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Chasing Champions beats out competition at Theatre Nova Scotia Merritt Awards

Jacob Sampson's play about legendary African Nova Scotian boxer Sam Langford won six awards including outstanding production. Little Thing, Big Thing, the Irish road trip thriller at Festival Antigonish won two top awards, as did Tompkinsville, an original musical by Lindsay Kyte.
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Chasing Champions: the Sam Langford story, Jacob Sampson's play about the legendary African Nova Scotian boxer, knocked out the competition at the Robert Merritt Awards on March 27 at Casino Nova Scotia.

The world premiere drama, produced by Ship's Company Theatre in Parrsboro in August, landed six awards including outstanding production at Theatre Nova Scotia's annual awards gala honouring the best in professional theatre in the province.

Sampson, a 28-year-old Annapolis Valley native, won the lead actor award for his portrayal of Langford, dubbed "The Greatest Fighter Nobody Knows," and his script won outstanding new play by a Nova Scotian.

See also: Ship's Company's gamble on Chasing Champions pays off

Marty Burt, who played multiple roles including Langford's trainer Joe and a New York Herald Tribune reporter visiting an old, blind, penniless and forgotten Langford, won for outstanding supporting actor.

Leigh Ann Vardy won for her lighting design and Garrett G. Barker (set design) and Corwin Ferguson (projection design) were named the winners in the scenic design category. 

The production will be remounted by Eastern Front Theatre April 19 to 30 at Neptune Scotiabank Studio Theatre with the same cast including Sampson and Burt, as well as Micha Cromwell and Zach Faye in multiple roles.

Heading into the evening, Chasing Champions lead the nominations with nine.

Full cast low resEastern Front Theatre remounts Chasing Champions: The Sam Langford Story April 19 to 30 at Neptune's Scotiabank Studio Theatre. Chasing Champions, starring, kneeling from left, Jacob Sampson, Micha Cromwell and Marty Burt, and standing Zach Faye, won six Merritt Awards on March 27 at Casino Nova Scotia including outstanding production. Sampson and Burt were honoured with outstanding lead and supporting actor awards respectively. 

Little Thing, Big Thing at Festival Antigonish took two top awards. Francine Deschepper was named outstanding lead actress for her role as Sister Martha McCann in Donal O'Kelly's road trip thriller and Jeremy Webb was named best director. 

Tompkinsville, an original musical by Lindsay Kyte about little-known Cape Breton labour heroes that was produced by Go Fly A Kyte Productions in association with Eastern Front Theatre, was named outstanding production by an emerging theatre company and Kyte and Ian Sherwood won the award for original score.

Neptune Theatre, which had 10 nominations in total for its entertaining musicals — seven for Beauty and the Beast, two for Shrek and one for Miracle on 34th Street — earned two awards, outstanding choreography for Stephen Gray  for his work on Beauty and the Beast and outstanding costume design for Sean Mulcahy for Shrek! The Musical.

Andrea Lee Norwood was named outstanding supporting actress for her work in Valley Summer Theatre's Good Night Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). She played multiple roles including Juliet.

The complete list of winners is:

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (female): Francine Deschepper as Sister Martha McCann in Little Thing, Big Thing, Festival Antigonish Summer Theatre Company

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (male): Jacob Sampson as Sam Langford in Chasing Champions: the Sam Langford Story, Ship's Company Theatre, Parrsboro

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (female): Andrea Lee Norwood as various in Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), Valley Summer Theatre, Wolfville

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (male): Marty Burt as various in Chasing Champions, Ship's Company Theatre

Choreography: Stephen Gray, Beauty and the Beast, Neptune Theatre, Halifax

Costume Design: Sean Mulcahy, Shrek! The Musical, Neptune Theatre

Direction: Jeremy Webb, Little Thing, Big Thing, Festival Antigonish

Lighting Design: Leigh Ann Vardy, Chasing Champions

Musical Direction: Sarah Richardson, Ruthless! The Stage Mother of All Musicals, Chester Playhouse

New Play by a Nova Scotian: Jacob Sampson, Chasing Champions

tk112316tville8Lindsay Kyte, shown here with guitarist Chris Corrigan, and Ian Sherwood (not in picture), won the Merritt Award for outstanding original score for Tompkinsville. Kyte's musical about unsung heroes of the Cape Breton labour movement also won the award for outstanding production by a new or emerging theatre company. (TIM KROCHAK / Local Xpress)

Original Score: Ian Sherwood & Lindsay Kyte, Tompkinsville, Go Fly a Kite Productions, Presented by Eastern Front Theatre

Scenic Design: Garrett G. Barker (set design), Corwin Ferguson (projection design), Chasing Champions

Sound Design: Aaron Collier, The Princess Show, Angels & Heroes Theatre Company

Production by a New or Emerging Company: Tompkinsville, Go Fly a Kite Productions, Presented by Eastern Front Theatre

Production: Chasing Champions

Presentation: “Friend” “Like” #Me by Gavin Crawford, presented by Queer Acts Theatre Festival

Special Awards:

Outstanding Technician: Shawn Bisson

Outstanding Stage Manager: Hannah Burrows

Outstanding Volunteer: April Hubbard (Atlantic Fringe Festival, Rolling Bold Productions, Halifax)

Mayor’s Award for Emerging Theatre Artist: Meghan Hubley

Mayor’s Award for Achievement in Theatre: Mary Lou Martin

tk110816poppies7Kyle Gillis, right, shown here with Mary-Colin Chisholm, in a scene from the Halifax Theatre for Young People production of Where Poppies Blow at Pier 21 in November received the Theatre Nova Scotia Scholarship. (TIM KROCHAK / Local Xpress) 

Theatre Nova Scotia Scholarship: Kyle Gillis

Theatre Nova Scotia Legacy Award: Deb Allen 



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