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Hale Centre Theatre
Merrill Dodge (Hannibal), left, Marjorie Wilson (Ethel Savage) and Mary Parker Williams (Fairy May) in "The Curious Savage" at Hale Centre Theatre.

Another theater season has come and gone — my first as the Deseret News theater critic. Compiling the Best of 2008 list was a much trickier challenge than I anticipated.

There are more great roles for men than women; some theaters have larger seasons than others; and since I didn't personally see all of the shows, it's nearly impossible to make sure every production is represented. But it's a good place to start.

Here are the some of the best of the best.

Best actor (professional)

Brian Vaughn: Cyrano, "Cyrano de Bergerac," Utah Shakespearean Festival.

Elijah Alexander: Mr. Manningham, "Gaslight," Utah Shakespearean Festival, fall season.

Kyle Pfortmiller: Wolf/Cinderella's Prince "Into the Woods;" Thomas Jefferson, "1776," Utah Festival Opera.

Scott Barnhardt: Carmen Ghia, "The Producers," Pioneer Theatre Company.

Paul Kiernan: Jeff Metcalf, "A Slight Discomfort," Salt Lake Acting Company.

David Spencer: Martin Moran, "The Tricky Part," Plan-B Theatre Company.

Best actress (professional)

Lynne Wintersteller: Margaret Johnson, "The Light in the Piazza," PTC.

Camila Borrero, Joyce Cohen, Anne Cullimore Decker and Anne Stewart Mark: Each were just as fabulous as the other in "The Clean House," SLAC.

Tyler Layton: Mrs. Manningham, "Gaslight," USF

Danielle Herman Wood: The Baker's Wife, "Into the Woods," UFO.

Denise Fennell: "Sister's Christmas Catechism," Broadway Across America, national tour.

Best actor (semi-professional)

Andrew Noyes:Jekyll/Hyde, "Jekyll and Hyde," Rodgers Memorial Theatre.

Paul Cartwright: Frank Butler, "Annie Get Your Gun," Hale Centre Theatre.

Cameron Garner: Daniel Brown, "Pirated!" RMT.

Randall Eames: Willard Hewitt, "Footloose," RMT.

Greg Boarden: Jim, "Big River," The Grand Theatre.

Best actress (semi-professional)

Tamara Adams: Ethel, "The Curious Savage," HCT

Melissa Cecala: Constance, "Pirated!" RMT.

Mary Parker Williams: Fairy May, "The Curious Savage," HCT.

Debra Weed Stewart: Annie Oakley, "Annie Get Your Gun," HCT.

Erica Richardson: Caroline, "Caroline, or Change," Wasatch Theatre.

Favorite moments

Any time Cyrano de Bergerac (Brian Vaughn) opened his mouth with words of love. I loved this production so much, I saw it twice (tried to go a third time), and I was inspired to buy the script to re-live it. One of the most brilliant, romantic scripts of all time and the USF production shined.

The duet between the baker and this wife in UFO's production of "Into the Woods." As the Baker (W. Lee Daily) was comforted from beyond by his wife (Wood). I had tears streaming down my cheeks. So sweet, tender and profound — a wonderful moment.

The "Say it Somehow" duet in PTC's "The Light in the Piazza." Glorious music, very well sung, extremely believable … just beautiful.

As Elijah Alexander took his curtain call for USF's "Gaslight," the audience erupted in a chorus of "BOOOOs." Not because he did a bad job — on the contrary. So evil and so sinister was his performance, we just weren't quite ready to forgive him.

The court scene in the Grand Theatre's production of "Inherit the Wind." The bluster and hot-air delivered in rapid fire by David Spencer and Richard Scott made for an engaging debate on religions versus science.

Any time the glorious brass kicked in in Broadway Across America's tour of "Rat Pack." Kudos to our local pros who played in the big band … they succeeded in giving chills over and over.

Allen Nevins and Nancy Borgenicht of SLAC struck comedy gold with their spirited musical debate between Mayor Tom Dolan (Duane Stephens) and Mayor Ralph Becker (Alexis Baigue) about where the new theater should be. "Broadway Style Thee-a-ter" was brilliant.

Pleasantly surprised

"Sordid Lives," Pygmalion Theatre Company. Knowing very little about the show when I sat down, I quickly discovered quirky, colorful characters, a simple set, a great cast and very funny results.

Most enjoyable interviews

Max Robinson of PTC was completely delightful from the second he chirped "hello." So open, engaging and with so many stories to share, I'm looking forward to chatting with him again … soon.

Martin Moran, playwright for "The Tricky Part," (Plan-B) and Jeff Metcalf, playwright for "A Slight Discomfort," (SLAC). These two men, in their respective plays, are so open with their personal stories of pain, struggle, forgiveness and healing. Not only were they extremely honest and forthcoming answering my questions, they were extremely pleasant, likable … even inspirational.

Most convincing stage kiss

Paul Cartwright and Debra Weed Stewart as Frank Butler and Annie Oakley in "Annie Get Your Gun," HCT. This from my review in April: "There was great chemistry between Frank and Annie and their scenes together were the best of the night. I loved their shoot-outs, their stage kisses and Annie's sparkly-eyed gazes."