Tony winner Goldsberry got her start right here in The Heights

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HOUSTON, TX - The show must go on....and Sunday night, it did just that at the 70th Annual Tony Awards, despite the Florida massacre earlier that day. But host James Corden addressed the tragedy head-on, saying, "Theater is a place where every race, creed, sexuality, and gender is equal, is embraced and is loved. Hate will never win."

Who did win? Awards, that is. People of color, for one. All four musical acting roles went to folks of color. In yo' face, Oscars!

Among those was Renee Elise Goldsberry who won best featured actress for her role in hip-hop musical sensation "Hamilton."

Tony Award-winning actress Renee Elise Goldsberry

Tony Award-winning actress Renee Elise Goldsberry

"Hamilton" is Goldsberry's fifth Broadway show, but her first steps in theater happened right here in Houston at the HITS Theatre in the Heights. It's a professional-level training ground for kids in first through 12th grade. Carolyn Franklin, the theater's founder, remembers Goldsberry well, "Renee came in and took the classes and went, 'Oh yeah, I wanna do this.'  She just took to it. She loved it and she was good at it!"

What did Carolyn think of her friend and former student's big win? "Oh, I was over the moon!" she enthuses. "I was so excited! I was jumping up and down and cheering. It was very exciting!"

The current crop of kids at Renee's alma mater "HITS Theatre" were thrilled, too.

"To know that she was once just a kid like me," says Caroline Cox who has spent eight years at HITS, "and she had big dreams and she was able to work hard and go accomplish them. It's truly inspiring."

Sean Holhouser has done 25 shows at HITS in his seven years there, including starring in the recent "Crazy for You" at Miller Outdoor Theatre. He found Goldsberry's win inspirational, "It was just amazing to see someone who starts off from HITS getting all the way up to the Tony Awards."

Fellow HITS actor Corey Sobell agrees, "It definitely was really exciting knowing that someone so popular came from where I am right now."

Backstage after her win, Goldsberry offered this advice to theater hopefuls via the Tony Awards' facebook page, "One thing I encourage young performers to do... is to not really hear 'no.' ... Consider it like optional. Like, 'Okay, then I'll try something else.'"

Holhouser agrees, "Be determined. Keep going. If you lose an audition, pick yourself right back up and do another one."

"If you don't see the path, then you have to make it yourself," says Sobell. "Because if you don't try, then you never know what you're capable of."

Seems they're teaching more than just theater skills at HITS. We'd call those life lessons.

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