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Home > Current Buzz > Ottuma H.S. Students Get A Taste Of Professional Fame



OHS students grab a taste of professional Fame
Mark Newman Nov 14, 2016


OTTUMWA — Four students from Ottumwa will help “light up the sky like a flame” when Fame the Musical comes to southeast Iowa.

The national tour of the musical, which also saw a film and a television series, will feature a professional cast. They will be reinforced by the OHS students in the walk-on roles of students and three area adults in the walk-on roles of teachers.

This isn’t something the touring company does everywhere it goes: This is in response to a request from Rustin Lippincott, the executive director of the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center’s Sondheim Theater.

“Over the years, I’ve established a good working relationship with [this organization],” said Lippincott. “They have a real soft spot for what we’re trying to do here in Fairfield, Iowa.”

He said performing any of the roles has been described as an “opportunity of a lifetime” by James Murtha, Fame the Musical producer. The Broadway musical comes to the Sondheim Theater, Fairfield, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The Ottumwa High School students sharing the stage with the national touring cast are Chris Caldwell, Esther Emberton, Isabella O’Brien and Phillip Shrimplin. Playing the roles of teachers at the performing arts high school are Natalie Dommer, speech and theater teacher for the drama students who attend Ottumwa High School, Lexus Waymire, vocal music teacher at Lynnville-Sully Community School District and Hedrick native Torie Hollingsworth — currently a manager at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center.

How did a Fairfield venue end up with so many Ottumwa performers?

“We gave the area schools an opportunity,” said Lippincott, “and Natalie was the first to say, ‘I’ve got four students who would be great in that role.’ We understand how great an opportunity this is, but also that we’ve become a regional facility. We’ve had patrons from 291 counties in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri — in just the last 12 months. So I don’t look at it as we’re just Jefferson County or even Jefferson and Wapello County.”

And while the New York producers of the show are impressed with the efforts of a “small-town, rural” theater, Lippincott said, he is aware that the Sondheim has been gaining a good reputation over the past eight years.

“There aren’t many opportunities that come along for high school students to perform on a stage of the Sondheim Theater’s caliber alongside Broadway professional performers,” said Lippincott. “We are ecstatic for what they are about to experience with the national tour of Fame coming to Fairfield. This is certainly a highlight of nearly 10 years of performances.”

The story of Fame the Musical follows the final class of New York City’s High School for the Performing Arts from their admission in 1980 to their graduation in 1984.

Tickets for Fame the Musical are available at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center ticket office, 641-472-2787 or online at



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