The 34th Annual Shellie Awards brought all the pizazz of a Broadway opening to Walnut Creek's Lesher Center for the Arts this past Saturday night. Sparkling gowns, oh-so-high heels and creative suits and tuxedos adorned those in attendance. As a San Francisco Giants' fan, I must admit emcee Jeff Collister's orange vest and tie and World Championship baseball cap certainly caught my eye.
The annual awards ceremony not only recognizes the abundant talent in our local theater community, but also gives the community a chance to renew friendships and just plain schmooze and compliment one another on how great everyone looks. To me, it's also a reminder of how lucky I am to be involved with such creative, energized people. Age doesn't make a difference, as youngsters and those over 80 enthusiastically embrace and share stories from previous shows. Winning one of the actual Shellie Awards is icing on an already delicious cake.
And, speaking of awards, Center Repertory came away the big winner with a total of nine Shellies, followed by Diablo Theatre Company (five), Town Hall Theatre (three), Contra Costa Musical Theatre (two) and Butterfield 8 and Pittsburgh Community Theatre, with one each. Unfortunately, the other five companies in competition came away empty-handed, which, in the case of the Willows Theatre that was forced to close midseason last year, seems a shame.
When all the glitter finally settled, the following received awards (musicals named first, followed by plays): Actress — Brittany Danielle ("Xanadu," Center Rep) and Ginny Wehrmeister ("Pgymalion," Town Hall); Actor — Robert Brewer ("Little Shop of Horrors," CCMT) and Mark Anderson Phillips ("Rumors," Center Rep); Supporting Actress — Lynda DiVito ("Legally Blonde" DTC) and Kerri Shawn ("Rumors," Center Rep); Supporting Actor — Derek Travis Collard ("Little Shop," CCMT) and Kevin Burns ("Laughter on the 23rd Floor," PCT); Scenic Designer — Kelly Tighe ("Smokey Joe's Cafe," Center Rep) and Martin Flynn ("Picasso at the Lapin Agile," Town Hall); Costuming — Victoria Livingston-Hall ("Xanadu," Center Rep) and Liz Martin ("The Tempest" Butterfield 8") and Michael Berg ("Rumors," Center Rep); Lighting Designer — Michael Palumbo ("Legally Blonde," DTC) and Chris Cuptill ("Picasso," Town Hall); Director — Gia Solari ("Legally Blonde," DTC) and Timothy Near ("Rumors," Center Rep); Choreographer — Jennifer Perry ("Xanadu," Center Rep); Music Director — Sean Kana ("Legally Blonde," DTC); and Overall Production — "Legally Blonde, the Musical" DTC and the play "Rumors," Center Rep.
Stuck between childhood and adolescence, the "tweens" in Dan LeFranc's "Troublemaker, or the Freakin Kick-A Adventures of Bradley Boatright" pulsate with mischief in Berkeley Rep's production running through Feb. 3.
Berkeley Rep commissioned the play about a 12-year-old boy who, along with his pals, thinks of himself more as a super hero, protecting his mom as well as his image of his deceased dad. LeFranc, who received the 2010 New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award for "Sixty Miles to Silver Lake" and several Drama Desk nominations for his 2011 "The Big Meal," fashioned a wonderfully energized language for his young characters in "Troublemaker." It's 1984 in working-class Rhode Island where Bradley and his best friend battle the rich kid and his goons. Told from Bradley's point-of-view, the first two acts dramatize the rich imagination of young people as they create their own vibrant world, often placing grown-ups as the enemy. In one scene, Bradley visualizes the representatives of a private school for troubled youth as Nazis while in another the homeless population resembles zombie pirates. By Act III, the adults have more of a voice as the two sides grow and begin to communicate and resolve their differences.
Directed by Lila Neugebauer, "Troublemaker" infuses Berkeley Rep's Thrust Stage with tons of youthful enthusiasm as nine powerful actors bring Bradley (Gabriel King), his fellow students (Matt Bradley, Chad Goodridge, Ben Mehl, Jeanna Phillips, Hank Miller), and the grown-ups (Jennifer Regan, Thomas Ryan, Danny Scheie) to life. Kris Stone's set design includes a revolving section that moves both people and set pieces efficiently, Paloma Young's vivid costumes add color and style and Alexander Nichols' creative lighting all help create Bradley's slightly fantastical world.
While LeFranc's rich language and action scenes are compelling, the play tends to wander and would benefit by cutting 30 minutes or so. For tickets, call 510-647-2949 or go to www.berkeleyrep.org.
Contact Sally Hogarty at firstname.lastname@example.org.