What do a spelling bee, a deranged barber and a litigious blonde have in common? Each was the subject of a McKinney ISD high school musical this year – and the focus of a host of nominations and awards at the Second Annual Dallas Summer Musicals (DSM) High School Musical Theatre Awards held Tuesday, May 7 at the Music Hall at Fair Park.

Competing against 45 other public and private schools from across North Texas, McKinney North High School’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, McKinney High School’s Sweeney Todd and McKinney Boyd High School’s performance of Legally Blonde garnered a combined 17 nominations in 15 performance and production categories.

But, it was McKinney North who stole the show by taking home four awards – more than any other nominated school.

Here are all the nominations and awards:

McKinney North High School: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Nominee for Best Featured Performer: AJ Laudenslager
WINNER for Best Costume Design: Kellie Michie and Sierra Miller
WINNER for Best Ensemble/Chorus
Nominee for Best Choreography/Musical Staging
WINNER for Best Supporting Actor: Baxter Pitt
WINNER for Best Supporting Actress: Kaitlynn Loper
Nominee for Best Leading Actor: Garret Wilson
Nominee for Best Leading Actress: Caroline Upchurch

McKinney High School: Sweeney Todd
Nominee for Best Featured Performer: Gabe Heiman
Nominee for Best Scenic Design
Nominee for Best Ensemble/Chorus
Nominee for Best Crew & Technical Execution
Nominee for Best Musical Direction

McKinney Boyd High School: Legally Blonde
Nominee for Best Featured Performer: Kat Abbott
Nominee for Best Costume Design
Nominee for Best Direction
Nominee for Best Supporting Actress: Bree Redmond


The cast of McKinney High School’s production of Sweeney Todd. Gabe Heiman (right side, wearing brown vest and knickers) was nominated for Best Featured Performer. (Photo courtesy of McKinney HS)


Created in 2012 in the spirit of Broadway’s Tony® Awards, the DSM High School Summer Musical Theatre Awards has quickly gained a reputation as the premier award show of its kind. With its mix of award presentations and student performances, the night is a high profile opportunity for nominees to shine on a much larger stage – one typically occupied by the professionals who inspire them.

“It was really humbling to be able to perform [at the Music Hall at Fair Park] where I’ve seen so many great musicals like Mary Poppins, Phantom of the Opera and Wicked, so many incredible shows. Knowing that those performers had been on that stage, too, was mind-blowing.” said Caroline Upchurch, Best Leading Actress nominee from McKinney North.

“I’ve always kind of had that dream,” said AJ Laudenslager, Best Featured Performer nominee from McKinney North. “Whenever you perform, you’re there for the rehearsals and you walk out on the stage, and the audience is empty. You get to look out and you just kind of take a breath and...it’s so cool to be given that experience [at the Music Hall at Fair Park].”

McKinney Online

Bree Redmond was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in McKinney Boyd High School’s production of Legally Blonde.

DSM High School Musical Theatre Award nominations come from a panel of judges – all industry professionals – who attend a performance of each participating production and evaluate the shows in 15 categories that cover every facet of theatre production.

To be nominated for an award is a tremendous accomplishment. Winning four awards sets a standard that will be difficult for future productions to match.

"To have 17 nominations for individual awards from all three of our high schools is a huge accomplishment for us as a district,” said Roy Renzenbrink, Director of Fine Arts for McKinney ISD.

“It is a tribute to the commitment to excellence in learning, teaching and performance that the students and their teachers from all three high school theatre departments possess, and we are extremely proud of all of them,” he said. “McKinney North High School took home 4 out of 15 awards, which is more than 25 percent of the awards given that night. This is a huge honor for their department, their school and for the district at large.”


Kat Abbot (right) earned a Best Featured Performer nomination for her role in Legally Blonde.


For McKinney North Theatre Director Jami Sauls and the cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee the nominations and awards were a bit overwhelming.

“That evening was beyond special,” Sauls said. “Every time our name was called we became more and more blown away, humbled and excited. We were in such great company and the other shows from the competing schools were so very strong. I was and still am in awe.”

McKinney North senior Kaitlynn Loper, who won the award for Best Supporting Actress, echoed Sauls’ sentiment, “When we participated in the opening and the finale, we got to meet a lot of the people that we were up against, and after performing with them, actually winning the award was surprising because there is so much talent out there.”

“It was surprising and exciting. It validated all the hard work we’re doing,” added Baxter Pitt, winner of the Best Supporting Actor award.

For Laudenslager, sharing his craft onstage with so many talented performers was a highlight of the evening. “It was truly amazing because you take the best of the best from all the high schools and put them together for one performance. Just walking into a room and knowing that everyone there has that same passion that you do is just a really amazing experience.”

And, among so many talented young actors, singers and dancers, just being nominated is truly an outstanding accomplishment and a high honor.

But, taking home an armful of awards is pretty sweet, too.

For additional information on McKinney ISD, contact Shane Mauldin, MISD Communications Specialist, at 469-302-4007 or smauldin@mckinneyisd.net.


About McKinney ISD

One of the fastest growing school districts in Texas, the McKinney Independent School District currently enrolls more than 24,000 students in 20 elementary schools, five middle schools, three high schools, one alternative school and one early childhood education school. The mission of McKinney ISD, the champion for progressive learning throughout the diverse McKinney community, is to inspire and equip all students to explore, develop and express their unique potential as innovators, critical thinkers and collaborators through challenging, engaging and diverse learning experiences in vital partnership with the community. Visit the district's website at mckinneyisd.net.