Our History: Myrlene Kennedy, PhD

The first two shows, 1969 Brigadoon and 1970 The Music Man were presented in the auditorium at the present FISD Annex. However, before we go on let’s go back to 1967 when the idea of a musical was born.

In the spring of ’67, a program written and directed by Dale Swanson called Hysterical History, was presented in the high school auditorium. During a rehearsal, standing under the covered walkway behind the auditorium, I was talking with Bette Hopper, Nyda Williams, Sue Evans, and others whose names slip my mind, when the musical topic came up. The conversation went something like this. Nyda: “Why don’t we do a musical?” Myrlene Kennedy: “I’ve always wanted to do Brigadoon. I love the music, but I’m not sure we could do it.” Bette: “Why not?” The subject was dropped for the time being, but the words “Why not?” would become the legacy of the Friendswood High School musical.

So This is Paris, 1968 – In 1968 Jerry Sedatole was hired as the band and choir director. During the ’68 year, a musical was discussed by Mr. Sedatole and James Feuge. The script for So This Is Paris was ordered; however, the show was never completed. In May, Jerry came to me and asked if I would work with him the following year on a musical. I didn’t answer at that time, so in the fall he asked again, and this time I told him we would see. He was persistent, I eventually said yes. The FHS musical was born.

Brigadoon, 1969
The first show Brigadoon, with a cast of 53, played on a Thursday and Friday night in late March, to standing room only crowds. Remember, the auditorium only seated about 275. Due to demand, we added a performance on Monday night. Bette Hopper was the accompanist; the parents built the sets made of 1×4’s and cardboard boxes, and the art teacher, Glenna Colopy, and her students helped paint sets.We did not have dressing rooms inside the auditorium, so the students had to dash out to the home economics building for changes.

The Music Man, 1970
With the success of Brigadoon, we decided to do The Music Man with a cast of 45 the following year, 1970. We added a Saturday night performance. The sets went from cardboard to canvas and wood. The front of the Paroo house was borrowed from Dr. Homer Springfield and the drama department of Pearland High School. Dr. Springfield was always there to offer assistance in the early years of the FHS musical. This would be the last show in the junior high auditorium.

The Sound of Music, 1971
1971 was a big year for us. We moved to the present high school campus. The auditorium itself presented a tremendous change. Our third production would be The Sound of Music with a cast of 50.We changed to our present program format; we added a pit band which played only the Entr’acte and selected change of scene numbers. The sets offered another big change. They were more elaborate, but they caused big problems when it came time to change scenes.If you were here, you’ll remember extremely long set changes. Doc Springfield and the Pearland drama department cam to our rescue once again with stained glass windows for the wedding scene.

Hello, Dolly!, 1972
Hello, Dolly! would prove to be a big success for us in 1972. We would have professionals run the sound system, and we would have an elaborate communication system, thanks to Southwestern Bell and the help of some local, between our light and backstage people.

Funny Girl, 1973
In 1973 with Funny Girl, we added the second weekend but only a Sunday afternoon performance. Mrs. Ruby Ross, history teacher, added her touch and helped with rehearsals when I was unable to attend due to obligations relating to work toward exams for my Ph.D.

Oklahoma!, 1974
In 1974 with Oklahoma!, a staff choreographer, Mrs. Gail Gautreaux, was added. This was a tremendous asset and was a direct result of the addition of a drill team at FHS. This would also mark the first time that a student new to the district would be selected as the lead. Wes English had one of the strongest voices for a male high school student that we had ever had. We added a set piece, a white house, that has been used many times since in musicals as well as other shows. It was built by parents and is being used in this year’s production of Oklahoma! The guns in this show came straight from the MGM Studios in California as has been the case in each show when guns are needed.

No, No Nanette!, 1975
No, No, Nanette 1975 was the first show presented for four performances, but the Sunday performance was moved to a Saturday night. This also marked the first performance that separated the vocal and instrumental directors which would eventually lead to greater participation by the pit band. When the art department had trouble with the beach scene on the back wall, one of the secretaries at the high school offered the services of her husband, a science teacher. I have often wondered if it would be possible remove the layers of paint that now cover that scene. It might be a valuable piece of art work. Oh, yes, I almost forgot to give you that artist’s name, Larry Dyke.

George M!, 1976
In 1976 with George M! we changed to our present days of performances opening on Friday and Saturday and running a second weekend on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.The American Flag that hangs on the back wall was made by Mrs. Nyda Williams, Mrs. Bette Hopper, Mrs. Jean Faber, Mrs. Martha Griffon, and Mrs. Huberta Mora. It makes for a very moving scene when it is used. This would mark another first.

A lead became ill during a performance and was unable to go on. A young freshman by the name of Nancy Nelson said, “I can do it,” and much to the surprise of her parents, there she was when the curtain went up, singing “Down By The Erie Canal.” Would you believe that one Friendswood family had three boys in George M!? If you guessed J.P., Mark, and Robert Griffon, you were right. This was also the first time we would have an exchange student, Dirk DeCock from Belgium.

The Music Man, 1977
In 1977 with The Music Man, we repeated a musical for the first time. Susan Carter who had the female lead first appeared as Brigitta Von Trapp in the original production of The Sound of Music as a sixth grader. Remember the name Heather Hearn who was in the kids’ band! you will hear it again a little later.

Annie Get Your Gun, 1978
In 1978 with Annie Get Your Gun, we had another big change. Bennie Nipper joined our staff and took over as director, and I took the title of producer. We also used wireless mikes for the first time; thanks to NASA. Mike Yancey would appear as a lead for the first time, a role he would be selected for two more times before graduation.

Guys and Dolls, 1979
1979 brought Guys and Dolls to the stage of FHS, Kathy Wood would take over the leadership of the musical. The one thing that really sticks in my mind about this show was the elaborate street scene painted on the back wall. you almost felt like you were in the middle of Times Square.

The creative talent of Kathy Wood and Robert Staat really came out. The t-shirt tradition was started this year with the cast ordering a t-shirt with the name of the show on the front. The Bette Hopper Scholarship was established, and Nancy Nelson would be the first recipient. The Eunice Kennedy Award was also do established, and Catherine Carter received the award. She would be the only underclassman to ever receive the award.

Li’l Abner, 1980
Li’l Abner in 1980 brought with it several changes. The choreographer would be an English teacher, Debbie White, rather than the drill team instructor, and Kathy Wood took on a major portion of the responsibilities of the set designs and decorations. For the first time, we would add a ticket manager, Ann Ryberg. Bennie Nipper headed the group of directors. In the early morning hours of Sunday, February 24, I received a call from Mrs. Nipper asking that I take the dress rehearsal. it seems she and Oscar were snowed in at a drama convention. I worked with the directors and the cast for the remainder of the show.

Showboat, 1981
1981 brought with it Show Boat. There were no significant changes. The Eunice Kennedy Award became a scholarship with Nona Nelson and Van Williams being the first two recipients of the scholarship. Following two years of limited involvement with the musical,I returned to my previous position as producer. This would be the last year we would have the creative talents of Kathy Wood at our disposal.

Carnival, 1982
In 1982, we selected Carnival for our annual production. For the first and only time since the beginning of the musical, a young lady named Karen Svejkovsky, who had never auditioned for a show, walked in and won the lead. The show was really a rebuilding year, and there were many new young faces on the stage. This would also mark the first and only time a show would be repeated at a later date. My mother, Eunice Kennedy, was unable to attend the original performance due to a broken hip. The cast surprised us both when they announced that they would do a special performance just for her when she was able to attend. The did just that in early May. This would lead us to one of our most popular shows with the students and the public.

South Pacific, 1983
With South Pacific in 1983, the parents under the leadership of Wanda Yancey, organized the first musical booster club. They took over many responsibilities that the directors had tried to do over the years. They headed up costumes, publicity, the cast party, dinners to be served to the cast on dress rehearsal nights, concession stand, and made sure all of the cast, crew, and pit band members received flowers at the second Saturday night performance. The choreography was back in the hands of the drill team director, and Carol Holder became my right arm and took over ticket sales. Prior to 1983, the party has been held at Jones hanger presently called the Friendswood Recreation Center.

Brigadoon, 1984
With Brigadoon in 1984, we would repeat shows for four years that we had previously done. Johnathan Yancey would repeat his brother’s accomplishment of appearing as the male lead in three FHS musicals. As Johnathan ended his high school career, a young lady by the name of Melissa Amburn appeared in the first of her three leads. For many years, we had presented a portion of the musical for the student body on Monday following the final performance. This would be the last year we would be able to do this.

Hello, Dolly!, 1985
1985 found Dolly gracing the stage once again with a very successful production of Hello, Dolly!. The musical traditions are pretty well established, and we see few changes now. Once major change did affect the musicals, House Bill 72 came into effect and two students were unable to participate the second weekend of the show due to “No Pass, No Perform.” This would lead us to move the show a week earlier in order to avoid this problem. Jane Ann Quevedo joined the team as the vocal music director bringing her enthusiasm with her

The Sound of Music, 1986
The 1986 production of The Sound Of Music brought back many memories of the first musical done on this stage. A few of the sets survived the fifteen years and found their way back to the stage. The mountain, first built by Linn Eignus for his daughter Cyndy, had to be rebuilt, but the original design was used as Charlie Holder, John Smith, and Steve Brown rebuilt the mountain. This would mark the first year that a student would receive academic credit for the musical. The state approved a class called Theater Production, and this was added to our curriculum. Remember the name of Cristina Quevedo, the fourth grader selected to play Brigitta Von Trapp. You’ll hear it again later.

George M!, 1987
George M! My Favorite show as far as music goes graced the FHS stage in ’76 and ’87. The major change for the ’87 George M! was the decision to announce the leads before Thanksgiving and the chorus before Christmas. The ship, originally built by Coach Harris in ’76, was rebuilt by the mountain builders, and a fireworks display (light show) was developed by Charles Miller. The miniature ship originally built by Arley Carter to sail across the back wall was pulled out of the mothballs and used again. The seniors of George M! would represent FHS in the Channel 13 salute to graduating seniors. They received lots of airtime but were not selected as the winners; although, they did each receive a Marvin Zindler watch. What more could you ask?

Mame, 1988
In ’88, a new show, Mame, was selected for the 20th anniversary show. The show was well-received, and many alumni joined us for the Saturday night performance to renew some old friendships and stroll down memory lane. The particularly enjoyed joining in as excerpts of songs from their show were sung. My mother died in November 1987 and Mame was dedicated to her. She had seen every show, and in many instances, every performance, as well as some dress rehearsal. Oh, yes, you remember the name Heather Hearn that I asked you to remember from the kids band in The Music Man 1972? Well, she was a senior in ’88 and ended her musical career in the 20th Anniversary Show Mame

The Music Man, 1989
In 1989, The Music Man marched across the stage of FHS for the third time and at that time the only show to hold the honor. Sally Littlefield was selected for her first lead. She would become the second young lady to play the lead three times. Freddy Nelson was selected as the male lead and ended his musical career which began as a five-year old watching his sister Nancy in the ’76 George M! production. I remember him watching rehearsals and learning the words to all the songs just in case we needed an understudy.

The Pajama Game, 1990
In 1990 a heart warming musical, The Pajama Game, was selected to entertain the Friendswood musical supporters. Our friend Jo Boyd had always wanted us to do this show, but the right students did not come along until ’90. Following the ’89 auditions for The Music Man, the directors made the decision that only students that had appeared in a previous FHS musical or senior new to the district could audition for a lead.

Show Boat, 1991
In 1991 the talent was there and we decided to repeat the ’81 Show Boat production. The school board had approved the replacement of the 20-year old lighting system and the computerized controls were moved to the back of the auditorium. The maintenance crew built a tech booth over the Christmas holidays for the lighting equipment as well as the sound equipment which was being moved to the back. For the firsts time the light crew was able to see the stage without leaving the controls. The show was a great success and the new lighting system allowed for special effect we had never been able to do before.

For the first time since the very early years, a choreographer was brought in for the show. Isbell Brandt, a former cast member, came in when Sondra Shaaf was unable to do the choreography due to health reasons. The show was dedicated to Bennie Nipper who announced her retirement after 13 years of dedicated service to the young people of Friendswood. She touched many lives during that time and we are all better off for having had the privilege of knowing and working with her. The influence she had on the Friendswood High School musicals will be felt for many years.

Annie Get Your Gun, 1992
In 1992, we started anew with a crowd-pleasing show, a repeat of the ’78 show, Annie Get Your Gun. Kathy Powdrell, Laurie Belcher and Bob MacWilliams joined the directing staff and brought with them many years of experience. The Ed Harris family added a scholarship in memory of their beloved wife and mother, Gailya Harris.The Ray Trusty family added two scholarships one for the Best Supporting Actor and one for the Best Supporting Actress. Mike Hughes would be the first recipient of the Harris scholarship and Danny Seckle and Angie Rodgers were the first recipients of the Trusty Scholarship.

Oklahoma!, 1993
In 1993 we knew we had the right soprano in Cristina Quevedo and the right baritone in Andy Andrews. Oklahoma! was the perfect choice. This would be the second time that we performed Oklahoma!, with the first in 1974. The same creative team from Annie Get Your Gun produced a lively production with athletic choreography. So athletic that we had a “life flight” scare when a student tried to do a backward flip on his break.   He was back at rehearsal the day. Judd’s shed provided for some interesting props and the picnic scene filled the stage with beautiful baskets. NO one expected to see a real Surrey with Fringe roll on to the stage during the wedding scene.

The Sound of Music, 1994
We would produce The Sound of Music in 1994 for the third time in our legacy of 25 shows. Dr. Kennedy’s favorite female role had always been the iconic role of Maria. She gave the production team clear guidelines and it would be Cristina Quevedo who would win the role. The Abbey came to life in the voices of Stephanie Schmutz, Tanya Santilli, Courtney Wissinger and Brittany Goldsmith. Young Sara Kabell and Richie Ramsey played the young love interest of Liesl and Friedrich. Trey Welch played Captain Von Trapp and the children once again came from Westwood and Cline Elementary schools. This would be the last time we used Dr. Kennedy’s chicken wire mountain that would hang above the stage. Powdrell built 3 rolling stained glass windows. There were still long interludes of music by the Pit Band as we changed the large sets. But by the time we got to “So Long, Farewell” the audience was completed absorbed in the Van Trapp Family’s fate.

South Pacific, 1995
In 1995 South Pacific sailed once again at FHS. The second time we produced this show. The production team welcomed a new choreographer, Susan Boldman. This production was important because it would mark the last time that would ever paint a backdrop on the back wall. We were thrilled to have Travis Watson play the difficult vocal role of Emile de Becque. Travis came with a bonus that we never expected.   The backdrop of Bali Hi was painted by Travis Watson’s mother, who happened to be mural artist. This backdrop would remain on the back wall for 20 years! Sara Kabell washed her hair on stage with real water, and standout performances came from Stephanie Schmutz, Jack Ross, Kenny Black and Richie Ramsey, who played Lt. Cable, U.S.M.C. We kept Captain Bubbie’s in Galveston very busy that year putting the costumes together. Once again the set dads under the guidance of Mr. Huffman delivered a beautiful set. But Dr. Kennedy had a surprise, when a vintage WWII Army jeep drove onto the stage. We even had a small boat that is still in our storage as of 2017.

Fiddler on the Roof, 1996
Fiddler on the Roof – a new TRADITION at FHS. In 1996 the Production Team mounted one of the most beautiful stories in American Musical Theatre. From the prologue – Kevin Held brought to the role of Tevye to our patrons explaining that there is a balance in the villagers’ life.  The team of Brooke Beauchamp and Kevin Held partnered to share this amazing story about life, home, miracles and matchmaking.  The audience fell in love with the daughters who were played by Gina Quevedo, Brittany Goldsmith and Wendy Ward. John Ramsey would play Lazar the Wolf and Gavin Everett played Motel. The bottle dance was amazing with Justin Weatherall, Ben bowman, Indy Wijay. Each night, Sara Trevino climbed up a 12 foot rolling stage ladder with a 13-foot length dress and Wild Fire scene paint and lighting brought the nightmare scene to life.  But it would be Quyen Le’s soulful playing of The Fiddler that closed the show as a celebration of life. Jonathan Middents, set designer for the University of Houston, the Houston Shakespeare festival and parent of Alice Middents inspiration brought the idea of using the artwork of Chagal as inspiration for our set. AND then there was that one night when:  John Middents, Ed Weatherall and many other set dads were working on the revolving three faced home of Tevye – that as they worked it kept inching down stage to towards the apron. Luckily there was a work table downstage just above the Baby Grand Piano because as Kathy Powdrell stood in the house checking the set it slowly began to fall and eventually completely fell over crushing the table. The Baby Grand, however, was untouched. That was a night. Then it would be 12 weeks later when we realized the bottles (filled with sand for balance) were infested with crickets and there were some screaming UIL One Act Play students running out with the bottles onto the porch. What a show!

My Fair Lady, 1997
Our first outing with My Fair Lady. Brooke Beauchamp played the iconic Liza Doolittle against Kevin Held’s Higgins and John Ramsey’s Col. Pickering.   This marked the first year that we began to venture out in to scenic drop rentals. A new choreographer joined our team and Rebecca Fischer provided a lively market scene full of flowers, Button Dancers and dance crates. The actors under Kathy Powdrell’s quidance mastered the various Brittish accents. The Ascot scene was beautiful. That year parent Steve Ramsey molded and constructed an authentic dictaphone (that we still have in the prop closet.) Most importantly the two sided split stair case entered our scenic world and would be used for many years to come.

The Music Man, 1998
This would be fourth production that we mounted of The Music Man. John Ramsey led the cast with very little trouble, complete with a Russian Split at center stage. We continued to rent scenic drops. The dads were amazing, Mr. Weatherall, Mr. Middents, Mr. Huffman, Mr. Ramsey continued to build amazing sets. The Train entered our life that year. We had a new choreographer that year, Rachel Wallace. We built bleachers to accommodate the town hall meeting. Young Paul Panzarella played Winthrop Parool. With the help of Westwood Elementary and Cline Elementary we had a wonderful “children’s” Band.

Crazy for You, 1999
Our creative team is always thinking ahead. In 1998 we were feeling adventurous and decided to take the leap and bring Crazy for You to the FHS stage in 1999. Billed as a “new” Gershwin Musical for the directors it was love at first sight. Crazy for You tells the 1930’s story of a New York banker Bobby Child who is sent to Deadrock, Nevada to foreclose a rundown theatre.   However he falls in love with Polly Baker the theatre owner’s daughter. This was not only a departure for this creative team but Dr. Kennedy decide to break from her tradition of never announcing the TITLE of the Musical until just before auditions. She did not want the students to campaign for roles. However, there was extensive tapping in this show especially by the character Bobby. Jared Bourgeois practiced all summer on his tapping and won the role. This year the black vintage 1930’s limo was built by our wonderful dads complete with window dressings provided by the moms. Our prop parents built 25 1930 wooden phones and we had 25 female dancers all enter stage thru the limo. Amber Human played the Nevada owner of the theatre. However the mirror/dance between Bobby Kessling and Jared Bourgeois stole the show complete with break-away bottles.

George M!, 2000
In 2000 we revived George M said to be Dr. Kennedy’s favorite musical.   Jared Bourgeois played the title role of the Iconic George M.  Cohen.  The parents went to work on a 45’ x 14’ American Flag for the finale.  We added the wooden bridge to dance the actors closer to the audience.  The parents were busy finding anything yellow for the YELLOW scene.  This show demanded a great deal of behind the scenes work.  Barbie Parker would provide excellent choreography the actors.  Dr. Kennedy would joke with the director’s that the cast had so many costume changes there would be little backstage misbehavior.  The leads Barrett Goldsmith, Katie Purcell, Anne Clarke, Emily Latour, Powdy Powdrell, Jacqueline Richards and Bobby Kirkpatrick to name a few filled the stage with patriotic enthusiasm with American flags waving as they sang the grand finale, “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”  Dr. Kennedy was always seated on row three aisle center – she never missed that scene.

The Pajama Game, 2001
The production team reprised The Pajama Game in 2001. The cast was lead by Chris Harris in the role of Sid Sorken. B. J. Warminski played Vernon Hines and kept the factory working.  It would be the last show at FHS for Katie Rose Clarke, who played the Doris Day role of Babe Williams.  With her sights firmly set on a professional career we are proud to say she is an Alumni. The tech crew lead by Lindsey Powdrell had their hands full with five major set changes including the factory, the picnic, an office and Babe’s apartment.  The factory alone had 10 long factory tables with 20 benches. This show did not slow down until the SLOW DOWN in the final scene. In the end, Babe Williams got her 7 ½ cent raise and FHS got and outstanding show.

Annie Get Your Gun, 2002
In 2002 we decided to revive the crowd-pleaser Annie Get Your Gun. Jessica Schmale lead a strong cast of Chris Harris as Frank Butler, Megan Shuffle as Dolly and the up and coming Sam Robinson as Buffalo Bill. Michael Lowe, FHS wrestling coach played the role of Sitting Bull. Choreographer Kara Baker providing stunts and choreography with Conor O’Neil’s Wild Horse dance with special props. The set included wagons, tents and a beautiful ballroom scene. There is nothing quite like the feeling of seeing the ensemble perform “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

Guys and Dolls, 2003
In 2003 we decided to produce Guys and Dolls for the second time. . When we first produced the show in 1979, Dr. Kennedy took some time off to be with Eunice Kennedy, her mother as she was ill. In spite of an experienced production team, it was a very competitive audition process. Sam Robinson, Conor O’Neil, Sarah Townsend and Colette Currie played the title rolls. Both Conor and Sam are now doctors. Kathy Powdrell and Jane Ann Quevedo managed to find used Broadway revival costumes and we ordered the famous black and white dance shoes for the men. This show was nominated for several Tommy Tune awards. The best compliment came from Tommy Tune himself when he had his personal assistant call Kathy Powdrell the next morning to say that our young men were so impressive and he wanted us to know how much he enjoyed their performance, Kara Baker’s choreography, the costumes and the young men’s talent. “Adelaide’s Lament” was belted by Colette and Sam’s “Luck be a Lady” was a show stopper. Their performance really changed Dr. K’s opinion regarding this show.

Good News!, 2004
Good News! marked one of the few times that the directors selected a show that was not that well known. Truly a gamble, but the cast loved it, had the community talking and the crowd coming as the word spread. For the first time we used guest performers in a cameo role. Steve Van Meter (Athletic Director), Walter Wilson (Superintendent), Mark Griffon (FHS Assistant Principal) and Butch Milks (long-time musical supporter) played the part of the Radio Announcer. Upon her retirement, Good News! also marked Jane Ann Quevedo’s last year as vocal director for 20 FHS musicals. This was the second year of the Tommy Tune award and Kara Baker’s choreography brought the Best Choreography award to the Good News! cast.

Li’l Abner, 2005
Li’l Abner found its way back to the FHS stage in 2005, 25 years after the first appearance (’80).  This year Janwin Overstreet-Goode took over as vocal music director.  She could also be found at the piano playing for rehearsals.  The cast from 1980 returned and met the cast of 2005 before awards night performance.  Mike Yancey, Li’l Abner in 1980 played the part of the President on Saturday night to the cheers of fellow cast members.  The Daisy Mae, Lori Boyd-Mammy Yokum, Nona Nelson Landers ’81-Moonbeam McSwine.  This was the second year in a row that we used guest performers in a cameo role each night.  The president was played by Bob Camp, Cliff Mabry (FHS Teachers), Chad Harris (’91) and Matt Hickl (’94),who had appeared on the popular TV show “The Bachelors,” and Mike Yancy ’80.  Kara Baker’s choreography won Best Choreography for the second year in a row in the Tommy Tune Awards.  Cliette Hodges, the talented FHS graduate, joined our team as our accompanist in 2005.

South Pacific, 2006
South Pacific, always a popular selection, played to large audiences when the Marines and  Sailors hit the deck at FHS for the third time – ’83 and ’95.  May 1st proved to be a night of celebration at the Hobby Center when the production received the award for Best Set Design, Kassie Parker, who played Bloody Mary, was named Best Supporting Actress and the production received the prestigious award of Best Show.  The award was made even more special when it was presented by Katie Clarke who appeared in three FHS productions, including Babe Williams, the lead in the 2001 production of The Pajama Game.  Katie was appearing in The Light in the Piazza on Broadway at the time of the award.

Hello, Dolly!, 2007
Hello, Dolly!, always an audience favorite, did not disappoint in 2007.  Costumes were rented from Costume World in Florida, which was a change from 1972 and 1985, when costumes were made by the parents.  Amber Smith joined our team to work on sets.  A welcome much needed assistant.  This marked the first time that a program cover was repeated when we used the cover designed by Karen Houston ’85.  The artwork on the cast page was provided by Kathryn McElya ’85 and program graphics by Frank Hemphill ’70.

My Fair Lady, 2008
My Fair Lady graced the FHS stage for the second time in 2008.  Costumes were rented from Costume World in Florida making for some striking scenes, and our first venture out of state.  Previously we rented from Frankels in Houston.  Melissa Jones, assistant drill team director, took over the choreography.  The first time the assistant director filled that position.  Laurie Purcell returned as the accompanist.  The biggest change for me was that my office was located at the central office, making the coordination a little difficult.  This was the first time we did a follo-up on the previous cast and broadcast that information on the FISD Channel 16 for local residents.  The young people from the 1997 cast certainly had some impressive resumes.

Brigadoon, 2009
In 2009 Dr. Kennedy was eager to bring Brigadoon back to FHS.  So the production team set sail for the moors of Scotland. This would be Dr. Kennedy’s third version of the show. Powdrell wanted to spice the set design up and the technical set crew will remember this show as the show of electric knives, hot knife cutters, foam and liquid nail. In the end it was a set as beautiful as the music, the voices, the costumes and the acting.  This show featured a strong acting ensemble. With Carly Taylor as Fion MacLaren and Ryan Frank as Tommy Albright supported by James VanMatre, Chris Hailey, Nick Vennekotter, Colin David, Jeff Allison and Emily Townsend, Emma Baker, Allen Kirkpatrick and Catherine Goode. Not only did we do the sword dance, but then FHS guest faculty member Robert Wise awed the audience each night with his authentic Highland Bagpipes. It was a “grand” show.

Oklahoma!, 2010
Oklahoma 2010 would see Amy Thornton join the directing team for the first time.  The team transitioned and mounted a lively production with Ashley Caterina choreographed a very lively production. Chase Harris would play the iconic role of Curly with Catherine Goode as Laurey.  The strong ensemble included Mason Conrad and Lizzy Conger.  Tommy Tune awards were won by Teagan Batts for her role as Ado Annie and Jeffrey Allison for his role as Will Parker.  Lizzy Conger received a $3,000.00  TUTS scholarship.

The Music Man, 2011
The Music Man became the most-produced FHS Musical in our first 50 years with the 2011 production.  No one could argue with Dr. Kennedy’s love of this show. She loved as much as anything the River City child band. This child band was traditionally legacy children and students of Westwood, Cline and Windsong and Bales. Jeffrey Allison and Audrey Bounds would play the iconic American Musical roles of Professor Harold Hill and Marian Paroo. In spite of this being the fifth mounting of this show, the production team brought lively and fresh ideas to River City. Act II favorite was always, “Seventy Six Trombones” with a double reprise. Dr. Kennedy would stop taking pictures (she photographed every show until 2011) and would personally line the River City Band up each night making sure the young actors were ready to go onstage. The duo of Allison and Bounds closed the show with “Till There Was You.”

The Pajama Game, 2012
After 11 years we produced The Pajama Game for a third time. This show won Best Set Design with a set that had cranks and steam. The set design award was well deserved. “Steam Heat” is always a “Fosse” style production and it did not disappoint in this third production.  Actor Mason Patterson played the iconic role of Vernon Hines and won the Tommy Tune Award for Best Supporting Actor. Elizabeth Del Toro who played the role of Babe Williams was awarded a Tommy Tune Award scholarship of $2,000.00. Tommy Stuart played Sid Sorkin and like many of the seniors in the cast went on to college to major in the performing arts.

Guys and Dolls, 2013
Third time is a charm and LUCK was with us with a great group of actors, musicians and technicians for the 2013 production of Guys and Dolls. This production saw Conner Borne as Nathan Detroit, Haley Holtje as Adelaide with senior Tommy Stuart as Sky Masterson and Samantha McHenry as Sarah Brown. Once again we ordered the iconic black and white shoe.  Our techies were challenged with newly designed sewer. The round sewers really set the mood for “Luck be a Lady” which brought the house down. Again our technical students were working hard changing three major settings five times. Nothing surprised the audience more that Vinnie Mahal in his padded costume complete with leaps in “Sit Down you’re Rocking the Boat.” The audience went crazy for that scene. It was awesome.

42nd Street, 2014
Perhaps of all the shows, this one is the most difficult to write about. Dr. Kennedy missed the final casting callbacks – but she was in constant communication with our production team but we knew something was not right. She would confirm that to us at Thanksgiving that she was ill and being treated at MD Anderson Hospital.  Even during her treatments, 42nd Street was so important to her. Dr. Kennedy reorganized the committees dividing the work among Powdrell, Overstreet- Goode and Ashley Marmaro.  Amy Thornton came back on board to do house management.  She phoned Kathy Powdrell to check on things just hours before we lost her. Dr. Kennedy was passing the torch of her most precious legacy. “She had trained” us well and with an outstanding cast led by Max Bowen who played Julian Marsh, Samantha McHenry as Peggy Sawyer, Jenny Plackemeir and every single ensemble member we together managed to find just as the song says “The Sunny Side to Every Situation.”  In January we lost her but not her legacy. We sang her “Lullaby of Broadway” to bouquets of flowers on her seat every single performance. We were thrilled that Samantha McHenry received a Tommy Tune Award scholarship.

Mary Poppins, 2015
It seems that we were still sweeping up the glitter from the  gold coins from the dance props of 42nd Street, Powdrell received an email from an FHS Alumni, Paul Schrader who upon hearing about the loss of Dr. Kennedy wanted to honor her memory in the best way he could.  Mr. Schrader was a Vice President of Disney Theatrical and before we knew it, with his help, we had Mary Poppins in contract.  Then the fear set in – massive sets – tap dancing up, across and down a proscenium wall that we do not architecturally have and roof tops, many roof tops of London and a trick/prop kitchen.  Before the fall we had all the production plans in place not executed but in place. We found the Perfect cast lead by Audrey McKee in the iconic role of Mary Poppins herself and Connor Krusleski as Bert the chimney sweep. The crew under the direction of Cale Borne worked on some of the most difficult scene changes ever. The cast danced their heart out just as many of them had done in 42nd Street. With the help of the Flight Dads, Clarke, Kutz, Schlict and Mills, student Meghan Perry harnessed Krusleski in for the special effect of a half century – He tapped up the false proscenium and tapped upside down!  Nominated for many Tommy Tune Awards. The performance of “Step in Time” brought a standing ovation in Houston’s Hobby Center.  We were so delighted when Audrey McKee won Tommy Tune Award of Best Actress and represented TUTS and the famed Jimmy Awards in June 2015, New York City. This production proved: “Anything Can Happen If You Let It.”  And  “It was Perfect in Every Way.”

Beauty and the Beast, 2016
he production team decided to produce Beauty and the Beast after the overwhelming community response to Mary Poppins. Conor Krusleski would lead the cast as the Beast and would harness up once more to fly.  Katie Sharp played the iconic role of Belle. “The Beast” was built (Maurice’s Invention) and Brian Chew would drive it across the stage with a bit of help from the dads.  We did “Breakfast with Belle” and the children in the community were able to meet the characters and tour our castle. The leads wore clocks, candles, feathers, wardrobes and Travis Schlicht rode in a box as Chip for two weeks. The strong cast became bowls, spoons, knives, forks and spinning plates. The show began with the beautiful narration of Jordan Foster and Skylar Bockhart flew as the Enchantress. Our all time favorite moment was at the climatic moment of “Be Our Guest” when Gold and Silver Confetti exploded out of our ceiling. Sarah Jacobson would take care of all production needs, learn a new sound system with wireless controls while Meghan Perry once again was head of the Flight Crew. We received many Tommy Tune Nominations, Conor for Best Actor, Bodie Lowe for Best Supporting Actor, Connor Henry as well. But the event was cancelled due to flooding from a spring storm. Every time we hang a light or position a curtain a sweet reminder of Beauty and Beast floats down from our stage ceiling. Proving it really is “A Tale as Old as Time.”

Les Misérables, 2017
In 2017 the entire production team literally took a leap of faith in producing Les Miserables. The publisher describes the show as Les Misérables School Edition features one of the most memorable scores of all time and some of the most memorable characters to ever grace your stage. Powdrell had some convincing to do there were many things to consider primarily the space. Could our space handle a revolving platform, a bridge and what about the barricade? Then there were the voices, the actors and the Pit band? In true Dr. Kennedy fashion we accepted the challenge and in May of 2016 we began pre-technical work. Our flight dads became revolve dads with a trip to the Dallas area to pick up the scenic device. Once we had secured a scenic vision, auditions began and we all knew immediately we had something special in our hands. Outstanding performances by all our students on stage, in the pit and back stage filled the Myrlene Kennedy Auditorium with awe, as the dared to tell the epic story of love and redemption. We went on to garnish 14 nominations for The Tommy Tune Awards. From the opening on the chain gang to Alex Rudd’s beautiful “Bring him home” this cast, crew and pit band did an outstanding job on one of Musical Theatre’s most difficult productions. There are no words but BRAVO!