‘Godspell,’ ‘Red Herring’ rake in Topper awards

Chris Spears celebrates winning a Topper for best actor in a musical for his performance in Kaiserslautern's "Godspell."


‘Eclipsed’ also recognized as top drama in Europe military theater

By BEN MURRAY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 26, 2005

HEIDELBERG, Germany — Dripping with glitz and draped in elegance, the military theater community’s night of glamour and pearls built audibly in tension and excitement Saturday as the countdown to the biggest awards at the 2005 Tournament of Plays drew near.

Cheers from supporters for each play rose to chandelier-shaking heights as the final few Toppers were handed out at the Village Pavilion Ballroom in Heidelberg, where hundreds of actors, singers and stage buffs of all types were on hand for the oh-so-Tony awards show.

At the end of the nearly four-hour extravaganza, “Godspell,” “Red Herring” and “Eclipsed” were named best musical, comedy and drama, respectively, with each picking up a number of earlier awards, too, including best director in each genre.

“I’m thrilled to death,” said Vic Phillips, winning director of Kaiserslautern’s “Godspell,” who already has several Toppers for technical awards on his mantle. “I’ve been a bridesmaid but never a bride.”

A total of 23 productions from around Europe were entered in this year’s Tournament of Plays, running the gamut from SHAPE’s “Beauty and the Beast” to Wiesbaden’s “The Passion of Dracula.”

The gala started off with the Toppers’ stable of singers performing a long set of musical numbers from some of the night’s entered plays, before guest presenters began handing out the heavy golden statuettes.

In the technical awards, directing newcomer Lorraine Webb found herself onstage three times to pick up awards for Garmisch’s “Black Comedy.”

“It’s been absolutely fantastic, this is my first time directing anything,” Webb said. “I have no words. I can’t even tell you how I feel.”

Between continued musical numbers performed by the stars of each production, the evening moved into the performance awards, where the silences grew deeper during each, “And the winner is … ” and the reactions louder for each name called.

For servicemembers, Staff Sgt. Ron Hitchcock took home the Topper for best military performance in Bamberg’s “Red Herring,” while Airman 1st Class Larry Moore in SHAPE’s “Beauty and the Beast,” and Sgt. Owen Powell from Ansbach’s “Anything Goes,” tied for best military performance in a musical.

A total of 79 Toppers were handed out Saturday, with “Godspell” hauling the most — 11 — followed closely by nine statuettes for “Red Herring.”

Categories ranged from set direction and lighting to best poster and a pair of youth acting awards.

“I just can’t believe it,” said 12-year-old Ramsey Abdo El Oueslati, clutching his Topper for best male youth performance in “A Thousand Clowns.”

“I feel like when I go home I’ll have a party waiting for me or something,” he said.

Ramsey’s female counterpart, Sara Hauserman from Hanau’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” said that even though she is a veteran of 17 plays at the age of 16, she was still shocked into a stupor by holding a Topper onstage and facing the audience.

“My mind was gone somewhere,” she said.

Rows of Topper awards line a table onstage, waiting to be claimed by the night's winners.