The Spring Branch ISD performing and fine arts program has taken center stage with 10 Tommy Tune nominations from Theater Under the Stars (TUTS)!
Nate Lipp, a junior from Spring Woods High School, received a Tommy Tune nomination for best supporting actor for the role of Cogsworth in "Beauty and the Beast." In addition, Stratford High School received nine nominations for the production of "Legally Blonde the Musical."
"We are thrilled for our amazing theater programs and their Tommy Tune nominations," said Houston Hayes, director of performing and fine arts for SBISD. "Spring Wood High School and Stratford High School have consistently demonstrated excellence in their productions year after year. This recognition is just a small reminder of their impact on the district and the entire community. I could not be prouder of these accomplishments."
As a program of TUTS, the Tommy Tune Awards (TTA) celebrates the educational value, artistry and community of high school musical theater in the Greater Houston Area. High schools from Houston are invited to compete in more than 15 TTA categories. A panel of volunteer mentors and professional Houston-based music/theater artists then judge the musicals according to predetermined criteria.
Through the program, TUTS awards merit and needs-based scholarships to deserving students who have been involved in their schools' respective Tommy Tune's nominated musicals. To date, TUTS and TTA have granted nearly $500,000 in art-based scholarships.
"I was shocked that I was nominated, and it was something I didn't expect," said Lipp, who has been active with the SBISD performing arts program since middle school. “We all put our heart and soul into the production."
Lipp also said playing the dynamic role of Cogsworth, a servant to the Beast character and one of his most trusted confidants, allowed him the chance to act using a wide range of emotions.
"I had fun transforming myself into someone who wasn't me – even for only a couple of short hours," he said.
To prepare, Lipp wrote all of his lines on paper and just read them repeatedly until he had them memorized. Then, he worked with his cast members to identify their tones and the best way to contrast their characters with his own.
Terry Hibbert, theater director at Spring Woods High School, said she's watched Lipp grow as a student and performer during his journey through SBISD and was proud of his performance and all of his hard work.
"He poured everything into the role, and it paid off," said Hibbert.
Meanwhile, at Stratford High School, Alyssa Davidson, theater teacher and director of "Legally Blonde the Musical," is beaming with pride for the nominations her students received in the following categories:
- Outstanding Performance in Lead Role (Kerri Whitten for the role of Paulette and Maddy Fields for the part of Elle Woods)
- Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role (Abigayle Scott for the role of Brooke)
- Outstanding Musical
- Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role (Anna Rigo for the role of Serena)
- Outstanding Ensemble
- Outstanding Costume Design (Julia Walker and Emily Camden)
- Outstanding Technical Design (Clara Gallop)
- Outstanding Director (Alyssa Davidson and student director Clara Creed)
Davidson said that it’s difficult to express how excited, proud and pleased she is about the nominations. She added that the students -- both on and off the set -- worked tirelessly on the production, and that it is rewarding to see them recognized in such a huge way.
Maddy Fields, who played the role of Elle, spent the entire summer training to be a better dancer, actor and singer to prepare for the part.
"It means a lot to be nominated and recognized for the hard work I put into playing Elle," said Fields. "She is one of the hardest characters to play in any musical, and it's extremely satisfying to know that the hard work I put in paid off and has been seen by professionals. Even if I don't win the TTA, the experience I've had with the other nominees and the instructors at TUTS is rewarding enough!"
Being nominated in so many categories is quite a feat, especially given that the cast and crew had no stage on which to rehearse, since the one at Stratford Playhouse was undergoing renovations at the time of the show. The construction project meant moving a bunch of scenery from the high school to Houston Baptist University, where the students performed the musical for the public.
"These kids put in plenty of blood, sweat and tears and not to mention long hours in making sure this was a first-rate production," said Davidson.
TUTS will recognize all nominees during the 2022 TTA Virtual Ceremony, which will stream live on social platforms at 7 p.m. on May 27, 2022.