Hobson's Choice: Awards season kicks in with nominations for best in show

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With the announcement of nominees for this season’s Betty Mitchell Awards (the Bettys), and the Calgary Theatre Critics’ Awards (the Critters), the theatre awards season has officially begun. The Bettys, now in their 25th year, recognize excellence in professional theatre, while the Critters, now in their 11th year, recognize outstanding achievements in semi-professional and community as well as professional theatre. This year there are 89 nominees in 18 categories for the Bettys, and 103 nominees in 21 categories for the Critters.

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With nine nods, the return of Theatre Calgary’s lavish production of A Christmas Carol received the most nominations for this season’s Bettys. This version of A Christmas Carol, shuttered in 2020 by the pandemic, received nominations for outstanding production of a play as well as outstanding performance by an ensemble. Vertigo’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde was close behind with eight nominations. These two productions will be competing against Lunchbox Theatre and The Shakespeare Company’s The Dark Lady, Lunchbox and Chromatic Theatre’s Kisapmatic, and Theatre Calgary (TC) and Alberta Theatre Projects’ Made in Italy for outstanding production of a play.

In competition for outstanding production of a musical are TC’s Beaches The Musical, Stage West’s Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, Forte Musical Theatre’s Buy Me a Drink, Joe, Calgary Opera’s The Elixir of Love, and The Shakespeare Company and StoryBook Theatre’s Something Rotten! The Musical.

Allison Lynch is the most nominated artist of the year with five Betty nominations including recognition for her original compositions, and her musical direction in TC’s A Christmas Carol, as well as her sound design for Vertigo’s The Girl on the Train. She was also recognized for her performances in Vertigo’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, and Forte’s Buy Me a Drink, Joe, highlighting her versatility.

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Lunchbox Theatre’s Dark Lady with Luigi Riscaldino as William Shakespeare and Natascha Girgis as Emilia Bassano. Photo, Benjamin Laird Photo by Benjamin Laird Photo /cal

This season’s nominees for outstanding lead performance in a drama are Natascha Girgis for The Dark Lady, Norma Lewis for Selma Burke, Duval Lang for The Ballad of Georges Boivin, Michelle Diaz for Kisapmata, and Joe Perry for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. Nominated for their lead performances in a musical are Jessica Vosk and Kelli Berrett for Beaches The Musical, Christopher Sherwood and Joel Schaefer for Something Rotten! The Musical, and Kaylee Harwood for Beautiful The Carole King Musical. The nominees for lead performance in a comedy are Bernardo Pacheco and Joel Schaefer for With Bells On, Julie Orton for Ms Holmes & Ms Watson -#2B, Ferren Timoteo for Made in Italy, and Natascha Girgis for The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon.

The nominees for best new script are Arun Lakra for Heist, Maria Crooks and Caroline Russell-King for Selma Burke, Bianca Miranda for Kisapmata, Joe Slabe for Buy Me a Drink, Joe, and the Point of View Ensemble’s Most Imaginary Worlds, scripted by Col Cseke.

A complete list of all the nominees is available at bettymitchellawards.com.

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The winners will be announced at a celebration at the Jubilee Auditorium on June 24 beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets to the event are now on sale at bettymitchellawards.com.

A PAT ON THE BACK FROM THE CRITTERS

Caroline Russell-King and I each saw upwards of 65 plays this year. In addition to the offerings of the 10 professional theatre companies, we searched out semi-professional companies like Rosebud, Fire Exit, and Brown Cow Collective, and viewed a number of community productions. This means AJ Pearce finds himself in competition with Like and Subscribe, the play he wrote for this year’s Calgary Region One Act Festival, in the new script category with Arun Lakra for Heist, Joe Slabe for Buy Me a Drink, Joe, Maria Crooks and Caroline Russell-King for Selma Burke, and Michelle Thrush and Caleigh Crow for O’Kosi.

Theatre Calgary received the most Critter nominations this season, having garnered 29 nods in acting, directing, writing and technical fields. With acting nominations for her performances in One Christmas Carol, The Dark Lady and The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon, it proved a banner year for actor Natascha Girgis.

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Competing for this year’s Critter in the outstanding drama or comedy category are The Shakespeare Company and Hit & Myth’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lunchbox and The Shakespeare Company’s The Dark Lady, Theatre Calgary and Alberta Theatre Projects’ Selma Burke, Alberta Theatre Projects’ The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon, and Rosebud’s Chariots of Fire. The race for outstanding musical this season includes Theatre Calgary’s As You Like It and Beaches The Musical, Stage West’s The Carole King Musical, The Shakespeare Company and StoryBook Theatre’s Something Rotten! The Musical, and Rosebud Theatre’s The Sound of Music.

Because this season saw a larger-than-usual number of solo shows, Natascha Girgis in One Christmas Carol will compete against Duval Lang in The Ballad of Georges Boivin, Nathan Schmidt in Magic Lies: An Evening with W.O. Michell, and Farren Timoteo in Made in Italy for a Critter for outstanding work in a one-person show.

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Kevin Corey and Sheldon Elter in Alberta Theatre Projects? production of The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon. Photo, Benjamin Laird cal

In competition for the Critter for outstanding lead dramatic performance are Tyrell Crews in The Mousetrap, Natascha Girgis in The Dark Lady, Norma Lewis in Selma Burke, Doug McKeag in A Christmas Carol, John McIver in Outside Mullingar, and Aaron Krogman in Chariots of Fire. Competing for a Critter in lead performance in a comedy are David Silvestri and Kristi Woods in Chapter Two, Julie Orton in Ms Holmes and Ms Watson – 2B, Gerry MacKay in The Birds and the Bees, and Kevin Corey in The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon. The nominees for a lead musical theatre Critter are Kelli Barrett and Jessica Vosk in Beaches The Musical, Kaylee Harwood in Beautiful The Carole King Musical, Oscar Derkx in As You Like It, Clarissa Schmidt in Little Women, and Joel Schaefer in Something Rotten! The Musical.

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Special Critters this season will go to Jessica Poirier-Chang for her special effects in Theatre Calgary’s Meteor Shower; StoryBook Theatre for its concert version of Sweeny Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street; Cecilia Currie for emerging artist for her performances in both StoryBook’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Theatre Calgary’s Beaches The Musical; to Konrad Pluta, resident musical director at Stage West, for his continued excellence in shepherding the dinner theatre company’s musicals; and to Stephen Hair, a lifetime achievement Critter for his inestimable contribution to theatre in Calgary for more than 50 years.

For all this season’s Critter nominations, go to the Calgary Theatre Critics’ Facebook page. The winners in each category will be announced on the Facebook page on June 17, and the award certificates will be delivered to the theatre companies and artists on June 21.

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