All Things Entertaining and Cultural
It’s May 23, 2021.
Last week, on May 20, for the first time since March 13, 2020, I, who have seen more than 100 plays a year every year since 1973, walked into a theater, New Hope’s Bucks County Playhouse, for a live performance.
I did it again, at the same theater last night, on May 22.
The shows I saw were not plays. They were cabaret shows presented as concerts.
Both shows, one by classic cabaret artist Karen Mason and one by versatile rock and roller cum Broadway star Constantine Maroulis — Yes, he who competed on “American Idol” in 2005 — were an epiphany of sorts. Sitting in an audience felt natural even though the seats occupied by me and my companion were the only ones on our row anyone was permitted to sit in. The crowd was scattered, one row allowing a couple or group of seats (for parties of three or four) on each end while the row in front and behind it had people sitting in its center.
I was in the center, feeling as if I were right in front of Karen and Constantine. They were there with their accompanist/musical directors, Chris Denny and Joshua Steven Kartes, and rewarding my never-diminished appetite for entertainment. Like Karen sings in “Sunset Boulevard’s” “Everything’s As If We’d Never Said Goodbye,” I’d come home at last.
I have been buoyed by the return to live offerings. Karen Mason demonstrated a career of mastery, displaying the wit, passion, humor, and vocal excellence I first experienced more than 40 years ago. Constantine Maroulis’s range, energy, and a power than makes me want to see him in a major theatrical role.
Being at Bucks County Playhouse made me consider the year without theater and how that particular theater, with shows scheduled through mid-July, provides me, and you, the opportunity to renew a love, habit, and interest that’s been part of me for my whole life. (Other boys collected baseball cards; I collected TV Guide covers and cut out pictures of movie stars. While collecting baseball cards. So rounded!!!)
I saw 32 productions before the COVID pandemic forced the lights to be turned out in the 50 or more houses in which I regularly see and review plays. In addition, I saw two plays, one streamed, the other presented live online, that I added to my 2020 Theater Diary.
I have been keeping diaries of my theatergoing since I saw my first professional production, “Funny Girl” at Valley Forge Music Fair on September 4, 1967. From those diaries, I assemble ranked lists. As a lark, I began turning those rankings into awards, The Philadelphia Theater Critic’s Award, named with intentional fatuousness as a joke and bearing an apostrophe in a place that shows it’s one-person’s accolade and not a committee’s or formal body of pundits.
I have given a Philadelphia Theater Critic’s Award for every season from 1967, when five productions composed the entire list. I also have another award, given in July, that encompasses shows I see anywhere in the world, and I have seen shows in places ranging from the legendary Berliner Ensemble in — where else? — Berlin to a midnight presentation of “The Sound of Music” in Lisbon.
Thirty-four shows are enough to make a season.
They made the 2020 season, one that was interrupted but lasted enough for me to have lists. Why should 2020 be different from any other year?
Today, inspired by Karen Mason, Constantine Maroulis, and my pair of visits to the Bucks County Playhouse, and the exuberant experiences they represent, I opened my diaries, reviewed my lists, and decided to proceed with the 2020 Philadelphia Theater Critic’s Awards.
Here I will list the 34 shows that are eligible for receiving awards as well as the actors, actresses, and directors who were ranked for honors that usually cover January to December, but, hey, in unusual times, you give what you can give and take what you can get. I hope a 2021 diary begins soon. (It will with Candace Bushnell’s appearance in at Bucks County Playhouse in “Is There Still Sex in the City?” in mid-June. I’m polishing my Blohniks for the occasion.)
Without much more blather, behold the Qualifiers for the 2020 Philadelphia Theater Critic’s Award. Five from each category will be posted as nominees later this week. The recipients from among those nominees will be revealed about a week from now.
BEST PRODUCTION (34) — The Agitators, Babel, The Bald Soprano, The Band’s Visit, Cabaret, Children, Conscience, Describe the Night, Eleanor: An American Love Story, Everything is Wonderful, Fool for Love, Goodnight Nobody, Hello, Dolly!, Hold These Truths, A Hundred Words for Snow, I (Heart) Alice (Heart) I, In Splendid Error, King Lear, Man of God, Midwives, My General Tubman, My Life on a Diet, Outside Mullingar, Popcorn Falls, Rachel, Renaissance in the Belly of a Whale, Shakespeare in Love, Ship, Sleuth, The Steward of Christendom, Thurgood, Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Vertical Hour, A Woman of No Importance
BEST DIRECTOR (33) — Abigail Adams, Keith Baker, Cheyenne Barboza, Deborah Block, Joseph Bologna, Tina Brock, Gay Carducci, Eric Carter, Desdemona Chiang, Jesse Cline, David Cromer, Alexandra Espinosa, Brenna Geffers, M. Craig Gitting, Kevin Glaccum, Rachel Gluck, Bernard Havard, Jerrell L. Henderson, Noah Himmelstein, James Ijames, Adam Immerwahr, Maura Krause, Kathryn MacMillan, Bud Martin, Ellie Mooney, Claire Moyer, Jaylene Clark Owens, Matt Pfeiffer, Tyne Rafaeli, David Saint, James Schlatter, Eric Tucker, Jerry Zaks, Blanka Zizka
BEST ACTOR (27) — Monroe Barrick, John Bolton, Luke Bradt, Carlo Carpenter, Akeem Davis, Charlie DelMarcelle, Stephen Eng, Sasson Gabay, Joe Guzmán, Johnnie Hobbs, Jr., Patrick Ludt, Jamie Maseda, Jered McLenigan, Dan Olmstead, Ian Merrill Peakes, Brandon Pierce, Robb Sapp, Matteo Scammell, Bob Schmidt, Lee Sellars, Derek Smith, Graham Smith, Sean Thompson, John Tufts, Sameer Usmani, Steven Wright, William Zielinski
BEST ACTRESS (26) — Trice Baldwin-Browns, Tina Brock, Taysha Marie Canales, Carolee Carmello, Kim Carson, Janet Dacal, Dana Delany, Annie Fang, Aetna Gallagher, Harriet Harris, Anita Holland, Jessica Johnson, Danielle Lenée, Ellen McLaughlin, Lauren Molina, Charlotte Northeast, Campbell O’Hare, Geneviève Perrier, Maxwell Porterfield, Alicia Roper, Marcia Saunders, Michaela Schuchman, Zuzannah Szadkowski, Renee Taylor Satchel Williams, Julianna Zinkel
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (81) — Nathan Alford-Tate, David Bardeen, Donovan Louis Bazemore, Daniel Beemon, Aaron Bell, Ross Beschler, John Bolger, Richard Bradford, Kelly Briggs, Benjamin Brown, Sean Burns, John Cannon, Joe Canuso, Wesley Cappiello, Mike Cefalo ,Mark Christie, Keith Conallen, Peter DeLaurier, Walter DeShields, Tomas Dura, Mahoud Ebrahimzadeh, Rusty Flounders, Carlos Forbes, Adam Gabay, Ryan George, Mark Ginsburg Lucky Gretzinger, Adam Hammet, Blake Hammond, J Hernandez, Dan Hodge, Philip Hoffman, Adam Hoyak, Tyler Ivey, Justin Jain, Dave Johnson, Joe Joseph, Travoye Joyner, Mark Junek, Dan Kern, Josh Kirwin, Pomme Koch, Colin LeMoine, Marc LeVasseur, Anthony Lawton, Mark Lazar, Ronnie Malley, Ken Marks, Anthony Martinez-Briggs, Christopher McHugh, Charles McMahon, Lincoln Millard, Nate Miller, Eric Mills, Frank Nardi, Jr., Paul L. Nolan, Stephen Novelli, John O’ Donnell, Brandon O’Rourke, David Pica, Ned Pryce, Pax Resler, Dax Richardson, Roger Ricker, Stephen Rishard, Arthur Robinson, Bailey Roper, Peter Schmitz, Armand Schultz, Andy Spinosi, Michael A. Stahler, Bob Stineman, Grant Strubel, Jahzeer Terrell, Bill Van Horn, Damien J. Wallace, Bob Weick, Bowman Wright, Steven Wright, John Zak
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS (62) — Jennifer Apple, Chelsea Aubert, Sydney Banks, Therese Barbato, Jessica Bedford, Lisa Birnbaum, Nancy Boykin, Jane Brockman, Nicole Calabrese, Molly Carden, Niya Colbert, Janis Dardaris, Grace Experience, Annie Fang, Eliza Fichtner, Melanye Finister, Sarah Gliko, Chelsea Cree Groen, Kendal Hartse, Hollis Heath, Janelle Heatley, Laura Sky Herman, Santa Claire Hirsch, Stephanie Hodge, Brittany Holdahl, Stephanie Iozzia, Becca Jackson, Annette Kapalfka, Sarah Kapner, Katie Kleiger, Stephanie Kuo, Analisa Leaming, Donovan Lockett, Mary Martello, Rachel Massey, Zuhairah McGill, Kimie Muroya, Bi Jean Ngo, Campbell O’Hare, K. O’Rourke, Alison Ormsby, Jaylene Clark Owens, Claris Park, Hannah Park, Karen Peakes, Jane Ridley, Brett Ashley Robinson, Monique Robinson, Sonja Robson, Blair Sams, Mary Elizabeth Scallen, Amanda Schoonover, Peggy Smith, Jo Twiss, Catherine Wake, Stephanie Kyung Sun Walters, Audrey Ward, Camille Warren-Taylor, Susan Wefel, Laila White, Cheryl Williams, Ariel Woodiwiss,