By: Dale King Contributing Writer
Two stage actors whose visages and voices are well known to theater goers throughout the tri-county area, particularly in Boca Raton and its environs, are now in possession of specially designated awards honoring their performance abilities and personal achievements.
Mallory Newbrough and Elijah Word both won Carbonell Awards – the South Florida theater community’s equivalent of the Tony – for exceptional showings in theater productions this past year. The 42nd annual award took place in April at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
“It was an incredible feeling, a surreal feeling, like a dream,” said Mallory, describing that electric moment. “I was shaking like a leaf.”
Elijah called April 2 “a crazy day. I never thought up front I would win anything. Actually, I was expected Jim Ballard (nominated in the same category for Little Shop of Horrors and Sweeney Todd) to win. Or Conor Walton (nominated for It Shoulda Been You).”
Thankfully, Elijah said, he was accompanied by “my mom, my best friend and my drama teacher” to share his pride.
Mallory, a Maryland native who has appeared on stages throughout South Florida in shows such as Cabaret, High Society, Little Shop of Horrors, Company, Hair, Zanna, Don’t!, Titanic, South Pacific and Curtains, notched the winning spot in the category of Best Supporting Actress/Musical for her performance in Beehive at The Wick Theatre in Boca Raton.
In the production that featured hit tunes sung by famous female artists from the 50’s and 60’s, Newbrough dazzled the audience with her spot-on, three-tune set of songs by Janis Joplin, including “Me and Bobby McGee.”
Actually, Mallory was nominated for two Carbonells for back-to-back shows at the Wick – Beehive and Beauty and the Beast. Her portrayal of Belle, the aforementioned “beauty,” earned her a Best Actress/Musical nomination, but in the end, she noted, it was Janis who came through.
“I think Janis had more pull than Belle,” said the actress who portrayed both. Also, “to play a real person, and to pay homage to her,” may have won her the nod for Beehive.
She noted, coincidentally: “I have an uncle named Bobby McGee. And my mother’s maiden name is McGee.”
Elijah Word, a lifelong resident of the Coral Springs area and alumnus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, received the Best Supporting Actor/Musical Carbonell for his role as James “Thunder” Early in the musical, Dreamgirls, at the Broward Stage Door Theatre in Margate.
Sarah Gracel won the Carbonell as Best Actress/Musical in that same show. She portrayed Effie White, a character who became lead singer in a three-woman musical group in the show based on the struggles of a trio seeking fame in the early 1960s.
Elijah made his way to Boca several years ago as a background performer in Sound of Simon, a compilation of tunes and dances featuring Paul Simon melodies. The show played at several venues, including the Cultural Arts Center in Boca, and Elijah worked his way up to be a featured singer.
A stint in New York took him out of the area for a while, but he returned to take roles in Hair, Memphis, Hairspray, La Cage aux Folles and two appearances in the Kevin Black musical, Swing, Swing, Swing, at the Broward Stage Door Theatre in 2016 and 2017.
Elijah said that when director Kevin Black first offered him the part of James “Thunder” Early, he didn’t know if he could handle it. “It’s a big role that’s vocally exhausting.”
But Black continued his urgings, and Elijah took the encouragement to heart. His portrayal of a famed R&B singer with moves and swagger inspired by James Brown earned him praiseworthy reviews.
Both performers say it’s a bit early to measure the post-ceremony reaction to their awards. Elijah did say he has developed more respect for veteran performers, a veneration that seems to work both ways. Also, he joked, he’s gotten his fair share of ribbing from friends and fellow actors.
But receiving a Carbonell has not slowed either of the artists in their quests for show biz stardom. In fact, Mallory just received her Equity Card, proof of membership in the Actors’ Equity Association. The affiliation offers a variety of benefits, including entry into many professional (Equity-only) auditions as well as financial upticks.
Mallory was in the cast of Palm Beach Dramaworks’ season-ending production of Equus. “I have a little break. Then, from Aug. 17 to Sept. 1, I’ll be portraying Mollie in Ghost, the Musical, at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse in Meredith, N.H.” She’s looking forward to a “mini-family reunion” while there.
She has show bookings in South Florida that carry her through early 2019.
Elijah was one of the six male performers in Jerry’s Girls at the Wick that closed out the 2017-18 season. Next on the bill is Rock of Ages at the Slow Burn Theater in Fort Lauderdale.
After that, he said, “I may relocate to New York.” But time and circumstances will determine that decision.