Union High School’s spring musical production of “Grease” recently was informed by the Iowa High School Musical Theatre Awards that they are the recipients of 11 awards for this year’s production.  This is a record number of awards for Union High School from this prestigious competition.

The production was awarded 3 major group awards. First “Outstanding Musical Production” was awarded to Union as the highest honor the cast can achieve.  This is awarded to productions where all aspects of the performance are at an outstanding level from leads, ensemble, set, choreography, lighting, sound, costuming, musical accompaniment and overall effect.  Secondly, UHS was awarded “Outstanding Ensemble”, given to productions where everyone besides the lead rolls perform at an outstanding level adding to the quality of the entire show. This showcases the idea that everyone on stage is integral to the overall story and production.  This is the 3rd year in a row that Union has received “Outstanding Musical Production” and “Outstanding Ensemble”. The final major group award was “Outstanding Student Orchestra”. This is the first year that the pit band has been awarded this accolade for their hard work. Because of their group achievements, the entire Union cast of “Grease” has been invited to perform a solo 3 minute medley from our show as part of the awards ceremony.  This is the 3rd year in a row that Union has been invited for this honor.

The production also received 8 individual awards. Hunter Fleshner as “Danny Zuko” received “Outstanding Performance in a Principal Roll” and “Triple Threat Candidate”.  As a Triple Threat Candidate, Hunter will compete against other students from the state for a chance to go to New York City for a week long performing intensive. 5 students were honored with “Special Recognition for performance in a Principal Roll” including Kassidy Downs as “Sandy Dumbrowski”, Lauren Harrigan as “Rizzo”, Kortlyn Ewoldt as “Marty”, Wes Hanson as “Roger”, and Tate Hookham as “Kenickie”.  And finally 3 students were selected based on their performance in “Grease” to perform in the opening production number at the awards ceremony including Ben Rempe as “Johnny Casino”, Carter Spore as “Doody” and Natalie Tecklenburg as “Jan”

The Iowa High School Musical Theater Awards, presented by Des Moines Performing Arts, celebrates the extraordinary achievements of young musical theater artists. The program aims to create visibility and support for high school musical theater programs and to highlight the importance of arts education. 

Panels of community adjudicators comprised of performing arts educators and professionals attend and review each participating school’s  production. Students and directors receive valuable constructive feedback that can be used to grow and strengthen their future work. Based on reviews and scores, schools ultimately receive awards in honor of their achievements in categories ranging from choreography, design, supporting performer, lead performer, and overall musical production.

The Iowa High School Musical Theater Awards is designed to be celebratory rather than competitive in nature. Any student or school at an outstanding level is recognized for their achievement. Multiple honorees may be named in each category as performances merit.

The year culminates in a professionally produced Awards Showcase event held on the Des Moines Civic Center stage featuring outstanding student performances on June 4th and is open to the public.

When asked why Union has chosen to participate in the IHSMTA, Tim J. Mitchell, one of the co-directors stated, “We have always been proud of the quality work our students produce in the fine arts at Union. Our philosophy at Union is always to strive to improve in each arts medium in which we participate. When we learned of this program,  which includes theatre professionals attending our performance and giving constructive feedback, we jumped at the chance to help take our performance to the next level. This will be a great experience for all of our students involved in the production.”

Union High school has a long and decorated history for excellence in the Musical Theatre arts.  29 of 35 Union Musical Theatre entries have been named All-State in the Iowa High School Speech Association, receiving the “Critics Choice” award three times. This is the 4rd year in a row Union High School musical has received awards from the Iowa High School Musical Theatre Awards.   In 2015, “Catch Me If You Can” received 3 awards and in 2016 “State Fair” received 5 awards, and in 2017 “Anything Goes” received 7 awards. Union’s productions are jointly directed by Tim J. Mitchell and Korina Carlson.

Tickets for the June 4th Awards Showcase at the Des Moines Civic Center go on sale May 16th. Tickets are  $15.00 a seat and can be purchased at desmoinesperformingarts.org.