‘Godspell’ leads Tournament
Razz-Ma-Tazz Family Theater’s ‘Cinderella’ wins 3 Toppers of Plays with 11 wins

Christine June, Story and photo
415th Base Support Battalion

***image1***About 650 people heard “… and the Topper goes to ‘Godspell’” 11 times at the 2005 Tournament of Plays April 23 at the Patrick Henry Village in Heidelberg.

They also heard the 435th Services Squadron Razz-Ma-Tazz Family Theater’s “Cinderella” grab three Toppers out of 13 musical category nominations.

The Installation Management Activity-Europe Tournament of Plays awards, known as Toppers, are a Europe-wide Army theater competition.

A team of professional actors and directors judged 25 plays from Army and Air Force theaters from England to Italy during a six-week period for this year’s competition. The judges designate technical and performance award nominees for musical, comedy and drama categories.

“I’m over the moon with excitement and pride. We achieved a theatrical grand slam,” said Laurie Ellington, the 415th Base Support Battalion entertainment director and winner of a 2005 Topper for Best Musical Director for “Godspell,” which is her second individual Topper. “It’s remarkable when any show does as well as ‘Godspell’ did, dominating the musical category, which is generally the most difficult category in the tournament.”

The theater program is a relative newcomer to the Tournament of Plays awards because it was revived from dormancy about two years ago in the KMC, said Ms. Ellington. This was only the second year that KMC Onstage participated in the tournament awards, winning four Toppers for “Raisin in the Sun” last year.

Out of those 11 Toppers, “Godspell” grabbed the coveted Best Musical from four other military European theaters including their neighbors, Razz-Ma-Tazz Family Theater.

“The KMC Onstage and Razz-Ma-Tazz Family Theater collective success at the Toppers foretell an excellent future for amateur theater in this community,” said Ms. Ellington, who in 1998 founded Razz-Ma-Tazz Family Theater. “I think the awards will also draw attention to the program and assure prospective volunteers and audience members that we’re producing community theater of the highest caliber here.”

The neighborhood theaters competed against each other as well as eight other military European theaters in 25 musical categories.

“I think Toppers’ nominations and awards are a great acknowledgement of the quality of the productions we have here in the KMC,” said Paula Fairbrother, Razz-Ma-Tazz Family Theater producer, director and technical director, who has won three individual Toppers in 2002, 2003 and 2004. “But, I think the true testament to our success is the volunteers who give so much time and energy to the productions and the audiences who take the time to come and see the show.”      

The Topper for Best Actor in a Musical went to first-time nominee and winner Chris Sears, who portrayed “Jesus” in “Godspell,” his first leading role for KMC Onstage.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be recognized for something you put your heart and soul into,” said Mr. Sears, a software developer with Northrop Grumman Information Technology in Mannheim. “Of course, being surrounded by an incredibly talented cast and crew would make anyone look good.”
In fact, the “Godspell” 10-member cast also collected a Topper for Best Chorus or Ensemble for a Musical.

Razz-Ma-Tazz Family Theater scored twice with their Topper win for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical with a tie between “Cinderella’s” step-sisters David Schwab, who was “Repulsa,” and Airman 1st Class Kyle Beshears, who was “Obnoxia.”

This is Mr. Schwab’s first Topper, and he has been nominated five times for lead, supporting and minor actor roles in comedies and musicals, four of those with Razz-Ma-Tazz Family Theater.

“The real stars of the KMC theater programs are Laurie Ellington and Paula Fairbrother. They put in a lot of time organizing everything and making all this magic happen,” said Mr. Schwab, retired U.S. Army Major and Baumholder American High School senior Army JROTC instructor. “They are KMC theater, and I can’t thank them enough for enabling me to be an active part of their world.”

Razz-Ma-Tazz Family Theater’s other Topper winner this year was Mary Erickson as “Cinderella’s” Fairy Godmother in the Best Actress in a Minor Role in a Musical. She tied with Kelly Adino Barlett from KMC Onstage’s “Godspell.”

Other Topper wins for “Godspell” at this year’s tournament were: Best Director of a Musical – Vic Phillipson; Best Stage Properties and Dressing for a Musical – Jennifer Bloomberg; Best Set Design for a Musical – 1st Lt. Jon Beach; Best Orchestra; Best Stage Manager for a Musical – Heather Baldwin; and, Best Debut Performance in a Musical – Senior Master Sgt. Rory Wicks as “Judas.”