Theatre Guild honors cast and crew with Genie Awards

VERO BEACH — Broadway is famous for its Tony Awards, but the Genie Awards are just as highly coveted by Vero Beach Theatre Guild performers and the many volunteers who manage all their superb shows from the wings.

With close to 300 Guild volunteers, 82 of those as cast members in this year’s Mainstage productions, the completion is fierce.  But working so closely together brought cast and crew into a harmony that was obvious, as guests gathered for an evening of celebration and appreciation at the Vero Beach Theatre Guild Genie Awards Dinner at the Elks Club. “This season was fabulous,” said Guild President Sara Dessureau of their successful 52nd season.  “We had so many sold out nights; it was amazing.”

Part of that success was due to this season’s ambitious and highly acclaimed musicals, Cabaret and The Sound of Music, with their timeless story lines and familiar musical numbers.  Reviews from the public for its other productions, The Second Time Around; Sin, Sex and the C.I.A.; and It Runs in the Family, were also stellar.

The Theatre Guild is an all volunteer venture which each year attracts more and more talented performers and backstage workers.  One newcomer, Johnny Banek, grabbed a lead role in Sin, Sex and the C.I.A.; it was the first time he had ever performed on stage.

“I wanted to do something new and exciting before I was 30,” said Banek.

“He did such a wonderful job in that part, he also got the lead role in the last play of the season, It Runs in the Family,” said Dessureau.  “What was also fun was that his father, George Andrews joined him in that production.  George had done some stand-up comic work, but had never been on stage.”

The acting bug really seems to have taken hold of Banek, who noted that as a result of these experiences, he is now thinking of pursuing a career in acting or entertainment.

Dessureau said they are all looking forward to the 2010-11 lineup, which will include the musicals Fiddler on the Roof and Annie.  “Next year we’re going away from the norm.  We’re doing the Agatha Christie mystery Unexpected Guest, the drama On Golden Pond, and only one comedy, Leading Ladies.”

Casting calls begin this summer, 12 weeks before each musical and eight weeks before all others.  The directors are all in place for the upcoming season, but, stressed Past President Carole Strauss, “There is no pre-casting.”

The mega talented Mark Wygonik took home top Genie Awards for Outstanding Production as Director and for Outstanding Set as Set Designer, for the marvelous musical Cabaret.  Wygonik moved back to his Vero Beach roots 25 years ago, and worked on Brigadoon, the last Theatre Guild production on the Riverside Theatre Mainstage; he has been affiliated with it ever since.

Commenting on the powerful Cabaret subject matter, which had to be handled in both a politically sensitive yet entertaining fashion, Wygonik said, “Cabaret was the most difficult, but one of the most rewarding experiences.  It stretched me and made me pull out all the stops.  You really find out what you’re made of.”

After working the past couple of years as an usher, Kimberly Aquino took to the stage for the first time this year in It Runs in the Family.  “I said to my self, OK, I can do this now,” said Aquino.  “It’s always been a passion of mine.”

The always lovely Leigh Seirafi, who played the lead this year as Maria in the Sound of Music, did so despite her other role as a new mother.  Insiders might remember that just a few months after receiving a Genie for her role as Eliza in My Fair Lady, Seirafi gave birth to her son Peter.  A busy lady, she also teaches voice and piano at the Academy for the Performing arts and is involved with the Vero Beach Opera’s Young Artists Program.

As everyone settled down for the banquet and awards portion of the evening, a surprise musical number, directed by Mark Wygonik and led by Caitlin and Greg Harris, entertained guests with an assortment of cast members from the season’s shows.

The moment all were awaiting came later, with the presentation of the 2009-2010 Genie Awards:

Outstanding Production:  Cabaret, Mark Wygonik director

Outstanding Set:  Cabaret, Mark Wygonik, set designer

Outstanding Leading Performer in a Comedy:  Larry Strauss, The Second Time Around

Outstanding Leading Performer in a Musical:  Robert Johnston, Cabaret

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy:  James Kepler, It Runs In The Family

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy:  Mandy Nusser, Sin, Sex & The C.I.A.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical:  Scott Freshley, The Sound of Music

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical:  Patty Carreau-Souza, Cabaret

Outstanding Character Actor in a Comedy:  Bill Lembeck, It Runs In The Family

Outstanding Character Actor in a Musical:  Jim Daly, Cabaret

Outstanding Actor in a Secondary Role in a Comedy:  Jason Avery, It Runs In The Family

Outstanding Actor in a Secondary Role in a Musical:  Jim Mitchell, Cabaret

Outstanding Actress in a Secondary Role in a Musical:  Shamara Turner, Cabaret

Outstanding Cameo Actor in a Musical: (Tie)  Dan Bogart, Cabaret and Art Haeberle, The Sound of Music

Outstanding Cameo Actress in a Musical:  Gerry King, Cabaret

Outstanding Male Vocalist:  Robert Johnston, Cabaret

Outstanding Female Vocalist:  Leigh Seirafi, The Sound of Music

Outstanding Group Performance:  Jehane Davellia, Amber Garr, Holly Hmielewski, Amanda Jordan, Jocelyn Sample and Danielle Zimmerman

Outstanding Male Juvenile:  Taylor James Walker, The Sound of Music

Outstanding Female Juvenile:  Julia Weinbrecht, The Sound of Music

Outstanding Male Newcomer:  Robert Johnston, Cabaret

Outstanding Female Newcomer:  Danielle Ferretti, Cabaret

Outstanding Male Rookie:  Johnny Banek, Sin, Sex & The C.I.A.

Outstanding Female Rookie:  Erin McDonald, The Sound of Music

Non-Acting Awards

Joe Paldi Award for the most outstanding new volunteer: Courtney Adrian

Jim Hindert Award for the top backstage volunteer: Marion Searfoss

Bette Parfet Music Award: Mark Wygonik

Special Appreciation Awards: Pat Kroger, David Thomas, Robin Volsky, Colleen Brennan and Art Haeberle

The Show Must Go On Award: Greg Harris

Jacobus-Siebert-Hazen Award for Distinguished Service: Chuck Brooks

President’s Plaque: Sara Dessureau

Steve Stahl President’s Choice Award: Anne Talbot

Backstage Genies: Robbie Messersmith and Andrew Pye

Offstage Genies: Leigh Ann Dunleavy and Crystal Kepler {igallery 221}

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