The first Theatre Under the Stars show at Miller Outdoor Theatre was rained out. “The second night was a huge success,” remembers David Greiss, former TUTS director of sales and marketing. And with that production of Bells Are Ringing, TUTS, as envisioned by Frank M. Young, took off.
Young, who founded TUTS in 1968, died Thursday at age 77. After ending his association with TUTS in 2006, he eventually moved to Palm Springs, California. His death was announced on the organization's website on Thursday.
“I think he was just such an incredible visionary. He saw an opening for a new company, a new vision,” Greiss says.
In 1968, Miller was brand-new and not that many organizations were doing anything out there, Greiss said. Young went to the Miller Theatre board and told them he wanted to start a company for musical theater, Greiss said. “He kind of saw a big hole for musical theater on that scale. There were other musical theater companies formed, but not on that scale that allowed so many local actors to perform with that company and grow and get to a new national presence.”
“It’s a very, very sad day,” says Greiss, who was with TUTS for 20 years, acting in 20 shows himself between 1972 and 1978. He was part of the first class at the Humphreys School of Musical Theatre, which began under Young’s time at the helm as well.
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“Frank was working for Houston Grand Opera at the time and started producing little musical tours. Miller Theatre was available at the time and he just realized this is the perfect time to jump in and get his foot in the door,” Greiss recalls, adding that at the start, “They used to do only two shows a summer at Miller.”
Most of its musicals are performed indoors at the Hobby Center these days, but TUTS has maintained its relationship with Miller in special free summer performances every year since 1972, Greiss says, the only theater with that continuous a record.
Here is the statement on the TUTS website:
It is with profound sadness we are sharing the news our founder, Frank M. Young, has passed away. A visionary in the industry with an insatiable appetite for bringing a community together, Frank M. Young founded Theatre Under The Stars in the summer of 1968 with a production of Bells Are Ringing at Miller Outdoor Theatre; offering Houstonians the opportunity to come together and experience quality musical theatre for free. What Frank created 49 years ago is an integral thread in the fabric of our community and the great tapestry of Houston would not be the same without his Herculean efforts. The entire Theatre Under The Stars family joins our community in grieving this loss and sends our love and thoughts to Frank’s loved ones during this difficult time.