Shuler Hensley has danced his way across Broadway in platform shoes and green latex face paint. He has played the role of the mysterious masked figure in the Phantom of the Opera and he has appeared as a 400-pound gorilla in Tarzan.
What he is most recognized for by Georgia high school students is the annual “Shuler Awards.” Each year a committee selects and honors high school theater productions and students across Georgia for their excellent performances.
Hensley was born and raised in Marietta where he discovered his love for theater and dance from his mother. She founded the Georgia Ballet and directed it for many years. After he graduated from the Westminister Schools and went to the University of Georgia for a baseball scholarship, he began singing in the glee club. He quit his sophomore year of college to study opera at the Manhattan School of Music.
“I just did what I enjoyed doing, which was both playing baseball and singing. Early on, I didn’t know realize there was a problem with pursuing both endeavors, ” said Hensley.
“City Lights” host Lois Reitzes responded by saying “There isn’t a problem, but there is a perception [that both activities can’t be enjoyed together] and there’s the problem.”
He began acting on Broadway in the late 1990’s. He earned a “Triple Crown” for his moving performances as Jud Fry in the revival of “Oklahoma!” That’s where his long-time friendship with actor Hugh Jackman flourished.
“I’ve known Hugh and he’s been a dear friend of mine for 20 years now,” said Hensley. He continues by saying “Even though Hugh can’t be here, [at the “Shuler awards”] he knows how important this is and always gives us shout-outs and is apart of this program from afar.”
He has also played Frankenstein’s monster in the movie “Van Helsing” and a towns person in “The Greatest Showman” with Jackman.
The award ceremony is fashioned after Broadway’s Tony Awards, where young thespians perform their nominated high school theater pieces in front of a live broadcast and audience. After the performances, both the theater productions and actors/actresses are awarded for their excellence on stage.