Move over Marlon — Tyler Hepler’s performance in ‘Guys and Dolls’ lauded
Friday, May 31, 2019 | 11:27 AM
Tyler Hepler’s musical theater career started with a dare.
He was in seventh grade at Pine-Richland Middle School and as he and his friend walked past a group of students who were worrying about musical auditions and what they were going to sing, Hepler made a less-than-kind comment.
“I was like, ‘Wow, what a bunch of losers,’” Hepler said. “Then my friend, Tyler, said, ‘You couldn’t make it in; I bet you’re not as good as any of them.’ I knew no one was going to get cut, and I took the bet.”
Hepler has loved the stage ever since.
On May 25 at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh, the Pine-Richland High School senior won the Gene Kelly Award for best actor for his portrayal of Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls.”
“It was really special, that’s the only way I know how to describe it,” Hepler said of hearing his name called. “It’s just one of those feelings where you worked hard and you’re really happy you’re getting recognized, happy to get to represent all the people who got you there and happy to represent the school district. It was a really special experience for me.”
When Hepler first took the bet to audition for the school musical in seventh grade, he had no idea he liked to sing and dance.
He also never thought he was particularly great at it, he said, but he loved it and that was reason enough to stay involved year after year.
Hepler was nominated for best actor last year for the role of Will Parker in “Oklahoma.” The Gene Kelly Awards, presented by the Pittsburgh CLO, honor the best in high school musicals from across the county each year.
Taking on the role of Masterson was a little scary, Hepler said, primarily because he’s such a masculine character who was portrayed in the movie version by Marlon Brando.
“The best American actor of all time,” he said.
“Obviously it’s a high school production and you shouldn’t compare it to a movie, but you always do, subconsciously. I really wanted to get it right so it was a little scary, but the director one day took me aside and told me the whole secret to his masculinity was just being confident. Once I started becoming more confident in the character, it started to get better. If I didn’t have the directing team I did, I think the situation would not have played out the same.”
Hepler plans to major in musical theater in the fall at Penn State, where he’ll join Pine-Richland alumnus and 2017 Gene Kelly winner for best actor Jake Pedersen. Before that, however, as the winner of this year’s award he gets to travel to New York to take part in the Jimmy Awards.
Students from across the country will spend a week in intensive coaching and rehearsals with industry professionals, culminating in a one-night showcase performed on Broadway.
“I get to perform on Broadway, which is so cool,” Hepler said.
“It’s almost like I see my future starting now, which is cool especially at the end of my senior year. It’s nice to know things are going in a good direction.”