It is absolutely ridiculous to give awards for the "best" creative endeavors, such as theater. Frankly, it is impossible to compare different productions and performances, since they are all so variegated in their scope, intent and execution. Therefore, anyone who attempts to grant such awards is no doubt an idiot and also deeply immoral.
That said, here are my 13 Awards for Theatrical Achievement in 2012! (I considered naming these awards the Chrissys, an homage to the Tonys, but decided against it because the idea made me throw up in my mouth, and a little on my shirt.)
1. BEST DRAMA
The Whipping Man, Cleveland Play House
Although short of perfect, the script by Matthew Lopez provided great acting platforms, and this three-person cast nailed those opportunities, fashioning a play that felt immediate and real.
2. BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Brian Zoldessy, The Normal Heart, Ensemble Theatre
Zoldessy was a rumpled, slouching and mumbling tour de force in crafting his character Ned as a heat-seeking missile launched to explode deceit and unfairness.
3. BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Liz Conway, Proof, Lakeland Civic Theatre
Playing a troubled young woman with a genius IQ, Conway explored all the facets of Catherine while never going overboard—an easy thing to do. Funny and touching, it was a perfectly modulated performance.
4. BEST MUSICAL
Spring Awakening, Beck Center and the Baldwin Wallace University Music Theatre Program
This was everything you want a musical to be: beautifully written and composed, richly vocalized, inventively staged, insightful, and kinda sexy. As directed by Victoria Bussert, it was more than enough to give any theatergoer a chubby.
5. BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Dan Folino, Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, Beck Center
Folino was a rude, crude, fascinating blast as our seventh President, punk balladeer and emo-rocker.
6. BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Mary Bridget Davies, One Night with Janis Joplin, Cleveland Play House
It's a cinematic Broadway musical miracle: Stand-in Davies goes on as a last-minute replacement for the lead, and crushes it. Of course, Davies had a long history playing JJ. But still. As Janis herself might have said, "She was so freakin' good, man!"
7. BEST DIRECTOR OF A DRAMA
Joel Hammer, Middletown, Dobama Theatre
Elegant, heady and slightly surreal, this production was given a skillful presentation by Hammer, who found many of the nuances in Will Eno's sly script and made the most of them.
8. BEST DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL
Russ Borski, Avenue Q, Cain Park
Stepping in for the immensely talented director Paul Gurgol, who tragically passed away, the multi-tasking Borski assembled a platoon of puppets and their handlers into a seamless, sexy romp.
9. BEST CHOREOGRAPHER
Martin Cespedes, Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, Beck Center
Thanks to Cespedes, the scruffy company definitely kicked out the jambs.
10. BEST TOURING PRODUCTION
Anything Goes, PlayhouseSquare
In a less than impressive year for shows that arrive by truck, this was the strongest, featuring dazzling and massive production numbers.
11. BEST PINKO SCREED
The Cradle Will Rock, Oberlin Summer Theatre Festival
Not subtle and not meant to be, this muscular and inventive production evoking 1930s' era labor union issues rocked a classic.
12. BEST EXAMPLES OF SADLY LACKING CHRISTMAS SHOWS
A Carol for Cleveland, CPH, treacly; Miracle and Wonder, Ensemble, slushy; Santaland Diaries, PlayhouseSquare, timid.
13. BEST NEW THEATERS
Blank Canvas Theatre, offering plays from the sublime (Next Fall) to the ridiculous (Debbie Does Dallas, the Musical); Talespinner Children's Theatre, bringing spark and wit to kiddie offerings.
Anyhow, like I said, all these awards suck. Art is not meant to be a competition. So rip this page out (after memorizing the ads) and incinerate it outside in an approved metal container.