Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville

Actors Bridge Ensemble's acclaimed production of Sarah DeLappe's The Wolves and Cumberland County Playhouse's rendition of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street were named as the top shows of the year during Midwinter's First Night, the annual tribute to theater in Tennessee, held at Nashville's The Larry Keeton Theatre last Sunday night, January 13.

Photographer Rae Lynn Whetzel-Stickney captured many of the night's biggest moments with her camera, which are shared on BroadwayWorld Nashville today.

Vali Forrister, co-founder and producing artistic director of Actors Bridge, and Bryce McDonald, producing director at Cumberland County Playhouse, were honored as Tennessee's Theaterati of the Year during the 30th anniversary celebration of First Night. The awards and recognition program founded by Jeffrey Ellis in 1989 presented certificates in some 25 categories Sunday night, with a sold-out audience at The Keeton to witness the event.

Hosted by Rachel Potter (who last year shared the award for Outstanding Leading Actress in a musical with Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva) and Bradley D. Gale, 2019's Outstanding Leading Actor in a Musical (for Nashville Repertory Theatre's Avenue Q) and former star of the national tour of Book of Mormon, the 2019 First Night Awards featured musical performances from a wide range of Tennessee talents, with performances from: the cast of Arts Center of Cannon County's upcoming Singin' in the Rain (Lindsey Mapes Duggin, Daxton Patrick and Austin Jeffrey Smith), Murfreesboro's Center for the Arts' cast of Disney's Newsies (led by Nick True as Jack Kelley, Isabella Kearney as Katherine Plumber, Callum Ammons as Davey and Jude Williams as Les ), McMinnville's Dream Reality Group's cast of Footloose (directed by Logan Taylor) and the cast of Circle Players' current of Avenue Q (Alex Pineiro, Carly Rose, Justin Barnett, Seth Brown, Kaitlin Ladd, Abigail Nichol, Clinton Randolph, Sara Smith, Taylor Simon, Nick Spencer and Carter Wright).

Other entertainers during the three-hour show included Jenna Pryor and Molly Rocket performing a number from their popular Booty and the Jew, featuring Meggan Utech and Shelbi Albert; Jason Ross and Weslie Webster from CCP's Sweeney Todd, reprising their roles from the show with "A Little Priest"; and solo turns by Taylor Tracey, Kristian Dambrino and Shelby Jones.

Potter and Gale performed a duet of "Suddenly, Seymour" from Little Shop of Horrors, while each took the spotlight for solo performances - Potter's stirring rendition of "Never Enough " from The Greatest Showman and the consummate showman Gale's original song (which helped capture the realities of life for a Nashville theater transplant - he's originally from Michigan, Gale reminded his audience) for which he provided his own accompaniment on the ukulele.

A veritable who's who of Nashville theater served as presenters throughout the three-hour show, including Russell Forbes, Brad Hunter, Patriq James, Bradley Moore and Jon Rogers from the cast of The Boys in the Band; Taylor Tracey and Evan Grabenstein; Elizabeth Golden, AJ Harris and Jena Salb; Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva; Kristian Dambrino and Terrell Hunt; Emily Maria Seifert and Nicholas Ryan; Craig Hartline and Gregory Williams Welsch; Angela Gimlin (who also hosted the pre-show on Facebook Live); Melinda Paul Sewak and James David West; Candace-Omnira Lafayette and Brooke Leigh Davis; Amie Lara and Cheryl Restel; 2015 First Night Honoree Kaul Bluestone and First Night founder and executive producer Jeffrey Ellis.

In addition to the performances, highlights of Midwinter's First Night included memorable acceptance speeches by both Forrister and McDonald, along with that of Denice Hicks, producing artistic director of Nashville Shakespeare Festival, who accepted the accolades for Theater Company of the Year, and a special Facetime acceptance from Benjamin Rauhala, musical director and "Fairy Godfairy" for The Broadway Princess Party - starring Laura Osnes, Susan Egan, Courtney Reed and Adam J. Levy (and for its Nashville performance, Rachel Potter) - which was named the year's Outstanding Road Show.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Jenna Pryor, Molly Rocket and Rachel Potter, with Broadway Princess Party's "fairy godfairy" and musical director Benjamin Rauhala on Facetime, accepting the award for Outstanding Road Show.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Jeffrey Ellis, Kaul Bluestone and Kiana Schofill present the award for Outstanding Theater Company of 2018.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva, outstanding musical director Allison Hall (for TITANIC THE MUSICAL from Arts Center of Cannon County) and Kiana Schofill.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Rachel Potter and Angela Gimlin present the award for Outstanding Leading Actor in a Musical.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Midwinter's First Night 2019 co-hosts Rachel Potter and Bradley D. Gale.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Catherine Birdsong, Outstanding Leading Actress in a Musical for Nashville Children's Theatre's THE LITTLE MERMAID.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Kristian Dambrino sings "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Russell Forbes, Brad Hunter, Patriq James, Bradley Moore and Jon Rogers from Jeffrey Ellis PRESENTS THE BOYS IN THE BAND.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
The cast of Circle Players' AVENUE Q: Sara Smith, Justin Barnett, Kaitlin Ladd, Alex Piniero and Carly Rose.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Center for the Arts' cast of NEWSIES (including Isabella Kearney as Katherine Plumber).

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Cheryl White accepts the award for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play for her performance in Nashville Repertory Theatre's A DOLL'S HOUSE, PART 2, from James David West and Melinda Paul Sewak.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Jenna Pryor and Molly Rocket present the award for Outstanding Road Show.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Terrell Hunt, Kristian Dambrino and Kiana Schofill.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Weslie Webster and Jason Ross perform "A Little Priest" from Cumberland County Playhouse's First Night Award-winning Outstanding Musical SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva presents the award for Outstanding Musical Direction.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Elisha McFarlin (Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical for TITANIC, THE MUSICAL at Arts Center of Cannon County) accepts his award from Terrell Hunt, Kristian Dambrino and Kiana Schofill.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
The cast of Circle Players' AVENUE Q.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Co-hosts Rachel Potter and Bradley D. Gale.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Craig Hartline and Gregory Williams Welsch, from ACT 1's production of THE LITTLE FOXES, pay tribute to the young performers named Most Promising Actors.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Bryce McDonald, producing director of Cumberland County Playhouse, is named Theaterati of the Year.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Matt Logan accepts the First Night Award for Outstanding Scenic Design (for Studio Tenn's FRANKENSTEIN) from Nicholas Ryan, Emily Maria Seifert and Kiana Schofill.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Shelby Jones performs "Hold On" from THE SECRET GARDEN.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Megan Blevins, Jon Rogers and Kiana Schofill.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
The cast of Center for the Arts' production of DISNEY'S NEWSIES.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
The cast of Actors Bridge Ensemble's THE WOLVES.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Matt Logan accepts the award for Outstanding Original Work for A.S. Peterson's FRANKENSTEIN.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Terrell Hunt, Kristian Dambrino, Elisha McFarlin and Kiana Schofill.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Bradley D. Gale

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Craig Hartline and Gregory Williams Welsch.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
The cast of Circle Players' production of AVENUE Q.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Taylor Tracey sings "Astonishing" from LITTLE WOMEN.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Center for the Arts' cast of DISNEY'S NEWSIES.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Center for the Arts' cast of DISNEY'S NEWSIES.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Dream Reality Group's cast of FOOTLOOSE.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Nick True and Callum Ammons lead Center for the Arts' cast of DISNEY'S NEWSIES.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Taylor Simon, with AVENUE Q's Lucy T. Slut.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Amie Lara and Cheryl Restel present the award for Outstanding Original Work.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
The cast of Dream Reality Group's FOOTLOOSE.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Center for the Arts' cast of DISNEY'S NEWSIES.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Circle Players' cast of AVENUE Q.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Shelby Jones.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Center for the Arts' cast of DISNEY'S NEWSIES.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Theaterati of the Year Vali Forrister (producing artistic director of Actors Bridge Ensemble), with Jeffrey Ellis

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Daxton Patrick, Lindsey Mapes Duggin and Austin Jeffrey Smith perform "Good Mornin'" from Arts Center of Cannon County's SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, choreographed by Maggie Richardson and directed by Jeffrey Ellis.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Circle Players' cast of AVENUE Q.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Catherine Birdsong accepts the award for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Musical for her performance in Nashville Children's Theatre's production of DISNEY'S THE LITTLE MERMAID.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Outstanding Leading Actor in a Musical Jason Ross accepts his award for his performance in the title role of SWEENEY TODD, THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET at Cumberland County Playhouse.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Ernie Nolan is named Outstanding Director of a Musical for Nashville Children's Theatre's DISNEY'S THE LITTLE MERMAID.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Jaclynn Jutting wins Outstanding Director of a Play for both Verge Theater's THE FLICK and Actors Bridge Ensemble's THE WOLVES, with the award presented by Brooke Leigh Davis and Candace Omnira-Lafayette.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Rachel Potter.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Dream Reality Group's cast of FOOTLOOSE.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Dream Reality Group's cast of FOOTLOOSE, under the direction of Logan Taylor.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Dream Reality Group's cast of FOOTLOOSE.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Rachel Moore and Bradley D. Gale.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Rachel Potter and Bradley D. Gale.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
The cast of Actors Bridge Ensemble's THE WOLVES claimed the award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Play.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Center for the Arts' NEWSIES.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
The cast of THE WOLVES.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Bryce McDonald, Jeffrey Ellis and Kaul Bluestone.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
The cast of FOOTLOOSE.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Daxton Patrick, Lindsey Mapes Duggin and Austin Jeffrey Smith.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
CFTA's NEWSIES.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Dream Reality Group's FOOTLOOSE cast.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Jason Ross, Rachel Potter, Bradley D. Gale (Outstanding Leading Actor in a Musical for AVENUE Q at Nashville Rep) and Kiana Schofill.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Dream Reality Group's FOOTLOOSE cast.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
CFTA's NEWSIES.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Austin Jeffrey Smith, Lindsey Mapes Duggin and Daxton Patrick from SINGIN' IN THE RAIN.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Presenters and nominees James David West and Melinda Paul Sewak.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Circle Players' AVENUE Q.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Jaclynn Jutting, Brooke Leigh Davis, Candace Omnira-Lafayette and Kiana Schofill.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
Jason Ross and Weslie Webster, nominees from SWEENEY TODD, THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET.

Photo Coverage: Midwinter's First Night 2019 at The Larry Keeton Theatre in Nashville
CFTA's cast of DISNEY'S NEWSIES.

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