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The American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts, David (Volosin) Katz, founder and chief judge, announced that in an unprecedented result, the Hub City Players production of James and the Giant Peach and the Southern Opera and Musical Theatre Company’s production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera have been named co-winners of the American Prize in Musical Theatre for 2018-19. Both productions were directed by Dr. Mike Lopinto; with music direction by Dr. Michael Miles; choreography by Chris Word; costume design by Tammy Mansfield; and production design by Wes Hanson. Additionally, Dr. Jay Dean served as co-music director for Phantom of the Opera. All area Southern Miss faculty, staff, and/or alums.

“This is a triumph for the many dedicated and talented performers, technicians, and patrons who support excellence in the arts,” said Lopinto. “It is incredible that we can have both a Southern Miss educational program and a professional theater organization not just co-existing in the same community, but collaborating on productions of such high quality that they can both be recognized on a national level in the same year.”


The Hub City Players, formed in 2012, by Lopinto, Tammy Mansfield and Jennifer Bruton, have enjoyed success after success, many of which from an artistic partnership with FestivalSouth. Over the years, they have created a formula that Hattiesburg loves. With some of the area’s best singing actors, the project has become more than just singular events and is continually expanding to an annual season of performances in venues across the South. Recent productions include the adult-friendly Rock of Ages; the family-friendly, and now, American Prize-winning, James and the Giant Peach; a sold-out and held-over run of Steel Magnolias that was named “Best of the Pine Belt” for 2019; and the much-lauded musical spectacular, Sister Act which opened FestivalSouth’s 10th anniversary season with a another sold out run.


The Hub City Players have developed a devoted following who have come to expect exceptional performances, great production value, and a wonderful escape through theatre.


“Our goal for the Hub City Players has always been to produce the highest level of excellence while still maintaining a friendly learning environment,” said Mansfield. “Our motto, ‘drama-free-drama,’ has become a way of working and creating that we know our casts and crews have come to appreciate.”


The Southern Opera and Musical Theatre Company (SOMTC) at Southern Miss has accrued a reputation as one of the finest opera and musical theatre collegiate companies in the region—attracting a range of diverse and dazzling performers and presenting professional quality productions within an educational setting. 

The program regularly offers students opportunities to perform in opera and musical theatre productions, as well as recitals and concerts. Recent, fully staged productions have included Sweeney Todd, West Side Story, Mary Poppins, Carmen, The Mikado, and Rigoletto.

These 2018-19 stage productions were by all accounts, “epic” and now, award-winning. “The audience attendance for Phantom of the Opera, with its six consecutive sold-out performances, was the largest on record for any on-campus arts event in the history of Southern Miss. It featured a cast of over 40 students and a staff of 25 faculty, staff, and volunteers. Later that year, Puccini’s masterwork, Turandot, which was presented in a joint production with the Mississippi Opera, was the largest operatic production ever produced in the state of Mississippi. .


“It is truly remarkable that a university and community of this size have the talent to produce such high quality productions” said Miles. “This national recognition is a testament to the hard work of our students, faculty and staff, and will only add to our ability to attract the most talented students into our program."


James Trotter

Matthew Cook/Dawson Johns


Ladahlord (Mysterious Man, Porter, Seagull, Pilot)

Brandon Hayes



Lucy Sanguinetti



Tammy Mansfield


Grasshopper + Puppet, Villager, Mr. Trotter, Billy Bobby Cop,

Bitzi Botana the Guild President

Austin Querns


Ladybug + Puppet, Villager, Mrs. Trotter, Vagrant, Reporter

Jennie Bounds


Earthworm + Puppet, Villager, Karl Kreatour, Bobby Bobby Cop, Garden Guild Member

Diamonte Venson


Centipede + Puppet, Villager, Matron Nurse,

Buzz the Hollywood Agent

Joe VanZandt


Spider + Puppet, Villager, Vagrant, Gratzi Gazette the Reporter

Mind Pornsakulpaisal


Towsnpeople, Vagrants, Garden Chorus, Angry Crowd, New Yorkers


Rhino Puppeteer, Vagrant with Purse, Reporter, Seagull Dancer

Sydnee Durham


Rhino Puppeteer, Reporter, Seagull Dancer

Ellie Shannon


Museum Tourist, Reporter, Seagull Dancer

Zoe Langley


Museum Tourist, Hollywood Agent, Farm Animal, Seagull Dancer

Abby Daniell


Museum Tourist, Hollywood Agent, Farm Animal, Seagull Dancer

Ella Claire Bennett

Museum Tourist, Vagrant with Wallet, Garden Guild, Shark

Teagan Sims


Museum Tourist, Garden Guild, Farm Animal, Shark, Jake the New Yorker

Trent Rasco


Museum Tourist, Garden Guild, Shark, Joe the New Yorker

Luke Goodwin


Museum Tourist, Hollywood Agent, Willy Wonka, Shark

Hank Rigsby




Mike Lopinto


Music Director/Assistant Director

Michael Miles/Jennifer Bruton


Conductor and Production Manager

Michael Miles



Chris Word


Costume, Makeup  and  Hair Design

Tammy Mansfield


Scenic Design and Technical Director

Wes Hanson



Thanakarn Laossard

Construction Assistant

Steve Mansfield


Lighting Design

Mike Lopinto


Painting and Prop Design

Abbie Sanguinetti



Nancy Leader


Stage Manager

Sarah Pierce

Assistant Stage Manager

Perry Forstall

Adam Meshejian


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