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Paper Mill Announces Winners of 20th Annual Rising Star Awards

(Millburn, NJ) June 2, 2015 - As one of the nation's leading regional theaters and producing partners for Broadway, Paper Mill Playhouse (Mark S. Hoebee-Producing Artistic Director, Todd Schmidt-Managing Director) has a well-earned reputation for launching both performers and shows for the Great White Way. Since their inception in 1996, the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theatre 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 MISERABLES), Tony Award winners Laura Benanti (Gypsy) and Nikki M. James (The Book of Mormon), Tony nominee Rob McClure (Chaplin), and UK Olivier Award nominee Jared Gertner (The Book of Mormon - West End) The 2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards ceremony took place at Paper Mill Playhouse on Tuesday, June 2, at 7:30pm, featuring presenters from Broadway and beyond. Union High School won the coveted title of Outstanding Overall Production and left Paper Mill Playhouse with a total of nine Rising Star Awards.

Other schools who took home 2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards include: Bergen County Academies (three awards), Cedar Grove High School, Cicely L. Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts (two awards), Colonia High School (two awards), Columbia High School/Maplewood (three awards), Freehold High School, Gill St. Bernard's School, Memorial High School/West New York, Midland Park Junior/Senior High School, Pascack Valley High School, Perth Amboy High School, Princeton Day School, St. Joseph Regional High School, Summit High School (three awards), Wallkill Valley Regional High School and Westfield High School (two awards).

Among the top nominated high schools, Union High School led with 16 nominations, followed by Columbia High School (Maplewood) and Westfield High School with 14 nominations each, Summit High School with 11 nominations, Hillsborough High School with 9 nominations and Eastern Regional High School (Voorhees) with 7 nominations.

To celebrate its 20-year milestone, the 2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards were broadcast live online and available on HomeTowne Television. Viewers throughout the world were able to watch the Rising Star Awards live online at www.hometownetv.org/risingstar. The live broadcast of the 2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards ceremony was made possible with support from Ricalton's Village Tavern, 19 Valley Street in South Orange, Marilyn & Hugo Pfaltz, Davies & Associates and Paul & Lisa Allen.

A rebroadcast of the 2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards ceremony will run on HomeTowne Television on Friday, June 5, at 1:00pm, Saturday, June 6, at 7:30pm, and Monday, June 8, at 8:00pm. Check local listings. The ceremony will be available on HomeTowne Television's website, on-demand feature at www.hometownetv.org in the coming weeks.

"We are very excited to celebrate this 20-year milestone with the students of New Jersey," commented Mark S. Hoebee, Paper Mill Playhouse's Producing Artistic Director. "For many New Jersey high 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."

Past Rising Star nominees and recipients recently appeared on Broadway in Honeymoon in Vegas (Rob McClure), Aladdin (Josh Dela Cruz, Jonathan Schwartz, Kathryn Allison), The Radio City Musical Hall Spring Spectacular (Laura Benanti), LES MISERABLES (Tony winner Nikki James), Disney's The Lion King (Jelani Remy), Jersey Boys (Russell Fisher), Phantom of the Opera (Julia Udine), London's West End production of The Book of Mormon (Jared Gertner); the Public Theatre's Grounded (Anne Hathaway) and 2009 Rising Star winner Julia Knitel recently returned to Broadway in Beautiful: The Carol King Musical to understudy for the role of Carol King.

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, and award recipients are presented with an engraved crystal award from Tiffany & Co.

"Investors Foundation is proud to present the 20th Annual Rising Star Awards," said Investors Bank President and CEO Kevin Cummings, who also serves on the Foundation's Board of Directors. "New Jersey's high school musical theatre students are incredibly talented, and we are grateful to be a part of an event that allows their accomplishments to be recognized."

Paper Mill Playhouse also 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. Paper Mill Playhouse was pleased to award a prize of $500 to Colonia High School who received the 2015 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 "Theatre for Everyone" Inclusion and Access Award and a partnership with VSA New Jersey and 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 Freehold High 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 also seeks to recognize and reward a school that takes steps to ensure their performances are accessible to audiences with disabilities.

Lastly, students receiving final nominations in the lead and supporting acting categories receive a scholarship to Paper Mill Playhouse's competitive Summer Musical Theatre Conservatory, a professional training program, which, along with advanced classes in singing, acting and dance, offers the nominees an opportunity to perform on stage at Paper Mill Playhouse in the season finale concert, "New Voices of 2015: Hooray for Hollywood!" on July 31 and August 1.

The 2015 Rising Star Awards Presented by the Investors Foundation are also supported by The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, The Merck Company Foundation and MetLife Foundation.

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 "Theatre for Everyone" Inclusion and Access is supported by VSA New Jersey and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance.

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. Paper Mill Playhouse is grateful for generous contributions from numerous corporations, foundations, and individuals.

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. Paper Mill Playhouse is a member of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, the Council of Stock Theatres, and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance.

20th Annual Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards Presented by the Investors Foundation

2015 Recipients

as presented at the 20th Annual Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Outstanding Overall Production

Union High School

SOPHISTICATED LADIES

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role

Adina Triolo as "Princess Winnifred"

Princeton Day School

ONCE UPON A MATTRESS

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role

Nick Berninger as "Chris"

St. Joseph Regional High School

MISS SAIGON

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role

Paulina Hill as "Lady of the Lake"

Midland Park Junior/Senior High School

SPAMALOT

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Outstanding Actor in a Supporting Role

Sean McManus as "Tobias Ragg"

Summit High School

SWEENEY TODD: SCHOOL EDITION

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role

Kristian Adap

Union High School

SOPHISTICATED LADIES

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Outstanding Featured Ensemble Group

The Sophisticated Gentleman

Union High School

SOPHISTICATED LADIES

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Outstanding Chorus

Westfield High School

URINETOWN

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Outstanding Direction

Tricia Benn, Bethany Pettigrew

Columbia High School

RAGTIME: SCHOOL EDITION

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Outstanding Direction

James Mosser

Union High School

SOPHISTICATED LADIES

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Outstanding Choreography / Musical Staging

Jennifer Williams, James Mosser

Union High School

SOPHISTICATED LADIES

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Outstanding Music Direction

James Mosser, Laura Muller

Union High School

SOPHISTICATED LADIES

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Outstanding Orchestra

Union High School

SOPHISTICATED LADIES

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Outstanding Scenic Achievement

Rodney Carroll, Mike Napovier

Wallkill Valley Regional High School

THE ADDAMS FAMILY

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Outstanding Lighting Achievement

Coby Chasman-Beck

Union High School

SOPHISTICATED LADIES

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Outstanding Costuming Achievement

Paul H. Canada

Gill St. Bernard's School

ONCE UPON A MATTRESS

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Outstanding Hair and Make-up Achievement

Rebecca Arnold, Emmy Zobitz, Rachel Olsen

Summit High School

SWEENEY TODD: SCHOOL EDITION

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Educational Impact Award

Colonia High School

CARRIE: THE MUSICAL

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

"Theatre for Everyone"

Inclusion & Access Award

Freehold High School

THE ADDAMS FAMILY

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Student Achievement Award

Emily Donegan

Stage Management

Bergen County Academies

KISS ME, KATE

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Student Achievement Award

Brianna Hoody

Student Music Director

Bergen County Academies

KISS ME, KATE

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Student Achievement Award

Monica DeLora

Stage Management

Cedar Grove High School

URINETOWN

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Student Achievement Award

Mamasa Waggeh

Stage Management

Cicely L. Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts

THE FROGS

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Student Achievement Award

Ethan Gill

Assistant Technical Director

Columbia High School

RAGTIME: SCHOOL EDITION

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Student Achievement Award

Jose Sosa and Marlen Sanchez

Drop/Prop Design

Memorial High School

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Student Achievement Award

Alyssa Zoll and Tyler Halligan

Assistant Choreographer/Dance Captain

Pascack Valley High School

ANYTHING GOES

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Student Achievement Award

Peter Gangi

Sound Design

Summit High School

SWEENEY TODD: SCHOOL EDITION

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Student Achievement Award

Jasmine Durham

Assistant Director

Union High School

SOPHISTICATED LADIES

2015 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award

Student Achievement Award

Stephen Bubniak

Stage Management

Westfield High School

URINETOWN

The Investors Foundation Rising Star Awards Scholarship

Jessica Levin

Bergen County Academies

Janet Sovey Scholarship for the Rising Star Awards

Kelly Hedden

Colonia High School

The Jane Grey Burgio Memorial Scholarship for the Rising Star Awards

Amanda Leon

Perth Amboy High School

The Douglas M. Krueger Scholarship Fund for the Rising Star Awards

Damian Otchere

Cicely L. Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts

Paper Mill Playhouse Technical Theatre Scholarship Scholarship for the Rising Star Awards

Aileen Sartori

Columbia High School



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