High Schools Across Houston Join to Celebrate Excellence in Musical Theatre At 2015 TOMMY TUNE AWARDS - All The Winners!
While the sky may have been a little cloudy, the stars were shining bright at The Hobby Center as Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) celebrated the 13th Annual Tommy Tune Awards showcasing Houston's extraordinary and remarkable high school musical theatre talent. Sarofim Hall was practically filled to the brim, with over 400+ students, their directors and choreographers, and parents and friends. The nerves and excitement could hardly be ignored, as everyone sat in anticipation for the show to start. As Caroline Timm, Assistant Manager of PR & Marketing put it, "this show is like the Tonys for these kids." As the lights went down, the entire room burst out in applause and cheers, which would stop only momentarily throughout the night.
As always, Musical Director/Conductor, Michael Moricz expertly led the Tommy Tune Orchestra and all of the Best Leading and Supporting Actor/Actress nominees, as well as our favorite long-limbed triple threat, Tommy Tune clad all in red, in a medley of the Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm and I Got Rhythm. The kids provided a very strong opening, all the while the audience continued to cheer and applaud.
Tommy Tune then took to the mic and uttered two beautiful words, "I'm home." Texas native and Lamar High School graduate, the nine-time Tony winner regaled the audience with stories of his humble beginnings in high school and went on to tell us about his first audition in New York, which started his close to half a century musical theatre career. He then introduced the audience to the evening's co-hosts, actor/author, Jim Bernhard and KHOU host, Deborah Duncan.
While it may seem impressive to have two Houston celebrities involved in the show, that's only where the list started. Throughout the night, we were delighted with numerous other Houston favorites such as Cissy Segall Davis, Miller Outdoor Theatre's Managing Director, Ernie Manouse from PBS and Houston Public Media, ABC 13's Tom Koch, Hot 95.7 FM's Sarah Pepper, and Houston Ballet's Stanton Welch. As an added treat, Stephanie Styles, past winner of the Tommy Tune award for Best Leading Actress for the role of Janet van de Graaf in THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, sent in a video to congratulate and wish the best of luck to all the nominees. Stephanie Styles can currently be seen in the starring role of Katherine in the first national tour of Disney Theatrical's NEWSIES.
The first school nominated for Best Musical to perform was Houston Christian High School for their production of PIPPIN. A fitting beginning to the real festivities, the cast offered a knock-out performance of "Magic to Do" welcoming us into the exciting world under the big top. With cast members twirling hula hoops and batons, bouncing on balls and performing other impressive feats, the stage was filled with talent, setting the bar high for the other seven schools left to perform.
Next up to entertain was Klein Oak High School with their production of DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS. Although I initially had some trouble understanding Alec Michael Ryan (Lawrence) during "The More We Dance," I was immediately captivated by the amount of charisma and stage presence the young actor had. He would later go on to win the award for Best Leading Actor. In a gasp-inducing moment of the night, filled with nerves, Alec accidentally knocked his award off the podium, causing it to smash into millions of pieces as it hit the floor. However, the glass was cleaned up, and the show continued as Alec walked off the stage knowing the recognition is far better than the physical award.
Pearland High School then followed with their rendition of "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat" from GUYS AND DOLLS. The performers onstage were rousing and raucous, offering a very fun rendition of the show's eleven o'clock number.
Second Baptist High School then performed "Impossible/Ten Minutes Ago" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's CINDERELLA, complete with beautiful ballroom dancing, as well as one of the most spectacular costume transformations.
It was an ingenious idea to end the first act of the show, with Friendswood High School's performance of "Step In Time" from MARY POPPINS. Over twenty actors took to the stage to give the audience a outstanding, and impressively lengthy tap dance routine. The tapping, however, could not outdo the beautiful singing of Audrey McKee, as the iconic Mary Poppins, who later won the award for Best Leading Actress.
Kicking off the second act of the Tommy Tune Awards was Klein High School with their performance of "One Day More" from LES MISERABLES: SCHOOL EDITION. I don't know what's in the water over at Klein High School but the quality of vocals in this number was both stirring and jaw-dropping. Thankfully, there wasn't a lot of choreography or staging, so the audience could fully enjoy all the beautiful singing going on.
The highlight of the evening as far as I'm concerned, was Stratford High School's performance of "Put On A Happy Face" from BYE BYE BIRDIE. By exploring the minutiae of the music, the number felt like a complete musical in and of itself. Collins Rush's Albert was adorably hilarious, without going over the top, while the "sad girls" were cute and danced fluidly together.
The next performance was the medley of Best Leading Actor Nominees, brilliantly arranged by Michael Moricz. Each actor got his chance to shine, with his fellow nominees offering backup. As a whole, the men created a solid ensemble, while performing with confidence and skill during their solos.
Then it was the Best Leading Actress Nominees' chance to show off. In another medley by Moricz, the women all got a chance to sing from their respective shows. Each performer was equally enchanting, making it evident just how hard the Tommy Tune judges' jobs are. The women offered beautiful harmonies together, and immense passion and emotion when singing alone.
The last (but certainly not least) performance of the Best Musical Nominees was The Kinkaid School with "One" from A CHORUS LINE. Not only was I enamored with the line of performers dressed in all gold, but I was also thoroughly impressed with their ability to stay synchronized while also singing beautifully together. The quality continued to increase as more and more kids joined onstage.
And as always, the TOMMY TUNE AWARDS ended with two students from each of the forty-five participating schools all singing Michael Moricz's original song "Eyes on the Goal." While sadly not every school can be nominated, it was great to see each one recognized.
For the 2013 TOMMY TUNE AWARDS, a panel of 30 Houston-based theatre professionals carefully reviewed and evaluated forty-five Houston-area high school productions during the 2014-15 school year. The winners of the 2015 TOMMY TUNE AWARDS are as follows:
- Best Musical - The Kinkaid School - A Chorus Line
- Best Leading Actor - Alec Michael Ryan as Lawrence in Klein Oak High School's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
- Best Leading Actress - Audrey McKee as Mary Poppins in Friendswood High School's Mary Poppins
- Best Supporting Actor - Harrison Poe as Paul in The Kinkaid School's A Chorus Line
- Best Supporting Actress - Muna Uzodike/Natalie Holley/Celeste Terni as The Ronnettes in The John Cooper School's Little Shop of Horrors
- Best Featured Performer - Raheem Maughn as Enjolras in Klein High School's Les Miserables School Edition
- Best Direction - Stratford High School - Bye Bye Birdie
- Best Musical Direction - Klein High School - Les Miserables School Edition
- Best Choreography - The Kinkaid School - A Chorus Line
- Best Orchestra - Friendswood High School - Mary Poppins
- Best Ensemble/Chorus - The Kinkaid School - A Chorus Line
- Best Stage Crew & Technical Execution - Houston Christian High School - Pippin
- Best Scenic Design - Klein High School - Les Miserables School Edition
- Best Costume Design - Houston Christian High School - Pippin
- Best Lighting Design - Klein High School - Les Miserables School Edition
Alec Michael Ryan and Audrey McKee (Best Actor and Actress) will both get the opportunity to go on and compete at the national level for the Jimmy Award, named after James M. Nederlander, Broadway theatre owner and producer, at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards in New York City.
In addition to the awards given for theatrical excellence, each year TUTS grants scholarships to a number of performers who have exceeded expectations academically as well as in extra curricular activies. This year, the TUTS presented the scholarships to Ryan Dumas (The Woodlands High School), Marcus Lonardo (Pearland High School), Stephen Louis (Clear Springs High School), Danielle Pike (Kingwood High School), Elizabeth Ramsey (Second Baptist School), Rebekah Stanley (Cypress Ranch High School), and Katarina Yanko (The Woodlands College Park High School). The prestigious Ruth Denny Scholarship, in the amount of $5,000, was presented to Kyle Legacion (High School for the Performing and Visual Arts).
If you missed out on or just want to relive this exciting and inspiring night of theatre, make sure to catch the TOMMY TUNE AWARDS when it airs on ABC 13 on June 21st at noon.
Congratulations to all of the award winners and nominees. To wrap up, I'd like to reiterate a phrase that was bandied about numerous times throughout the evening: "Musical theatre will live on for a very long time." Take away the awards, and what you're left with is a group of teenagers tireless putting their hearts and souls into shows. The lessons learned onstage, as well as behind the scenes are invaluable. Just know that when you perform, you're a part of something much bigger than yourself. Keep working hard, and I hope to see you all onstage next year!
All Photos Courtesy of Bruce Bennett at TUTS.
The Best Leading Actor Nominee medley.
Final performance containing two students from all 45 participating schools.
Audrey McKee (Best Leading Actress) in Friendswood High School's Mary Poppins performance with the cast.
Alec Michael Ryan (Best Leading Actor) as Lawrence in Klein Oak High School's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels performance with the cast.
The Kinkaid School's A Chorus Line cast performance (Best Musical).