Once again, the Lesher Center for the Arts brought a bit of Broadway glamour to Walnut Creek as the 35th Annual Shellie Awards took place this past Saturday night.

While it's always nice to take home an award, the true honor of the evening comes from being a part of such a vibrant arts scene. Actors, designers, production staff and directors are often so busy creating their own fabulous shows that they have little time to socialize with their fellow artists. Not so this past Saturday night; there was so much hugging and catching up in the lobby that it became difficult to get into the theater to actually see the awards.

As always, producer Scott Denison and his tireless staff put together a video from past Shellie presentations, causing many audience members to cringe at former hairstyles or to look back fondly at having hair at all. Clips from celebrities wishing award nominees well (including Mary Wilson of the Supremes, the Four Tops and the artistic director of NY Repertory) added more glitz to the evening.

A special clip featured Michael Wright, president of Turner Broadcasting (who got his start in our local theater scene) wishing everyone well from the set of Conan O'Brien's talk show -- a fun bit ensued when Conan came out and asked for his desk back. A reminder of our beautiful (although too dry) weather in California came when out-of-town locals, such as Galatean artistic director Kathy McCarty, stood in snow-covered fields or frigid city streets wishing everyone well.

A rousing musical number from Contra Costa Musical Theatre's "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" became the highlight of the night as the large youthful cast sang and danced their way through the audience. Colorful balloons descended on the audience at one point, followed by streams of confetti -- an exciting reminder of just how vibrant the arts can be.

Nine regional companies participated in this year's awards. At one point, there had been 13 companies, but financial woes and other factors limited the number of entrants -- as well as attendees -- this year. Congratulations to Molly Bell (Best Actress/Musical for Center Rep's "Sweet Charity"), Jennifer Brown Peabody (Best Actress/Play for Onstage Theatre's "Spots of a Leopard"), Keith Pinto (Best Actor/Musical for Diablo Theatre's "Singin' in the Rain"), Ben Johnson (Best Actor/Play for Center Rep's "The 39 Steps"), Dyan McBride (Best Director/Musical for "Singin' in the Rain") and Mark Anderson Phillips (Best Director/Play for "The 39 Steps"). Best Overall Production kudos went to Diablo Theatre's "Singin' in the Rain" (musical) and Town Hall's "The Farnsworth Invention" (play).

In addition to awards for specific shows, Outstanding Contribution to the Arts awards went to Barry Gordon (Center Rep), Mark Barry (Onstage Theatre), Denise Altaffer (Town Hall), and Danny Boyle (Contra Costa Musical Theatre). It seems like just yesterday (although it's been several decades) that Boyle left his position as an airline steward and took his first job at Center Rep as my marketing/PR assistant! A complete listing of award recipients is available at www.lesherartscenter.org.

  • n n

    While the youngest members of our local community might not enjoy the Shellie awards, they will certainly love Saint Mary's College Performing Arts Department's production of "Puss in Boots."

    Director Michael Cook has adapted this popular fairy tale into a fun-filled hour of theater magic. The students in Cook's January Children's Theatre class build the set, design lighting, do the marketing and perform in the production.

    Shows for the general public take place Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. and Jan. 30 at 4 p.m. at the college's LeFevre Theatre, 1928 St. Marys Road in Moraga. Call 925-631-4670 or go to www.brownpapertickets.com.

  • n n

    San Francisco's "Phantom of the Opera" Franc D'Ambrosio returns with a tribute to the silver screen in "Franc D'Ambrosio's Hollywood" on Jan. 26 at 3 p.m. at El Campanil Theatre, 602 West Second Street, in Antioch. Best known for his more than 2,000 performances as the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber's outrageously popular musical, D'Ambrosio celebrates songs from many of his favorite film classics including "Funny Face," "Breakfast at Tiffany's," "Top Hat," "Moonstruck," "Pennies From Heaven," "The Godfather" and, of course, "The Phantom of the Opera." For tickets, go to www.elcampaniltheatre.com.

    Contact Sally Hogarty at sallyhogarty@gmail.com