Alliance takes top honors in 11th annual Suzi awards

‘Tuck Everlasting,’ ‘Edward Foote’ win four apiece

Two Alliance Theatre world premieres took the spotlight at the 11th annual Suzi Bass Awards on Monday night, in a ceremony recognizing outstanding achievements from Atlanta’s 2014-15 theater season.

“Tuck Everlasting,” based on the popular fantasy novel, was honored as the season’s best production of a musical, in addition to winning awards in the musical categories for scenic design (Walt Spangler), lighting design (Kenneth Posner) and sound design (Brian Ronan). The show is slated to open on Broadway in April.

“Edward Foote,” Atlanta writer Philip DePoy’s moody Southern Gothic drama, received the Suzi for best production of a play. In other play categories, former Atlantan Chris Coleman won for his direction of it, as did Clay Benning for its sound design. The show was also cited as the season’s best world premiere.

In the respective acting categories, co-stars Travis Smith and Naima Carter Russell garnered awards for their leading roles as interracial lovers in the ’50s-era rock ’n’ roll musical “Memphis,” a co-production between Aurora Theatre and Theatrical Outfit, and Megan McFarland also scored for her featured role in the show (as Smith’s mother). Austin Tijerina won for featured actor in a musical as a bohemian transvestite in Actor’s Express’ “Rent.”

Express artistic director Freddie Ashley was bestowed the Suzi for best lead actor in a play as a 600-pound man in “The Whale,” for which Tiffany Porter nabbed best featured actress as his caregiver. Danielle Deadwyler was tapped for her leading performance as a volatile dancer in the Alliance’s “The C.A. Lyons Project.” Joe Knezevich went home with the award for featured actor as a conflicted banker in the Outfit’s “Storefront Church.”

Ashley also prevailed for his direction of the musical “Rent.” Named in the best ensemble categories were the casts of True Colors Theatre’s “Chasin’ Dem Blues” (musical) and Aurora’s “Clybourne Park” (play).

The Alliance dominated in four new Theater for Young Audiences categories, too: “James and the Giant Peach” earned awards for best production and best design team; Rosemary Newcott and Ricardo Aponte won for their direction of “The Lizard and El Sol”; and Devon Hales received the performance prize for “Knuffle Bunny,” albeit in a tie with Matt Baum from Synchronicity Theatre’s “Lyle the Crocodile.”

Topher Payne’s “Perfect Arrangement,” which recently opened off-Broadway, won this year’s Gene-Gabriel Moore Award (given to an Atlanta-based playwright). Theatrical Outfit secured the Audience Choice Award (voted on by the general public). Elisabeth Cooper was presented the Callboard Award (for her behind-the-scenes contributions with Synchronicity). And the late Atlanta actress Jo Howarth Noonan, who passed away in June, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Among productions that came up emptyhanded at the ceremony were Serenbe Playhouse’s musical “Evita,” which had been nominated for nine awards, and the dramas “Silent Sky” at Theatrical Outfit and “Blues for an Alabama Sky” at the Alliance, both of which had received seven nominations.

Other Suzi recipients:

Scenic design (play): Isabel A. and Moriah Curley-Clay, “Clybourne Park.”

Lighting design (play): Rebecca M.K. Makus, “Marcus; or, the Secret of Sweet” (Actor’s Express).

Costume design (play): Erik Teague, “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” (Actor’s Express).

Costume design (musical): Emmie Childers, “My Fair Lady” (Georgia Ensemble Theatre).

Music direction: Jeremy Cohen, “Chasin’ Dem Blues.”

Choreography: Dell Howlett, “The C.A. Lyons Project.”

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