie Parker? And Sam proved Rene (and me) right with his boyishly winsome performance that recalled memories from the classic film while creating an altogether novel and memorable version onstage. In his capable hands, Ralphie was given his due...and so were Nashville audiences.

  • David Williams, Little Shop of Horrors, Nashville Dinner Theatre at Senior Center for the Arts. As Seymour Krelborn, the botanical genius cum plant-growing wunderkind, Williams was ideally cast and gave a pitch-perfect performance. His Seymour effectively embodied the character's heartfelt sweetness and naivete as both his confidence and his love for Audrey grew. His "Suddenly Seymour" was arguably one of the production's musical highlights, and Williams' sure-handed comedic delivery was on-target from his first moments onstage to the play's final scenes.

photo of Patrick Waller from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Michael Scott Evans

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