Royal Players honors salute volunteers actors, musicians and technical crews
Benton’s Royal players celebrated the end of its 2011-12 season with its fourth annual awards program — the Ben-Tonys — on Saturday night.
"Nobody's Business," an original play by Benton physician Sam Taggart, was the big winner for the year.
The play — written, produced and directed by Taggart — won Ben-Tonys for best show and best director and tied for best set with the Neil Simon comedy "Barefoot in the Park."
The band for "Nobody's Business," led by Oksana Pavilionis and including Sandy Knoernschild, Joe Shelnut, Nic Townsend, Allen Wright, Lynn Hoggard, Dan Flora and Jim Crippen, won for outstanding musical accompaniment.
Additionally, "Nobody's" cast members Michelle Flint-Smith and Doug Morris won best supporting actress and actor in a musical; and Ben “Swamp Donkey” Brenner won a Ben-Tony for best vocal performance.
In addition to the Ben-Tony honors, which are chosen by an anonymous nomination and voting process, two awards for outstanding volunteerism were presented. These honors, determined by the Royal Players Board of Directors, recognized Lou Ann Cameron as the recipient of the Anne Tarvin Lifetime Achievement Award for giving more than a decade of service to the Royal Players; and Taggart for the the Knight in Shining Armor Award for outstanding contribution to the 2011-12 season.
The late Anne Tarvin, a charter member of the Royal Players, was the first person anyone saw upon arriving at a production at the theater. She operated the box office and also was involved in projects throughout her years in the organization.
Presenting the volunteer awards was Selena Ellis, president of the Royal Players Board of Directors.
Other Ben-Tony honors included recognizing Paige Carpenter and Harold Dean as outstanding lead actor and actress in a musical for their roles in Cole Porter's "Kiss Me Kate."
Susie Everett and Jeremy Clay won best lead actress and actor for non-musical roles in "The Red Velvet Cake Wars" and "Barefoot in the Park," respectively. Susan Andrews won best supporting actress for "Barefoot" and Mark Troillet ("Barefoot") and Doug Morris ("Red Velvet Cake Wars") tied for best supporting actor in a non-musical.
Also receiving Ben-Tonys were Berry Beard for outstanding achievement in lighting and sound and Miriam Talbert for outstanding achievement in costuming. Both won their awards for their work in "Scrooge, The Musical."
Outstanding new actor Ben-Tonys were awarded to Michael Lowe, Cara Smith, and Michelle Hobbs-Young, who made their Royal Players debut in "Nobody’s Business," and to Moriah Patterson, the star of "Barefoot."
Berry Beard received recognition for best lighting and sound for "Scrooge, the Musical." Beard also received a nomination in this category for "Nobody's Business."
Recognition also was paid to additional volunteers who assisted in the various categories, such as lighting and sound, costuming and set building.
The Young Players awards were announced by the organization's directors, Daphne Shoppach and Charlotte Hammonds. These acknowledged the outstanding production of "Les Miserables." Jo Murry was honored for serving as music director for the show and Daphne Shoppach received a special Ben-Tony for directing.
The production also netted Ben-Tonys for Koty Mansfield and Elizabeth Wheeler, outstanding lead actor and actress; Anthony McBride and Georgeann Burbank, outstanding supporting actor and actress; and Jacob Clanton and Natalie Williams, outstanding male and female vocalists.
Mark Burbank was honored as the most valuable member of the Young Players and Kristyn Barnett was recognized as the outstanding newcomer. Michael Bartholmey won for outstanding technical support.
A novelty award for "best concession" was presented to "theater candy."
Tim Sopel, vice president of the Royal Players, served as master of ceremonies for the Ben-Tony presentation. He presented the various awards with assistance from costumed cast members from the Royal Players upcoming production of "Little Women."
Special entertainment was presented by Paige Carpenter, who sang "I Hate Men" from "Kiss Me Kate"; and Michelle Hobbs-Young and an ensemble consisting of Cara Smith, Daphne Shoppach, Machelle Flint-Smith and Debbie Wright, who sang "God's Gift to Women" from "Nobody's Business."
The awards production took place at the historic Royal Theatre in Downtown Benton, the home base for the Royal Players. The community theater organization was founded in 1994.
With the past season concluded, members of the Royal Players look forward to the 2012-13 season, beginning with "Little Women" that runs Oct. 11-14 and 18-21.