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AND THE WINNER IS ...

Broadway has its Tony Awards; Hollywood has its Oscars.

Stage West Community Playhouse has its HAMIs, the accolades given to the actors and crew members voted best of the 1994-95 season by the members and season ticket holders.

Results of this year's balloting will be announced at the fourth annual HAMI awards, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the playhouse. There will be excerpts from the plays and other entertainment, and a champagne buffet afterward.

The Hernando County arts community traditionally turns out in its best bib and tucker to applaud _ and sometimes gasp at _ the announcements.

Last season yielded a big surprise when the frothy but fun farce Lend Me a Tenor swept the awards, taking home six of the 12 HAMIs given out that night. Tenor won three of the four top acting awards in the play category, plus overall director, set design and the highly coveted Favorite Show.

Tenor beat out the serious and challenging drama Witness for the Prosecution as well as the clever comedyThe Sunshine Boys. Even more surprising, it whipped the musical spectaculars Oliver! and Carousel for the Favorite Show award.

My theory then and now is that it won the hearts of Stage West playgoers because it was something that few if any of them had seen before. (I know I hadn't.) The other plays and musicals have been around a long time, made into movies and seen on television. Everyone likes the unusual.

Tenor was my all-around pick, too, silliness and all.

The 1994-95 season has been a sound, if not particularly spectacular, one.

It got off to a slow start with a snoozer, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, based on the television sitcom, and ended with the rousing farce Catch Me If You Can, which, in tone, could easily be compared to last year's Tenor.

In between were two well-received musicals, Nunsense and Brigadoon, and the perhaps-too-familiar drama On Golden Pond.

The nominating committee doesn't really choose nominees; it places every eligible person in the correct category (for example, all female musical leads are nominated for Best Actress in a Musical, and all directors are nominated for Best Director) and lets the membership vote on all of them.

A new category has been added this year: Feature Actor and Actress. Good move. That should clear up the perennial problem of outstanding bit players going unrecognized.

Another change: Favorite Show has been changed to Best Show of the Year. So?

Unlike last year, Stage West isn't announcing three finalists in each category. Everyone will remain nominated and one winner will be announced.

I've sealed my predictions in an envelope that I'll share after the show.

I will bravely predict that Manny Parenti will win Best Actor in a Musical for his role of Tommy in Brigadoon, and Ever Dare (stage name of Darrell Williams) will win Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for his role of Jeff in the same play, mainly because they are the only nominees. The other musical of the year, Nunsense, had no male roles.

What may be remembered most about the 1994-95 season at Stage West is the noticeably maturing and improving production values. Even with lame scripts, the sets and costumes are always first-rate, and the actors are always well prepared. There's never any thrown-together or last-minute look.

I'm most grateful that the troupe seems to have finally jettisoned those lumbering stage sets that took agonizing minutes to change and completely broke the mood of suspended disbelief. The roll-on cottage in Brigadoon was particularly welcome.

Let's hope the goal for 1995-96 is to perfect a quick and smooth curtain call.

HAMI NOMINEES

Best Show of the Year

Brigadoon

Catch Me If You Can

Courtship of Eddie's Father

Nunsense

On Golden Pond

Best Actor, Play

Gene Grady, Courtship of Eddie's Father

Harry Henwood, Catch Me If You Can

Matthew Mellone, Courtship of Eddie's Father

Forest Neal, On Golden Pond

Best Actor, Musical

Manny Parenti, Brigadoon

Best Actress, Play

Jan Decker, Courtship of Eddie's Father

Betsy Glasson, Catch Me If You Can

Elizabeth Marsh, Courtship of Eddie's Father

M.J. Rice, On Golden Pond

Supporting Actor, Play

Charles DePalo, Catch Me If You Can

Joe Harvey, On Golden Pond

Jon Hope, Courtship of Eddie's Father

Supporting Actor, Musical

Ever Dare, Brigadoon

Feature Actor, Play/Musical

Joseph Borsh, Brigadoon

Anthony Merillo, On Golden Pond

Vince Vanni, Catch Me If You Can

Matthew Veasey, On Golden Pond

Supporting Actress, Play

Mary Eileen Ameigh, On Golden Pond

Deborah Ashley, Courtship of Eddie's Father

Supporting Actress, Musical

Wahnita Dow, Brigadoon

Leeann Germann, Nunsense

Michelle Manieri-Harvey, Nunsense

Feature Actress, Play/Musical

Sylvia Blair, Courtship of Eddie's Father

Lindsey Dubock, Brigadoon

Sharon Farnsworth, Nunsense

Ashley Henwood, Catch Me If You Can

Talia Raymond, Nunsense

Best Costumes, Play/Musical

Diana Crow, Catch Me If You Can

Jan Decker, Brigadoon

Sue Kaczmarek, On Golden Pond

Thelma Palma, Courtship of Eddie's Father

Carol Springer, Nunsense

Set Design, Play/Musical

Tom Russell, Catch Me If You Can

Tom Russell, Courtship of Eddie's Father

Pati Twardosky, Brigadoon

Carlos Warner, Nunsense

Carlos Warner and Bob Faust, On Golden Pond

Best Choreography

Wahnita Dow, Nunsense

Diane Dubock, Brigadoon

Best Director

Saul Leibner, Catch Me If You Can

Gail Schuldt, Brigadoon

Jennifer Springer, Nunsense

Vince Vanni, Courtship of Eddie's Father

Carlos Warner, On Golden Pond

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