Lauren Yee’s “Cambodian Rock Band” and Jeanne Sakata’s “Hold These Truths” are the gifts that keep on giving. La Jolla Playhouse’s production of “Cambodian Rock Band” won 3 2019 Craig Noel Awards including Outstanding Dramatic Production, Outstanding Direction of a Play for Chay Yew and Outstanding Featured Performance in a Play for Daisuke Tsuji.
The year’s Outstanding Solo Performance award went to Ryun Yu, who starred in Jeanne Sakata’s “Hold these Truths” at San Diego Rep.
The San Diego Theatre Critics Circle presented the 2019 Craig Noel Awards before an audience of more than 450 guests at the annual ceremony on Feb. 10, 2020, at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation in San Diego. Now in its 18th year, the Craig Noel Awards honor the achievements of professional theaters in San Diego County.
The Old Globe’s “Almost Famous” won the award for Outstanding New Musical. Moonlight Stage Production’s “West Side Story” is the year’s Outstanding Resident Musical. And playwright Miranda Rose Hall’s “The Hour of Great Mercy” was named Outstanding New Play in its world premiere at Diversionary Theatre.
Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company was singled out for the annual Don Braunagel Award for Outstanding Achievement by a Small Theater Company for its body of work in 2019.
The rarely-presented Director of the Year honor went to Rob Lutfy, who helmed four strong productions in 2019 at Cygnet Theatre, where he serves as associate artistic director.
The 2019 Actors of the Year are Cashae Monya and Michael Cusimano, who both performed impressively in four or more productions last year.
The year’s Outstanding Ensemble award went to the cast of Cygnet Theatre’s “Angels in America,” Parts 1 & 2. The cast included Connor Sullivan, Wil Bethmann, Alex Bodine, Rosina Reynolds, James Newcomb, Rachael VanWormer, Kevane La’Marr Coleman and Debra Wanger.
The first-ever Outstanding Specialty Artist award went to dialect and accent coach Vanessa Dinning who worked on eight productions at six San Diego theaters in 2019. And the year’s Outstanding Young Artist is 12-year-old Catalina Zelles.
This was the first year the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle presented non-gender-specific awards in all of its performance categories, a cause celebrated by Jeremy Wilson, a non-binary artist who won the Lead Performance in a Musical award for the title role in Diversionary’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” At the podium, Wilson said it was an honor to win in the mixed-gender category because it made them feel “seen” and validated by the community at large.
The 2019 Craig Noel Awards Are:
Outstanding Dramatic Production
“Cambodian Rock Band,” La Jolla Playhouse
Outstanding New Musical
“Almost Famous,” The Old Globe
Outstanding Resident Musical
“West Side Story,” Moonlight Stage Productions
Outstanding New Play
“The Hour of Great Mercy” by Miranda Rose Hall, Diversionary Theatre
Don Braunagel Award for Outstanding Work by a Small Theater Company
Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company
Outstanding Director of the Year
Rob Lutfy (“The Virgin Trial,” “The Last Five Years,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Marie and Rosetta”)
Actor of the Year
· Michael Cusimano (“Girlfriend,” “The Last Five Years,” “A Jewel in the Crown City,” “Lamb’s Players Festival of Christmas,” “The Tale of Despereaux”-swing)
· Cashae Monya (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “Intimate Apparel,” “A Jewel in the Crown City,” “Little Shop of Horrors”)
Outstanding Young Artist/Sandra Ellis-Troy Scholarship
Catalina Zelles – “Gabriel,” North Coast Repertory Theatre
Outstanding Specialty Artist
Vanessa Dinning (dialects/accents/musical performance)
Outstanding Direction of a Play
Chay Yew – “Cambodian Rock Band,” La Jolla Playhouse
Outstanding Direction of a Musical
Barry Edelstein – “Life After” – The Old Globe
Outstanding Musical Direction
Bryan Perri – “Almost Famous,” The Old Globe
Colleen Kollar Smith – “Matilda the Musical,” Moonlight Stage Productions
Outstanding Scenic Design
Tony Cucuzzella – “An Experiment with an Air Pump,” Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company
Outstanding Sound Design
Steven Leffue – “Angels in America,” Parts 1 & 2, Cygnet Theatre
Outstanding Costume Design
Elisa Benzoni – “Amadeus,” North Coast Repertory Theatre
Outstanding Lighting Design
Japhy Weideman – “Life After” – The Old Globe
Outstanding Projection Design
Blake McCarty – ” 33 1/3 House of Dreams,” San Diego Repertory Theatre
“Angels in America,” Parts 1 & 2, Cygnet Theatre
Outstanding Solo Performance
Ryun Yu – “Hold These Truths,” San Diego Repertory Theatre
Outstanding Lead Performance in a Play
· Tamara McMillian – “Intimate Apparel,” New Village Arts
· Andrew Oswald – “The Hour of Great Mercy,” Diversionary Theatre
Outstanding Featured Performance in a Play
· Jessica John – “An Experiment with an Air Pump,” Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company
· Daisuke Tsuji – “Cambodian Rock Band,” La Jolla Playhouse
Outstanding Lead Performance in a Musical
· Sophie Hearn – “Life After” – The Old Globe
· Jeremy Wilson – “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” Diversionary Theatre
Outstanding Featured Performance in a Musical
· Courtney Arango – “West Side Story,” Moonlight Stage Productions
· Charles Evans, Jr. – “Million Dollar Quartet,” Lamb’s Players Theatre
The 2019 awardees were chosen by a nine-member body of professional critics who write for San Diego newspapers, magazines, online publications and blogs.
This year’s awards ceremony was organized by event chair Julie Sarno. Financial support was provided by individual donors Larry and Dawn Alldredge; Lon and Denise Bevers; Stanley Cohen; Jay and Julie Sarno; Bill and Judy Garrett; Harvey and Sheryl White; Dea and Osborn Hurston; Weston Anson; Wendy Nash; Jerry Buckley; Nancy Richards; Ralph Johnson; Arthur and Marilyn Neumann; and Darlene Davies. The event was also underwritten by sponsors: the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation; UC San Diego and Mike Napoli & Performing Arts Live.
Founded in 1983 and re-established in 2002, the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle is an independent, nonprofit organization of print and online theater critics dedicated to open and honest dialogue about theater in San Diego County and to honoring artistic excellence. The members of our organization are professional critics writing for daily newspapers, magazines, entertainment trade publications and websites in San Diego County. In 2002, the awards were renamed in honor of Craig Noel, longtime artistic director at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre and the founding father of San Diego’s theater community, who passed away in 2010.
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia has appeared in the filmsWolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.
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