Vancouver's vibrant musical theatre scene was honoured and celebrated last night, as the 14th annual OVATION Awards were handed out to the city's best shows and performers in a ceremony that was full to the brim with laughter, hilarity and emotion.
Hosts Chris Adams and Erik Gow brought a solid helping of polish and hilarity to the evening. Their long working partnership clearly helped them make a perfectly-timed comedy duo of opposites, with Gow's arch David Spade-like wit balanced by Adams' loose, Chris Farley-esque antics. They kicked off the show with a medley of cleverly-reworded tunes from the year's productions that had the capacity crowd roaring. And they demonstrated some masterful ad-libbing when anything went a little awry.
The well-sealed bags that held the award plaques were the target of much hilarious derision, culminating in presenter Bill Allman triumphantly using his keys to breach the seemingly ironclad seal.
As always, the awards were interspersed with musical performances, giving the audience a generous sampling of the past year's musical theatre offerings. With every performance offering something special and every singer displaying such impressive talent, it's hard to single out any, but mention must be made of a few.
Scott Perrie's solo rendition of "Free Man in Paris" from Circle Game took one guitar and that looping-audio-repeating pedal device, and became a full band complete with backup harmonies. Elyse Maloway glided out as Ariel from The Little Mermaid and turned "Part of Your World" into an audience-participation number. Andrew Cownden and Madeleine Suddaby made it look easy as they traded quick quips and quicker dance steps in "Friendship" from Anything Goes.
Perry Ehrlich's ShowStoppers closed out the evening with a rousing and dynamic performance of "Can't Stop the Feeling". Technical difficulties with the sound did nothing to dampen either the performers' spirits or the audience's enthusiastic reaction, with the crowd enthusiastically rising to the task and providing a steady clapping rhythm in a memorable collaboration between performer and audience.
Valerie Easton got quite a surprise as she took to the stage to present an award, when Chris Adams handed her a relic from her past - an acting trophy she had won as a promising newcomer many years ago, which was rediscovered at a local Value Village! This led to an explanatory story from Valerie about how she parted with some of her memorabilia after a flood that damaged her memory-filled office.
Finally, Ruth Nichol accepted her Longtime Contribution award with an endearing, extended series of anecdotes covering her history with the UBC musical theatre group, MUSOC. Her lengthy and delightful speech, coming on the heels of producer Scott Ashton Swan's announcement that the show was (up to that point) ahead of schedule, set up a great line when the hosts returned, as Scott Gow announced, "Welcome to the 2018 Ovation Awards!"
Memories of those in the theatre community who have left us added a melancholy tinge to the evening. Besides the Outstanding Lead Performance awards being named for Denis Simpson and Amy Wallis, and the Cheryl Hutcherson award for an outstanding student, one of the two Longtime Contribution awards went posthumously to the ever-charming, supportive and talented Alex McLeod.
The awards were fairly evenly distributed among productions, but there were a few multi-award-winnning shows: Children of God and Anything Goes.
Children of God was awarded Outstanding New Work, writer-composer-director Corey Payette won for Direction, and Marshall McMahen took home a plaque for Set Design.
Anything Goes' Madeleine Suddaby received the nod for Lead Female / Large Theatre, Michael Wild for Supporting Performance /Male, and Jennifer Lynch for Outstanding Chorus Member.
The event was, as always, a great chance for a cross-section of the musical theatre community to reconnect with friends and fellow performers. The Vancouver Academy of Music was packed with celebrants meeting and greeting each other.
This year, the lobby featured an auction, with proceeds going to fund the awards, of fantastical hats created by Randy McCormick. These whimsical headpieces had a decidedly steampunk design theme and captivated the crowd all evening.
All in all it was another memorable and wonderfully rewarding evening for Vancouver's musical theatre crowd.