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The SALTYs of the Earth

Michael Davis Photo

It all starts here,” said presenter David Lowenstein, now of Cazenovia SummerStage. Lowenstein was one of the most experienced voices at the fifth annual Syracuse Area Live Theatre Youth (SALTY) Awards, on May 23. Once a mainstay of Syracuse community theater companies, Lowenstein rose to become a successful Broadway performer, and recently he has returned to the area to work for the Syracuse University Drama Department and for Cazenovia College.

But he, too, was once a struggling, insecure high school actor. “These are my favorite awards,” added Lowenstein, pushing aside the Oscars and the Tonys. “The acceptance speeches are so heartfelt and so short.”

The theme of brevity was emphasized early on when Bill Brod, publisher of Family Times, which sponsors the SALTY awards, reminded the audience at the State Fairgrounds’ New Times Theater that no one would have to miss the series finale of Lost, scheduled for 9 that night. Co-producers Kathy Fonda and Deborah Pearson seemed to have taken efficiency as a command. Even with 17 different awards, interspersed with five musical presentations from rival companies and schools all over the area, and people who had not worked together before, there were no slip-ups, gaffes or painful gaps because of a missed cue or unpulled switch.

Co-hosts Ted Long and Amy Robbins from WNTQ-FM 93.1 (93Q) appeared to be ad-libbing but never veered from the subject. Good-natured teasing lasted just long enough to allow the larger musical groups to get into formation. Ted’s longest story was characteristically self-effacing, about appearing in a second-grade play titled The Rabbit Gets Wings, for which he won praise for knowing “most of his lines.”

All the musical interludes between presentations took place in the first act, and although the winners were not known ahead of time, several of these were from prize winners. 

The opening number was “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think,” from Seussical! The Musical by the 20-person chorus of Gillette Road Middle School, the only non-high school troupe to perform. The others were Solvay High School’s The Wiz, the urban-themed adaptation of the L. Frank Baum classic, and Westhill High School’s All Shook Up, a spoof of Elvis Presley that draws plot devices from Shakespeare. Tully High School’s The Sound of Music featured a solo by elegant Lauren Puente, but the Fabius-Pompey rendition of “Telephone Hour” from Bye, Bye Byrdie filled the stage with 20 performers. (Later in the evening we would learn that this production swept the open-voting People’s Choice Awards, for best male and female performers and for best over-all production. All other awards are decided by members of the SALTY Academy, authorities on drama and performance who pledge to see productions and keep their identities concealed.)

While most nominations go to school productions, young people who appear in community theater or professional theater shows qualify for special awards that came first in the lineup. Leading in contention was young Julia Goodwin from Reynolds Elementary School in Baldwinsville, who walked home with the trophy for her lead in the Talent Company’s Ruthless! The Musical. Not often performed, Ruthless! is a complex satire on the 1956 Patty McCormack movie The Bad Seed, about an innocent girl in pigtails who turns into a monster of ambition as the action unfolds. The local production was a box office hit, and Goodwin’s performance has been doubly recognized, as she also won the SALT Award for Best Female Lead in a Musical in April, competing with five adult singer-actresses.

The other Community Theater award went to a youthful ensemble supporting adult players. The winner was Gifford Family Theatre’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, a production aimed at children where many roles were taken by adults. Company artistic director Steve Braddock blushed through one of the shortest speeches of the evening, saying he did not prepare one as he never expected to win.

Looking across the many area nominations, one could see that certain roles allowed young performers to shine again and again. The Tin Man in both the original Wizard of Oz or the urban variant The Wiz is clearly such a role, as is the lead Chad in All Shook Up.

Competition between school districts is not as clearly defined as it is with sports or marching bands, but a markedly heated rivalry arose between two western suburban districts, Westhill and Solvay. Westhill won this year, four trophies to three, including the Rising Star Award for Sean Gilroy, who a few minutes earlier won as Best Actor in a Musical in All Shook Up.

One of the most touching tributes of the evening came from presenter Donna Stuccio, head of Armory Square Playhouse, who praised the late Joseph N. Lotito of Salt City Center for the Performing Arts, who had given her a start and had mentored many of the adults in the room.

Unscripted comic moments included an impromptu dance by Keeper of the Stairs Bob Barker, resplendent in a gleaming tuxedo, when many other presenters appeared to be headed for a barbecue.

Ever-impish Jon Wilson waved a self-made contract for whoever won the Lifetime Achievement Award, agreeing to retire from the stage as soon as the prize was given. When that turned out to be rival Christine Lightcap of the Talent Company, he came up with an escape clause.

Including intermission, the entire ceremony lasted one hour 40 minutes, ending at 7:40, allowing anyone who wished to get home in front of the tube for the conclusion of Lost.

2010 SALTY Award winners

Best Actress, Community Theater Play or Musical
Julia Goodwin, Ruthless! The Musical
The Talent Company

Nominee: Mary Vinciguerra, West Side Story, The Talent Company

Best Ensemble, Community Theater Play or Musical

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
Gifford Family Theatre

Nominees: Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Appleseed Productions; Desperate TV: A Comedy in One Act , Open Hand Theatre; One Way Ticket to Demented Fairy Land, Open Hand Theatre; White Christmas: The Musical, The Talent Company; West Side Story, The Talent Company

Best Supporting Actor, High School Play
Bobby Hall, Amateurs

Layvon Washington, The Boyfriend Project, Bishop Ludden; Andrew Wagner, Lights, Comedy, Laughter, Cicero-North Syracuse; Jean-Philippe Kaya, Stage Door, Nottingham; Noah Paccia, Charlotte’s Web, Tully; Keegan Lounsbery, Romeo and Juliet, Westhill

Best Supporting Actress, High School Play
Christi Frateschi, Amateurs
Solvay High School

Kendall Ferrante, The Boyfriend Project, Bishop Ludden; Alexandra Scipione, Lights, Camera, Laughter, Cicero-North Syracuse; Wednesday Shedd, Stage Door, Nottingham; Katie Macie, Charlotte’s Webb, Tully; Morgan Root, Romeo and Juliet, Westhill

Best Supporting Actor, High School Musical
Jeff Scoville, The Wiz

Nominees: Layvon Washington, The Wizard of Oz, Bishop Ludden; Lucas Cognetti, Bye, Bye Byrdie, Fabius-Pompey; Aaron Alexander, All Shook Up, Nottingham; Bobby Hall, The Wiz, Solvay; Nick Mariani, The Sound of Music, Tully; Andre Remillard, All Shook Up, Westhill

Best Supporting Actress, High School Musical

Cathy Butler, All Shook Up, Westhill

Nominees: Prita Imbrahimi, The Wizard of Oz, Bishop Ludden; Janelle Flanagan, Bye, Bye Byrdie, Fabius-Pompey; Wednesday Shedd, Nunsense, Nottingham; Riley Mahan, All Shook Up, Nottingham; Courtney Woods; The Wiz; Solvay; Carly Fowler, The Sound of Music, Tully; Molly Hubert, All Shook Up, Westhill

Best Leading Actor, High School Play
Zach Cavallo, Lights, Comedy, Laughter, Cicero-North

Nominees: Ryan Betelak, The Boyfriend Project, Bishop Ludden; Jonah Gruber, Stage Door, Nottingham; Brendan Donovan, Amateurs, Solvay; Bernie Kelly, Charlotte’s Web, Tully; Sean Gilroy, Romeo and Juliet, Westhill

Best Leading Actress, High School Play
Isabella Puente, Charlotte’s Web, Tully High School

Sarah Albright, The Boyfriend Project, Bishop Ludden; Olivia Fedele, Lights, Comedy, Laughter, Cicero-North Syracuse; Zoe Meighan, Stage Door, Nottingham; Courtney Woods, Amateurs, Solvay; Meredith D’Angelo, Romeo and Juliet, Westhill

Best Leading Actor, High School Musical
Sean Gilroy, All Shook Up
Westhill High School

Nominees: Ryan Betelak, The Wizard of Oz, Bishop Ludden; Liam Bland, Bye, Bye Byrdie, Fabius-Pompey; Jean-Philippe Kaya, All Shook Up, Nottingham; Michael Roemer, The Sound of Music, Tully

Best Leading Actress, High School Musical
Meredith D’Angelo, All Shook Up, Westhill High School

Nominees: Gabrielle Leo, The Wizard of Oz, Bishop Ludden; Anja Godlewski-Dykes, Bye, Bye Byrdie, Fabius-Pompey; Gabrielle Gorman, All Shook Up, Nottingham; Vivian Gunn, Nunsense, Nottingham; Christi Frateschi, The Wiz, Solvay; Lauren Puente, The Sound of Music, Tully

Best Play, High School

The Boyfriend Project, Bishop Ludden

Nominees: Lights, Comedy, Laughter, Cicero-North Syracuse; Stage Door, Nottingham; Amateurs, Solvay; Charlotte’s Web, Tully; Romeo and Juliet, Westhill

Best Musical, High School
All Shook Up, Westhill High School

Nominees: The Wizard of Oz, Bishop Ludden; Bye, Bye, Byrdie, Fabius-Pompey; Nunsense, Nottingham; All Shook Up, Nottingham; The Wiz, Solvay; The Sound of Music,Tully

Rising Star Award
Sean Gilroy, Westhill

Lifetime Achievement

Christine Lightcap, The Talent Company

People’s Choice Awards
    Favorite Actor: Louis Cognetti, Fabius-Pompey
    Favorite Actress: Anja Godlewski-Dykes, Fabius-Pompey
    Favorite Production: Bye, Bye Byrdie, Fabius-Pompey

SALTY Awards Photo Gallery

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