2004 was a rocky annum for the region's theaters, with dramatic offstage doings on several fronts. We won't know until 2005 all the fallout from the news — like who will...

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2004 was a rocky annum for the region’s theaters, with dramatic offstage doings on several fronts.

We won’t know until 2005 all the fallout from the news — like who will replace Sharon Ott as artistic head of Seattle Repertory Theatre. Or if Empty Space Theatre and Tacoma Actors Guild, two of our most established professional drama outfits, will find the cash to dig out of debt and survive. Or if tiny Theatre Babylon can get the dough needed to bring the Union Garage space up to code.

OK, we’ll restate the obvious: These are hazardous times in the nonprofit arts world.

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And yet, there was still plenty of action onstage this year. The fringe scene was especially dynamic, as (on the other end of the spectrum) was the array of Broadway tours hitting Seattle. And so far, Ott’s 2004-05 farewell season at Seattle Rep is turning out to be one of her best.

Another highlight was Intiman’s premiere of one of the meatiest, most promising plays to come out of our fair city in some time: the psycho-historical, tragicomic “Singing Forest” by Craig Lucas.

Which brings us to our 2004 Footlight Awards, marking the highs and lows of an eventful year in Seattle theater:

KEN HOLMES

The Best Shakespeare award goes to Seattle Shakespeare Company; Kurt Beattie played the title role in “King Lear.”



Best mainstage productions:

“The Time of Your Life,” “Take Me Out” and “Anna in the Tropics” (Seattle Repertory Theatre); “Singing Forest” (Intiman Theatre); “Jumpers” (ACT Theatre); “Cry, the Beloved Country” (Book-It Repertory Theatre).


Best touring shows:

“Movin’ Out,” “The Lion King” and “Urinetown” (Paramount Theatre); “Hairspray” (5th Avenue Theatre); “The Exonerated” (Moore Theatre).


Best Shakespeare:

“King Lear” (Seattle Shakespeare Company). Runners-up: “Julius Caesar” (Wooden O) and “Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Seattle Shakespeare Co.).


Best new play debuting here:

“Singing Forest” by Craig Lucas (Intiman).


Soul-satisfying musicals:

“Crowns” and “Black Nativity” (Intiman Theatre); “It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues” (Seattle Rep).


Best version of an overexposed tuner:

“Annie” (Village Theatre).


Best of the fringe:

“Blasted” (A Theatre Under the Influence); “Requiem for a Heavyweight” (Theater Schmeater); “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” and “Rhinoceros” (Capitol Hill Arts Center); “Russian Doll” (TheatreRUN at Consolidated Works); “Proof” (Seattle Public Theater); “Melancholy Play”(Macha Monkey Productions); “Into the Woods” (ReAct).



Most unusual, eye-dazzling family show:

“Tibet Through the Red Box,” Seattle Children’s Theatre (SCT).


In a stable of its own:

“Cavalia,” the equestrian-circus spectacle.


Rousing revivals:

“Pride and Prejudice” (Book-It); “Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle” (SCT).


Stellar acting:

Howard Witt and Jeff Perry (“The Time of Your Life”); Anne Scurria, David Garrison and John Procaccino (“Singing Forest”); Jeanne Paulsen (“Our Town” at Intiman); Jim Gall (“Requiem for a Heavyweight”); Thomas Jefferson Byrd (“Good Boys” at ACT); Bradford Farwell (“Noises Off” at Seattle Rep); Sharia Pierce and Eric Ray Anderson (“Blasted”); Taryn Darr and Eric Polani Jensen (“South Pacific” at Village); Adrian LaTourelle (“1984” at Empty Space); Shawn Law (“The Countess,” Theatre Babylon); Jennifer Lee Taylor (“Pride and Prejudice”); Garlyn Punao (“Julius Caesar”); Elizabeth Kenny (“Bash” at New City Warehouse); Charlie Parker (“Smokey Joe’s Cafe” at 5th Avenue); Nick DeSantis and Bobbi Kotula
(“Annie” at Village Theatre).


Ensemble kudos:

Entire cast of “Take Me Out” (Seattle Rep).


Most to-die-for sets and costumes:

John Arnone’s elegant digs and Catherine Hunt’s scrumptious duds for “The Play’s the Thing”(Intiman).


Guys in dresses:

Grady West as Dina Martina (Re-bar).


Ageless wonders:

Cathy Rigby in “Peter Pan” (5th Avenue); Eartha Kitt (at Jazz Alley).


Best first lady mimic:

Marya Sea Kaminski, in “Laura’s Bush”(Washington Ensemble Theatre).


Most intriguing, provocative mess of a deconstruction:

“(L)imitations of Life” by Marcus Gardley at Empty Space.


Grossest gags:

a toss-up: the fart jokes in Empty Space’s “Ubu” and the onstage barfing and urinating in “Finer Noble Gases” (Washington Ensemble Theatre).


Guilty pleasure:

“Brown Derby Series,” a campy reading series at Re-bar of such “Crazy Whore” screenplays as “Fatal Attraction” and “Showgirls.”


Singing A +, Acting C-:

Frenchie Davis in “Dreamgirls” (5th Avenue Theatre).


Premiere misfires:

“Yankee Doodle Dandy” by David Armstrong, Albert Evans and George M. Cohan (5th Avenue Theatre); Flying Karamazov Brothers’ “Life: A Guide for the Perplexed” and “Alki” by Eric Overmyer (ACT Theatre).


Touring bomb:

“Starlight Express” (Paramount).


Worst audience bummer:

Patrons arriving to see “Chaps! Christmas on the Radio Range” at Tacoma Actors Guild on Dec. 15 learned that: a) it was canceled; and b) TAG had closed indefinitely due to cash woes.


Worst fringe bummer:

Seattle Fringe Festival goes belly-up, owing $58,000 to theater artists.


Biggest news flash:

Seattle Rep announces artistic director Sharon Ott’s resignation, effective June 2005.


Busy being born:

New Seattle theaters Capitol Hill Arts Center, Washington Ensemble Theatre, Strawberry Theatre Workshop, Double Shot Theatre and JEM.


Kaput:

Seattle Fringe Festival, Golden Fish Theatre.


In steno heaven:

Typing Explosion, who are parting amicably.


Future uncertain:

Empty Space Theatre, Tacoma Actors Guild, Steeplechase Productions.


Rest in peace:

Seattle actor Todd Jamieson; solo performer-actor Spalding Gray; composer-lyricist Cy Coleman; lyricist Fred Ebb; stage-film actor Christopher Reeve.

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com