Hollywood can have Oscar; Topper leads in Heidelberg

Army Private 2nd Class James Kever of Vicenza, Italy, won for best debut performance in a musical. Kever returned to the stage later to accept an award for Pfc. Michael Kimball, who won for best chorus member. Awarding the Topper was Ginger Heath, of Charolette, N.C., the co-chair of the National Theater Festival 2007.


By KEVIN DOUGHERTY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 26, 2006

(See list of winners at end of story)

HEIDELBERG, Germany — The scene seemed awfully familiar, what with the tuxedoes, gowns and statuettes, coupled with hearty handshakes, hugs and photographs.

The band played, performers danced, envelopes were opened and winners were announced to wild cheers.

It may have looked a bit Hollywoodesque, but, alas, it was only the folks in Heidelberg, who were once again recognizing the best of the past season in community theater.

The “Topper” awards — named for performances in the annual Tournament of Plays — were handed out Saturday night, and while many in the audience probably wanted to get their hands around one of those shiny statuettes, most seemed tickled to be there. They are, after all, part of the creative force in military community theaters across Europe, and having the chance to spend the night together under one very large roof was enough for most.

OK, winning wasn’t so bad, either.

“This is a privilege,” Alixandria Ellis said later as she held the trophy for the best actress in a minor role in a drama. “I feel honored.”

In all, 92 Topper statues were awarded, covering 66 categories in the annual ceremony sponsored by Installation Management Agency-Europe. They included four special awards as well as the James T. Martin Award, an Army-level award given for individual excellence that went to Bonnie Daniels.

The regular categories covered such technical areas as make-up, lighting, set design and on up through performance awards for best actress, actor, director and production.

There were 23 productions in the running, each qualifying for awards in one of the three categories: drama, comedy and musical. The Stuttgart Theater Centre went home with the most hardware for one show — 12 for “Urinetown” — while SHAPE Entertainment Center took home the most of the night, getting 15 Toppers for its two shows, “The Good Doctor” and “Seussical, The Musical.”

One of the many winners was Brett Harwood, who took home the hardware for best director of a musical. Harwood, of the Stuttgart Theatre, directed “Urinetown,” which also won for best musical. The play pokes fun at the theater industry itself.

“Instead of being turned off by [the name], as some people were, others were curious about it,” Harwood said. “It was fun to spoof ourselves.”

Among the happiest of winners was 12-year-old Seth Root, who played “Dopey” in the Ramstein production “Snow White & the 7 Dwarfs.” Seth, a member of the Razz-Ma-Tazz Family Theater, won for best actor in a minor comedy role.

Seth thought he might win for best debut performance. When that award went to someone else, he thought that was it. Then, a bit later, came the awards covering minor roles, which pitted him against adults.

“When they said my name, my eyes got as big as softballs,” Seth said shortly after leaving the stage. “I freaked out.”

Winners of 2006 Toppers

Technical awards

Best make-up, play Paula Fairbrother, “Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs,” Ramstein Razz-Ma-Tazz-Family Theatre.
Best make-up, musical (tie) Annie Descamps, Marion Burger, Cindy Hemberg, Michele Rumbaugh “Seussical,” SHAPE Entertainment Center; and Christy George “Into the Woods,” Aviano Community Theatre.
Best hair and wig design Annie Descamps, “Seussical.”
Best costume design, drama Grace Cesonis, “The Good Doctor,” SHAPE Entertainment Center.
Best costume design, comedy Elfi Carberry, Michiel Devito, Sandy Sapatka, “Hay Fever,” Roadside Theater, Heidelberg
Best costume design, musical Tracy Kaster, Janet Austin, Christa Lippert, Linda Morse, “Seussical.”
Best sound, drama Chris Apple, Sophia Buchberger, “Hound of the Baskervilles,” Garmisch Players.
Best sound, comedy “Enchanted April,” Spangdahlem ACT Eifel.
Best sound, musical Staff Sgt. Jason Smith, “Into The Woods.”
Best choreography (tie) Sarah Bright, “Grease,” KMC, Kaiserslautern; and Brett Harwood, “Urinetown.”
Best lighting design, drama “A Few Good Men,” Ansbach Terrace Playhouse
Best lighting design, comedy Dane Winters, “Hay Fever.”
Best lighting design, musical (tie) Dan LaMorte, Olivier Galloo, Juliana Veit, “Seussical”; and Holger Schroeder, “Urinetown.”
Best house management Bamberg Stable Theatre
Best stage properties, drama Juliana Veit, “The Good Doctor.”
Best stage properties and dressing, comedy “Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs.”
Best stage properties and dressing, musical Christy George, “Into the Woods.”
Best program “The Dining Room,” Bamberg Stable Theatre
Best poster “Enchanted April.”
Best scene painting “Into the Woods.”
Best set design, drama Anna Webb and Lorraine Webb, “Hound of the Baskervilles.”
Best set design, comedy Dane Winters, Andy Meredith and Brian Rausch, “Hay Fever.”
Best set design, musical Pam Hillestad, “Into the Woods.”
Best instrumentalist Krassimira Jeliazkova-Jones (violin), “Oliver,” Stage on the Run, Ankara
Best keyboard accompanist Margaret Ozane, “Oliver.”
Best orchestra “Urinetown.”
Best musical director Alan Buxkemper, “Urinetown.”
Best stage manager, drama Holly Matesick, “The Dining Room.”
Best stage manager, comedy Jane Helfrich, “Hay Fever.”
Best stage manager, musical Gwendolyn Whitney, “Seussical.”
Best technical director, play Sgt. Maj. Robert Bürger, Thomas Reich, “The Good Doctor.”
Best technical director, musical Holger Schroeder, “Urinetown.”

Performance Awards

Best military performance, play Cpl. Peter Hofmann (multiple), “The Good Doctor.”
Best military performance, musical (tie) Sgt. Joel Abelson (Danny Zuko) “Grease”; and Capt. Summer Davis (Jack’s Mother) “Into the Woods.”
Outstanding female youth in community theater Abigail Cahill (Oliver), “Oliver.”
Outstanding male youth in community theater Dakota Horn (Artful Dodger), “Oliver.”
Best debut performance, play George Linka, director, “The Foreigner,” Bavarian Arts Guild
Best debut performance, musical Pvt. James Kever (Pippin) “Pippin,” Vicenza Soldiers Theatre.
Best chorus member Pfc. Michael Kimball, “Pippin.”
Best ensemble, drama “The Good Doctor.”
Best ensemble, comedy “Hay Fever.”
Best ensemble, musical “Urinetown.”
Best actor in minor role, drama Sgt. Benjamin Lockyer (Pfc. Louden Downey), “A Few Good Men.”
Best actress, minor role, drama Alix Ellis (multiple roles), “A Few Good Men.”
Best supporting actor, drama Spc. Michael Dempsey (Lance Cpl. Harold W. Dawson), “A Few Good Men.”
Best supporting actress, drama Alicia Thompson (multiple roles), “The Dining Room.”
Best actor, drama Staff Sgt. Ronny Cunath, “The Good Doctor.”
Best actress, drama Tracy Sherman (multiple roles), “The Dining Room.”
Best actor in minor role, comedy Seth Root (Dopey), “Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs.”
Best actress in minor role, comedy Tamar Sykes (Costanza), “Enchanted April.”
Best supporting actor, comedy Steve Thornbrugh (Owen), “The Foreigner.”
Best supporting actress, comedy Kaidy Smith (Sorel), “Hay Fever.”
Best actor, comedy David Burmedi (Richard), “Hay Fever.”
Best actress, comedy Sharon Blane (Lady Bracknell), “Importance of Being Earnest,” Five Pfennig Playhouse.
Best actress in minor role, musical Isabella Olsen-Clancy (Josephine Strong), “Urinetown.”
Best actor in minor role, musical Antonio Brunetti (Officer Barrel), “Urinetown.”
Best supporting actress, musical Jennifer Sanders-King (Little Sally), “Urinetown.”
Best supporting actor, musical Tony King (Officer Lockstock), “Urinetown.”
Best actress, musical Kristen Haener (Sr. Mary Regina) “Nunsense,” Bamberg Stable Theatre.
Best actor, musical (tie) Staff. Sgt. Joe Carrender (Baker), “Into the Woods”; Lt. Col. Joe B. Houser (Horton) “Seussical.”
Best director, drama Vikki Hanrahan. “A Few Good Men.”
Best director, comedy Richard Roberts, “Hay Fever.”
Best director, musical Brett Harwood, “Urinetown.”
Best drama “A Few Good Men.”
Best comedy “Hay Fever.”
Best musical “Urinetown.”

Special Awards

Outstanding running crew “Oliver.”
Outstanding leadership and program development Laurie Ellington.
Outstanding conductor Staff Sgt. Patrick D. Gray, “Seussical.”
Volunteer award Peter Merck, Giessen.
James T. Martin Award, Army-level award for individual excellence Bonnie Daniels.

While Stuttgart Theater Centre set the record for the most Toppers ever won by a show — 12 for “Urinetown” — SHAPE Entertainment Center took home the most hardware of the night — 15 Toppers for its two shows, “The Good Doctor” and “Seussical, The Musical.” Other communities that scored big were: Heidelberg Roadside Theater, nine, for “Hay Fever” and Ansbach Terrace Playhouse, seven, for “A Few Good Men.”