Houston's Tommy Tune Kids Compete in NYC Today -- Breaking a Leg Is Not an Option

Caitlin Finne was Belle.
Caitlin Finne was Belle.
Photo by Bruce Bennett

Caitlin Finne has taken singing lessons since she was ten years old. Today, the 18-year-old will be using all that training and more as she performs on Broadway at the Minskoff Theatre in the annual Jimmy Award competition that this year strove to bring the 60 best musical theater kids in from across the country.

Joining her from Houston will be Billy Cohen. Finne won Best Leading Actress and Cohen Best Leading Actor in this year's Tommy Tune Awards, sponsored by Theatre Under the Stars. Both have been in New York since June 20 running through songs and stage routines, in groups and alone.

Finne, of the John Cooper School, played Belle in her high school's production of Beauty and the Beast. "I was very dedicated to the role and I researched her and her character," she told Art Attack.

Billy Cohen gave up tennis matches to play the lead in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Billy Cohen gave up tennis matches to play the lead in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Photo by Bruce Bennett

Cohen, co-captain of his high school tennis team, also immersed himself in his role of Freddy Benson in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which also won best musical for his school, Episcopal High.

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Both have big plans ahead. Finne will to go to Northwestern University to study vocal performance, and ultimately sees herself doing operas. "I haven't sung full on, but I've done arias. My voice isn't mature enough yet."

She also plans to study foreign languages in college -- right now, like many opera singers, she learns parts phonetically. She studied Spanish in school, "which doesn't really help me with opera," she said, laughing, but hopes to add on Italian, German and French.

Cohen plans to go to Princeton and study theater "and then English or psychology." From there he hopes to go into musicals and plays in New York City.

He said he wasn't that involved in theater before he got to Episcopal (known for its very strong program), although he did some acting when he was a middle schooler at River Oaks Baptist, getting the role of Jesus in Godspell. "I played sports throughout my childhood, but I wasn't as interested as I was through theater. Now I want to pursue it as a professional."

Even though Cohen said he "fell in love" with the Freddy character, playing him wasn't easy. "It was the hardest role I've ever done. Singing, acting, dancing and I'm not really a dancer, so that was a challenge. "

Ever since the Tommy Tune Awards were announced in April, both seniors have been working with TUTS performers and directors to perfect their presentations, and their private vocal coaches on the side. Besides rehearsals in New York, they've been meeting casting agents and attending theater workshops. TUTS paid all the costs of their New York trip.


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