Tommy Tune High School Award Winners Announced

In an awards ceremony complete with the big man himself -- Tommy Tune -- Episcopal High School took Best Musical for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Billy Cohen from Episcopal took Best Leading Actor and Caitlin Finnie of John Cooper School performing in Beauty and the Beast took Best Leading Actress in last night's presentation of the Tommy Tune Awards at the Hobby Center.

Next stop for Cohen and Finnie: an all-expenses-paid, weeklong trip to New York City where they will receive one-on-one coaching, be introduced to casting agents, rehearse and compete at the national level for the Jimmy™ Award at the National High School Musical Theater Awards in New York City. The country's top high school performers will get to show their stuff on Broadway at the Minskoff Theatre on Monday, June 25, 2012.

Geneva Cisneros, assistant manager of Education for TUTS, calls the Tommy Tune Awards "the biggest pep rally for musical theater ever," and says it raises the awareness that musical theater is going on throughout the area. But not all schools who want to can compete; there is a wait list.

The main problem, she says, is that most schools perform their musicals over the same two weekends and there's a limit to what the program's judges can see during that time. She says she keeps telling applicants: "Do your show at a different time."

She says the judges recognize and take into consideration that one school may not have nearly as much money in its musical theater program as another and that she gives advice regularly to schools. "I tell them don't do Beauty and the Beast if you don't have $50,000."

Following the awards show, all the schools involved receive notes from the judges on what they thought worked and what didn't, she said. "I always tell the [volunteer] judges that the point of the letter is to be honest and critical but not cruel," she said. "As in here are some suggestions for the future."

Here's the other top finishers from this year:

Best Supporting Actor - Mason Patterson as Vernon Hines in Friendswood High School's The Pajama Game

Best Supporting Actress - Morgan Starr as Smitty in Klein Oak High School's How To Succeed....

Best Featured Performer - Cheryl Cedillo as Penny Pingleton in Morton Ranch High School's Hairspray

Best Direction - Klein High School / Once upon a Mattress

Best Musical Direction - Episcopal High School / Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Best Choreography - St. John's School / Chicago

Best Orchestra - Woodlands High School / Singin' in the Rain

Best Ensemble / Chorus - Klein High School / Once upon a Mattress

Best Crew & Technical Execution - Clear Springs High School / The Drowsy Chaperone

Best Scenic Design - Friendswood High School / The Pajama Game

Best Costume Design - Stratford High School / Will Rogers Follies

Best Lighting Design - Klein Forest High School / Seussical

Scholarships were also handed out to deserving students. Those winners were: Alma Acosta (Elsik High School), Monica Brown (Kingwood High School), Kate Court (Pearland High School), Elisabeth Del Toro (Friendswood High School), Nathaly Garcia (Elsik High School), Haylee Hoelscher (Houston Christian High School), Jeremiah James (Cypress Ranch High School), Shelby Stark (Klein High School), and Eleonore Verkerk (Stafford High School). The prestigious Ruth Denny Award, which carries an increased stipend, was presented to Billy Cohen of Episcopal High School.

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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing