January 3, 2019

In the Orlando Sentinel‘s “Best of Central Florida Theater: 2018 Year in Review,” many UCF creatives were saluted by resident theater critic Matthew J. Palm for their outstanding work in the theater arts. Across the 25 categories, 27 UCF faculty, staff, students and alumni were recognized for their incredible talents. 

In addition to being honored in their individual categories, six faculty, students and alumni were recognized for being Palm’s “Critic’s Picks,” denoted below. “These individuals, selected by me, elevated the art of theater for Central Florida audiences,” he wrote.

The spectacle that was Leonard Bernstein’s Mass at UCF Celebrates the Arts in April “was the artistic highlight of the year” according to Palm. Over 300 students, faculty, staff and alumni came together to put on the two-night production. “From Jeremy Hunt’s mesmerizing performance, to the inventive choreography to the glorious lighting and the soul-stirring music, Theatre UCF’s production of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass inspired, entertained and enthralled,” writes Palm.

From Theatre UCF, the fall 2018 musical Hot Mikado scored big nods in many categories, including “Outstanding Ensemble,” “Top Production,” “Choreography” by director Earl D. Weaver, “Musical Direction” by M.A. student Jason Bailey, “Costume Design” by faculty member Huaixiang Tan, “Leading Actor, Musical” to BFA Musical Theatre student Alaric Frinzi, and “Featured Actor, Musical” for Musical Theatre BFA students Kerry Alce (also a Critic’s Pick) and Jamonté D. Bruten. She Kills Monsters which kicked off the fall season caught the “Critic’s Pick” for “Lighting Design” by BFA Design & Technology student Lauren Hawley and “Featured Actress, Comedy” for BFA Acting alumna Reva Stover ’18.

From the spring 2018 semester, Bernarda Alba gathered the “Critic’s Picks” for both “Choreography” by Earl D. Weaver and “Musical Direction” by Kelly A. Miller. Boy Gets Girl, also a spring production, garnered best “Director, Drama” for faculty member Cynthia White, “Sound Design,” and the “Critic’s Pick” in “Featured Actor, Drama” for BFA Acting alumnus and current English — Creative Writing student Aaron Glogowski ’18.

Read on for Palm’s full comments on each honoree.


Director, Drama — Cynthia White

“Confidently directed by [faculty member] Cynthia White, Theatre UCF’s Boy Gets Girl kept me on the edge of my seat — like a good Hitchcock film.”

Director, Drama: Cynthia White


Special Recognition — Tara Kromer ’15 for MadagascarMass at UCF Celebrates the Arts

“In Orlando Repertory Theatre’s production of Madagascar — based on the animated film franchise — [Theatre For Young Audiences MFA alumna] Tara Kromer’s puppet design was jaw-droppingly on point. Her penguins in particular — key players in the silly plot, and manipulated with stylish skill by the Rep performers — looked as though they stepped right off the screen.”

Special Recognition: Tara Kromer

“This special presentation, part of the UCF Celebrates the Arts festival, was the artistic highlight of the year. From Jeremy Hunt‘s mesmerizing performance, to the inventive choreography to the glorious lighting and the soul-stirring music, Theatre UCF’s production of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass inspired, entertained and enthralled.”

Special Recognition: Theatre UCF's production of Bernstein's 'Mass'


Outstanding Ensemble — Hot Mikado; Elf the Musical; In the Heights

“In Theatre UCF’s Hot Mikado, the dancing ensemble helped keep the musical’s goofy vibe going.”

Outstanding Ensemble: 'Hot Mikado'

A few Theatre UCF alumni took a trip to the North Pole in Elf the Musical, including Jarrett Poore ’17 BFA, Katie Whittemore ’18 BFA, Justin Mousseau ’13 BFA and Christopher Payen ’17. “From harried city residents to the North Pole’s elves, the hardworking ensemble of Orlando Repertory Theatre’s Elf charmingly helped set the scenes in this peppy musical.”

Outstanding Ensemble: 'Elf'

“The ensemble of Orlando Shakes’ In the Heights embodied the spirit of community that permeates Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical.” From Theatre UCF, Nicolette Quintero ‘16, Kyle Laing ‘18, Joshian Morales ‘12 (BFA Musical Theatre alumni), Rico Lastrapes ’15, Cherise James ‘15 (BFA Acting alumna) and Ana Martinez Medina (current third-year MFA Acting student) performed in the ensemble. Two more alumni, Raleigh Mosley II ’16 (BFA Musical Theatre alumnus) and Deanna Quintero ‘14 (BFA Acting alumna), understudied.

Outstanding Ensemble: 'In the Heights'


Top Productions — Hot Mikado

“With an anime vibe, gender-bending casting, hot licks from the band and hot moves from the dancers, Theatre UCF’s Hot Mikado showed how this musical comedy can be done for today’s audiences.”

Top Productions of 2018: 'Hot Mikado'


Leading Actress, Musical — Ashley Willsey

“In the title role of Mary Poppins at the Sonnentag Theatre at the IceHouse, [alumna] Ashley Willsey had the poise and serene self-confidence of one who flies in from the skies on a regular basis. Her attention to detail and her ability to find the right balance of tartness among the sweet put the magic in this musical.”

Leading Actress, Musical: Ashley Willsey


Leading Actor, Musical — Alaric Frinzi

“In Theatre UCF’s Hot Mikado, [current BFA Musical Theatre student] Alaric Frinzi was comically fey, self-important and bewildered, all the while expertly using his voice for humorous effect.”

Alaric Frinzi in Hot Mikado


Choreography — Earl D. Weaver; Kim Ball

“In Theatre UCF’s Bernarda Alba, [faculty member] Earl D. Weaver’s choreography (also a “Critic’s Pick”) stirred the heart with its promise of action tinged with menace. The Spanish-tinged movement never impeded the action of the story, feeling organic to Federico García Lorca’s tale.”

Choreography: Earl D. Weaver, 'Bernarda Alba'

“In Theatre UCF’s Hot Mikado, Weaver’s choreography hit the eye-catching sweet spot between traditional music theater and the hot steps of the ’40s.”

Choreography: Earl D. Weaver, 'Hot Mikado'

“In the St. Luke’s production of Footloose, [Theatre M.A. student] Kim Ball’s splashy choreography married the exuberance of youth to more traditional musical-theater stylings with a feel-good ’80s flair.”

Choreography: Kim Ball, 'Footloose'

“In Orlando Shakes’ In the Heights, Ball’s urban- and Caribbean-inspired choreography added to the musical’s warmth and snap.”

Choreography: Kim Ball, 'In the Heights'


Music Direction — Jason Bailey; Josh Ceballos; Kelly A. Miller

M.A. student Jason Bailey was recognized for his work on Hot Mikado, music faculty member Kelly A. Miller for her work on Bernarda Alba (also a Critic’s Pick) and UCF accompanist Joshua Ceballos for his work on Orlando Shakes’ In the Heights.

“Ceballos led a nine-piece band that captured the Latin flavor of the score with precision and passion.”

“Bailey led a rip-roaring band that brought swinging life to the score without overpowering the action.”

“In Bernarda Alba, music director Kelly A. Miller deftly balanced her ensemble of musicians with the actors’ stylized singing — vocal shrieks let characters’ anger come through, all the while respecting the integrity of the difficult music.”

Music Direction: Kelly A. Miller, 'Bernarda Alba'


Costume Design — Huaixiang Tan

Faculty member Huaixiang Tan was recognized for two of her costume designs! “In Hot Mikado, Huaixiang Tan’s anime costumes, with cotton-candy colored hair, were whimsical without distracting from the action — and reminded us this is cartoon silliness, not an actual representation of any Asian culture.”

Costume Design: Huaixiang Tan, 'Hot Mikado'

“Huaixiang Tan delightfully brought the cartoon animals of Madagascar to life in the Orlando Repertory Theatre’s production.”

Costume Design: Huaixiang Tan, 'Madagascar'


Scenic Design — Vandy Wood

“[Faculty member] Vandy Wood’s shabby house with its peeling paper and ominously shuttered windows set a mood of dread in Garden Theatre’s The Birds.”

Scenic Design: Vandy Wood, 'The Birds'


Sound Design — Aradhana Tiwari ’04BA ’09 MA, Anthony Narciso

Alumna Aradhana Tiwari ’04 BA ’09 MA was the “Critic’s Pick” for Sound Design with the Garden Theatre. “The most unnerving part of Garden Theatre’s The Birds? Director Aradhana Tiwari’s perfectly creepy sound design of hooting, whistling, flapping, pecking and scratching, combined with discordant music.”

Sound Design: Aradhana Tiwari, 'The Birds'

Alumnus Anthony Narciso was highlighted for two of his 2018 productions. “Anthony Narciso’s sound design for the St. Luke’s production of Footloose deftly mixed a pop-concert vibe with theatrical magic.”

“On the static set of Garden Theatre’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, Anthony Narciso’s sound design was key to conjuring the story’s various settings.”

Additionally, Boy Gets Girl was mentioned: “[The production’s] sound design, with its unnerving piano score, helped ramp up the tension in the chilling Boy Gets Girl at Theatre UCF.”


Lighting Design — Lauren Hawley; Alyx Jacobs ’16

“[Current Design and Technology BFA student and “Critic’s Pick”] Lauren Hawley’s lighting helped shift the story in Theatre UCF’s She Kills Monsters between reality and fantasy while creating striking effects for the battles of heroes and devils.”

Lighting Design: Lauren Hawley, 'She Kills Monsters'

“In Orlando Repertory Theatre’s Madagascar, the candy-colored lighting from [alumnus] Alyx Jacobs ’16 offered surprises and enhanced the cartoonish vibe, especially during a trippy tranquilizer-dart scene.”


Featured Actor, Musical — Kerry Alce; Jamonté D. Bruten

“In Theatre UCF’s Hot Mikado, [current Musical Theatre BFA student] Kerry Alce (also “Critic’s Pick”) made his quick-thinking bureaucrat a laugh generator with vocal inflection, an impish stage presence and a beautiful singing voice.”

Featured Actor, Musical: Kerry Alce

“In inspired gender-bending casting in Theatre UCF’s Hot Mikado, [current Musical Theatre BFA student] Jamonté D. Bruten brought fierce comic timing and a magnificent gospel belt to the role of an “ugly” woman.”

Featured Actor, Musical: Jamonté D. Bruten


Featured Actor, Drama — Aaron Glogowski ’18

“In a chilling turn at Theatre UCF’s Boy Gets Girl, Aaron Glogowski [’18 BFA Acting] did a masterful job of appearing the nondescript nerd, while his flat vocal inflection — exploding with irrational bursts of temper — made it worryingly clear that his character was not as benign as he seemed.” Glogowski was also the “Critic’s Pick”!

Featured Actor, Drama: Aaron Glogowski


Featured Actress, Comedy — Devan Seaman ’16; Reva Stover ’18

Two-in-a-row repeat honorees: Reva Stover ’18 BFA Musical Theatre was nominated this year for She Kills Monsters and alumna Devan Seaman ’16 BFA Acting was nominated for Rapture, Blister, Burn.

“In Mad Cow Theatre’s Rapture Blister Burn, Devan Seaman’s delivery and demeanor always found the comedy without sacrificing the character. Even without a line, her face could comically express volumes — such as when she realized the identity of her professor’s romantic partner. Seaman was also the Sentinel Critic’s Pick in this category in 2017 for her role in Florida Theatrical Association’s “Hand to God.”” Seaman was also the “Critic’s Pick”!

Featured Actress, Comedy: Devan Seaman

“Reva Stover (foreground) was by turns defiant, proud, brave and scared in Theatre UCF’s She Kills Monsters. Stover also was honored last year for her role in Theatre UCF’s An Octoroon.”

Featured Actress, Comedy: Reva Stover


The School of Performing Arts at the University of Central Florida comprises the Music and Theatre departments. In addition to year-round performances and teaching on the UCF campus, the School presents performances and outreach in cooperation with our community partners, which include the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orlando Repertory Theatre and the Orlando Shakespeare Theater. For more information about attending performances, visit performingarts.cah.ucf.edu.