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Cultural Park Theater presents Marquee Awards

June 6, 2018
North Fort Myers Neighbor

By CJ HADDAD

cjhaddad@breezenewspapers.com

Like a scene out of Phantom of the Opera, thespians and socialites filed into Cultural Park Theater Saturday night under many different masked guises.

Article Photos

CJ HADDAD

The cast of 'Sister Act' which won for Outstanding Musical, performs. The musical picked up 10 Marquee Awards.

A masquerade ball was underway in prelude to the sixth annual Marquee Awards, celebrating all who have contributed to Cape Coral's community theater over this past season.

"The Marquee Awards are really special for everyone here," said Michael Moran, executive director of Cultural Park Theater. "We're one huge family. Everybody knows everybody. We all root for each other, as much as hope that they do well themselves. We celebrate what everyone works on so hard."

Marquee's would be handed out for plays and musicals put on at the theater throughout the year.

Plays up for awards were "Arsenic and Old Lace," "39 Steps," "The Cemetery Club," "The Mouse Trap" and "The Odd Couple."

Musicals considered were "Sister Act," "Brooklyn Boys," "Spectacular Christmas Review," "Tarzan" and "The Pajama Game."

The first musical number was a medley performance of the song "From Now On" from The Greatest Showman, which started on stage and extended to performers in the crowd before culminating together in a powerful fashion.

Moran then took to the stage for opening remarks, announcing the theater's 55th year in Cape Coral had been a "blockbuster year", with ticket sales having grown over $40,000 since last season.

Throughout the night, actors and actresses from each play or musical would perform a short scene or selection from its catalogue.

Frank and Linda Fazioli, writers of "Brooklyn Boys" took audience members into the old nightlife scene of New York City with classic crooner tones.

The musical revue took home best original musical or musical revue, Linda with tears in her eyes upon receiving the award.

Frank also earned the Marquee for outstanding performer in a musical or musical revue in "Brooklyn Boys," along with outstanding featured actor in a play or musical for his role as Officer Brophy in "Arsenic and Old Lace."

Next, the final scene from "The Cemetery Club" was brought to life, where friends who meet every week at their dead husbands' graves are finding their lives going in different directions.

Donna Rossi took home the Marquee for outstanding lead actress in a play for her portrayal of Lucille and Christi Wengerter won for outstanding featured actress in a play or musical in her role as Mildred.

An "in-memoriam" portion of the awards honored those in the Cultural Park Theater community who had passed away, followed by a beautiful performance of "Rise Up" from Angela Pierre.

Moran then came out to recognize some special volunteers to the theater, each of whom had put in 50 hours of work, with most far exceeding that number.

Joy Ursillo, Barbara Cori, Ray Massello, Deanna Enslin, Greg DuBeck, Bridey Kearns and Linda Burns were presented a certificate to commemorate all the work they've done for Cultural Park Theater.

"The volunteers that come in here are wonderful. We are so amazingly lucky to have people from all backgrounds who build sets, usher, paint, act and more. They are the reason why we are here," Moran said of the 175 volunteers who contribute to the theater.

The talented actors and actresses continued to give a taste of each show as the night progressed.

Marlo Moore and Harvey Evans performed "For the First Time" from "Tarzan," where they portrayed Tarzan and Jane. The show did run back in September, despite tricky Irma weather causing show-time chaos and power outages.

A scene from the classic comedy, "The Odd Couple" made the crowd chuckle; Luis Monaco earned the nod for outstanding supporting actor in a play for his role as Speed.

Members of the musical, "The Pajama Game" took the stage for some "Steam Heat," a dance number from the "Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory."

Jesse D' Araujo won the Marquee for outstanding lead actor in a musical for his role as Sid Sorokin in the show.

Next, actors from "39 Steps" had the audience doubled-over in laughter.

This play saw four actors take on more than 150 roles in this Hitchcock inspired spy-comedy.

Jennifer Dube took home the award for outstanding supporting actress in a play for her many, many different personas throughout the show.

"Spectacular Christmas Review," Cultual Park Theater's annual Christmas extravaganza, won for outstanding lighting design by Robert Barnes in a musical, musical revue or play.

Another number from The Greatest Showman, Lisa Kuchinski, who also organizes the Marquee Awards each year, wonderfully sang "Never Enough" that kept the audience captivated.

"Arsenic and Old Lace" revolves around the Brewster family, who have insane, as well as homicidal tendencies.

Attendees got to see snippets of the personalities of these odd characters as director Wengerter took the audience through the story.

The show was well received and earned five Marquee Awards.

Ursillo won for outstanding stage management, Moran and Deanna Enslin took home the award for outstanding set design in a musical, musical review or play, Fazoli as previously mentioned, James Clayton received honors for outstanding lead actor in a play for his depiction of Mortimer Brewster, Wengerter took home the Marquee for outstanding direction of a play and the show was honored as best outstanding play overall.

Collecting an impressive 10 Marquee Awards throughout the night, "Sister Act" illustrated the hilarity and love that can flourish when a night-club singer gets transplanted into a covenant of nuns for her protection when she witnesses a murder.

The cast of sisters performed "Raise Your Voice," the first time Deloris Van Cartier shows the group of shy, traditional nuns how to find their true voices deep inside of them during their otherwise tame music rehearsal.

The Marquee awards "Sister Act" earned were outstanding lighting and sound crew in a musical, musical revue or play (Anthony Michaelessi, Breanna Lewandowski, Chantelle Bloise-Elmahmoudi), outstanding costume design in a play, musical or musical revue (Laurie Strum, April Gibson), outstanding musical direction (Noelle Aparte, Carling Witt, Lynn Martindale), outstanding choreography (Kearns), Kuchinski won for outstanding featured actress in a play or musical for her role as Sister Mary Theresa, outstanding supporting actress in a musical went to Jerri-Lin Clayton and Zan Jabara in their roles of Sister Mary Lazarus and Sister Mary Patrick, outstanding supporting actor in a musical went to JD Douse as Eddie Souther, Cantrella Canady won outstanding lead actress in a musical as Deloris Van Cartier, Gerrie Benzing took home outstanding director of a musical or musical revue and the show won for best overall musical.

Canady, a Fort Myers resident, said being recognized as best actress in a musical is "mind-blowing."

"Honestly, I was just up there having fun with a bunch of people that I love to have fun with. It's phenomenal for people to say 'Yeah, you were good enough to earn this award.'"

She said the joy she sees in the community after her performances is the most rewarding part of being involved in the theater.

"They say 'We had so much fun with you guys.' We have people standing and dancing in the aisles with us at the end of performances. Just to have that spirit in our place is amazing."

"Everyone is genuine, I love my sisters on and off the stage. I knew a lot of them before and I've made new friends along the way. Community theater is always genuine," she added.

Allowing herself to transcend who she is on a day-to-day basis is a big reason why she got into acting/singing in the first place.

"Being able re-create the human experience is always fun. Taking myself to places where I say 'Who am I today? Am I a 42-year-old woman? A 9-year-old girl? A 9-year old boy? You can just be anyone," she said with a bright smile.

Benzing, who directed the "Sister Act" cast, says it all came from the heart.

"It sounds sort of corny, but it really was a work of love. I've never been around a group who got along so well and being recognized by your peers while surrounded by such great competition is always a great feeling," she said.

Being in the acting and theater business since she was a child, Benzig said the crowd's reaction and seeing the hard work culminate is always the greatest payoff.

"When I'm sitting in the audience watching the show, watching the reaction to the things we've worked on so hard. That really means a lot when they get it and they applaud and the music soars."

The Maryland native now lives in North Fort Myers and teaches classes at Cultural Park Theater, as well as acts in productions herself.

She began directing four years ago and has already won three best director awards.

"I really enjoy this theater, they are so supportive of the arts plus I think we put on amazing shows, I really do," she added.

Cultural Park Theater offers live stage shows, as well as concert series.

It also hosts adult and children educational summer camps, as well as programs in the fall and winter.

"Our wonderful board of directors help us organize these events," Moran said.

He also noted that the theater has been listed as "the busiest little community theater in the United States."

Another wonderful part of Cultural Park Theater is the scholarship program they have for youth.

"For families where mom or dad are having a rough time financially. We scholarship kids into the summer, fall and winter programs and also offer a scholarship every year to two graduating students, usually those who have grown up around the theater or whose parents have been involved with us. It is truly a wonderful program," Moran added.

For the latest news and upcoming events, visit culturalparktheater.com.

Cultural Park Theater is at 528 Cultural Park Blvd. in Cape Coral.

 
 

 

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