The Dallas Summer Musical (DSM) High School Musical Theatre Awards debuts on WFAA-TV, Channel 8 at 2 p.m., Saturday, July 28.

And, Waxahachie High School’s Theatre Department opens the show with its fabulous performance of “Welcome to the ’60s,” from the Broadway show “Hairspray.”

This inaugural event, which has been dubbed the “Teen Tony Awards,” originally took place on May 5 at Music Hall in Fair Park in Dallas.

Thirty schools vied for these prestigious awards, and WHS received nine nominations. Several WHS students are highlighted throughout the one-hour television program along with show business veterans and community celebrities, including Cathy Rigby. WFAA-TV’s Vice President of Product Development Dave Muscari is extremely pleased with how the show came together.

“We know that sports dominates high school activities, and we are dedicated to making sure that is covered nightly here at Channel 8,” Muscari said. “However, we also know there are hundreds, if not thousands of high school students who are also involved in theatrical and fine arts programs, and this was our chance to show the impact they are having. These kids are enormously gifted and talented, and by Channel 8 being part of this project, we are able to give these students their own spotlight.”

Executive Director of the DSM High School Musical Theatre Awards Tracy Jordan says the partnership with WFAA-TV has many lasting benefits.

“We are pleased with Channel 8 taking up this gauntlet and believing in this project and making it available for all different types of audiences,” Jordan said. “We’re thrilled to relive these moments from this past May, and we’re excited about sharing what happened during our first awards program. It was an amazing experience for all of us, and again what an honor to work with such talented students along with their directors.”

Jordan added that plans are in the works for next year’s show, and 20 schools have already registered to participate, with half of those being new to this challenge.

“We are planning to expand this competition all across the North Texas area,” Jordan said. “It is important to help these students pursue their dreams, and it also helps us build our audience base as these students get the chance to perform on our stage.”

A humbling experience

WHS Theatre Director Andy Reynolds is looking forward to seeing his students step into the spotlight on Saturday afternoon as he tunes into Channel 8 to watch the DSM High School Musical Theatre Awards.

“All I can say is that I’m very excited to hear this is going to be on television, and to think that we are opening the show, well again, I’m very excited,” Reynolds said. “This is all very humbling to me. Just think, we competed with the ‘big dogs’ during this show, and to think they chose us to open it – it’s just amazing. We can’t wait to compete next year, and we’ll keep you posted on how that turns out.”          

WHS received nine nominations for its performance in “Hairspray, ” which included Best Lighting Design, Best Stage Crew, Best Director – Andy Reynolds, Best Music Direction – Gail Harrell and Betsy Stelzer, Best Scenic Design – Ryan Mullican, Best Supporting Actor - Sterling Horning (Link Larkin), Best Featured Actor – Collin Stephenson (Wilbur Turnblad), Best Actress – Bailey Venable (Tracy Turnblad) and Best Musical.

Reynolds stressed that even though the department didn’t take home any awards, the experience was tremendous.

“We were competing against some schools that have enormous budgets, but at the end of the day, we knew we had made our mark,” Reynolds said. “It was a wonderfully talented group this year, and the magic was there. It just wasn’t our night, but with that being said, we can’t wait to take on this challenge next year.”

The DSM High School Musical Theatre Awards provided thousands of dollars in smaller scholarships due to the generosity of Leah and Jerry Fullinwider and Comerica Bank. Winners in the Best Actor/Actress categories later traveled to New York City where they competed in the National High School Musical Theatre Awards. They were Michael Williams from McKinney Boyd High School in McKinney, Texas, and Emily Emmitt from J.J. Pearce High School in Dallas, Texas. Neither won the award, but their experience was priceless.

Next year’s show will take place once again at Music Hall in Fair Park, and it will again be on May 5. If you would like more details about participating in this competition, contact Jordan at 214-413-3951.     

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