A triple triumph

Neshaminy Valley Music Theatre wins three International Music and Entertainment Awards

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

The dream team: The company of NVMT’s Hello, Dolly! featuring 2018 IMEA Award-winning performers Jackie Laurence (center left in blue/white striped dress) and Kyle Rodgers (center right in tan suit), in front of the set by George Kinsley, winning scenic designer. Source: Skynine Cinema

The directors, actors and slew of behind-the-scenes volunteers didn’t let any parades pass them by when it came to Neshaminy Valley Music Theatre’s 2017 production of Hello, Dolly!. From intricately-designed sets and costumes to a top-notch lineup of performers, the 62-year-old nonprofit theater company pulled out all the stops — and people took notice.

During a ceremony held earlier this summer at the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, Kentucky, it was announced NVMT’s Hello, Dolly! won three awards from the International Music and Entertainment Association. The recipients were Jackie Laurence of Quakertown for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Musical, Kyle Rodgers of Telford for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical, and George Kinsley of Langhorne for Outstanding Scenic Design of a Musical.

These coveted awards are presented annually by the IMEA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and serving as an advocate to individuals and organizations within the performing arts and entertainment industries. The awards were developed to honor and recognize the best in independent music and entertainment. This year’s nominees hailed from across the country, with NVMT snagging a spot in all nine IMEA musical theater categories.

“We are incredibly proud of our three NVMT colleagues who received IMEA Awards this year, as well as the other six nominations we received for our production of Hello, Dolly!,” said Tom Urquhart, president of the organization. “It is gratifying to have this level of national recognition from our peers and fellow artists.”

Following the announcement, The Times caught up with Kinsley and Laurence, both of whom were overjoyed and humbled by the honor.

Within the tight-knit NVMT community, Kinsley is something of a legend. The long-time member joined the organization for his first production in 1964, designing and supervising construction of the sets for most of his tenure. Additionally, he served as past president of the board for six years, and even tried his hand in the spotlight, starring in a number of romantic lead roles both large and small.

“I managed to fill those roles and not look too bad on stage,” he chuckled.

Still, scenic design was always his first love. When it came time to craft sets for the large-scale Hello, Dolly!, Kinsley drew on his vast experience, which includes working at the “old” Bucks County Playhouse before its 2012 reopening and with The Playmasters in Bensalem. With the help of a dedicated team of volunteers, Kinsley made his initial vision a reality, putting his own special twists on the designs. Despite the lack of unlimited funds that is common of a nonprofit, his combination of skill and passion allowed Dolly’s world to come to life on stage.

Kinsley, whose honors include the American Association of Community Theatre’s “Spotlight Award” in 2004 for meritorious service in community theater, stressed his gratitude over receiving the IMEA Award. For him, having the volunteer-based organization earn not one, but three, prestigious recognitions is an incredible feat. The majority of NVMT participants are “average” people, encompassing everyone from doctors to self-described handymen like himself. Regardless of their varying backgrounds, all have one thing in common — a love of theater.

“Music theater grows on you. It gets in your blood and you can’t seem to let go,” Kinsley said.

As we speak, Kinsley is brainstorming set designs for NVMT’s 2019 production of My Fair Lady. Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit scholarships for local students planning to study the performing arts in college, with the George W. Kinsley IV Memorial Scholarship for Students of the Woodwind Instruments named after Kinsley’s late son. According to Kinsley, volunteers are always needed to assist with set construction to help the process run as smoothly as possible.

“It’s just a big community effort,” he said. “It’s a labor of love.”

Laurence, who was recognized by the IMEA for her portrayal of the title character in Hello, Dolly!, also credited her NVMT peers for the win, which she said was a “shocker.”

“This award is not an award for one. You can’t be a great Dolly without the support of the cast and crew,” she said.

Since her first show in 1993, Bells Are Ringing, Laurence has performed in a number of roles with NVMT, receiving an Outstanding Leading Actress in a Musical Award from IMEA for her 2014 Anything Goes! portrayal of Reno Sweeney.

In Hello, Dolly!, the third-grade teacher of the Boyertown Area School District shined as leading lady Dolly Gallagher Levi, which she named as one of her favorite roles to play. Laurence enjoyed the depth of the widowed but brassy character who schemes to create a new life for herself in mid-1890s New York City. A performance highlight for Laurence was “Before the Parade Passes By,” during which Dolly realizes she should let go of her pain and live life to the fullest.

Laurence had high praise for the scenic work of Kinsley, who told her on day one, “I’m going to make you a set that makes your Dolly come alive.” And that’s just what he did.

“Every little detail was thought of,” Laurence said. “He just gets better and better.”

Rodgers’ IMEA Award recognized his work as Cornelius Hackl, a meek clerk who finds the strength to take on the world after receiving encouragement from Dolly. Rodgers has been a frequent cast member in NVMT productions, appearing in Nice Work If You Can Get It, Anything Goes!, and Curtains.

Auditions will be held in November for NVMT’s 2019 spring production of My Fair Lady with performances scheduled for early April. For more information on Neshaminy Valley Music Theatre, auditions and its scholarship program, visit nvmt.org, email nvmt@verizon.net or call 267–733–8876. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com