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Alan Menken to be Honored at Paper Mill Playhouse Gala, 5/13

Paper Mill Playhouse (Mark S. Hoebee-Producing Artistic Director, Todd Schmidt-Managing Director) is hosting its largest fundraising event of the year, The Center Stage Celebration on Friday, May 13th at the Hilton Short Hills. Tables and individual tickets are now on sale. For more information on Paper Mill Playhouse's Center Stage Celebration or to purchase tickets please contact Roberta Morton at 973-315-1663, or visit Paper Mill Playhouse's website,

Adding to the excitement of Paper Mill Playhouse's Center Stage Celebration, the Millburn Theater announced today that eight time Academy Award®-winning composer Alan Menken will receive the theater's prestigious Frank Carrington Excellence in the Arts Award. The first award was presented posthumously to legendary actress Lynn Redgrave who appeared in Paper Mill Playhouse's The Important of Being Earnest.

"Mr. Menken is one of the greatest composers in the history of film and theater and is the composer of our 2011-2012 season opener, Newsies," says Producing Artistic Director Mark. S. Hoebee. "We are honored to have Mr. Alan Menken accept this year's Frank Carrington Award for his enormous contributions to the world of musical theater and the entertainment industry at large."

The Frank Carrington Excellence in the Arts Award is named after Paper Mill Playhouse's co-founder and first Executive Producer. This award is given to a Paper Mill Playhouse artist who has experienced a distinguished career in the entertainment industry.

ALAN MENKEN has won a total of eight Oscars, more than any other living individual, and has been Oscar-nominated a total of twenty times. Theatre scores: God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater; Real Life Funnies; Atina: Evil Queen of the Galaxy; Little Shop of Horrors; Kicks; Patch, Patch, Patch; The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz; Beauty and the Beast; A Christmas Carol; King David; Weird Romance; Der Glöckner von Notre Dame; The Little Mermaid; Leap of Faith; and Sister Act. Film scores: Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Newsies, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Life with Mikey, Hercules, Home on the Range, The Shaggy Dog, Noel, Enchanted and Tangled. Honors: eight Academy Awards, seven Golden Globes, ten Grammys, New York Drama Critics Circle Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk, two Tony nominations, the Olivier Award, London's Evening Standard Award, membership in the Songwriters' Hall of Fame, a doctorate in fine arts from New York University and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Upcoming: Stage adaptations of Aladdin, Newsies and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

In addition to the appearance by Mr. Alan Menken, the annual gala celebration will offer an evening of dinner, dancing, auctions and entertainment with students from Paper Mill Playhouse's arts education programs performing a tribute to Mr. Menken and a special guest appearance by Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award winner Laura Benanti.

Ms. Benanti was the first Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award winner for a Leading Actress in a Musical. She was honored with the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award, and a Drama League nomination for her portrayal of Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee in the Patti LuPone revival of Gypsy. She previously starred in the Encores! production. Broadway: The Sound of Music (Maria, opposite Richard Chamberlain), Swing! (Tony nomination: Best Featured Actress), Into The Woods (Cinderella; Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, LA Ovation and Tony nominations), Nine (Claudia, opposite Antonio Banderas; Outer Critics Circle, Drama League nominations), The Wedding Singer (Julia Sullivan), In The Next Room, or The Vibrator Play (Lincoln Center), Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Lincoln Center). Encores: Gypsy (Louise), Wonderful Town (Eileen). Benefits: The Secret Garden (Lily), Hair, Pippin (Catherine) and Children of Eden. Off-Broadway: Why Torture Is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them, Time and Again (Julia, MTC). LA Opera: A Little Night Music (Anne). Williamstown: The Winter's Tale (Perdita, opposite Kate Burton). Film: Falling for Grace (Princess Alexandra), Take the Lead. Television: "Open Books" (CBS), "Life on Mars" (ABC), "Eli Stone" (ABC), "Starved" (FX). Recordings: several Broadway cast recordings, as well as "NEO," "The Stephen Schwartz Album" and "The Maury Yeston Songbook." Laura Benanti was raised in Kinnelon, New Jersey.

"It is thrilling to see Ms. Benanti come full circle through Paper Mill Playhouse's stellar arts education programs and go on to win a Tony Award and now return to headline our celebration," said Mark S. Hoebee, Paper Mill Playhouse Producing Artistic Director. "We are equally excited to feature students and alumni from Paper Mill Playhouse's many arts education initiatives in a Broadway Cabaret at our celebration."

Senator Thomas H. Kean, Jr., New Jersey Senate Republication Leader will be honored with the Byrne Kean Arts Advocate Award. The first Byrne Kean Arts Advocate Award was presented to Brendan Byrne and Tom Kean, Sr. in 2010 for their passionate work on behalf of New Jersey's arts community. "We are thrilled to present Tom Kean, Jr. with the Byrne Kean Arts Advocate Award this year," remarked gala co-chair Carolyn Ferolito. "At the core of Tom Kean is the noble ambition that through public service and the determination to turn ideas into action, one person can make a lasting difference. Tom has proven this as an advocate for the arts in New Jersey and we are excited to honor him at our Center Stage Celebration."

The reception and silent auction begin at 6:00pm followed by dinner and dancing featuring the Eddie Bruce Band. The 2011 Celebration sponsor is Hilton Short Hills. "We are thrilled to partner with Hilton Short Hills on our Center Stage Celebration," said gala co-chair Jane Higgins. "The support of Hilton Short Hills is priceless. They are a true community partner."

"The Center Stage Celebration is a wonderful event to commemorate the many facets of Paper Mill Playhouse, from our critically acclaimed productions to our award-winning education and access programs, this wonderful fundraising event supports our work in the community," commented Paper Mill Playhouse Managing Director Todd Schmidt. "Attending Paper Mill Playhouse's celebration is a rewarding way to support our not-for-profit arts organization."

For over seven decades Paper Mill Playhouse has been one of the nation's leading not-for-profit theaters. They continue to bring world-class artists and outstanding musicals and plays to the community while enriching the lives of over 50,000 young people each year through renowned education outreach, artists training and access programs.

PAPER MILL PLAYHOUSE, a not-for-profit arts organization, is one of the country's leading regional theaters. Paper Mill Playhouse programs 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, and by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by the generous contributions of numerous corporations, foundations, and individuals. Paper Mill Playhouse is a member of Theatre Communications Group, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, the Council of Stock Theatres, and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance.

Photo Credit: Walter McBride/WM Photos

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