Sure, in 2013 the Browns sucked again, the Cavs continue to sort of suck and the Indians were almost pretty good until they eventually sucked. And the weather mostly sucks. But hey, it's New Year's Day! Time to be positive! And yes, Virginia, there was lots of good news coming from Cleveland last year, in terms of theatrical achievements. So let's open the sack, toss down a brandy eggnog and see what Old Man '13 brought us in the past dozen months.
There were two Next to Normal productions, one at Beck Center and one at Lakeland Civic Theatre—and they both were great for different reasons. But let's not forget the rude and wonderful Book of Mormon and the entrancing Sleeping Beauty at Playhouse Square, She Loves Me, the sweet and tuneful confection also at Beck, and Porthouse Theatre's kick-ass Fiddler on the Roof and South Pacific.
Best Straight Play
Good People at the Cleveland Play House was very funny, There Is a Happiness That Morning Is at Cleveland Public Theatre was thought provoking, and Richard III at Great Lakes Theater was compelling. But The Iceman Cometh at Ensemble Theatre soared and On the Line at None Too Fragile Theater exhibited a tight and marvelous trio of performances.
Best Not-So-Straight Play
You know, that means pretty much anything at convergence-continuum. However their Lilies, or the Revival of a Romantic Drama was performed brilliantly, superbly directed by Tyson Rand, and told a complex and fascinating tale of gay men and their torments.
Best Murderous Rampage
It's a tie between the seething Sweeney Todd, played with bloody gusto by Tom Ford at Great Lakes Theatre, and the homicidally hilarious Pedden Hedderson as Eddy in Texas Chainsaw Musical that splattered across the Blank Canvas Theatre stage.
In a Musical: George Roth was a warm and affecting Tevye in Fiddler at Porthouse, while the men in Beck's Next to Normal (Chris McCarrell and Scott Plate) and the dudes in Porthouse's South Pacific (Greg Violand and Tim Welsh) made those shows sing.
In a Non-Musical: Lynn Robert Berg made your hair stand on end (but not his) as Richard III at Great Lakes. Nods must also go to the male duo in There Is a Happiness That Morning Is (Brian Pedaci and Matthew Wright), and the three guys who were On The Line (Mark Mayo, Robert Branch and Andrew Narten). Oh, plus the woozy phalanx of drunks in Iceman.
In a Musical: Hard to argue with Sara M. Bruner as the malicious piemaker in Sweeney Todd at GLT. But Rebecca Pitcher was wonderful in She Loves Me, Miche Braden was stellar in The Devil's Music at the Cleveland Play House, and Katherine De Boer made being bi-polar stunning in Beck's Next to Normal.
In a Non-Musical: Tracee Patterson was Medea (at Ensemble), and she made sure you'd never forget it. Also splendid were Heather Anderson Boll in Time Stands Still at Dobama, Liz Conway and Elaine Feagler in Sordid Lives at con-con, and Lara Knox in The Comedy of Errors at the Ohio Shakespeare Festival.
Sensational work was turned in by Victoria Bussert (Sweeney Todd), Eric van Baars (Fiddler on the Roof), Ian Wolfgang Hinz (The Iceman Cometh), Patrick Ciamacco (12 Angry Men), Laura Kepley (Good People), Scott Spence, (Spamalot, Beck Center), Sean Derry (On The Line), Martin Friedman (Next to Normal, Lakeland), Tyson Rand (Lilies) and Beth Wood (There Is a Happiness That Morning Is).
Martin Cespedes (Spamalot), MaryAnn Black (South Pacific) and John Crawford (Fiddler) high-kick to a tie.
Ron Newell's frumpy bar in Iceman, Todd S. Krispinsky's lyrical set for Happiness, Charlotte Yetman's steamy costumes in Sweeney Todd, Trad A Burns' startling set and lighting in Lakeland's Next to Normal, and the team that created video and more for CPT's Struck.
Put it all together, that's a dandy season of theater. And word has it that there are more big doings this coming year. So fasten your chinstraps, theatergoers, it's curtain-up time for the diapered little brat that is now 2014!