Announcing the Grand Award Winners…

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Actors’ Theatre leads Grand Award winners with outstanding musical, play

Henry, played by Duncan McCarger, listens to Natalie, played by Maggie Nye, in a scene from Next to Normal by Actors' Theatre. (Jon M. Brouwer|MLIVE.COM)

Henry, played by Duncan McCarger, listens to Natalie, played by Maggie Nye, in a scene from Next to Normal by Actors’ Theatre. (Jon M. Brouwer|MLIVE.COM)

By Sue Merrell |

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Racking up awards is next to normal for Actors’ Theatre, which won a total of 11 Grand Awards Sunday night including Outstanding Musical for “Next to Normal” and Outstanding Play for “A Steady Rain.” Circle Theatre productions won seven awards including four for the season’s final show, “Sweeney Todd.”

“It’s just been a really good year for theatre,” said Larry Young, who won the lead actor award for “Sweeney Todd.” Young also was nominated as the lead actor in “Next to Normal.” Both shows were favorites for Young, who said he felt more of a connection to “Next to Normal” which deals with mental illness in a realistic, sympathetic manner.

Grand Awards, which raises money for the Combined Theater Scholarships, filled Civic Theatre with a rowdy crowd of dressed up performers, ranging from an oversized female impersonator to child actress nominee Zoe Meyering. In honor of the 17th annual event, the evening opened with a snazzy dance routine by a group of 17-year-olds, who then ran the rest of the show by announcing the nominees and winners.

A highlight of the three-hour program was a tribute to Paul Dreher, longtime managing director of Civic Theatre, who died in June. The tribute featured many area performers, including Actors’ Theatre founder Fred Sebulske, coloratura pops artist Diane Penning-Koperski, Circle managing director Lynne Brown-Tepper and Chicago actor Kirk Swenk, all performing songs they learned at Civic Theatre under the direction of Dreher.

Dreher also received posthumous Grand Awards for his direction of “Amadeus” at Aquinas College and for his lighting design, with daughter Catherine Marlett Dreher, for “Wait Until Dark.”

Duane Davis, longtime director of choral music for Grand Rapids Community College, received the Norma Brink Lifetime Achievement award. Lou Vanderhave received a special award for his volunteer commitment. The stage crew of “Legally Blonde” won the new techie award for collecting the most additional contributions for Combined Theatre Scholarships.

This year’s scholarship recipients are Brook Bruce Purnell, Daniel Orris Jr. and Will Vicari.

After the presentations ended, and people were starting to leave, a flash mob dance routine snowballed on the stage, starting with one dancer, then three, five, more. Local actress Ellie Frances was brought onto the stage and given roses by many more performers who filed onto the stage. Then her friend, local actress Tracey Walker, took a microphone, got down on one knee and proposed before the assembled friends and family. The acceptance was sealed with a kiss and a ring.

Here’s a list of this year’s Grand Award winners:

• Outstanding Musical: “Next to Normal” (Actors’)
Lead Actor: Larry Young, “Sweeney Todd” (Circle)
• Lead Actress: Kelly Carey, “Next to Normal” (Actors’)
• Supporting Actor: Stephen Grey, “ Sweeney Todd”
• Supporting Actress: Maggie Nye, “Next to Normal”
• Director: Fred Sebulske, “Next to Normal” (Actors’)
• Musical Direction: Wright McCargar, “Sweeney Todd” (Circle)
• Choreography: Mary Lohman, “The Wedding Singer” (Circle)

• Outstanding Play: “A Steady Rain” (Actors’)
• Lead Actor : (Actors’); Todd Lewis, “A Steady Rain” (Actors’)
• Lead Actress: Samantha Rena Dam, “Nadia”(Actors’)
• Supporting Actor: Andrew McClelland, “Looking for Normal” (Actors’)
• Supporting Actress: Kitty Carrico Carpenter, “Looking for Normal” (Actors’)
Director :Jeralyn Pinsky, “A Steady Rain” (Actors’)

• Scenic Design: Christian Poquette, “Next to Normal” (Actors’)
• Lighting Design: Catherine Marlett Dreher, “Sweeney Todd” (Circle); Paul A. Dreher and Catherine Marlett Dreher, “Wait Until Dark” (Circle)
• Costume Design: Robert Fowle “Boeing-Boeing” (Circle)

• Outstanding Production: “Amadeus” (Aquinas)
• Lead Actor: Micah Hazel, “The Ladies Man” (GRCC)
• Lead Actress: Rachel Varley, “Reckless” (Aquinas)
• Supporting Actor: Christopher VanderArk, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” (Cornerstone)
• Supporting Actress: Meeka Postman, “Crooked” (GRCC)
• Direction: Paul A Dreher, “Amadeus” (Aquinas)

• Outstanding production: “The Mystic Tale of Aladdin” (Circle).

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