Toppers are Stuttgart Theatre Center success story

The best reward a good play can receive is applause.

However, there’s nothing wrong with earning a little extra recognition.

The Stuttgart Theatre Center did just that, taking home seven awards and 27 nominations at this year’s Tournament of Plays “Topper” Awards Show, a swanky ceremony held April 20 in U.S. Army Garrison Heidelberg.

The musical “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” garnered six golden “Topper” statues and 17 nominations, and the comedy “Rumors” earned one Topper and 10 nominations.

The awards show, sponsored annually by Installation Management Command-Europe, honors community theaters for their technical, musical, acting, artistic and directing achievements in front of IMCOM-E officials, commanders and peers.

But more than giving credit, the event provides theater groups the chance to hear feedback from the adjudicators who determine the awards, and rub shoulders with fellow thespians from military communities as far as Belgium and Turkey.

“It’s a way of connecting community theaters with professionals and getting their input,” said Richard Roberts, artistic director for the Stuttgart Theatre Center.

They also get to watch scenes from each of the competing musicals — 10 this year. The Stuttgart Theatre Center performed a scene from “Spamalot” called “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

“You get a taste of what everybody else is doing, which is pretty cool,” said Dennis Austin, who won the Topper award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical, for his role as King Arthur’s sidekick, Patsy, in “Spamalot.”

Austin’s award was even more impressive considering that he earned it for his facial expressions and body language; Patsy has only eight lines.

The entire event gave actors “a sense of community within the theater community,” Austin added.

All of the theater groups in Europe get together only twice a year — at the Topper Awards Show and at the IMCOM Tournament of Plays in the fall — so the show presents a unique opportunity for all to see what judges think the best work looks like.

Fourteen installations competed for close to 60 Toppers and more than 100 nominations for shows performed between the months of February and April. (USAG Stuttgart was not eligible for all awards).

The fact that Stuttgart did so well is a credit to its many volunteers, Roberts said.

About 55 volunteers helped act in and produce “Spamalot,” and close to 40 worked on “Rumors,” he said.

“It’s the commitment from the volunteers. They’re willing to play and experiment and do the things we like to do,” Roberts said.

The Toppers awards are also due to the Theatre Center’s habit of emphasizing story over sets and costumes, he added.

 “It’s about coming in for a good story or a good laugh,” he said.

In the case of “Rumors” and “Spamalot,” that’s just want the audience — and critics — received.

“Spamalot” Toppers

• Best Costume Design Musical — Amy Roberts

• Best Stage Properties and Dressing Musical — Rafal Daszkowski, Lise Desjardins Downing and Richard Roberts

• Best Chorus Member — Sabine Seibold

• Best Featured Actor Musical — Christian Reichel

• Best Supporting Actor Musical — Dennis Austin

• Best Actress in a Musical — Denise Woodmansee

“Rumors” Topper

• Director Ron Paoletti won for Best Sound Design Comedy