Posted on May 15th, 2020



Dallas, TX (May 15, 2020) – North Texas high school students, teachers, and their theater departments were celebrated in a virtual ceremony of the 9th Annual Dallas Summer Musicals High School Musical Theatre Awards (DSM HSMTA) on Thursday, May 14. The one-hour production presented on YouTube consisted of digital ensemble performances, award and scholarship recipient announcements, acceptance speeches, and several cameos from top Broadway talent.

Patterned after Broadway’s Tony Awards®, DSM HSMTA celebrates the power of the arts and its ability to significantly improve all areas of education and creativity. The 2020 Best Musical Award went to Guyer High School’s production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, the Best Leading Actor award was presented to Beau Cochran (A&M Consolidated High School), Best Leading Actress went to Haley Dortch (Guyer High School) for the second consecutive year, Bethany White-Turner (Everman High School) and Altraniecia Starr (Mansfield High School) received Outstanding Educator Awards, and 15 scholarships were awarded to deserving students pursuing degrees in both theatre and non-theatre majors.

“Congratulations to all of the winners and nominees! What an unforgettable evening spent celebrating the fantastic work done by each and every one of these students and faculty members, “ said Ken Novice, president of Dallas Summer Musicals. “We are honored to witness such incredible talent rise up through our region and we look forward to seeing what these students will accomplish as they continue to pursue their love of musical theatre.”

Hosted by Dallas’ own award-winning performer Denise Lee, the virtual ceremony opened with the 2020 Best Leading Actor and Actress nominees in a virtual performance of “Where Do You Belong” from the hit Broadway show Mean Girls. Awards were then presented to students in 15 categories and $55,000 in scholarships were presented in Theatre Major, Theatre Ambassador, and Backstage Excellence categories. Broadway stars Sydney James Harcourt (Hamilton, American Idiot) and Jenn Colella (Come From Away, If/Then) announced the Best Leading Actor and Best Leading Actress award winners, and the Best Musical award was presented by four-time Tony Award-winning choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler (Hamilton, Bandstand). The ceremony closed with a finale performance of “I See Stars” from Mean Girls by the Lead Actor and Lead Actress nominees.

Sprinkled throughout the virtual ceremony were multiple cameos from top Broadway talent, praising the students for their achievements and sharing words of encouragement. Appearances were made by Miguel Cervantes (Hamilton, American Idiot), Michael Urie (Buyer and Cellar, How To Succeed…), Sierra Boggess (The Little Mermaid, Phantom of the Opera), Lindsay Mendez (Carousel, Wicked), Erin Davie (Diana, Side Show), Jonalyn Saxer (Mean Girls, Cats), Jay Armstrong Johnson (On The Town, Phantom of the Opera), Eric Ulloa (On Your Feet), Liz Mikel (1776, Lysistrata Jones), Robert Creighton (Frozen, Mystery of Edwin Drood), Nehal Joshi (School Of Rock, All My Sons), Carolee Carmello (Mamma Mia, Finding Neverland), Aaron Lazar (The Last Ship, A Little Night Music), Ahmad Simmons (West Side Story, Hadestown), Austin Scott (Hamilton, Girl From The North Country), and Christine Toy Johnson (Come From Away national tour, Music Man).

The virtual ceremony can be watched at YouTube.com/DSMusicals. A list of all 2020 winners, participating high schools, and their productions can be found on the DSM website.

Since DSM’s first HSMTA in 2012, the program has developed regionally, accepting schools as far away as Lubbock and Oklahoma as well as new and returning schools from the DFW Metroplex. DSM’s HSMTA has grown to be one of the largest programs of its kind in the nation. DSM HSMTA has been recognized by The National High School Musical Theatre Awards as their official affiliate program for North Texas.

DSM is grateful to its season sponsors Texas Instruments, American Airlines, The Dallas Morning News, and WFAA Channel 8. 

About Dallas Summer Musicals:

Since 1941, the nonprofit Dallas Summer Musicals Inc. (DSM) has presented the very best in Broadway to North Texas audiences. Located in the historic Music Hall at Fair Park, DSM promotes excellence in live musical theatre with year-round performances for diverse audiences of all ages, impacting the lives of children and families through education and community outreach programs, while enriching the cultural landscape of North Texas and the Southwest Region.

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, DSM relies on a variety of funding sources to offer affordable ticket prices, preserve the beautiful historic theatre, educate young audiences and develop impactful community programs. DSM gratefully acknowledges the support of our season sponsors, annual fund donors and corporate partners American Airlines, Texas Instruments, The Dallas Morning News, and WFAA TV Channel 8. For more information about Dallas Summer Musicals, please call 214.421.5678 or visit our website at DallasSummerMusicals.org.

Denise Lee (Host):

Denise Lee, is an award-winning Dallas based actress/singer who has performed in all genres of entertainment for more than three decades. She has performed on stages in almost every theater in the metroplex.

She is the founder and Executive Producer of the Denise Lee Onstage Cabaret Series and the Dallas Cabaret Festival which is entering its 6th year. 2020 marks the 4th time she has been voted ‘Best Vocalist’ in the Reader’s Voice Awards of the Dallas Voice. She also has an extensive film and television resume.  She has delighted international crowds with performances in jazz clubs in Shanghai, Beijing, Switzerland and France. Lee has recently added ‘playwright’ to her list of accomplishments.  Her first play ‘Funny, You Don’t Act Like A Negro’ had it’s World Premiere at Historic Theatre Three in February.

In addition to her work as an Artist, Denise Lee established ‘Community Conversation’ through her Change the Perception initiative  following the tragic Dallas Police Shootings. For three years, these monthly gatherings bring people from all walks of life together for respectful, open, honest dialogue in order to heal racial and community tensionFor these efforts, she has been awarded the Rudy Eastman Diversity Award by the Live Theater League of Tarrant County, a Special Citation of Recognition by the DFW Theater Critics and, in August of 2019, she was the recipient of Cathedral of Hope’s Hero of Hope Award.

Joel Ferrell (Director):

Joel Ferrell is a seasoned director and choreographer based in Dallas, Texas. He is the former Associate Artistic Director at Dallas Theater Center, where his directing credits include: Romeo and Juliet, Clybourne Park, Red, God of Carnage, Dividing the Estate, reasons to be pretty, The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later; Cotton Patch Gospel, The Rocky Horror Show, Cabaret, Hairspray, Frankenstein, The Christians, Steel Magnolias, Dreamgirls, and A Christmas Carol.

Other Dallas area credits include: Gruesome Playground Injuries, Othello, The Necessities (Second Thought Theatre); Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Baltimore Waltz (Stage West); Love’s Labor’s Lost, Comedy Of Errors (Trinity Shakespeare Festival), and Sweeney Todd and One Man, Two Governors (Circle Theater). Mr. Ferrell has directed and choreographed extensively around the country for Denver Center Theater, Portland Center Stage, North Shore Music Theater, and many more. Mr. Ferrell is the former Artistic Director of Casa Manana Musicals in Fort Worth, Texas (1996 to 2001) where he directed over 40 productions.

He has served as adjunct theater faculty for Southern Methodist University, Texas Weslyan University, and The University of North Texas, as well as teaching regularly for Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas. His acting credits include Broadway National tours, regional theater, television and film, most recently appearing in the Dallas produced film, Final Dress.

Ferrell is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and a proud member of Society of Directors and Choreographers and Actor’s Equity Association.

Mark Mullino (Music Director):

Mark Mullino is a Dallas based Director/musical director/pianist/painter. Mark has worked extensively throughout the DFW in professional, collegiate, and educational theatre. He has been on production teams for Watertower Theatre, Uptown Players, Dallas Theatre Center, Firehouse Theatre, Lyric Stage, Theatre Arlington, Flower Mound Performing Arts Theatre and Imprint Theatre. Mark has also taught and/or musical directed and local colleges: Collin College, Richland College, KD Conservatory and SMU. Mark’ passion for youth theatre has been seen at Junior Players, Our Productions Young Artist Training Program as well as the organization he co-founded, Dallas Young Artists. In addition to theatre, Mark has played many cabaret venues throughout DFW and is a painter of musical paintings.

Eric Tysinger (Production Manager):

Broadway: The Last Ship. National Tours: Hamilton. Off-Broadway: Elvis People, All The President’s Men. Regional: Million Dollar Quartet (Casa Manana) Giant; The Elaborate Entrance Of Chad Deity; The Wiz; Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor® Dreamcoat (Dallas Theater Center) The Sunshine Boys starring Dick Van Dyke; Tonight At 8pm, Light Up the Sky, Hedda Gabler starring Kate Burton (Williamstown); Steel Magnolias, Evita, Dreamgirls, Peter Pan, Hello, Dolly!, The Producers, Annie Get Your Gun, The Sound of Music, West Side Story (North Carolina Theatre); A Christmas Carol, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet. Eric was the resident Production Stage Manager for The Dallas Theater Center for five seasons (2015-2017) and continues to work in the DFW community today. His career has taken him all over the country working in live entertainment including theater, dance, opera, ballet, and corporate events. Eric was one of twelve out of 35,000 applicants to be selected to Walt Disney World’s inaugural class of entertainment apprentices. He currently teaches technical theater at Fort Worth Country Day School and is the theater manager for the school’s performing arts center. Eric lives in Fort Worth with his wife Teresa and 11 year old daughter Emma.

Christopher Grissom (Director of Photography):

Chris has been a commercial and film director for over 10 years.

He started his career with The Pursuant Group, an agency based in Dallas, TX, where he traveled the country producing and directing campaigns for some of the nation’s top universities and non-profits. He also had the opportunity to direct the Old 97’s documentary, “Love Letter to Dallas,” which was internationally released by New West Records.

In 2011, Christopher co-founded the boutique production company BFM Creative to focus on fictional storytelling, specifically commercials, music videos, and films. He also completed his first feature length film in 2011, “Between Notes,” which received worldwide distribution through Cinetic Media in New York.

He continues to produce and direct commercials, features, shorts, and digital content for brands like HP, AT&T, Toyota, Facebook, Mary Kay, and many others. He works closely with an immensely talented group of Producers, Creative Directors, Editors, Animators, and Copywriters. With this talented team, he offers turn key production services for all projects.

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