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Paper Mill Playhouse Announces 2022 Rising Star Award Winners

This year Ridge High School in Basking Ridge took the prize for “Outstanding Overall Production” for their production of Matilda.

Paper Mill Playhouse Announces 2022 Rising Star Award Winners

Since their inception in 1996, the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater have ignited the careers of many notable performers, all of whom attended high school in New Jersey. Among the early nominees and winners are Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables), Tony Award winners Laura Benanti (Gypsy) and Nikki M. James (The Book of Mormon), Tony nominee Rob McClure (Mrs. Doubtfire, Chaplin), Jelani Remy (Lion King, Ain't Too Proud), Shanice Williams, star of NBC's The Wiz Live! and Olivier Award nominee Jared Gertner (The Book of Mormon). The 2022 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards ceremony took place at Paper Mill Playhouse on Monday, June 6, at 7:30pm, and was livestreamed.

This year Ridge High School in Basking Ridge took the prize for "Outstanding Overall Production" for their production of Matilda. A complete list of award winners is below. Winning The Leading performers categories are Libby Schmitt from Ridge High School for her role as Matilda in Matilda, and Elliot Block for his role as Edward in Big Fish at Hopewell Valley Central High School.

Among the top nominated high schools, Ridge High School (Somerset County) earned 13 nominations, Columbia High School (Essex County) has 12 nominations, Clearview Regional High School (Gloucester County) has 10 nominations, Immaculate Heart Academy (Bergen County) and Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School (Union County) each have 8 nominations, and West Milford High School (Passaic County) and Summit High School (Union County) each have 6 nominations. These totals do not account for Student Achievement Award nominations.

"We are very excited to celebrate excellence in high school musical theater with the students of New Jersey," commented Mark S. Hoebee, Paper Mill Playhouse's Producing Artistic Director. "For many New Jersey schools, the prestigious honor of a Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star nomination is the culmination of their hard work in a high school musical. Many of our Rising Star nominees and winners are now working professionally and have won esteemed industry awards while working in theater and film."

Paper Mill Director of Education Lisa Cooney explains, "What's happening in high school musical productions here in New Jersey and around the country is remarkable. Programs like the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards raise the bar and create opportunities for student performers and theater technicians to be recognized for their achievements, while giving them access to thousands of dollars in scholarships and professional training. We consistently hear from top-tier colleges and casting directors that a Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award is a significant accolade for an aspiring theater artist."

The Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards Presented by the Investors Foundation are modeled after the Tony Awards, and Paper Mill Playhouse's program serves the entire state of New Jersey, with nearly 100 entered productions from public, private and parochial high schools. Paper Mill Playhouse conceived and created the awards in 1996 to give schools the opportunity to showcase their musical arts programs on a statewide level. The musicals are adjudicated by Paper Mill Playhouse throughout the spring by a group of 70 evaluators, with each school receiving four independent evaluations. Schools nominated for Outstanding Overall Musical and Leading Actor/Actress nominees perform at the event.

"Investors Foundation is proud to celebrate the incredible achievements of this year's Rising Stars. The fact that so many Rising Star nominees and winners have gone on to achieve success is proof positive that recognizing and celebrating achievement is of enormous benefit to our student artists. What's more, these awards also give us a chance to recognize the dedicated educators behind the scenes that make excellence par for the course in their schools every day." Domenick Cama, Investors Foundation Trustee, President NYC Metro, Investors Bank, a division of Citizens Bank, N.A.

Paper Mill Playhouse awarded $5,000 in scholarships at the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards Presented by the Investors Foundation. Five $1,000 cash scholarships were given to outstanding individual students who plan to continue studying theater performance or technical theater in college. The recipients of these scholarships are Madison High School's Jonathan "Sterling" Hart, Perth Amboy High School's Kloe Nunez, Piscataway High School's Shamar Wheeler, Wallkill Valley Regional High School's Avery Delguidice and, Union County Vocational and Technical School's Tyler Sautner, Paper Mill Playhouse also awarded a prize of $500 to a school receiving the 2022 Educational Impact Award, which acknowledges a school that successfully connects the musical to the district's curriculum, using the production as a teaching tool for the greater student body and local community. Through the Rising Star Theater for Everyone Inclusion and Access Award and a partnership with The Cultural Access Network of New Jersey, a project of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Paper Mill Playhouse presented a cash award of $1,000 to a school to recognize excellence in the promotion and practice of creative inclusion of students and adults with disabilities as performers, designers, musicians and production staff. Additionally, this award recognized and rewarded a school that took steps to ensure their performances were accessible to audiences with disabilities. The Outstanding Educator Award honored teachers that were nominated by their home school districts and awarded them a Rising Star Award and $1,000 cash prize for their schools' theater programs.

Students receiving final nominations in the lead and supporting acting categories receive a scholarship to Paper Mill Playhouse's competitive Summer Musical Theater Conservatory, a professional training program, which, along with advanced classes in singing, acting and dance, offers the nominees an opportunity to perform in the season finale concert, "New Voices of 2022: A Whole New World: A Tribute to Alan Menken" on July 29 & 30 on the main stage at Paper Mill Playhouse. Tickets are on sale now and may be purchased at PaperMill.org, or calling the box office at 973-376-4343.

Rising Star Awards - Presented by the Investors Foundation is supported by The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, and is a part of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance 2022 Stages Festival, made possible by support from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; Bank of America; The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey; OceanFirst Foundation; the George A. Ohl, Jr. Trust; New Jersey Historical Commission; and Fund for the New Jersey Blind. www.njtheatrealliance.org/stages.

Rising Star Awards are made possible, in part, by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, A Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Rising Star scholarships are made possible by Ruth Bedford in memory of Jane Burgio, Walt Santner in honor of Janet Sovey, and the Douglas Michael Krueger Scholarship Fund Trust. The Theater for Everyone Inclusion and Access Award is supported by the New Jersey Theatre Alliance.

The Hearst Foundations are Paper Mill's Education & Outreach Partner.

2022 Rising Star Award Winners

Outstanding Overall Production

Ridge HS, Matilda

Outstanding Leading Performer in a Female-identified Role

Libby Schmitt as "Matilda," Matilda, Ridge HS

Outstanding Leading Performer in a Male-identified Role

Elliot Block as "Edward Bloom," Big Fish, Hopewell Valley Central HS

Outstanding Supporting Performer in a Female-Identified Role

Rachel Vanek as "Miss Honey," Matilda, Ridge HS

Outstanding Supporting Performer in a Male-Identified Role

Oscar Grob as "Mr. Wormwood," Matilda, Ridge HS

Jayden White as "Chip Tolentino," The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Ewing HS

Outstanding Featured Performer

Elliot Newman as "Bobby," Memphis, Oakcrest HS

Outstanding Ensemble Member

Gabriel Subervi as "Doctor and Escapologist," Matilda, Ridge HS

Outstanding Ensemble Group

The Dance Hall Girls, Sweet Charity, Morristown Beard School

Outstanding Performance by a Chorus

Matilda, Ridge HS

Outstanding Solo Performance

Jonah Ruderman performing "If I Were a Rich Man," Livingston HS

Outstanding Achievement by an Outside Teacher of Director

Martha Harvey, Matilda, Ridge HS

Outstanding Achievement in Choreography and Staging

Newsies, Columbia HS

Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction

The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Clearview Regional HS

Outstanding Achievement by an Orchestra

Chicago: High School Edition, Carteret HS

Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, Haddonfield Memorial HS

Outstanding Achievement in Hair and Makeup

The Apple Tree, Harrison HS

Outstanding Achievement in Scenic Design

Newsies, Columbia HS

Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Design

The Apple Tree, Harrison HS

Theater for Everyone Award

HONK!, Moorestown HS

Educational Impact Award

Christian Brothers Academy, 13

Student Achievement

Chloe Ibrahim, Asst Director, Academy of the Holy Angels, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Jossue Torres, Stage Manager, Carteret HS, Chicago: High School Edition

Pottery Pereira, Lighting Designer, Carteret HS, Chicago: High School Edition

Rafael Andrade, Asst. Stage Manager, Harrison HS, The Apple Tree

Arthur Wawrzyniak, Technical Director, Morristown HS, Something Rotten!

Heidy Carranza, Asst. Pit Director, Morristown HS, Something Rotten!

Abigail Nicholas, Stage Manager, Newton HS, The Wizard of Oz

Jordan Perla, Student Director, Ridge HS, Matilda

Amanda Dellagicoma, Asst. to the Director, West Milford Twp. HS, Anastasia

Langdon Frey, Audio Crew, West Milford Twp. HS, Anastasia

Outstanding Educator Award

Dr. Michael Penna, Collier HS

Jodi Bosch, Mt. Olive HS

Erik Hall, Piscataway HS


PAPER MILL PLAYHOUSE, recipient of the 2016 Regional Theatre Tony Award, is a nationally renowned, not-for-profit theater under the direction of Mark S. Hoebee (Producing Artistic Director) and Mike Stotts (Managing Director). A beloved NJ arts institution since 1938, Paper Mill creates and produces groundbreaking new musicals and reimagined classics. Several productions have gone on to Broadway and launched national tours, including Disney's Newsies, Les Misérables, Honeymoon in Vegas, A Bronx Tale, and Bandstand. The theater is also the home of an award-winning center for musical theater education and artist training, with outreach programs that impact tens of thousands of students each year. As one of the nation's premier musical theaters, Paper Mill fosters a creative environment to advance the art form, educate students, develop future theater lovers, nurture inclusion, and provide access for all. Paper Mill Playhouse programs are made possible, in part, by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Paper Mill Playhouse is a member of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, the Council of Stock Theatres, and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance.



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