Tony Award Winner Performing At Lamar H.S.

October 16, 2009

It was former Lamar High School teacher Ruth Denney who helped launch the Broadway career of the famous singer and dancer Tommy Tune, who went on to win more Tony Awards than any other actor.

“She’s the one who told him to go to Broadway,” Fran Callahan, executive director of the Lamar High School Alumni Association, said about Denney.

Now Tune, who graduated from Lamar in 1957, is returning on Oct. 21 to his Alma mater for a special performance as a way to say thank you. The event marks the grand opening of the school’s auditorium, which underwent a $1.5 million renovation and is reopening as the Ned S. Holmes Performance Hall.

Tune will perform his current touring show, “Steps in Time: A Broadway Biography in Song and Dance.” He wrote, choreographed and directed the biographical show, which takes the audience through his 50-year career on Broadway.

The legendary performer won his first Tony Award for his leading role in the Broadway musical Seesaw, and he has gone on to win eight more Tony Awards for acting, choreography and directing. He has earned countless other awards, including the National Medal of Arts, the nation’s highest honor for artistic achievement. Tune even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

About five years ago, he performed at the Lamar auditorium when the school’s Alumni Association began a fund raising campaign to renovate the space.

“It was in pretty bad shape,” Callahan said. “The sound sytstem didn’t work, the lights didn’t work, the seats were wooden seats that had been built in 1937.”

Since then, the Alumni Association raised $2.5 million from 300 private donors, including parents, alumni and foundations. Several donors contributed gifts of $100,000. Houston businessman and 1963-Lamar-graduate Ned Holmes, the namesake of the renovated auditorium, gave a whopping $500,000, Callahan said.

“That’s pretty unusual for a public school,” she said. “I just think we owe a debt of gratitude to all the donors. It wouldn’t have happened.”

Holmes is the chairman and CEO of Ned S. Holmes Investments, a nationwide real estate firm. Before that he lead a financial holding company and bank for about 20 years. Holmes currently serves as a commissioner on the Texas Transportation Commission, and he has an extensive public service record that includes membership on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, a City of Houston planning commission, and the Port of Houston Authority board.

The alumni association spent $1.5 million to renovate the school’s auditorium. Instead of squeezing into 18-inch-wide wooden seats, guests on Oct. 21 will comfortably enjoy Tune’s performance in 23-inch-wide upholstered seats. Other renovations replaced the stage, lighting, sound system and curtains, painted the walls, and polished the Art Deco metal fixtures.

“All of that, now, is spit polished and shining again,” Callahan said. “The chairs are the most impressive because they’re 100 times better than the other ones.”

Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. show cost from $75 to $150. A rehearsal at 3 p.m. is also open to the public, and costs $35. People can purchase tickets online at www.signmeup.com/66550 or call Fran Callahan at (713) 522-5960, Ext. 359.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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