Dreams of ‘Genies’ come true for Theatre Guild’s best

Beth and Tim Shestak [Photo: Denise Ritchie]

Gifted Vero Beach Theatre Guild thespians and the talented volunteers who manage their wonderful shows from the wings were recognized with Vero’s version of the Tony Awards at the annual Genie Awards Dinner at the Elks Club, but the real winner is the Vero Beach community. For the first time in its 60-year history, the board decided this past season to offer a production every single month.

Guests enjoyed delicious hors d’oeuvres and dinner catered by Wild Thyme Catering, before longtime VBTG volunteer Larry Strauss stepped up to emcee the highly anticipated award presentations, which honored outstanding productions and the individuals who worked in the front of the house, on stage and behind the scenes.

The 2018-19 season opened with the sassy comedy “The Dixie Swim Club,” and was followed by the 9/11 conspiracy thriller “Yankee Tavern,” and “The Game’s Afoot or Holmes for the Holidays.” The uproarious “Miracle on South Division Street” was so popular that additional performances were added. “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” was this year’s blockbuster musical, and the mainstage season closed with the genteelly droll ladies of “The Savannah Sipping Society.”

Every other month featured a Reader’s Theatre Apron Series: “12 Angry Men,” “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol,” “A Night in the Theatre” and “Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight.”

Best Show was awarded to director Beth Shestak for “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” Greg Harris received Leading Actor and Vocalist Awards for the same show; and Forum ‘Courtesans’ Libbie Baylinson, Isabel Garrett, Nikki Przedwiecki, Caroline Remillard and Debbie Brandauer received the Group Performance Award.

Tied for the Leading Actress Award were Judith Lemoncelli, “Miracle on South Division Street,” and Sharon Taylor, “The Dixie Swim Club.”

Supporting Actor/Actress Awards went to Nick Mathews, “Miracle on South Division Street,” and Rebecca Carswell, “The Savannah Sipping Society,” and Secondary Supporting Actress was presented to Amber Riggle, “The Dixie Swim Club.”

Steve Budkeiwicz, “Miracle on South Division Street,” and Barbara Sykes, “The Savannah Sipping Society,” received Character Actor/Actress Awards.

Non-Acting Awards presented (some named for longtime VBTG members) were: President’s Award, Jon Putzke; Joe Paldi for New Volunteer, Lisa McNamee; Jim Hindert for Backstage, Patti Hall; Bette Parfet for Musical Talent, Larry Strauss; Steve Stahl President’s Choice, Lauretta Hlebichuk; Jacobus-Seibert-Hazen, Carole Strauss; Lifetime Member, Anne Talbot; Offstage Award, Cheryl Belanger; Backstage Award, Sonny Utley, Bob Galbraith and Tina Minster; Special Award, Lisa Caperton and Phillis Rock; Special Appreciation, Greg Harris; and The Show Must Go On, Tevin Brown.

“Regular Genie judges are members of the subscriber base,” explained Genie chair Carole Strauss. “Every subscriber is eligible to be a Genie judge. The only requirement is that they have to see at least one performance of all five shows.”

While the number varies, this year there were 34 subscriber judges. For the first time, two judges each from four local community theatres – Henegar Theatre, Barn Theatre, Surfside Playhouse and Pineapple Theatre – were invited to be guest Genie judges (one had to drop out).

“It was really kind of exciting to get their perspective,” said Strauss. “Their voting was very consistent with our regular subscriber base.”

In addition to the regular 2019-20 productions, VBTG will host a holiday show this year.

“Guild on the Go did one last year just as a thank you to the volunteers, and this year the board has decided to offer it to the public in December,” said Strauss, of the show “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” which runs Dec. 6 to 8.

For more information, visit verobeachtheatreguild.com.

Photos by: Denise Ritchie
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