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VIDEO: Nikki M. James, Rob McClure, and More Join Paper Mill's RISING STAR HONORS


Paper Mill Playhouse presents "Rising Star Honors", a virtual celebration of New Jersey high school students, many of whom were unable to perform their high school musicals due to the current Covid-19 health crisis.

In response to the Coronavirus National Emergency and statewide school, business and institution closures, dozens of New Jersey high schools participating in the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards were forced to cancel their spring musical. Of the 94 schools on the roster, over two-thirds canceled their show. In the face of this, the theater was forced to cancel the awards program and ceremony which would have been the milestone 25th annual gathering.

The Host is Rising Star winner, Broadway performer and Olivier nominee, Jared Gertner, along with Rising Star Alumni from across the nation.

The evening featured appearances from Jared Gertner (OLIVIER nominee, The Book of Mormon), Nikki M. James (TONY winner, The Book of Mormon, Les Misérables), Rob McClure (TONY nominee, Chaplin, Mrs. Doubtfire), Laura Benanti (TONY winner, Gypsy, She Loves Me), Julia Knitel (LORTEL nominee, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Bye, Bye Birdie), Jennifer Blood (Girl From the North Country, Matilda), Natalie Weiss (Everyday Rapture, The Greatest Showman - 20th Century Fox). Matthew Scott (An American in Paris, Sondheim on Sondheim), Monette McKay (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Come From Away), Constantine Rousouli (Wicked, Hairspray), Anne Brummel (Wicked), Meghann Dreyfuss (Mamma Mia), Mike Schwitter (Pippin), Matt Ban (Rock of Ages), Renee Marino (Pretty Woman, Jersey Boys), Meghann Zervoulis (Musical Director, The Prom, West Side Story). and Matt DiCarlo (Stage Manager, Beetlejuice, The Color Purple)

The evening also featured performances from Paper Mill Playhouse's competitive musical theater professional training program, the Summer Musical Theater Conservatory.

Since its inception in 1996, the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater has ignited the careers of many notable performers who attended high school in New Jersey. Many Paper Mill Rising Star nominees and winners are now working professionally and have won esteemed industry awards while working in theater and film. Along with Mr. Gertner, early Paper Mill Rising Star 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 (Chaplin), and Shanice Williams, star of NBC's "The Wiz Live!" Visit for a full list of notable alumni.

"Even though the current pandemic has impacted the Rising Star Awards program, it has not dampened students' interest and enthusiasm for musical theater. These student performers and theater technicians have worked so hard and it is wonderful to have the opportunity to recognize their talent in a unique way," said Investors Bank Chairman and CEO Kevin Cummings. "Investors Bank is proud to be a part of this program that acknowledges the students and the high school theater programs in which they participate.

The "Rising Star Honors" presentation is salute to the New Jersey school community while the theater operation is on hiatus. Paper Mill Director of Education Lisa Cooney explains, "During this difficult moment, we want to give the students an outlet to shine. The passion that the students and educators here in New Jersey have is remarkable. "

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