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.
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.
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
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
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
Theatre Nova Scotia Scholarship: Kyle Gillis
Theatre Nova Scotia Legacy Award: Deb Allen