The Roger Rees Awards Announces 2020 Winners
The Broadway Education Alliance presented the 10th annual Roger Rees Awards for Excellence in Student Performance, a celebration of high school musical programs, in a special livestream event tonight.
In addition to offering a virtual showcase of New York area high school students in multiple musical numbers - including an opening anthem "As Long as There Is Love" from the highly anticipated Broadway musical Mrs. Doubtfire, and a special closing finale performance of "You'll Never Walk Alone" featuring Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller - the program revealed this year's Best Actor and Best Actress honorees.
The 2020 Best Actress recipient is Meredith Heller, a 17-year-old senior at Pelham Memorial Highschool (Pelham, NY), for her role as Rosemary in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Her future plans are to major in Musical Theatre at Manhattan School of Music. The Best Actor recipient is Jake Schauder, an 18-year-old senior at General Douglas MacArthur High School (Levittown, NY), who performed the title role in You're A Good Man Charlie Brown. Jake also plans to major in Musical Theatre, at Molloy College. The winners were surprised with the news by a special video chat with Tony Award-winning actor Christian Borle (Something Rotten, Little Shop of Horrors).
Other guest appearances during the program included Tony Award nominees Eva Noblezada and Rob McClure, and Tony Award winners Celia Keenan-Bolger, Kristin Chenoweth, and Benj Pasek & Justin Paul. To mark the 10th anniversary of the program, there was also a special performance by all 18 previous Roger Rees Award winners (formerly called the Gershwin Awards) - three of whom also won the National High School Musical Theatre Award (aka Jimmy Awards): Ekele Ukegbu (2019 Best Actress), Andrew Barth Feldman (2018 Best Actor) and Marla Louissaint (2015 Best Actress).
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, BEA's management team at Camp Broadway LLC worked collaboratively with participating school administrators to adapt the adjudication process for selecting the student nominees for Best Actor and Best Actress. Schools that had planned to produce an officially licensed production of a Broadway musical during the 2019-2020 academic year nominated two performers to represent their musical. Through a video audition process, professional Broadway coaches and music directors selected the top fifty (50) students (25 men and 25 women) to move forward in the competition. A panel of Broadway professionals including Bonita Hamilton (star of Disney's The Lion King), Hal Luftig (Tony Award-winning producer), Rob McClure (star of Mrs. Doubtfire), Patricia Hoag Simon (Marymount Manhattan College), and Merri Sugarman (Tara Rubin Casting) then chose the Best Actor and Best Actress out of ten finalists from the Greater New York Region.
The annual PLAYBILLder Award, presented by Playbill in recognition of comprehensive and engaging marketing plans utilizing a Broadway-quality program created with PLAYBILLder, was presented to Wantagh Theatre for its 2019 production of Rent. The winner of the "You Will Be Found" College Essay Writing Challenge, which awards a $1,500 scholarship sponsored by Dear Evan Hansen producer Stacey Mindich, was Caroline Ji from Stuyvesant High School.
The online talent showcase event was produced by Cody Williams (Ordinary Sunday LLC), from the Emmy Award-winning show On Stage, and hosted by NY1's Emmy Award-winning reporter Frank DiLella and 2018 Roger Rees and Jimmy Award-winning Best Actor Andrew Barth Feldman (who made his Broadway debut as Evan in Dear Evan Hanson in 2019). Broadway On Demand, the new global theatrical streaming platform, presented the Roger Rees Awards Live pre-show hosted by Ruthie Fierberg at 7:00 pm.
The Roger Rees Awards recognize the importance of theatre arts education and celebrate the exceptional life and career-long artistic excellence of Broadway's beloved actor/director, Roger Rees. Playwright Rick Elice, Rees' partner of over 30 years, and author of "Finding Roger," said, "Rog would have liked this chance to educate and inspire young actors, to offer a guiding hand as so many were offered to him when he too was a kid with a dream."
For more information about the program, visit www.rogerreesawards.com.
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