All Things Entertaining and Cultural

2021 Philadelphia Theater Critic’s Awards — The Recipients

  Never, since I began seeing theater on a regular basis and keeping a running diary of all the shows I see and the performers in them, have I seen as few shows in a season as in 2021.

         The answer is obvious. There was no theater for the first half 2021, or for the last three quarters of 2020 for that matter, and most companies took some time, even into 2022, to resume operations.

        I was grateful when the Bucks County Playhouse opened with cabaret performances, all of which were terrific, with those by Sally Mayes and Andrew Polec being special. (I can’t wait until Polec achieves official stardom. He certainly rates it.) At the same time, the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival mounted pretty much a full summer season, and Theatre Exile broke the moratorium on live, unstreamed production by staging “Pass Over” in South Philadelphia parks and other venues around the city.

          In total, the I saw 22 productions in the calendar year 2021, the year on which these awards are based.

          Contrary to the way the theater season runs, The Philadelphia Theater Critic’s Award, covers the calendar year because it was first given in 1972 when I was asked to do an annualized Top Ten list for the erstwhile Daily Planet, a weekly few will remember but was quite good and featured work by several writers who would, like me, continue after the Planet folded.  — Lewis Beale, Bill Harding, and Alan Cylinder to name a few.

          Once I made that Top Ten, I went to my diary and did a full ranking. I did the same for shows I saw from 1967 to 1970 as well and, voilá, a tradition was born. The 2021 awards mark the 53rd time the Philadelphia Theater Critic’s Award has been given.

           Theatergoing is a habit, one I cultivated when I first saw Carol Lawrence in “Funny Girl” at the Valley Forge Music Fair when it was housed in a tent and Ginger Rogers in “Hello Dolly” at the Forrest Theatre. I watched Philadelphia go from a touring town to a hive of small nascent local companies to a burgeoning theater center that can stand against any in the world to quantity, quality, and continued evolution.

          Coming back to shows after the pandemic reinforced my respect for the durability and professionalism of Philadelphia troupes. Every year when I review my diaries, I can safely say I’d be happy to see about 85 percent of the shows again (90 percent if I could go in and fix some things more to my liking).

           The Philadelphia Theater Critic’s Awards cover a wide range, establishing from years of reviewing shows for television stations seen between central New Jersey and throughout Delaware. Any show seen between New Brunswick, N.J and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, counts in the Philadelphia diary. It has always been my idea that rivers are not moats and state borders do not battlements. The tri-state area of which Philadelphia is prime is one of the cultural troves in a nation that rarely wants for places and activities of interest. I am grateful that both my television assignments and a bunch of willing editors have allowed me to roam the area with reckless abandon to write about what I find there.

           Now to the awards.

           The recipients of the 2022 PHILADELPHIA THEATER CRITIC’S AWARDS are:

           BEST PRODUCTION: HAMILTON, National Tour, Academy of Music on the Kimmel Cultural Campus, Philadelphia

           BEST DIRECTOR: THOMAS KAIL, Hamilton


           BEST ACTRESS: LISA STRUM, Skeleton Crew, Bristol Riverside Theatre, Bristol, Pa.

           BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: STEPHEN PATRICK SMITH, The Weir, Hedgerow Theatre, Rose Valley, Pa.


           As usual, in addition to the recipient, a list of the Top Ten in each category will be presented. The list is limited to 10 because so few shows were seen. In some categories, I may extend the list


1.HAMILTON by Lin-Manuel Miranda, National Tour, Academy of Music on the Kimmel Cultural Campus, Philadelphia
2.Minor Character by Madeline Wise, Milo Cramer, and Morgan Green, Wilma Theater, Philadelphia
3.The Little Mermaid by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Glenn Slater, and Doug Wright, Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia
4.When Day Comes by Ricardo Khan and Sweet Honey in the Rock, Crossroads Theatre, New Brunswick, N.J.
5.The Chinese Lady by Lloyd Suh, InterAct Theatre Company, Philadelphia
6.The Garbologists by Lindsay Joelle, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Philadelphia
7.Million Dollar Quartet by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, Delaware Theatre Company, Wilmington, Del.
8.Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare, Hedgerow Theatre, Rose Valley, Pa.
9.Skeleton Crew by Dominique Morriseau, Bristol Riverside Theatre, Bristol, Pa.
10.Extreme Home Makeover by Makasha Copeland, Theatre Exile, Philadelphia
11.Pass Over by Antoinette Nwandu, Theatre Exile, Philadelphia
12.The Weir by Conor McPherson, Hedgerow Theatre, Rose Valley, Pa.


1.THOMAS KAIL, Hamilton
2.Yury Urnov, Minor Character
3.Glenn Casale, The Little Mermaid
4.Ricardo Khan, When Day Comes
5.Justin Jain, The Chinese Lady
6.Estefanía Fadul, The Garbologists
7.Ozzie Jones, Pass Over
8.Lisa VillaMil, Two Gentlemen of Verona
9.Deborah Block, Extreme Home Makeover
10.Matt Silva, Million Dollar Quartet


2.Steven Rishard,* The Garbologists
3.Sean Thompson, The Little Mermaid
4.Joe Kinosian. Murder for Two, Bristol Riverside Theatre, Bristol, Pa.
5.Ross Beschler, Minor Character
6.Bill Army, Dear Jack, Dear Louise, George Street Playhouse, New Brunswick, N.J.
7.Sam McClellan, Anastasia, National Tour, Academy of Music on the Kimmel Cultural Campus, Philadelphia
8.Thane Madsen, Two Gentlemen of Verona
9.Jared Chichester, Pass Over
10.Khalfani Lewis, Two Gentlemen of Verona


1.LISA STRUM, Skeleton Crew
2.Sarah Gliko, Minor Character
3.Bi Jean Ngo, The Chinese Lady
4.Marilu Henner, The Marilu Henner Show, Bucks County Playhouse, New Hope, Pa.
5.Ngozi Anyanwu, The Garbologists
6.Campbell O’Hare, Minor Character
7.Krissy Fraelich,* Mamma Mia!, Media Theatre, Media, Pa.
8.Diana Huey, The Little Mermaid
9.Kyla Stone, Anastasia
10.Angela Bey, Young Money, Azuka Theatre, Philadelphia


2.Justin Jain, Minor Character
3.Dana Orange, The Little Mermaid
4.Marquis Wood, The Skeleton Crew
5.Pete Pryor,* The Weir
6.Marcus Choi, Hamilton
7.Ben Dibble,* The Little Mermaid
8.Warren Egypt Franklin, Hamilton
9.Martin Landry, Murder for Two
10.Scott Greer,* The Million Dollar Quartet


2.Rebecca Robbins,* The Little Mermaid
3.Madeline Raube, Anastasia
4.Carol Maillard, When Day Comes
5.Kristine Nielsen, It’s Only a Play, George Street Playhouse, New Brunswick, N.J.
6.Suli Holum,* Minor Character
7.Yajaira Parades, Extreme Home Makeover
8.Lindsay Nicole Chambers, It’s Only a Play
9.Laura Giknis, The Million Dollar Quartet
10.Pam Jorgenson, Mamma Mia!
  • = Previous Recipient

SPECIAL LOVE AND APPRECIATION TO: Melissa Errico, Mel Hsu, Constantine Maroulis, Karen Mason, Sally Mayes, Andrew Polec, and Billy Stritch for grand entertainment of a grand style in presentational performances, Ms. Hsu’s as a musician in The Chinese Lady, the others in cabaret turns at Bucks County Playhouse, New Hope, Pa.

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