“The Bridges of Madison County” at Aurora Theatre won seven musical awards, including two for its leading actors — Kristin Markiton (left) and Travis Smith. Photo: Chris Bartelski

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AURORA, ACTOR’S EXPRESS AND SYNCHRONICITY ARE TOP WINNERS AT METRO ATLANTA’S VERSION OF BROADWAY’S TONY AWARDS.

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NINE METRO THEATERS took home Suzi Bass awards Monday night, with Aurora Theatre, Actor’s Express and Synchronicity Theatre coming out on top, perhaps another sign of parity in a city long dominated by the Alliance Theatre, the largest company in the region.

In all, 15 professional companies and 46 productions were nominated for Suzis, honors that are more or less akin to Broadway’s Tonys. Of those, 22 were plays, 14 were musicals and nine were productions for young audiences.

Jonathan Horne (a Suzi winner) and Courtney Pattersonn (a nominee) as John and Elizabeth Proctor in “The Crucible” at Actor’s Express. Proctor. Photo: Chris Bartelski

The awards are named for longtime actor Suzi Bass, a force of nature who died of cancer in 2002 at age 56. She performed regularly, and to acclaim, at the Alliance, Theatre in the Square, ART Station and Theatrical Outfit, along with North Carolina’s Flat Rock Playhouse and Blowing Rock Stage.

Aurora Theatre, which recently announced expansion plans, won 10 Suzis, seven for its staging of the musical The Bridges of Madison County. Bridges, with a score by Jason Robert Brown (Parade), fared much better locally than it did on Broadway, where its run lasted a mere 100 performances.

Aurora’s “Singles in Agriculture” (with Lauren Boyd and Jeremy Agger) was named best new work. Photo: Chris Bartelski

Aurora’s Bridges won for best musical; director of a musical (perennial winner Justin Anderson); musical direction (Ann-Carol Pence, another frequent winner); leading actors (Kristin Markiton and Travis Smith); lighting (Kevin Frazier); and sound design (Daniel Pope).

Aurora also won Suzis for outstanding world premiere (Singles in Agriculture by Abby Rosebrock); outstanding Theatre for Young Audiences production (The Three Billy Goats Gruff, which Anderson directed); and design for Three Billy Goats Gruff (scenic & costume designers Isabel Curley-Clay & Moriah Curley-Clay, lighting designer Andre C. Allen and sound designer Thom Jenkins).

Actor’s Express won five awards — best play, leading actor (Jonathan Horne) and featured actress (Shelli Delgado) for The Crucible; and Jeff McKerley (as a world-weary drag queen, in perhaps his best work to date); and Preston Goodson’s sound design for The Legend of Georgia McBride.

Synchronicity’s “Eclipsed,” actor-playwright Danai Gurira’s drama about five women trying to survive the Second Liberian Civil War, won for best ensemble of a play (Isake Akanke, Asha Duniani, Charity Purvis Jordan, Shayla Love and Parris Sarter); best director (Tinashe Kajese-Bolden); costumes (L. Nyrobi Moss); and set design (Isabel Curley-Clay & Moriah Curley-Clay).

Synchronicity’s “Eclipsed” with (from left) Asha Duniani, Shayla Love and Parris Sarter, won four Suzis including best ensemble of a play. Photo: Jerry Siegel

Synchronicity also won the Audience Choice Award for best season. Besides Eclipsed, it featured the dramas Anne Boleyn and Strait of Gibraltar (a world premiere) and the family shows Mr. Popper’s Penguins and The One and Only Ivan.

The Alliance earned 42 nominations but won only four Suzis — one each for Moby Dick (William C. Kirkham’s lighting); The Prom (Casey Nicholaw’s choreography); Troubadour (Todd Rosenthal’s scenic design); and new TYA work (Head to Toe, a Theatre for the Very Young piece).

Lois Reitzes

Special Suzis went to Lois Reitzes (Spirit of Suzi Award), who has championed the arts on WABE-FM (90.1) in one way or another since 1979; Anita and Bob Farley, the longtime leaders of Georgia Ensemble Theatre (Lifetime Achievement); Susan Stiefel (Volunteer of the Year); props designer MC Park (the Callboard Award, which recognizes work by stage managers, technicians, prop masters, dramaturgs, and front of house and patron staff); and Topher Payne (the Gene-Gabriel Moore Playwriting Award for Greetings Friend Your Kind Assistance is Required at GET).   

Nominated shows that were shut out included Cinderella and Fella and Ugly Lies the Bone (Alliance); Ghost the Musical (Georgia Ensemble); King Henry VI Parts 1, 2, & 3 at the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse; and Nobody Loves You (Horizon). 

Companies shut out included Horizon Theatre (14 nominations); Legacy Theatre (3); Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse (7); and Theatrical Outfit (6).

Surprises/observations

The Alliance’s “Too Heavy for Your Pocket” was nominated for two Suzis but went unrecognized. The cast (from left): Eboni Flowers, Rob Demery, Stephen Ruffin and Markita Prescott. Photo: Greg Mooney

THE ALLIANCE’S SHOWING, given its budget, resources and national reach. In at least one case, however, the Suzis failed to recognize some of the company’s best work — the stunningly acted and designed Too Heavy for Your Pocket, the winner of the 2017 Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition. The world premiere by Jiréh Breon Holder, about two couples contemplating justice, love and responsibility in rural Tennessee during the civil rights movement, is now running off-Broadway at the Roundabout Theatre.

LACK OF RECOGNITION for The Mountaintop at Aurora, with Neal A. Ghant as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Cynthia D. Barker as a feisty hotel maid, and Actor’s Express’ lively staging of Stephen Sondheim’s Company, which proved that the 1970s musical is still very much relevant today.

FINALLY, AND IMPORTANTLY,  less whitewashing among the winners which, last year, were overwhelmingly Caucasian. The Crucible (Actor’s Express) featured a multicultural cast; and the actors and designers of Eclipsed (Synchronicity) were predominantly African-American. Together, they accounted for a half-dozen awards. Better, yes, but there’s still room for improvement.

THE WINNERS / PLAYS

(Highlighted in bold type)

Outstanding world premiere

  • The Prom at the Alliance Theatre
  • Singles in Agriculture at Aurora Theatre
  • Strait of Gibraltar at Synchronicity Theatre
  • Too Heavy for Your Pocket at the Alliance 
  • Troubadour at the Alliance

Play

  • The Crucible at Actor’s Express
  • Eclipsed at Synchronicity 
  • King Henry VI Parts 1, 2, & 3 at the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse
  • Singles in Agriculture at Aurora 
  • Ugly Lies the Bone at the Alliance 
Tinashe Kajese-Bolden

Direction/play

  • Justin Anderson for Singles in Agriculture at Aurora 
  • Freddie Ashley for The Crucible at Actor’s Express
  • Jessica Holt for Ugly Lies the Bone at the Alliance 
  • Tinashe Kajese-Bolden for Eclipsed at Synchronicity 
  • Jeff Watkins for King Henry VI Parts 1, 2, & 3 at the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse

Female lead actor/play

  • Cynthia D. Barker for The Mountaintop (Aurora)
  • Lauren Lane for Singles in Agriculture (Aurora)
  • Julie Jesneck for Ugly Lies the Bone (Alliance)
  • Christina Leidel for The Miracle Worker (Gypsy Theatre Company)
  • Brooke Owens for Anne Boleyn (Synchronicity)
  • Courtney Patterson for The Crucible (Actor’s Express)

Male lead actor/play 

  • Jeremy Aggers for Singles in Agriculture (Aurora)
  • Neal Ghant for The Mountaintop (Aurora)
  • Jonathan Horne for The Crucible (Actor’s Express)
  • Brian Kurlander for How to Use a Knife (Horizon)
  • Geoffrey D. Williams for Thurgood (Theatrical Outfit)
Shelli Delgado

Female featured actor/play 

  • Shelli Delgado for The Crucible (Actor’s Express)
  • Ellen McQueen for The Tragedy of King Richard III (Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse)
  • Wendy Melkonian for Ugly Lies the Bone (Alliance)
  • Falashay Pearson for The Crucible (Actor’s Express)
  • Vallea E. Woodbury for Singles in Agriculture (Aurora)

Male featured actor/play

  • Adeoye for Moby Dick (Alliance)
  • Bryan Davis for The Crucible (Actor’s Express)
  • Jeff McKerley for The Legend of Georgia McBride (Actor’s Express)
  • Lee Osorio for Ugly Lies the Bone (Alliance)
  • Tamil Periasamy for The Crucible (Actor’s Express)
  • Drew Reeves for King Henry VI Parts 1, 2 & 3 (Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse)
Isake Akanke in “Eclipsed.” Photo: Jerry Siegel

Ensemble/play

  • The Canterbury Tales at Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse (Laura Cole, Nicholas Faircloth, Rivka Levin, Drew Reeves, Adam King, Enoch King, Amanda Lindsey, Kirstin Calvert)
  • The Comedy of Errors at Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse (Chris Hecke, Steve Hudson, Gina Rickicki, Andrew Houchins, J.L. Reed, Enoch King, Matt Felten, Jennifer Lamort, India S. Tyree, Matt Nitchie, Amanda Lindsey, Dani Herd)
  • Eclipsed at Synchronicity  (Asha Duniani, Charity Purvis Jordan, Shayla Love, Parris Sarter, Isake Akanke)
  • Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) at Actor’s Express (Seun Soyemi, Damian Lockhart, Meagan Dilworth, Jason-Jamal Ligon, Rob Cleveland, Evan Cleaver, Brittany Inge, Marcus Hopkins-Turner, Richard McDonald, Bryan Davis)
  • Too Heavy for Your Pocket at the Alliance (Rob Demery, Eboni Flowers, Markita Prescott, Stephen Ruffin)

Costume design/play

  • Deyah Brenner for The Legend of Georgia McBride (Actor’s Express)
  • Anné Carole Butler for King Henry VI Parts 1, 2, & 3 (Shakespeare Tavern)
  • L. Nyrobi Moss for Eclipsed (Synchronicity)
  • Abby Parker for Anne Boleyn (Synchronicity)
  • Erik Teague for The Crucible (Actor’s Express)

Lighting design/play

  • William C. Kirkham for Moby Dick (Alliance)
  • Liz Lee for Ugly Lies the Bone (Alliance)
  • Joseph P. Monaghan III for The Crucible (Actor’s Express)
  • Mary Parker for Constellations at (Horizon)
  • Kathy A. Perkins for Eclipsed (Synchronicity)

Scenic design/play

  • Isabel Curley-Clay & Moriah Curley-Clay for Appropriate (Actor’s Express)
  • Isabel Curley-Clay & Moriah Curley-Clay for Eclipsed (Synchronicity)
  • Isabel Curley-Clay & Moriah Curley-Clay for Freed Spirits (Horizon)
  • Isabel Curley-Clay & Moriah Curley-Clay for How to Use a Knife (Horizon)
  • Leslie Taylor for The Legend of Georgia McBride (Actor’s Express)
Jeff McKerley (right, with Nick Arapoglou) in “Georgia McBride.” Photo: Chris Bartelski

Sound design/play

  • Preston Goodson for The Legend of Georgia McBride (Actor’s Express)
  • Chika Kaba Ma’atunde for Simply Simone (Theatrical Outfit)
  • Kate Marvin for Ugly Lies the Bone (Alliance)
  • Kay Richardson for Eclipsed (Synchronicity)
  • Ed Thrower for The Crucible (Actor’s Express)

WINNERS / MUSICALS

Best musical

  • Big Fish at Theatrical Outfit
  • The Bridges of Madison County at Aurora 
  • Nobody Loves You at Horizon Theatre
  • The Prom at the Alliance 
  • Troubadour at the Alliance 

Direction of a musical

  • Justin Anderson for The Bridges of Madison County (Aurora)
  • Susan V. Booth for Troubadour (Alliance)
  • Brian Clowdus for Grease (Serenbe Playhouse)
  • Heidi McKerley for Nobody Loves You (Horizon)
  • Casey Nicholaw for The Prom (Alliance)

Musical direction

  • Brandon Bush for Troubadour (Alliance)
  • Mary-Mitchell Campbell for The Prom (Alliance)
  • Alli Lingenfelter for Nobody Loves You (Horizon)
  • Chika Kaba Ma’atunde for Simply Simone (Theatrical Outfit)
  • Ann-Carol Pence for The Bridges of Madison County (Aurora)

Choreography

  • Ricardo Aponte for The Legend of Georgia McBride (Actor’s Express)
  • Bubba Carr for Grease (Serenbe)
  • Heidi Cline McKerley & Jeff McKerley for Nobody Loves You (Horizon)
  • Casey Nicholaw for The Prom (Alliance)
  • Melissa Zaremba for Smokey Joe’s Cafe (Legacy Theatre)

Musical lead actor/female 

  • Travis Smith, Kristin Markiton in “Bridges.” Photo: Chris Bartelski

    Kylie Brown for Ghost the Musical (Georgia Ensemble Theatre)

  • Randi Garza for Grease (Serenbe)
  • Caitlin Kinnunen for The Prom (Alliance)
  • Beth Leavel for The Prom (Alliance)
  • Kristin Markiton for The Bridges of Madison County (Aurora)

Musical lead actor/male

  • Brooks Ashmanskas for The Prom (Alliance)
  • Andrew Benator for Troubadour (Alliance)
  • Chase Peacock for Ghost the Musical (Georgia Ensemble)
  • Travis Smith for Big Fish (Theatrical Outfit)
  • Travis Smith for The Bridges of Madison County (Aurora) 

Musical featured actor/female

  • Jennifer Alice Acker for Nobody Loves You (Horizon)
  • Kandice Arrington for Ghost the Musical (Georgia Ensemble)
  • Wendy Melkonian for Nobody Loves You (Horizon)
  • Valarie Payton for The Bridges of Madison County (Aurora)
  • Julissa Sabino for Grease (Serenbe)
Don Finney as Mrs. Peachum (left, with Stephanie Lloyd and Kevin Stillwell. Photo: Stungun Photography

Musical featured actor/male

  • Rob Cleveland for The Bridges of Madison County (Aurora)
  • Don Finney for The Threepenny Opera (7 Stages)
  • Matt Lewis for The Bridges of Madison County (Aurora)
  • Brad Raymond for Nobody Loves You (Horizon)
  • Austin Tijerina for Nobody Loves You (Horizon)

Ensemble/musical

  • Church Basement Ladies at the Legacy Theatre (Amanda Lyn Hornberger, Autumn O’Ryan, Katie Patterson, Nikki Savitt, Jeremy Skidmore)
  • Company at Actor’s Express (Lowrey Brown, Rhyn Saver, Daniel Burns, Jimmica Collins, Laura Floyd, Dan Ford, Jill Hames, Steve Hudson, Phillip Lynch, Kelly Chapin Martin, Jessica Miesel, Emily Stembridge, Craig Waldrip, Libby Whittemore
  • Million Dollar Quartet, a Georgia Ensemble & Atlanta Lyric Theatre co-production (Chase Peacock, Allison Wilhoit, Chris Damiano, Christopher Kent, Justin D. Thompson, Ethan Ray Parker, Andrew Patton, Kroy Presley)
  • Smokey Joe’s Cafe at the Legacy (Nick Abbott, Amanda Bridgette, Brian L. Boyd, Meg Dickens, Jordan Ellis, Rakeem Lawrence, Allie Richardson, Hillary Scales-Lewis, Christopher “CJ” Williams)

Costume design/musical

  • DeeDee Chmielewski for The Threepenny Opera (7 Stages)
  • Lex Liang for Troubadour (Alliance)
  • Brandon McWilliams for Grease (Serenbe)
  • Linda Patterson for The Bridges of Madison County (Aurora)
  • Ann Roth & Matthew Pachtman for The Prom (Alliance)

Lighting design/musical

  • Bradley Bergeron for Grease (Serenbe)
  • Kevin Frazier for The Bridges of Madison County (Aurora)
  • Kenneth Posner for The Prom (Alliance)
  • Bryan Rosengrant for Ghost the Musical (Georgia Ensemble)
  • Ken Yunker for Troubadour (Alliance)

Scenic design/musical

  • Kat Conley for Courtenay’s Cabaret: Home for the Holidays (Alliance)
  • Isabel Curley-Clay & Moriah Curley-Clay for Nobody Loves You (Horizon)
  • Scott Pask for The Prom at the (Alliance)
  • Julie Allardice Ray for The Bridges of Madison County (Aurora)
  • Todd Rosenthal for Troubadour (Alliance)

Sound design/musical

  • Clay Benning for Troubadour (Alliance)
  • Rob Brooksher for Nobody Loves You (Horizon)
  • Preston Goodson for Ghost the Musical (Georgia Ensemble)
  • Peter Hylenski for The Prom at the (Alliance)
  • John McKenzie for Million Dollar Quartet (Georgia Ensemble & Atlanta Lyric)
  • Daniel Pope for The Bridges of Madison County (Aurora)

WINNERS/ THEATER FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES

Outstanding production

  • Cinderella and Fella at the Alliance
  • From Head to Toe at the Alliance 
  • Old MacDonald’s Farm at the Center for Puppetry Arts
  • The Three Billy Goats Gruff at Aurora 

New work

  • Cinderella and Fella at the Alliance
  • The Dancing Granny at the Alliance 
  • The Dancing Handkerchief at Theatrical Outfit
  • From Head to Toe at the Alliance 

Direction

  • Cinderella and Fella at the Alliance (director Rosemary Newcott, music director S. Renee Clark)
  • From Head to Toe at the Alliance (director Rosemary Newcott)
  • Old MacDonald’s Farm at the Center for Puppetry Arts (director Amy Sweeney)
  • The Three Billy Goats Gruff at Aurora Theatre (director Justin Anderson, musical director Ann-Carol Pence)

Ensemble

  • Cinderella and Fella at the Alliance (Terry Burrell, S. Renee Clark, Courtenay Collins, Molly Coyne, Scott E. DePoy, Jeremiah Parker Hobbs, India S. Tyree, Brian Walker)
  • Old MacDonald’s Farm at the Center for Puppetry Arts (Seth Langer, Amy Sweeney)
  • The One and Only Ivan at Synchronicity (Chris Hecke, Renita James, Benjamin DeWitt Sims, Jeffrey Sneed, Precious West)
  • The Three Billy Goats Gruff at Aurora (Jenise Cook, Elliott Felds, Juan Carlos Unzueta, Amber Hamilton, Candice Mclellan, Bryan Montemayor)

Design

  • Cinderella and Fella at the Alliance Theatre (scenic designer Kat Conley; costume designer Sydney Roberts; lighting designer Jake DeGroot; sound designer Clay Benning)
  • Cinderella Della Circus at the Center for Puppetry Arts (puppet designer Jason Hines; scenic designer Rochelle Barker Shinn; lighting designer Liz Lee; sound designers Mimi Epstein & Gregory Montague)
  • Old MacDonald’s Farm at the Center for Puppetry Arts (puppet designer Jason Hines; scenic designer Ryan Sbaratta; costume designer Carole D’Agostino; lighting designer Gregory Montague; sound designer Dolph Amick)
  • Robin Hood at Serenbe (scenic designer Scott Sargent; costume designer DeeDee Chmielewski; properties designer Stephanie Polhemus)
  • The Three Billy Goats Gruff at Aurora (scenic & costume designers Isabel Curley-Clay & Moriah Curley-Clay; lighting designer Andre C. Allen; sound designer Thom Jenkins)

WINS BY PRODUCTION

(Nominations in parentheses)

7: The Bridges of Madison County at Aurora (12)

4: Eclipsed at Synchronicity (7)

3: The Crucible at Actor’s Express (11)

2: The Legend of Georgia McBride at Actor’s Express (5)

2: Million Dollar Quartet at Georgia Ensemble (2)

2: Old MacDonald’s Farm at the Center for Puppetry Arts (4)

2: The Three Billy Goats Gruff at the Center for Puppetry Arts (4)

2: The Threepenny Opera at 7 Stages (2)

1: Grease at Serenbe Playhouse (6)

1: Singles in Agriculture at Aurora (6)

1: The Prom at the Alliance (12)

1: From Head to Toe at the Alliance (3)

1: The Miracle Worker at Gypsy Theatre (1)

1: Troubadour at the Alliance (9)

WINS BY COMPANY

(Nominations in parentheses)

10: Aurora Theatre (24)

5: Actor’s Express (19)

5: Synchronicity Theatre (11)

4: Alliance Theatre (42)

2: Center for Puppetry Arts (5)

2: 7 Stages (2)

1: Georgia Ensemble Theatre (7)

1: Gypsy Theatre Company (1)

1: Serenbe Playhouse (7)

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About Kathy Janich

Kathy Janich, Encore Atlanta’s editor, is a longtime arts journalist who has been seeing, working in or writing about the performing arts for most of her life. She's a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, Americans for the Arts and the National Arts Marketing Project. Full disclosure: She’s also an artistic associate at Synchronicity Theatre.

View all posts by Kathy Janich