Monday, February 7, 2011

Midland's "Urinetown" mops up in state theater competition

by Janet I. Martineau
To say Midland’s Center Stage Theatre company all but flushed its competition down the toilet is an understatement.
Bill Anderson Jr. 
This past weekend’s American Association of Community Theatre/Michigan festival, taking place at the Midland Center for the Arts, resulted in 10 awards for Center Stage’s production of “Urinetown: the Musical” -- as well the production being selected as one of two shows to advance to the regional competition.
The 10 awards were:
-- Outstanding production.
-- Outstanding ensemble production.
-- Outstanding musical direction to Jim Hohmeyer.
-- Outstanding choreography to Kelli Jolly.
-- Outstanding direction and outstanding set design to Bill Anderson Jr.
-- Outstanding costume design to Laurelei Horton.
-- Outstanding lead performance to Erin Southwell as Hope Cladwell.
-- Outstanding character performance to R. Jeanne Gilbert as Josephine Strong and Adam Gardner as Hot Blades Harry.
“We didn’t win all the awards, but we won 10 out of the 17,” says Anderson. “The second place team got only two.”
That would be Old Town Playhouse of Traverse City which competed with “Doubt,” a dramatic good vs. evil story set in the Catholic church. “Doubt” won awards for outstanding staging and outstanding supporting actor and also will compete in the regionals since two shows are advanced from the state competitions.
The regionals are April 29-May 1 in Columbus, Ohio, and feature two teams from each of the state competitions in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin as well of Michigan. Should “Urinetown” win there it would then be the sole show to advance to the June nationals in Rochester, N.Y.  AACT is comprised of 10 regions.
Anderson admits he’s still on cloud nine from the weekend, calling it “surreal” -- a fitting comment given the topic of “Uninetown.” It in people living in a drought-plagued town are assessed a $5.80 governmental fee each time they need to relive themselves. And since they can only do their business in sanctioned public loos, long lines result.  The Tony-winning show also spoofs other musicals, satirizes politics and its filled with outrageous characters.
“I have no formal training as a director,” says Anderson, who does have a list of more than  75 acting and backstage credits in his native Midland . “What this win does is validate my commitment to the craft. And it also shows the importance community theater has.”
Center Stage, a recent joining of what was the Midland Music Society and Midland Theater Guild, competed against The Farmington Players of Farmington Hills. South Haven’s Ichabod’s Little Theater in the Hollow, Players de Noc of Escanaba and the Monroe Community Payers as well as the Traverse City group.
Each team was alloted 10 minutes to set up its set and 10 minutes to tear it down and in between 60 minutes of performance time. Anderson and others had spend months paring down the full-length “Urinetown” for the competition.
Anderson directed the full production of “Urinetown,”  which won critical praise, at the Midland Center for the Arts in  April of 2009.
In the 1980s  a Midland production of “Nunsense” took third place in the national competition. The competitions take place every other year.
Anderson and his team now need to rise $5,000 to help pay the costs of sending “Urinetown’s” 35 actors, musicians and production staff to Ohio.

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