Story by Bryan Gatchell, USAG Ansbach Public Affairs
[Editor’s note: Portions of this article were adapted from the Army News Service story “Best in Army Europe theater recognized at Toppers” by Jacob Corbin, USAG Wiesbaden Public Affairs, at www.army.mil/article/187000.]
WIESBADEN, Germany (May 2, 2017) – This year’s Toppers Awards, a gala ceremony that celebrates Army Europe community theater during the 2017 season, were held at U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Saturday, and USAG Ansbach’s own Terrace Playhouse was among the winners this year.
The playhouse gained six wins out of 28 nominations for its productions of the comedy One Man, Two Guvnors (12 nominations, three wins) and the family musical The Lion King Kids (16 nominations, three wins).
The Terrace Playhouse took the award for best family show for The Lion King Kids. Also for The Lion King Kids, the playhouse won best stage properties and dressing for a musical, and Lynn Daniels won best instrumentalist for her performance on the drums.
For One Man, Two Guvnors, Katherine Wellman won best stage manager for a play, James “JD” Dill won best actor in a play, and Cassandra Ferguson won best actress in a featured role in a play.
Vikki Hanrahan, the director of the Terrace Playhouse, believes the awards ceremony to be fruitful for the military community theater programs across Europe.
“It’s an opportunity to highlight the programs in addition to recognizing the volunteers,” said Hanrahan. “You get to meet people from the other communities and share stories.”
IMCOM-E sends adjudicators around Europe to different U.S. military installations during a six-week time period to see and judge community theater productions. Nominees don’t know they have been nominated until they are at the event.
Lynn Daniels, the environmental chief for USAG Ansbach, traveled with dozens of other community members from USAG Ansbach to the Toppers ceremony. She had played the djembe, a West African drum, for the production of Lion King Kids. Before the ceremony, she did not know she would be nominated for her performance, let alone that she would win.
Daniels only started playing the djembe in the states before her arrival in Germany in 2016. She and her daughter Annika had previously been part of the Terrace Playhouse’s production of The Sound of Music, and when Annika was joining the production of The Lion King Kids, Lynn told Hanrahan that she played the djembe. The play incorporated Lynn’s drumming during the breaks between scenes.
“Theater is particularly important in a garrison because people come and go so often,” said Daniels. “The theater community brings together people from all walks. We have military in there. We have civilians like myself. We have family members like my daughter, and you have a whole group of people that you normally wouldn’t be around. And you do have kind of a family, and you become very close with them. You’re basically with them many hours a day for many weeks, and they become your new friends and your new family.”
For his role as Francis Henshall in the comedy One Man, Two Guvnors, James “JD” Dill won best actor in a play. Like Daniels, Dill had previously been in the Terrace Playhouse’s production of The Sound of Music. One Man, Two Guvnors, a British adaptation of an 18th century Italian comedy, involved broad humor and breaking the fourth wall, wherein Dill’s character interacts directly with the audience.
Dill said the physical comedy aspect and developing a British accent made this a difficult role, but he credits the teamwork of everyone involved in the production for his win.
“It’s an individual award, but it’s not an individual achievement,” said Dill. “This is the most synergistic cast that I have ever been a part of. From the ‘guvnors’ to the waiters in the show to the plant – Cassandra [Ferguson], who was my audience plant – everything just fell together and it felt so good and so right.”
Ferguson, for her make-up artistry was nominated for One Man, Two Guvnors. She also won best featured actress for her role as the audience confederate (or the “plant”) in the same play.
“It’s a huge morale booster,” said Dill of the community theater’s importance to the garrison. “It shows the community the talents you don’t really get to show in your jobs sometimes. It teaches you skills for teamwork, team-building. It teaches you conflict resolution. It teaches you so many different aspects [of working] you can take back to your normal job.”
“Everyone who has contributed to one of this year’s entries is already a highly valued member of a winning team,” said Michael D. Formica, Installation Management Command Europe director, at the event. “Your talent, dedication and hard work enrich us all. On behalf of the total Army Europe, Air Force, and international families, I thank you for providing top-quality entertainment events in the tournament and throughout the year. Congratulations to all of you for a job well done.”
Dane Winters, IMCOM Europe entertainment director and one of the evening’s masters of ceremonies, said this year’s Toppers competition was one of the best he has seen, and hardest for the judges to pick winners.
“The shows this year were really incredible, I mean professional-quality stuff,” he said. “Everyone was so energized and so excited.”
The 49 Toppers awards and numerous special awards were presented by leaders from military communities throughout Europe, with some star-studded help.
“I’m thrilled to be back this year to help celebrate all your hours of hard work and outstanding achievements,” said Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tony-award winning actor, playwright and composer, and creator of the Broadway hits In the Heights and Hamilton, in a pre-recorded video message announcing the winner of best military performance in a musical. “Thank you for your sacrifice and your service.”
Miranda was one of an array of guest stars, including William Shatner, LeVar Burton, Daniel Radcliffe, Art LaFluer, Henry Winkler, Chris Pine, Ben Stiller, Charlie Carver, Kristin Chenoweth, Joe Mantegna, Harvey Fierstein, and David Hyde Pierce, who all volunteered their time to help announce awards this year.
In addition to the Terrace Playhouse’s six statues, the evening’s top winners were USAG Wiesbaden’s Amelia Earhart Playhouse with 13 Toppers, Kaiserslautern’s KMC Onstage with 10 Toppers, and USAG Stuttgart’s Stuttgart Theater Center with nine Toppers.
Below is a list of the nominations and wins for the Terrace Playhouse:
- NOMINATED: Best makeup for a play, Cassandra Ferguson for One Man, Two Guvnors
- NOMINATED: Best lighting design for a play, Brian Sowders and Adam Sullivan for One Man, Two Guvnors
- NOMINATED: Best set design for a play, Katherine Wellman for One Man, Two Guvnors
- WIN: Best stage manager for a play, Katherine Wellman for One Man, Two Guvnors
- NOMINATED: Best director of a play, Brian McGrail for One Man, Two Guvnors
- NOMINATED: Best make-up for a musical, The Terrace Playhouse for The Lion King Kids
- NOMINATED: Best costume design for a musical, Jamie Storton for The Lion King Kids
- WIN: Best stage properties and dressing for a musical, The Terrace Playhouse for The Lion King Kids
- NOMINATED: Best technical director for a musical, The Terrace Playhouse for The Lion King Kids
- NOMINATED: Best choreography, Vikki Hanrahan for The Lion King Kids
- WIN: Best instrumentalist, Lynn Daniels on drums for The Lion King Kids
- NOMINATED: Best musical direction, Margi Ritscher, Jamie Storton, and Vikki Hanrahan for The Lion King Kids
- NOMINATED: Best director of a musical, Vikki Hanrahan and Margi Ritscher for The Lion King Kids
- WIN: Best actress in a featured role in a play, Cassandra Ferguson as the plant in One Man, Two Guvnors
- NOMINATED: Best actor in a featured role in a play, John Kelker as Alfie in One Man, Two Guvnors
- NOMINATED: Best supporting actress in a play, Savannah Deasy as Pauline in One Man, Two Guvnors
- WIN: Best actor in a play, JD Dill as Francis in One Man, Two Guvnors
- NOMINATED: Best ensemble for a musical, The Terrace Playhouse for The Lion King Kids
- NOMINATED: Best female youth performance in a musical, Zoe McGrail as Timon in The Lion King Kids
- NOMINATED: Best male youth performance in a musical, Dean Bruce as Scar in The Lion King Kids
- NOMINATED: Best actress in a featured role in a musical, Astrid Bruce, Kennedy Lange, Arianna del Valle, Kaelynn Storton, and Delana Creech as Rafiki in The Lion King Kids
- NOMINATED: Aiden Storton as Simba in The Lion King Kids
- NOMINATED: Best debut in a play, Travis O. Bruce as Stanley Stubbers in One Man, Two Guvnors
- NOMINATED: Best debut in a play, Kezia Huseman as Rachel in One Man, Two Guvnors
- NOMINATED: Best debut in a musical, Ayden Quinn as young Simba in The Lion King Kids
- NOMINATED: Best debut in a musical, Delaney Martin as young Nala in The Lion King Kids
- NOMINATED: Best play, The Terrace Playhouse for One Man, Two Guvnors
- WIN: Best family show, The Terrace Playhouse for The Lion King Kids
For more on the 2017 Toppers, visit the article here.
For more photos from the event, visit www.flickr.com/photos/136268426@N03.
For more on the Terrace Playhouse, visit the directory entry at www.ansbach.army.mil/DirectoryT.html#Terrace_Playhouse or the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation page at https://ansbach.armymwr.com/europe/ansbach/programs/terrace.