Pulsar Award Winners 2020: Local theater still shines despite limited season

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The shortened theatrical season had no shortages of outstanding performances. Even if the coronavirus hadn’t closed theaters before their schedules were completed, it would have been tough to beat the winners of this year’s Pulsars.

Williamston Theatre received the most awards. “900 Miles to International Falls” won four categories. It was hard not to honor Annie Martin’s engaging original script about a future when the world was at war with aliens from another planet.

Heather Mahoney as, J, was the convincing interloper in a cast full of potent actors.

They performed in front of a clever, shifting wall that displayed crucial projections by Alison Dobbins that included outside scenes, room interiors, and news montages.

Williamston’s “A Christmas Carol: The Radio Show,” featured a single actor mimicking sound effects that were actually manufactured by John Lepard in a sound booth. The coordination of on and offstage noises were remarkable.

Williamston Theatre also earned a Special Pandemic Award for Andy Kirshner’s impressive photography, sound recording and editing that made “These Mortal Hosts” possible to be streamed digitally as pay-for–view. Such skills aren’t normally a part of theatrical awards. 

Mark Colson’s command of the ever-evolving Earl in “These Mortal Hosts” was impressive on tape — and it surely would have been live.

Owosso’s Lebowsky Center for Performing Arts’ “Cabaret” earned four wins. After multiple nominations in the past — and two this season — the talented Adam Woosley won for best Lead Actor in a Musical as the “Cabaret” emcee.  It is easy to remember his showy performance in the musical produced a year ago.

Meegan Meyer’s Sally Bowles was another powerhouse performance in the musical adorned with fancy props by Michael Windnagle that extended beyond the stage. Erica Duffield’s athletic choreography for two dozen “Cabaret” cast members, dazzled.

Michigan State’s Department of Theatre’s dark “Frankenstein” beat out other strong scenic design and costume contenders with a spectacular, multi-level set by Michael Gualt and complicated period costumes by Ketura Le’Audrey.

Peppermint Creek Theatre Co.’s “The Humans” was another brutal play with memorable facets. The ensemble of Rick Dethlefsen, Gini Larson, Leigh Christopher, Babara Stauffer, Joe Clark and Sally Hecksel did likeable and convincing portrayals of otherwise despicable people. 

It was no surprise when the talented Hecksel also won as Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for Peppermint’s, “Bright Star.”  The versatile actress has the ability to stand out in any production.

Paige Tufford won Best Lead Actress in a Play for her performance as Miriam in the one-woman show “Apples In Winter” at Ixion Theatre. The Lansing Community College acting instructor proved why she deserves to teach the subject.

A pleasant surprise was when Julian Van Dyke pulled off dual performances in Riverwalk Theatre’s, “Sweat.” As Brucie (a deadbeat dad) and as Evan (a refined and articulate probation officer), Van Dyke played two very opposite roles. When I saw “Sweat,” it took me a while to realize the same actor played both characters.

Although Featured roles often don’t garner such attention, Bob Purosky’s outlandish Les Kennkat in “Boy Gets Girl,” and Ny’kieria Blocker’s stylish singing of Nina Simone’s songs in “Sunset Baby,” were highlights of both plays.  As all the Pulsar winners, the pair is an example of why local theater is deeply missed.

Best Play:

“900 Miles to International Falls” – Williamston Theatre

Best Musical:

“Cabaret” - Owosso’s Lebowsky Center for Performing Arts

Best Director (Play):

Tony Caselli, “900 Miles to International Falls” – Williamston Theatre

Best Director (Musical):

Garrett Bradley, “Cabaret” - Owosso’s Lebowsky Center for Performing Arts

Best Musical Direction:

Dave Wendelberger, “Into the Woods” – MSU Department of Theatre

Best Choreographer:

Erica Duffield, “Cabaret” - Owosso’s Lebowsky Center for Performing Arts

Best Properties Design:

Michael Windnagle, “Cabaret” - Owosso’s Lebowsky Center for Performing Arts

Best Scenic Design:

Michael Gault, “Frankenstein” – MSU Department of Theatre

Best Sound Design:

John Lepard, “A Christmas Carol: The Radio Show” – Williamston Theatre

Best Lighting Design:

Reid G. Johnson, “900 Miles to International Falls” – Williamston Theatre

Best Costume Design:

Ketura Le’Audrey, “Frankenstein” – MSU Department of Theatre

Best Hair/Makeup Design:

Lori Bailey-Smith and Laura Croff, “Pippin” – Riverwalk Theatre

Best Original Script:

Annie Martin, “900 Miles to International Falls” – Williamston Theatre

Best Specialization:

Alison Dobbins (Projectionist) – “900 Miles to International Falls” – Williamston Theatre

Best Lead Actor (Play):

Mark Colson, “These Mortal Hosts” – Williamston Theatre

Best Lead Actress (Play):

Paige Tufford, “Apples in Winter” – Ixion Theatre Ensemble

Best Supporting Actor (Play):

Julian Van Dyke, “Sweat” – Riverwalk Theatre

Best Supporting Actress (Play):

Heather Mahoney, “900 Miles to International Falls” – Williamston Theatre

Best Featured Actor (Play):

Bob Purosky, “Boy Gets Girl” – Riverwalk Theatre

Best Featured Actress (Play):

Ny’kieria Blocker, “Sunset Baby” – LCC Department of Theatre

Best Lead Actor (Musical):

Adam Woolsey, “Cabaret” and “Pippin” - Owosso’s Lebowsky Center for Performing Arts and Riverwalk Theatre

Best Lead Actress (Musical):

Megan Meyer, “Cabaret” - Owosso’s Lebowsky Center for Performing Arts

Best Supporting Actor (Musical):

Robert Mueller, “Pippin” – Riverwalk Theatre

Best Supporting Actress (Musical):

Sally Hecksel, “Bright Star” – Peppermint Creek Theatre Co.

Best Featured Actor (Musical):

Kevin Mazur, “Into the Woods” – MSU Department of Theatre

Best Featured Actress (Musical):

Judy Evans, “Bright Star” – Peppermint Creek Theatre Co.

Best Ensemble (Play):

Rick Dethlefsen, Gini Larson, Leigh Christopher, Sally Hecksel, Barbara Stauffer and Joe Clark, “The Humans” – Peppermint Creek Theatre Co.

Special Award:

Andy Kirshner, Director of Photography and Editor, "These Mortal Hosts" - Williamston Theatre

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