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The 2018 Valley Awards

The crowd seemed smaller for the awards this year, but maybe it was the venue that made is appear so. If you were one of the folks who stayed home, I dare say you missed out. Ben Loewy, Max Lardent, and Anthony Barnaby of Poor Richard’s Players opened the show with another great parody. They certainly made up for the late start. I think, like it or not, these guys are destined to be the opening act even when they’re old and using walkers. That’s how good they are.

Overall, the evening moved at a good pace with Jim Sohre at the mic. Presenters came from a wide variety of arts related organizations, both public and private. But they aren’t given anything to do other than announce the winner and hand over the award. So, see, if you avoided attending because you thought it would be “just another long night of self-congratulatory aggrandizement” full of boring introductions, mangle pronunciations, and drawn-out acceptance speeches, you’d be wrong. With winners holding the award aloft and a quick wave to the crowd, the Valley awards run faster than pacers at the horse track.

And, there were some surprises along the way. At least there were for this critic and adjudicator with “The Wolves” capturing Supporting Actress (Valerie Carpenter-Bernstein) and Best Ensemble (Play).

Poor Richard’s Players ended up being the belles of the ball, taking home five of the evening’s honors: Best Ensemble Musical, Supporting Actor in a Musical (Anthony Barnaby), Actor in a Musical (Adam Dunson), Director (Musical) Benjamin Loewy) and Best Production (Musical) – all for “Young Frankenstein.” As Sohre quipped, “That pretty much solidifies they’ll be back next year for the opening act.”

Gary Lunn’s stunning performance in “The Father” at Cockroach Theatre garnered him the Best Actor. Alexia Chen added to the production’s wins for her incredible shrinking set. Both rounded out with “The Father” named Best Production (Play).

Best Actress (Play) went to Tina Rice for her stellar rip-your-heart-out performance as Vivian Bearing in A Public Fit’s production of “W;T.”

The entertainment sprinkled throughout the night lost some punch for two reasons. First was the unneeded reverb. The voices are good, they’re strong, and they don’t need enhancement. The other issue at hand was the piano drowning out the vocals. Lyrics are the important thing with show tunes, and April Sauline’s “Not Getting Married” from LVLT’s production of “Company” suffered from both problems. Mike Vargovich was plagued by his plugged-in acoustic guitar as his fingers slid fret to fret, adding discordant squeals over the top of Katie Marie Jones on “Easy to Be Hard.”

For my money the best performance of the evening came from Vogue Robinson, Clark County Poet Laureate. She capped the night with a beautiful piece backed with perfection by Jaylen Green on a plugged-in acoustic guitar.

Next year, I encourage theatre patrons to attend. The awards are more than an evening for theatre folk to slap each other on the back. This is a way to inform the general community that the local performing arts are filled with excellent talent, and every bit as good as what you get on The Strip – at less than half the cost.

As Darren Weller commented in impromptu thanks, “These are professionals, doing excellent work at something they love to do for very little money. … Support them!”

Amen, brother, amen.

For a full list of award recipients, log onto

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