Arts & EntertainmentStage

‘He Just Reminded Me a Little Bit of Sean’

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At the Tommy Tune Awards, widower presents late husband’s scholarship to teen who wrote gay-themed musical.

By Donalevan Maines

Friends and fans of the late Sean Rudolph, a longtime Houston art dealer, will get to see his husband, Brad Blume, present a $5,000 scholarship in Rudolph’s honor during the local broadcast of the 15th annual Tommy Tune Awards on June 11.

The scholarship winner is 18-year-old Ryan Simon, a 2017 graduate of Cypress Ranch High School in Cypress. He wrote the award-winning musical Case Study: Chrysalis, whose protagonist is a young gay man.

tommytuneryansimonSimon says he thought he was going home empty-handed after 15 scholarships were announced during the annual competition sponsored by Theatre Under The Stars, including the $5,000 Ruth Denney Scholarship, which is traditionally the last one presented. “I thought, ‘Alright. You win some, you lose some,’” Simon says.

To his surprise, the Sean Rudolph Scholarship was announced next, with him as the recipient. Simon has also accepted a $14,000-per-year presidential scholarship from Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, where he plans to major in theater with an emphasis in playwriting and a minor in composition.

Coincidentally, Blume played tennis at Texas Wesleyan. He says Simon was planning to attend a different college when Blume plucked his application from the Tommy Tune scholarship entries and chose him for the Sean Rudolph prize. “He just reminded me a little bit of Sean,” Blume says.

Simon was a junior in high school when he recorded the opening number he wrote for Chrysalis and entered it in the Texas Thespian Musicalworks competition, sponsored by Theatrical Rights Worldwide (TRW), which it won.

State winners “submitted a song and a
plot summary for their original musicals, and one musical [Chrysalis] was selected to be workshopped by a musical director, director, and choreographer,” says Jim Hoare, vice president of TRW.

Chrysalis follows the personal battles of Lewis, who inherits files containing case studies from a gay conversion-therapy center that his late father ran,” says Hoare, who also produced the show with Gregory Bossler. (Visit “Thespian Musicalworks 2016” on YouTube to view a performance of Simon’s song “Rest in Peace” from Chrysalis.)

Simon, who has completed Chrysalis and started writing a second musical, qualified three times for the International Thespian Festival as a member of a group musical entry from Cypress Ranch.

Several years ago, Rudolph and Blume began investing in Broadway musicals when they joined the producing team for Beautiful—The Carole King Musical. They later invested in the Tony Award-winning An American
in Paris
.

Rudolph was slated to serve as a judge in the 2016–17 Tommy Tune competition when he and Blume met Tune at the October 2016 closing-night performance of An American in Paris on Broadway. “He was sitting directly behind Sean,” Blume says. “It’s a small world.”

Rudolph died a few weeks later at 58, after a courageous five-year battle with cancer.

Tune was noticeably absent from this year’s awards, which are named in his honor. In past years, he has opened the show with acting nominees, then returned to announce the big prize of the night, Best Musical.

The Tommy Tune Awards broadcast features production numbers by the eight Houston-area high schools nominated for Best Musical. As always, the medleys sung by Best Leading Actor and Best Leading Actress nominees are a highlight of the Tony Awards-style ceremony.

Awards are also presented in 12 other categories.

The Tommy Tune ceremony, which was held April 18 at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, airs on ABC Channel 13 from 1 to 3 p.m. on June 11.

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