Tony Awards, meet the Torry Awards.
Theatre of the Republic rolled out the red carpet and brought the glitz and glamour of Broadway to Main Street on Saturday to end its 44th year and kick off its 45th.
As the 2013-14 season came to a close, the send-off gala celebrated cast, crew and volunteers with recognition, thanks and the Torry Awards. And, for the first time ever, Main Street in Conway was blocked off starting at 7 p.m. for a block party, which the public was invited to attend and celebrate with cast and crew members.
“This is going to be our best celebration ever,” said Beverly Weaver of Conway, a 20-year volunteer and member of the board of directors.
The gala kicked off outside the Main Street Theatre as performers and guests arrived, mingling in cheerful anticipation of the awards performance set to begin at 7:30 p.m.
“I’m excited,” said actress Emily Martel, who was nominated for Best Female Actor in a Leading Role for her performance as “Lady of the Lake” in “Spam-A-Lot.” She said it was the hardest role she’s ever done but “so much fun.”
Fun was what’s the evening was all about as the 44th season send-off and awards ceremony got underway to a packed house with a capacity of 300.
“It’s our night to howl,” explained the flip-flop and tuxedo-clad David Catton Johnson.
Johnson, a sound designer who would later be recognized for Best Sound Design, said “this is the night when everyone gets together and just has a good time.”
Laughter ensued as costume-clad Tim McGhee, executive and artistic director, made his way to the podium and assumed the role of master of ceremonies to announce the Torry Award winners.
As he thanked volunteers and those who worked behind the scenes to ensure the success of the theatre’s 2013-2014 season, Susan Healey was honored as Volunteer of the Year.
The first Torry Award went to Whitney Alexander.
“I don’t think I’ve ever won anything except a karaoke contest with three people there,” she said.
Alexander accepted the award for Best Actress with multiple roles (not a lead or supporting) after audience members texted their votes for the nominees – another first for this celebration.
The theatre decided to do away with traditional ballot voting and try a tryst with technology: The audience texted their votes from cellphones as numbers were provided on the screen for each nominee.
Then, votes are tallied and winners announced.
Among those winners was Alyssa McMillan, a junior at Coastal Carolina University who won Best Supporting Actress in a Musical/Comedy.
McMillan’s role as Angel in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” garnered the award and subsequently led to an acceptance speech that began with McMillan’s thanking “all my whores and my mom who made me me audition for the show.”
Two awards went to 22-year-old Bruce Thompson (“Spam-a-Lot”) and Kurt Truslow (“Bonnie and Clyde”) when they tied for Best Actor with Multiple Roles.
“This is very exciting,” said proud mom Tammy Thompson. “This is our fourth year and every year there’s something different. This year is just exciting and fun.”
And as Main Street transitioned from a red carpet affair into a block party with live entertainment and celebrating in the street, the show went on inside, running over its scheduled time.
Martel took the stage with a group of performers as she belted out the lyrics to “Find your Grail” which begin with “If you trust in your song, keep your eyes on the goal” ... not long before Martel’s name was announced with Chandler Parnell’s – in another tie – for Best Female Actor in a Leading Role Musical/Comedy.
Is Broadway part of Martel’s plans for the future?
“That’s the goal,” she said.
Scheduled performances for the 2014-15 season include “Young Frankenstein,” “Holiday Special,” “Rent,” “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” and “Gypsy.”
Visit www.theatreoftherepublic.com for dates and ticket information, as well as information on season tickets. You can also call 488-0821.