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Milwaukee’s first performing arts award ceremony, the Footlights, found its light at the Quaddracci Powerhouse on June 22.

New York City has the Tonys. Chicago has the Jeffs. Milwaukee deserves its own awards ceremony for theatrical excellence. And now, finally, it has one.

On June 22, the first-annual Footlights Performing Arts Awards ceremony – sponsored by the United Performing Arts Fund – was held at The Milwaukee Rep’s Quadracci Powerhouse.

"33 Variations" won big at the inaugural Footlights Awards

Waukesha Civic Theatre’s “33 Variations” won big at the inaugural Footlights Awards; photo courtesy of Rob Lundskow Photography

Crowds gathered outside the sprawling theater early in the evening to mingle and snap photos with other industry professionals and supporters, some of whom were wearing tuxes and glittering formal gowns that wouldn’t have been out of place at the Oscars.

Actor John McGivern hosted the inaugural event. And he was joined on stage by dozens of Milwaukee’s brightest theatrical stars, who presented awards in 16 categories, for both professional and non-professional performances.

Wins for the evening went to the following:

  • Best Choreography (Professional): Ryan Cappleman, The Pirates of Penzance, Skylight Music Theatre
  • Best Choreography (Non-Professional): Melissa Bloch-Meier, Chicago, Musical Masquers Community Theatre
  • Best Costume Design (Professional): Chris March, La Cage Aux Folles, Skylight Music Theatre
  • Best Costume Design (Non-Professional): Rhonda Schmidt, Anything Goes, Sunset Playhouse
  • Best Technical Design, Lighting + Sound (Professional): David Gipson, Beauty and the Beast (Zémire et Azor), Skylight Music Theatre
  • Best Technical Design, Lighting + Sound (Non-Professional): Katrina Smith, Little Shop of Horrors, Sunset Playhouse
  • Best Scenic Design (Professional): Todd Edward Ivins, A Christmas Carol, Milwaukee Repertory Theater
  • Best Scenic Design (Non-Professional): Roger F. Bochek, My Fair Lady, Falls Patio Players
  • Best Direction (Professional): Mary MacDonald Kerr, Luna Gale, Renaissance Theaterworks
  • Best Direction (Non-Professional): Jerry Becker, Beauty and the Beast, Hartford Players
  • Best Supporting Performance by a Male in a Play, (Professional): Marques Causey, Luna Gale, Renaissance Theaterworks
  • Best Supporting Performance by a Male in a Play, (Non-Professional): Sam Ellis Sherman, Wonderland, Outskirts Theatre
  • Best Supporting Performance by a Female in a Play, (Professional): Rana Roman, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre
  • Best Supporting Performance by a Female in a Play, (Non-Professional): Ruth Arnell, 33 Variations, Waukesha Civic Theatre
  • Best Supporting Performance by a Male in a Musical, (Professional): Shawn Holmes, La Cage Aux Folles, Skylight Music Theatre
  • Best Supporting Performance by a Male in a Musical, (Non-Professional): Thomas Hess, Young Frankenstein, Lake Country Playhouse
  • Best Supporting Performance by a Female in a Musical (Professional): Angela Iannone, Ernest in Love, In Tandem Theatre
  • Best Supporting Performance by a Female in a Musical (Non-Professional): Katie Katschke, Fiddler on the Roof, Sunset Playhouse
  • Best Leading Performance by a Male in a Play (Professional): Anthony Crivello, McGuire, Milwaukee Repertory Theater
  • Best Leading Performance by a Male in a Play (Non-Professional): Nicholas Callan Haubner, The Odd Couple, SummerStage Delafield
  • Best Leading Performance by a Female in a Play (Professional): Jenny Wanasek, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre
  • Best Leading Performance by a Female in a Play (Non-Professional): Beth Perry, 33 Variations, Waukesha Civic Theatre
  • Best Leading Performance by a Male in a Musical (Professional): Ray Jivoff, La Cage Aux Folles, Skylight Music Theatre
  • Best Leading Performance by a Male in a Musical (Non-Professional): Ryan Charles, Jesus Christ Superstar, Greendale Community Theatre
  • Best Leading Performance by a Female in a Musical (Professional): Allie Babich, Violet, Skylight Music Theatre
  • Best Leading Performance by a Female in a Musical (Non-Professional): Marann K. Curtis, Grease, Theatre on Main
  • Best Performance (Professional): Zie Magic Flute, Milwaukee Opera Theatre and Quasimondo Physical Theatre
  • Best Performance (Non-Professional): Comicality 2017, Hartford Players
  • Best Play (Professional): Fences, Milwaukee Repertory Theater
  • Best Play (Non-Professional): 33 Variations, Waukesha Civic Theatre
  • Best Musical (Professional): La Cage Aux Folles, Skylight Music Theatre
  • Best Musical (Non-Professional): My Fair Lady, Falls Patio Players
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Audiences and artists were invited to submit nominations for the awards from January through March of this year, and more than 500 were received during that time frame. In May, the awards organizers announced the final nominees at the InterContinental Hotel.

The hotel was also the site of the ceremony’s official after-party, where booze and bons mots flowed freely as attendees warmly congratulated the winners on their contributions to another successful performance season in the city.

According to Steve Marcus, president of Marcus Promotions and publisher of Footlights playbills, the event was the first of its kind “to bring local artists together for one night, under the same roof, to celebrate and recognize the massive amount of talent our mid-size city contains.” If the crowds and cheers at the inaugural event were any indication, though, it certainly won’t be the last.

 

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