By: Dale King
Delayed some four months by the coronavirus pandemic, and relegated from a performer-filled auditorium to computer screens around South Florida, the 44th annual Carbonell Awards took place Aug. 3, livestreamed on the YouTube Channel of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, the usual venue for the ceremony.
The Carbonells, considered to be among the nation’s senior regional arts awards, honor the best and brightest theater arts folks in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Originally scheduled for early April, this year’s Carbonells were Miami-Dade heavy, with productions around that county winning 12 awards. Palm Beach theatres and performances sites in Broward won four each.
Among the Palm Beach winners was Boca Raton’s Wick Theatre, which sashayed home with the Best Choreography Carbonell for Hot Shoe Shuffle, the musical that opened the 2019-2020 season at the North Federal Highway showplace.
Hot Shoe Shuffle tapped its way onto the stage in Sydney, Australia in 1992. Created by David Atkins, it became an instant success. The popularity of the show inspired a London production that resulted in an Olivier Award for best choreography and a nomination for best musical production.
The Wick show’s director, Jonathan Van Dyke, worked with Justin Lewis on the Boca-based performance. Lewis, who spent production time with Atkins, is one of the most sought-after studio choreographers and was featured on NBC’s World of Dance in season 2.
Van Dyke and Lewis assembled an energetic cast for the production in Boca, including Sean McGibbon, Alex Kidder and Rocky Duvall, Thomas Sutter, Kurt Csolak, Jared Alexander, Jonathan Eisele, Austin Carroll, Meg Frost and Joshua Connor.
The musical concerns the seven Tap Brothers – Spring, Slap, Buck, Wing, Tip, Tap and Slide – who learn of the death of their long-absent father. To claim their large inheritance, the brothers must rehearse and perform their Dad’s legendary act – the Hot Shoe Shuffle – and include their long-lost sister in the show.
Donald Walters, board president of the Carbonell Awards, said the 2020 presentation was the first ever to be conducted virtually. “The ceremony wasn’t the only history-making event at this year’s show,” he said. “Zoetic Stage, a Miami company with scores of nominations and many wins over the years, became the theatre company to win the most awards in a single year. It earned an unprecedented 12 Carbonells,” including eight for the musical, Sweeney Todd.
Actually, Sweeney Todd’s eight awards tied it with a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat presented at Actors’ Playhouse in the 1999-2000 season as the most awarded show in Carbonell history.
The virtual ceremony opened with members from around the local theatre community responding to the question, “Why does theatre matter to you now?” The personal three-word answers included, “Creating Art Inspires,” “Stories Need Telling,” “Catalyst for Change,” “Brings Humanity Together,” “I Can Breathe,” and “Miss the Magic!”
The show also featured numbers by Ben Bagby, Leah Sessa, Kareema Khouri, Liubov Ohrimenco, Elena Alamilla and Caryl Fantel. Geoffrey Short announced the award categories and winners, and Christina Alexander served as equity and inclusion consultant.
The ceremony was conceived and created by Fantel Music, including Carbonell Award winner Caryl Fantel, who has been part of the award show’s production team for 12 years and is a two-time Silver Palm Award-winning music director, pianist and vocal coach.
Her daughter, Alyssa Fantel, an actress, acting coach and award-winning playwright, and Caryl’s husband, Roy Fantel, who was the video and audio producer for the ceremony, also helped put together the show’s entertainment agenda.