Support our mission
Andrew Culjak and Heather Powell strutting their stuff.

Andrew Culjak and Heather Powell strutting their stuff. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

Andrew Culjak and Heather Powell strutting their stuff.

Andrew Culjak and Heather Powell strutting their stuff. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

Capt. Carlos Santiago, a JAG from Heidelberg, belts out a tune during one of the ensemble numbers.

Capt. Carlos Santiago, a JAG from Heidelberg, belts out a tune during one of the ensemble numbers. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

Diane Montgomery of the Vicenza Soldiers Theatre sings "I Will Be Loved Tonight" from "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change."

Diane Montgomery of the Vicenza Soldiers Theatre sings "I Will Be Loved Tonight" from "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change." (Charlie Coon / S&S)

Vikki Hanrahan of the Ansbach Terrace Playhouse was given the James T. Martin Award for meritorious service. Lt. Gen. Michael L. Dodson made the presentation.

Vikki Hanrahan of the Ansbach Terrace Playhouse was given the James T. Martin Award for meritorious service. Lt. Gen. Michael L. Dodson made the presentation. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

Tyler Proctor of Kaiserslautern Army Community Theatre won for Best Youth Performance in a Play. The 13-year-old played Rudy in "Over the Tavern."

Tyler Proctor of Kaiserslautern Army Community Theatre won for Best Youth Performance in a Play. The 13-year-old played Rudy in "Over the Tavern." (Charlie Coon / S&S)

HEIDELBERG, Germany — It might have been Broadway.

There was singing and dancing all night long. Ladies sparkled in their gowns and gentlemen looked suave in tuxedos.

For the nearly 600 guests Saturday at the Village Pavilion, the evening topped anything on Broadway. The night was theirs — the 2003 Tournament of Plays Awards Show and Ceremony. The Toppers, for short.

“This is to reward people for their outstanding work,” said James Sohre, U.S. Army Europe entertainment director, who produced the program.

“It’s also so we can rejoice in each other’s successes and feel connected to the other theater communities.”

Twenty-three productions vied for this year’s Toppers. In the crowd were people from 18 military communities in Germany, Belgium and Italy. Most of them work in the theater for free.

For those keeping score, the Bamberg Stable Theatre’s production of “Into The Woods” won 10 Toppers, the most on the evening, including best musical. Three theater veterans — from Ireland, New York City and Los Angeles — saw all 23 performances and chose the winners.

Before the show, everyone shared war stories while downing hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. Some stood in small groups; others sat at tables covered by white linen and candles.

They laughed and hugged one another in the hearty American way (as opposed to the kiss-kiss French way). Six big chandeliers lit up the great room.

Douglas Tack, a cook at the Village Pavilion, had the honor of slicing the roast beef as hungry guests held out their plates. The key to proper slicing?

“A steady hand,” he said.

Keith A. Savage held a steady hand around his savory sandwich. Savage would be performing, too — he’d be shining the spotlight on the winners.

“You want to make sure you catch the people in the right light,” Savage said, his job also requiring a steady hand. “You catch them coming on and off the stage, and make sure you keep the light on them.”

Up on the stage at the front of the hall, an eight-piece orchestra was positioned off to one side. The musicians would have a busy night. They’d play for three hours — accompanying special performers, filling gaps in the program.

Anytime music was needed to keep the show moving, they kicked in with horns, woodwinds and keyboards. A drummer and bassist kept the beat.

The program began with a zippy medley of Broadway hits unofficially titled “Twenty-six songs in 17 minutes.”

Capt. Carlos Santiago, an Army lawyer from Heidelberg, was one of the 14 performers who rotated in and out of the opening number. Santiago is used to performing in the court room. Being on stage is similar, he said, but different.

“I get nervous,” Santiago said. “It’s that thrilling kind of adrenaline you hear people talk about.”

The show started at 7:30 p.m. and wrapped at 10:30 p.m. And while the program was long, it was also brisk. There were no long thank-you speeches and dragged-out performances.

The winners bounded onstage to get their Topper, posed for a quick snapshot and got off.

Vikki Hanrahan, the entertainment director for the 235th Base Support Battalion in Ansbach, was presented the James A. Martin Award for her starring role behind the scenes.

“Totally flabbergasted,” Hanrahan said as well-wishers crowded by her table to offer good cheer. “I’m speechless.”

One of Hanrahan’s jobs is to nurture the community theater in Ansbach. She noted that almost everyone is a volunteer. And while servicemembers and their families take part, so do civilians and European local nationals.

Hanrahan said their effort comes “out of love” for their art.

“It’s hard work,” Hanrahan said, “but the payoff absolutely comes afterward.”

The first payoff came when the curtain is raised at local community theaters and audiences are entertained.

The next came Saturday night, when for one splendid evening the artists gathered and the bright lights of Broadway shined down on them.

On this night, it could have been Radio City Music Hall.

2003 Toppers Winners

• Comedy: Technical Awards

Best makeup: “Twelfth Night,” Heidelberg Roadside TheaterBest costume design: Costume Construction, Elfi Carberry and Michiel Devito, “Twelfth Night”Best lighting design: Timothy Clark, “Same Time, Next Year”Best set design: Jim Danek, “Over the Tavern”Best sound design: Jim Danek, “Over the Tavern”Best stage properties & dressing: Isabel Olsen Clancy, “As Bees in Honey Drown”Best stage manager or technical director: Jane Helfrich, “Twelfth Night”

• Comedy: Performance Awards

Best ensemble: “Over the Tavern,” Kaiserslautern Army Community TheatreBest actor in minor role: Dale Coldwells, Sebastian, “Twelfth Night”Best actress in minor role (tie): Renee Favors, Mrs. Pong, “The Primary English Class”; Anna Lindenberg-Webb, Clelia Waldgrave, “The Nerd”Best supporting actor: Jeremiah Creiglow, Feste, “Twelfth Night”Best supporting actress: Josephine G. Perkins, Sister Clarissa, “Over the Tavern”Best actor (tie): Andrew Culjak, George, “Same Time, Next Year”; Raymond Patrick Desmond, Evan Wyler, “As Bees in Honey Drown”Best actress: Jacqui Haggerty, Ellen, “Over the Tavern”Best director: Andrew J. Meredith, “Same Time, Next Year”Best comedy: “Same Time, Next Year,” Mannheim Off Main St. Theatre/Rhein Neckar Theatre Co.

• Drama: Technical Awards

Best makeup: “Steel Magnolias,” Darmstadt Performing Arts CenterBest costume design: “The Diary of Anne Frank,” Spangdahlem ACT EifelBest lighting design: Kristen Cox, “Steel Magnolias”Best set design: Bernd Roeder, “The Twilight of the Golds”Best sound design: Derrek Gilmore, “Gamma Rays”Best stage properties & dressing for a drama: “Blues for an Alabama Sky”Best stage manager or technical director: Julika Weinecker, “Shirley Valentine,” Giessen Keller Theatre

• Drama: Performance Awards

Best ensemble for a drama: “Steel Magnolias”Best actor in minor role (tie): Andrew Crawford, 1st Green Police, “The Dairy of Anne Frank”; Ryan Davis, 2nd Green Police, “The Dairy of Anne Frank”Best actress in minor role: Dawn Bingman, Miep Gies, “The Diary of Anne Frank”Best supporting actor: Bernard Slayton, Guy, “Blues for an Alabama Sky”Best supporting actress: Kathleen Palmer, Truvy, “Steel Magnolias”Best actor: Markus Michaelis, Mike, “Wait Until Dark”Best actress: Deborah Stubbs, Beatrice, “Gamma Rays”Best director: Jerry Beatty and Skot Davis, “Wait Until Dark”Best drama: “Wait Until Dark,” Wiesbaden Amelia Earhart Playhouse

• Musical: Technical Awards

Best makeup: “Into the Woods,” Bamberg Stable TheatreBest lighting design: Karen Ebert, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” Vicenza Soldiers Theatre, ItalyBest sound design: Sgt. Christopher L. Cotton and Jack Austin, “Into the Woods”Best set design: Michael Rhodes, “My Fair Lady”Best costumes: Ceci Green, “Hello, Dolly!”Best stage properties and dressing: Paula Fairbrother, “Beauty & The Beast”Best technical director or stage manager: Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Scheide, “My Fair Lady”Best choreography: Staff Sgt. Steven J. Stanfill, “Hello, Dolly!”Best orchestra or musical accompaniment: Orchestra, “Into the Woods”Best instrumentalist: Spc. Kevin Tangney, “Into the Woods”Best musical director: Sgt. 1st Class Joan Murray, “My Fair Lady”

• Musicals: Performance Awards

Best chorus member: Kristin Cervantes, “The Goodbye Girl”Best chorus or ensemble: “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”Best actress in minor role (tie): Barbara Lilian Kraft, Rapunzel, “Into the Woods”; Dani Shields-Weiss, Idle, “Beauty & The Beast”Best actor in minor role: Lt. Col. Clay Bridges, Freddie Eynsford-Hill, “My Fair Lady”Best supporting actress: Lori Anne Bickett, Baker’s wife, “Into the Woods”Best supporting actor: Staff Sgt. Steven J. Stanfill, Barnaby Tucker, “Hello, Dolly!”Best actress: Diane Montgomery, multiple roles, “I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change”Best actor: Cpl. Ian Grainger, Henry Higgins, “My Fair Lady”Best director: Allen Ebert, “I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change”Best musical: “Into the Woods,” Bamberg Stable Theatre

• Other awards

Best youth performance in play: Tyler Proctor, Rudy, “Over the Tavern”Best youth performance in musical: Silas Lohrenz, Jack, “Into the Woods”Best military performer in play: Lt. Col. Keith H. Maxwell, Mr. Frank, “The Diary of Anne Frank”Best military performer in musical: Sgt. Christopher L. Cotton, Prince, “Into the Woods”Best debut in play: Spc. Terra Coles, Angel, “Blues for an Alabama Sky”Best debut in musical: John Whitelaw, Baker, “Into the Woods”Best house management: Giessen Keller TheatreBest scene painting: “My Fair Lady”Best program: Bill Audretsch, “Blues for an Alabama Sky”Best poster: “Love Letters”

• Special Awards

Outstanding photographic research & slide show design: Brigitta GsellCreation of the Inventive Apprentice Program: Brianne ReynoldsOutstanding command support: Col. Larry StubblefieldOutstanding volunteer contribution: Stephen Simpson


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up