The Garden State's greatest stage performers
by Peter Filichia/For The Star-Ledger
June 13, 2010

While the New York theater scene offers all sorts of awards to the actors and actresses who toil there - Tonys for Broadway, the Obies for off-Broadway, and the Theatre World Awards for first-time performers - the Garden State offers no such prizes.

Someday, perhaps, New Jersey theater will create its own awards for stage excellence. In the meantime, let's at least praise the many artists who excelled on the stages on this side of the Hudson this season.


Given to achievements at the state's smaller theaters:

Best Revival: "Sweeney Todd" (New Jersey Youth Theatre, Newark). Considering the performers that this all-youngsters troupe routinely finds, Jersey must lead the nation in glorious young voices. Was even a single wrong note sung in this three-hour marathon?

Best Actor: Kevin Melendez ("Sweeney Todd"). The recent graduate from Rowan University is the state's strongest young musical theater performer. Here as Sweeney, with a sneer worthy of Elvis, he simmered through the first act before exploding in the second.

Best Actress: Jaclyn Ingoglia ("Sweeney Todd"). As Mrs. Lovett, Sweeney's accomplice, she superbly played the character's immorality, as if she were just another wife who took up her husband's hobby. Ingoglia also sang and spoke Cockney so well that it seemed to be her first language.

Best Director: Cynthia Meryl ("Sweeney Todd"). Once again, Meryl defied all the odds by casting high schoolers and college kids in Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's neoclassic. How did she make it look so easy?