Overture Center for the Arts: Overture’s Tommy Awards produces another national finalist

Contact: Robert Chappell, 608.258.4438 or 608.334.7829

Kettle Moraine School for Arts and Performance Grad Sophia Tzougros is Among Top Three Female High School Musical Theater Performers in the US

MADISON – Sophia Tzougros, a recent graduate of the Kettle Moraine School for Arts and Performance, was named one of three female finalists at last week’s National High School Musical Theater Awards in New York City, also known as the Jimmy Awards.

“It was exhilarating,” Tzougros says. “I was totally not expecting it.”

Tzougros was one of twenty four students to audition at Overture Center for a chance to go to the Jimmys.

She earned her place in the finals following an intensive weeklong series of workshops and rehearsals with 55 other aspiring performers, including Menomonee Falls High School graduate Jon Turner, another Tommy Award recipient. The thrill of having her name called as a finalist quickly gave way to the reality of having to give one final performance. Her selection was “Fly Into the Future” from the musical Vanities.

“Once I got backstage, we had to prepare,” she says. “Right after that I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I actually have to sing my song.’”

She got a calming confidence boost from Turner.

“He gave me a hug and said to me, ‘Leave everything on the stage,’” she recalls. “That was really sweet of him. That motivated me to do the best that I could, and I think I did. It’s such a rush that I remember it occurring and enjoying it, but I don’t remember what I did.”

She did well enough to impress none other than the man who wrote the song, composer David Kirshenbaum, who happened to be in the audience.

“He sent me a Facebook note and thanked me for doing his song and for doing it so well,” she says. “That was just ridiculous. More than anything that happened that night, that was such an honor, to hear from the guy who wrote the song and that he thought I did it well. That was unbelievable.”

“She’s an Idina Menzel type, and that will take her far,” says Overture’s Vice President of Programming Tim Sauers, who oversees the Tommy Awards and who accompanied Tzougros and Turner to New York. “The Jimmys were very competitive this year. So much talent, and many future professionals. To be in the top three there is really something. Sophia has a bright future in this business. To have students in the finals in two of the first three years we’re participating at the national level says a lot about the level of talent we have here in our area and our program.”

This fall, Tzougros will head back to New York, where she’ll study performance at Wagner College on Staten Island.

“Hopefully, this whole Jimmy thing will lead to auditions while I’m at school,” she said. “I’m really excited to further my theater education. One of the interesting things about working in the arts is there are so many directions you can take. I’m just going to focus on doing well in school, learning in the theater and outside the theater, and seeing where that takes me. I’m totally up for the ride.”

It was the second consecutive year that a representative of Overture’s Tommy Awards made the finals. Shorewood High School’s Martha Hellerman was a finalist in 2013.

Overture’s Tommy Awards program included sixty six productions in 2013/14, its fifth year. A panel of theater professionals, educators and others attended shows, offered feedback to the performers, and voted on award recipients. Those named Outstanding Lead Performers were eligible to audition for the National High School Musical Theater Awards. Overture also offered college scholarships for selected Tommy Award participants.

Overture’s Tommy Awards were one of twenty eight regional award programs represented at the NHMTA.

Overture’s Tommy Awards are named in honor of local musical theater hero Tom Wopat, critically acclaimed and Tony Award-nominated singer and actor. Born in Lodi, Wisconsin, Wopat first started singing and dancing in high school musicals, and studied music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before getting his “big break” in 1978 as Luke Duke in the immensely popular Dukes of Hazzard television show.

The Tommy Awards are funded in part by Alliant Energy Foundation, American Girl’s Fund for Children, American Family Insurance, CUNA Mutual Group, the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts, The A. Paul Jones Charitable Trust, the John A. Johnson Foundation (a component fund of the Madison Community Foundation), Electronic Theater Controls, and contributions to Overture Center for the Arts, with additional support from Wisconsin Public Radio.

Founded in 2009, NHSMTA’s mission is to raise the profile of musical theater in schools, recognize dedicated teachers and inspire the next generation of performers and enthusiasts. The program has been the catalyst for more than $760,000 in educational scholarships made available to deserving students. NHSMTA is produced by the Broadway Education Alliance and Pittsburgh CLO and is supported by many leading theater industry organizations including The Broadway League, BWF (Weissler) Foundation, Disney Theatrical Productions, Jujamcyn Theatres, Music Theatre International, the Nederlander Organization, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, Samuel French Library, Shubert Organization, Tams-Witmark Music Library, Inc., Ticketmaster and others. The “Jimmy Award” is named for legendary Broadway producer/theater owner James M. Nederlander. To learn more about the National High School Musical Theater Awards and/or to make a donation to the program, please visit nhsmta.com.