Atlanta's 2011 Suzi Awards for professional theatre celebrated 22 companies, hundreds of professional artists, theatre volunteers, and the Center for Puppetry Arts at a gala event Monday evening at the Conant Center on Oglethorpe University's campus. With over four hundred in attendance, the evening began as each of the casts nominated for Ensemble-Musical performed a medley of numbers from their shows. After the performances, all the casts came back on stage to await the announcement of their category's winner, reflecting Melissa McCarthy and friends at the Emmy Awards. The cast of See What I Wanna See at Actor's Express (Kylie Brown, Ingrid Cole, Dustin Lewis, Stuart Schleuse and Craig Waldrip) took home the Suzi and the congratulations of the thirty nominees on stage with them.
Rob Cleveland, the Master of Ceremonies, spoke to the theme of "familly" in Atlanta's theatre community, both literal and figurative. The presenters for the evening were some of Atlanta's theatre couples, such as Shannon Eubanks & James Donadio, Anthony Rodriguez & Ann-Carol Pence, and Bethany Anne Lind & Eric Mendenhall. Cleveland presented the first category with wife Mary Lynn Owen, who returned to the stage later to accept her Featured Actress - Play Suzi for her work in The Little Foxes at Theatre in the Square. Later in the evening, citing the serious financial difficulties of theatre companies in Atlanta over the past year, Cleveland attributed their survival to the grassroots work of the theatre community as much as to the corporations and philanthropists who stepped in with life-saving donations. As he put it, "We all know that family don't let family go without a fight!"
The family theme continued as the multiply-nominated design team of twins Isabel A. and Moriah Curley-Clay took home two Suzis: Costume Design - Musical for their luscious The Mikado at Atlanta Lyric Theatre, and Scenic Design - Musical for their gritty street scape in Avenue Q at Horizon Theater. Horizon's Theatre stand-out production of the puppet-infused musical took home the most Suzi stars, winning in seven (7) categories which also included Musical Production, Director - Musical (Heidi Cline McKerley), Music Direction (S. Renee Clark), Lead Actor - Musical (Nick Arapoglou), Featured Actress, Musical (Leslie W. Bellair), and Lighting Design - Musical (Mary Parker). Avenue Q sold out its original run, and Horizon will be returning the production to their stage in 2012.
The new Bring It On: The Musical, now beginning a national tour, won for the Alliance and its creators (Lin-Manuel Miranda,Tom Kitt, Amanda Green & Jeff Whitty) in the World Premiere category. Andy Blankenbuehler took home the Choreography Suzi for his wildly inventive mash-up of dance and cheerleading acrobatics, and Brian Ronan impressed Suzi judges with his full-on sound design for the show. Other notable wins: Eric J. Little, who received the Actors' Equity-sponsored Suzi for Lead Actor - Play for his cocky, confident young writer in Superior Donuts at Horizon Theatre; Christopher Corporandy (Featured Actor - Play) for The Judas Kiss at Actor's Express; and Adrienne Reynolds (Lead Actress - Musical) for Gut Bucket Blues at Kenny Leon's True Colors Theatre.