While 2016 wasn’t a great year for productions across the board, it goes without saying that individual artists continued to do exceptional work, especially the actors who repeatedly put themselves out there, and into the hands of producers, costumers, directors and others, and trust them do make each other look good. A great performance can easily rescue a dull night at the theater and make it something special. Thanks for all you do.
Thank you, Alex Organ, as a man plagued by the suggestion he might have been molested as a kid in The Great God Pan, in which he co-starred with Second Thought stalwart Drew Wall. Wall also showed up in DTC’s Gloria, excellent as a proto-alcoholic office drone being bested by a co-worker — Satomi Blair, who gobsmacks audiences with her confidence and charisma. DTC also gave us the great Sally Nystuen Vahle as its first female Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, though Chamblee Ferguson in a series of smaller roles stood out as well; and Eric LaJuan Summers’ performance as James Thunder Early in its summer musical Dreamgirls stole the show.
A musical also proved ample ground for demonstrating skill for John Campione, Sara Shelby-Martin, Katie Porterfield, Walter Lee and Clint Gilbert — the entire cast of The Toxic Avenger, who hustled like one-armed jugglers in the year’s most energetic abomination. Exaggerated camp is also evident in Coy Covington’s latest work in a Charles Busch comedy, Theatre 3’s Psycho Beach Party; while another cross-dresser, Brigham Mosley, told us all about himself in his solo confessional Scarlett O’Hara and the War on Tara.
Jessica Cavanaugh, John S. Davies and Jeremy Schwartz explored both comedy and awkward family dynamics in WaterTower’s Outside Mullingar. That theater also gave us The Realistic Joneses, which treated audiences to perhaps Diana Sheehan’s best performance yet. Cara Statham Serber got huge laughs (thanks to her always-impeccable timing) in It’s Only a Play (a show bubbling over with good work). Kennedy Waterman continued to prove herself to be one of our best young actresses — heck, best actresses, period — in The Big Meal at WTT. Christopher Curtis in The End of the Rainbow, Karen Parrish in KDT’s Blackberry Winter and David Lugo as Roy Cohn in Angels in America also made lasting impressions.
But a few actors really wowed us. Lugo’s costar in Angels, Marianne Galloway, brought Harper Pitt to life with a power few actors possess; and while Garret Storms was flat-out fantastic in Angels, it’s the fact he did just as good work in The Big Meal and Second Thought’s Martyr that made you realize there’s almost nothing he can’t do well. The one-two punch of Kristin McCollum and Diane Worman in The Thrush and the Woodpecker created one of the most electric confrontations I’ve seen in local theater. But the year was really defined by Janelle Lutz, pictured, channeling Judy Garland with an uncanny brilliance in The End of the Rainbow. It wasn’t just that she sounded and acted like Judy, but that she — dare we say it? — improved on her, to make us unable to look away. That’s the kind of magnetism you can’t capture in a bottle, and it’s what makes Lutz Dallas Voice’s 2016 Actor of the Year. — A.W.J.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2016.