Newly eligible companies take emphatic bow at 2013 Henry Awards


By John Moore
July 22, 2013

The Colorado Theatre Guild set out to put more Colorado in Colorado Theatre Guild’s 2013 Henry Awards, and tonight’s results certainly accomplished that goal. The question on many minds tomorrow, after the Guild had left so many of its own member companies out of the race for seven years, will be whether it perhaps overcorrected – all in one shot.

It was no surprise that the Arvada Center’s “Man of La Mancha” was the big winner of a refreshingly spread-out evening, pulling seven awards, including best musical and best direction for Rod Lansberry. Right behind was a mountain-company newcomer to the Henrys: The Lake Dillon Theatre Company pulled four wins, including three for “Kiss of the Spider-Woman.” Curious Theatre won best play for “The Brothers Size.”

In all, 11 companies and 16 shows won at least one award. (Here is the complete list of nominees and here is the complete list of all eligible shows.)

Theater companies from outside the metro area were eligible for Henry Awards for the first time, and all four trophies for best (male) actors went to regional theater companies:

*Jonathan Farwell, best actor in a play, OpenStage & Company’s “Amadeus,” Fort Collins
*Bob Moore, best supporting actor in a play, Lake Dillon Theatre’s “The Sunshine Boys”
*Joshua Blanchard, best actor in a musical, Lake Dillon Theatre Company’s “Kiss of the Spider-Woman”
*Thomas Rainey, best supporting actor in a musical, Lake Dillon Theatre Company’s “Kiss of the Spider-Woman

The Guild made great strides in expanding the eligible pool this year to a record 162 productions. That the 2013 winners represent a real swath of the Colorado theater community for the first time is the truest statement of community the Guild could make.

But one question tomorrow morning will be whether the Guild, in its noble effort to welcome statewide companies into the mix, inadvertently steered things in their favor. Because to make those outlying productions eligible, the Guild also expanded its pool of judges to those very communities. It takes six judges to make any production eligible for a Henry Award, which previously has made it logistically impossible to include regional theater companies in the pool. Now the outlying shows are judged by a mix of Denver-based judges who make the trek to see theater throughout the state, and reviewers and theater-lovers who live in the communities they now judge.

The natural, if uncomfortable, question might at least be asked: Were those judges predisposed to overly support the productions in their home areas? Or were the best theater performances in Colorado all living outside of the Denver area last year? Or is it maybe a little bit of both?

The eight women’s acting awards were more evenly distributed. It seemed a foregone conclusion that new Denver transplant SuCh (Celie) would win best actress in a musical for “The Color Purple” after she and castmate Ashlie-Amber Harris drew a mid-show standing ovation with their shattering live performance of the duet, “What About Love?”

This was easily the most powerhouse category of the night, including five amazing performances: Selah Grace (“Kiss of the Spider-Woman”), Norrell Moore (“Hair”), Megan Van De Hey (“Baby”), Kathi Wood “Little Shop of Horrors” and Brianna Firestone (“Sweet Charity”).

The Denver Center pulled two of the three remaining female acting awards: Jeanne Paulsen for “Romeo and Juliet” and Ruth Gottschall for “Sense and Sensibility, the Musical” (supporting actresses in a play and musical, respectively).

The other went to beloved local actress Laura Norman for the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “Ghost-Writer.” Interestingly, Norman’s was the most contained performance among a fiery field filled with incendiary performances by Abby Apple Boes and Anne Oberbroeckling in “August: Osage County,” Rhonda Brown in “Red Hot Patriot: The Wit and Wisdom of Molly Ivins,” and Kim Staunton in “Fences.”

Prognosticators were kept guessing all night long, simply because the fields were so deep in so many categories. The fully loaded ensemble award went to Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair.”

On a night stuffed with surprises, one award that was no surprise at all was Curious Theatre winning the outstanding season by a company award. After all, it placed three of the five nominees in the “best play” category. What may come as a surprise is that this is the first time in eight years that Curious, whose mission is to stage only plays that are new to Denver, has ever won the best-season Henry award.

My video tribute to Ray Angel, Diane Beckoff, Harry Cruzan, Shana Dowdeswell, Diane Gadomski, Robert Garner, Angela Johnson, David Kristin, Will Marshall, Brook Millard, Adam Perkes and Linda Rae Wheeler. This served as the “memoriam” section of the Henry Awards.

The first-time hosts for the evening were GerRee Hinshaw and Stephen J. Burge, taking a lighthearted approach that kept the evening quickly moving. The hosts enlisted Eden Lane, Kirk Montgomery, Gloria Shanstrom and myself for a comic opening bit about whether there would — or should — be an opening number. (Of course there was one — “Show People” by the cast of the Arvada Center’s “Curtains.” That kind of made up for the most awkward moment of the night — when eventual Henry-winning best musical “Man of La Mancha,” for reasons both logistical and economic, could not perform live along with the other nominated best musicals. (Instead, a videotape was played of the song “Dulcinea”).

There were many fun small moments — such as the Curious Theatre husband-and-wife team of Chip Walton (“The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”) and Dee Covington (“The Brothers Size”) going head-to-head for best director of a play. The winner was Bob Wells, who was honored for directing “The 39 Steps” for the Town Hall Arts Center. That was made sweeter when Wells reminded the crowd that he appeared in the first Arvada Center staging ever held in 1976.

It was also sweet to see a live performance of “On My Own” from Chaparral High School’s recent “Les Miserables.” The show was the first winner of the Denver Center’s new Bobby G Awards, honoring the best in high-school theater musical.

Chris Campbell gave an endearing speech after winning one of the two best-costume awards (for “Man of La Mancha”). She said: “In the words of Jack Benny, I don’t deserve this … but I have arthritis, too, and I don’t deserve that, either.”

A major change by the Guild was a last-minute decision to split the four design categories (costumes, scenic design, sound and lighting) into large budget and small budget tiers.

You couldn’t help but be moved by octogenarian Jonathan Farwell’s surprise win for playing Salieri in “Amadeus.” “I am astonished and humbled,” he told the crowd.

But I think for most people the highlight of the night had to be Jim Hunt winning the
Lifetime Achievement award. It was presented by his former acting student at Alameda High School, Rick Bernstein, who went on to found the Morrison Theatre Company and Miners Alley Playhouse. For more on that, scroll to the bottom of the page.

Members of the local theater community give their shout-outs to this year’s field of 2013 Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Award nominees. One comes all the way from Poland.

Running list of winners:

Outstanding season:

Outstanding Musical
“MAN OF LA MANCHA” Arvada Center

Outstanding Play
“THE BROTHERS SIZE” Curious Theatre Company

Outstanding Direction of a Musical
ROD LANSBERRY “Man of La Mancha” – Arvada Center

Outstanding Musical Direction
“Man of La Mancha” – Arvada Center

Outstanding Direction of a Play
ROBERT WELLS “The 39 Steps” – Town Hall Arts Center

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play
“Amadeus” – OpenStage Theatre & Company

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play
“Ghost-Writer” – Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company

Special Award: Lifetime Achievement in Theatre:

Outstanding New Play:
“SWEET TOOTH” Buntport Theater Company

Special Award: Outstanding Regional Theatre:
THEATREWORKS, Colorado Springs

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical:
“Kiss of the Spider Woman”- Lake Dillon Theatre Company

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical
“The Color Purple” – Aurora Fox Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play
“The Sunshine Boys” – Lake Dillon Theatre Company

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play
“Romeo & Juliet” – Denver Center Theatre Company

Special award:
COLORADO STATE THESPIANS Advocate for Theatre Arts Education

Outstanding Ensemble
Town Hall Arts Center

Outstanding Choreography
“Man of La Mancha” – Arvada Center

Outstanding Scenic Design, small budget:
ABSTER PRODUCTIONS “August: Osage County” – Abster Productions

Outstanding Scenic Design, large budget
BRIAN MALLGRAVE “Man of La Mancha” – Arvada Center

Outstanding Costume Design: Small budget
“The Wizard of Oz” – Boulder’s Dinner Theatre

Outstanding Costume Design, large budget:
“Man of La Mancha” – Arvada Center

Special Award:
Outstanding Volunteer, Randy Dipner, TheatreWorks, Colorado Springs

Outstanding Lighting Design Small budget
“Kiss of the Spider Woman” – Lake Dillon Theatre Company

Outstanding Lighting Design: Large budget
“Man of La Mancha” – Arvada Center

Outstanding Sound Design: Large budget
“The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” – Curious Theatre

Outstanding Sound Design: Small budget
“Wake” – Buntport Theater

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical

“Kiss of the Spider Woman” – Lake Dillon Theatre Company

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical:

“Sense & Sensibility The Musical” – Denver Center Theatre Company

Excerpt of Jim Hunt nomination letter:

Full disclosure: I nominated Jim Hunt for the 2013 Life Achievement Award. I leave you with an excerpt from the nomination letter I submitted to the Guild on Jim’s behalf:

Your requirements for this Life Achievement Award seem written in the very acknowledgement of Jim Hunt’s career:

The nominee must show a significant contribution to the Colorado theater community: Jim Hunt has been an actor, director, teacher and coach in the Denver area for 50 years, dating (in my mind at least) back to a 1964 production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” opposite Nick Nolte for the Little Theatre of the Rockies. He hasn’t taken much of a break since.

Jim graduated from Westminster High School (1961) and UNC (1965). He taught theater at Alameda High School for eight years, and at Arvada West for 8 1/2. His students have included Rick Bernstein, who founded Morrison Theatre Company and Miners Alley Playhouse. He directed new Arvada Center executive director Phil Sneed as a young man in “South Pacific” at the Arvada Center in 1977.

He has supported efforts promote Colorado theater in innumerable ways, including the often-thankless job of directing of the Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Awards for many years.

The nominee must show at least ten years of active participation in theater in Colorado:
Ten? How about 50?

The nominee must show involvement in many aspects of theater:

The nominee may show involvement with more than one theater:
Jim Hunt has performed and directed at dozens of local venues, including the Colorado Shakespeare Festival (for the first time) starting in 1974. He was part of the very first production at the Arvada Center when it opened in 1975, and he remained part of the inaugural company there through 1978. He has maintained a pretty good mix between acting and directing ever since.

Jim boldly faced down a serious case of stage-fright in the late 1990s by taking improv theater classes. Since 2001, he has been back on the boards everywhere from the Denver Center to Colorado Shakes to Curious Theatre to the Victorian Playhouse to Paragon to Conundrum to Modern Muse to The Avenue to Town Hall to the Aurora Fox to Country Dinner Playhouse.

His crowning achievement may have been in Paragon Theatre’s “The Caretaker” in 2006. Or maybe it was In 2009, when Jim won the Denver Post Ovation Award for playing “Her Father” in Curious Theatre’s “Eurydice.” Or maybe it was playing Bull McCabe in the final production ever staged at the Vic, “The Field.” You can’t say because he just keeps topping himself.

Jim remains active, vital, and working for a wide range of theaters. Just last year alone, at the age of 68, he performed in Boulder Ensemble’s “The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde”; Lake Dillon’s “Sylvia”; Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Noises Off”; Vintage’s “Becky’s New Car”; and Backstage’s “A Christmas Carol.” That’s five productions for five different companies. In a single year! (He won the 2012 True West Award for this accomplishment). What actor – of any age – can ever have claimed that? Well how about Jim Hunt … the year before? In 2011, he won the Ovation Award for Victorian’s “The Field,” and also appeared in Lake Dillon’s “Seascape,” Paragon’s “A Lie of the Mind,” Boulder Ensemble’s “Mauritius,” and Town Hall Arts Center’s “The Wizard of Oz.” Already in 2013, he’s been in Boulder Ensemble’s “Ghost-Writer” and “Bach at Leipzig,” and Lake Dillon’s “The Sunshine Boys.”

Stay with me: That means in the past 30 months alone, Jim Hunt has performed in 13 productions … for eight different theater companies. … And did I mention … he turns 70 in December!

How has he been able to keep it going? “It’s my demon,” he told me once in an interview. “It’s my necessity.”


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By John Moore

Award-winning arts journalist John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the United States by American Theatre Magazine during has 12 years at The Denver Post. Hen then created a groundbreaking new media outlet covering Colorado arts an culture as an in-house, multimedia journalist for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. He also founded The Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that has raised more than $600,000 for theatre artists in medical need. He is now a journalist for hire as the founder of Moore Media Colorado. You can find samples of his work at MooreJohn.Com. Contact him at