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Paper Mill Playhouse Announces 2017 Rising Star Award Nominees

As one of the nation's leading professional theaters and recipient of the 2016 Regional Theatre Tony Award, Paper Mill Playhouse (Mark S. Hoebee-Producing Artistic Director, Todd Schmidt-Managing Director) has a well-earned reputation for launching both performers and shows to Broadway. 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 Misérables), Tony Award winners Laura Benanti (Gypsy) and Nikki M. James (The Book of Mormon), Tony nominee Rob McClure (Chaplin), Shanice Williams, star of NBC's The Wiz Live! and Olivier Award nominee Jared Gertner (The Book of Mormon). The 2017 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards Presented by the Investors Foundation ceremony will take place at Paper Mill Playhouse on Tuesday, June 6, at 7:30pm, featuring presenters from Broadway and beyond. The ceremony will be broadcast live on television and online through Paper Mill Playhouse video partner, Hometowne Television, of Summit, New Jersey.

Among the top nominated high schools, Summit High School has 14 nominations, Columbia High School has 12 nominations, Eastern Regional High School has 10 nominations, Union High School has 10 nominations, Delaware Valley Regional High School has 9 nominations, Gloucester Institute of Technology has 6 nominations, Rahway High School has 6 nominations and West Morris Central High School has 6 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."

Past Rising Star nominees and recipients recently appeared on Broadway in She Loves Me (Laura Benanti), Noises Off (Rob McClure), American Psycho (Morgan Weed) Aladdin (Josh Dela Cruz, Jonathan Schwartz, Kathryn Allison), Les Misérables (Nikki M. James), Disney's The Lion King (Jelani Remy), Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Julia Knitel), Jersey Boys (Russell Fisher), The Phantom of the Opera (Julia Udine), London's West End production of The Book of Mormon (Jared Gertner); The Public Theater's Grounded (Anne Hathaway). Shanice Williams, star of NBC's The Wiz Live was nominated for a Rising Star Award in 2014.

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.

"We are honored and grateful to be supporting the exciting Rising Star Awards, which showcases the exceptional talent of student performers as well as the ingenuity of theater technicians," said Investors Bank President and CEO Kevin Cummings. "The nominees spend countless hours preparing for this annual competition that celebrates the very best in high school musical performances. The Awards also provide an opportunity for students from across New Jersey to share this amazing experience, and together they bring an incredible level of energy, passion and ability that helps everyone deliver truly extraordinary presentations."

Paper Mill Playhouse also awards $5,000 in scholarships at the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards Presented by the Investors Foundation. Five $1,000 cash scholarships are given to outstanding individual students who plan to continue studying theater performance or technical theater in college. Paper Mill Playhouse is pleased to award a prize of $500 to a school receiving the 2017 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 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 will present 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 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 onstage at Paper Mill Playhouse in the season finale concert, "New Voices of 2017: Everyone Loves an Underdog!" on July 28 and July 29.

The 2017 Rising Star Awards Presented by the Investors Foundation are also generously supported by The Blanche and Irving Laurie 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 Award is supported by 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. Paper Mill Playhouse is grateful for generous contributions from numerous corporations, foundations, and individuals.

Paper Mill Playhouse, a not-for-profit arts organization under the direction of Mark S. Hoebee (Producing Artistic Director) and Todd Schmidt (Managing Director) and recipient of the 2016 Regional Theatre Tony Award, 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. Paper Mill Playhouse is a member of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, the Council of Stock Theatres, and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance.

2017 Rising Star Awards Nominations and Honorable Mentions

Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical

Final Nominations

Columbia HS, HOW TO SUCCEED...

Delaware Valley Regional HS, 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL

Eastern Regional HS, LES MISÉRABLES: SCHOOL EDITION

Rahway HS, BIG FISH

Summit HS, HOW TO SUCCEED...

Union HS, CINDERELLA

West Morris Central HS, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

Honorable Mentions

Academy of the Holy Angels, THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD

Madison HS, OKLAHOMA!

Moorestown HS, CURTAINS

Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Final Nominations

Delaware Valley Regional HS, 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL, Amalia Crevani as "Judy Bernly"

Delaware Valley Regional HS, 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL, Jordan Reina as "Doralee Rhodes"

Franklin HS, SISTER ACT, Khailah Johnson as "Deloris Van Cartier"

Gloucester County Institute of Technology, URINETOWN, Kiarua Birchfield as "Hope Cladwell"

Nutley HS, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, Maggie Spector-Williams as "Annie Oakley"

Pascack Hills HS, BIG FISH, Nuala Cleary as "Sandra Bloom"

Scotch Plains-Fanwood HS, BYE, BYE BIRDIE, Sara Miller as "Rose Alvarez"

Honorable Mentions

Academy of the Holy Angels, THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD, Ariela Pizza as "Deirdre Peregrine/Rosa Bud"

David Brearley HS, ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, Vanessa Sierra as "Ti Moune"

Delaware Valley Regional HS, 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL, Claire Wolfson as "Violet Newstead"

Westfield HS, CARRIE, Emma Stern as "Carrie White"

Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Final Nominations

Chatham HS, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, Neil McCaffrey as "Gomez Addams"

Columbia HS, HOW TO SUCCEED, Hunter Kovacs as "J. Pierrepont Finch"

Eastern Regional HS, LES MISÉRABLES: SCHOOL EDITION, Gary Bowman as "Jean Valjean"

Gloucester County Institute of Technology, URINETOWN, Spencer Pietro as "Bobby Strong"

Moorestown HS, CURTAINS, Dean Blizzard as "Lt. Frank Cioffi"

Rahway HS, BIG FISH, Xavier Lighten as "Edward Bloom"

Summit HS, HOW TO SUCCEED, Sean McManus as "J. Pierrepont Finch"

Honorable Mentions

Academy of the Holy Angels, THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD, Patrick Buckley as "Clive Paget/John Jasper"

Peddie School, LES MISÉRABLES: SCHOOL EDITION, Alex Deland as "Jean Valjean"

St. Joseph Regional HS, WEST SIDE STORY, James Zitelli as "Tony

Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Final Nominations

Delaware Valley Regional HS, 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL, Brittany Hill as "Roz Keith"

Eastern Regional HS, LES MISÉRABLES: SCHOOL EDITION, Bridgette Burton as "Fantine"

Gloucester County Institute of Technology, URINETOWN, Alana Kopelove as "Little Sally"

Montclair Kimberley Academy, GUYS AND DOLLS, Ellie Kallay as "Adelaide"

Moorestown HS, CURTAINS, Skylar Raye Noyes as "Georgia Hendricks"

Ocean County Performing Arts Academy, SISTER ACT, Julianna Cavallo as "Mother Superior"

West Morris Central HS, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Catherine McGarry as "Mary Magdalene"

Honorable Mentions

Eastern Regional HS, LES MISÉRABLES: SCHOOL EDITION, Chelsea Chaet as "Cosette"

Morristown HS, LEGALLY BLONDE, Victoria Fanning as "Paulette Bonafonte"

Toms River HS North, BRING IT ON, Yna Tresvalles as "Eva"

Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Final Nominations

Academy of the Holy Angels, THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD, Alex Birchwale as "Victor Grinstead/Neville Landless"

Madison HS, OKLAHOMA! Max Vigotov as "Will Parker"

Montclair Kimberley Academy, GUYS AND DOLLS, Will Higgins as "Nathan Detroit"

Peddie School, LES MISÉRABLES: SCHOOL EDITION, Jamie Cocuzza as "Marius"

Princeton Day School, THE 25TH ANNUAL...SPELLING BEE, Nate Jones as "Leaf Coneybear"

Summit HS, HOW TO SUCCEED, Keegan McManus as "J.B. Biggley"

West Morris Central HS, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Albert Garrido as "Pontius Pilate"

Honorable Mentions

Academy of the Holy Angels, THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN, Bill Fitzpatrick as "Cedric Moncrieffe/Rev. Crisparkle"

Chatham HS, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, Jacob Feeney as "Uncle Fester"

Gloucester County Institute of Technology, URINETOWN, Joey Bennett as "Officer Lockstock"

Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role

Final Nominations

Mater Dei HS, CRY-BABY, Savannah Connolly as "Lenora"

Rahway HS, BIG FISH, Najah Hetsberger as "The Witch"

St. Joseph Regional HS, WEST SIDE STORY, Luke Berninger as "Action"

Summit HS, HOW TO SUCCEED, Savannah Dooley as "Hedy LaRue"

Union HS, CINDERELLA, Jason Yanto as "Lord Pinkleton"

West Essex Regional HS, DISNEY'S THE LITTLE MERMAID, Shane Danekyo, as "Chef Louis"

West Orange HS, DISNEY'S THE LITTLE MERMAID, Gabrielle Florendo as "Flounder"

Honorable Mentions

Columbia HS, HOW TO SUCCEED, Josh Ewing as "Bud Frump"

Mary Help of Christians Academy, ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, Miranda Almanza as "Erzulie"

River Dell HS, DISNEY'S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, Dylan Jones as "Cogsworth"

Outstanding Performance by a Featured Ensemble Member

Final Nominations

Columbia HS, HOW TO SUCCEED, India Anderson, as "Miss Jones"

Eastern Regional HS, LES MISÉRABLES: SCHOOL EDITION, Primo Davis as "The Bishop"

Fair Lawn HS, BLOODY BLOODY Andrew Jackson, Jillian Coleman as "The '10 Little Indians' Soloist"

Gloucester County Institute of Technology, URINETOWN, Rachel Maselek as "Little Becky Two Shoes"

Madison HS, OKLAHOMA! Erin Salko as "Dream Laurie"

Honorable Mentions

Jackson Liberty HS, SPAMALOT, Mikayla Greenway as "The French Guard"

Princeton Day School, THE 25TH ANNUAL...SPELLING BEE, Claire Szuter as "Olive's Mom"

Outstanding Performance by a Featured Ensemble Group

Final Nominations

Christian Brothers Academy, THE MUSIC MAN, "The Barbershop Quartet"

Columbia HS, HOW TO SUCCEED, "The Secretaries"

Gloucester County Institute of Technology, URINETOWN, "The Rebel Poor"

Hopewell Valley Central HS, DAMN YANKEES, "The Washington Senators"

Perth Amboy HS, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, "The Urchins"

Summit HS, HOW TO SUCCEED, "The Secretaries"

West Morris Central HS, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, "The Priests"

Honorable Mentions

Peddie School, LES MISÉRABLES: SCHOOL EDITION, "The Students"

River Dell HS, DISNEY'S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, "The Silly Girls"

Vernon Township HS, SHREK, "The Duloc Performers"

Outstanding Performance by a Chorus

Final Nominations

Academy of the Holy Angels, THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD

Columbia HS, HOW TO SUCCEED...

Delaware Valley Regional HS, 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL

Eastern Regional HS, LES MISÉRABLES: SCHOOL EDITION

Rahway HS, BIG FISH

Summit HS, HOW TO SUCCEED...

Union HS, CINDERELLA

Honorable Mentions

Gloucester County Institute of Technology, URINETOWN

Morristown HS, LEGALLY BLONDE,

Peddie School, LES MISÉRABLES: SCHOOL EDITION

Outstanding Performance by an Orchestra

Final Nominations

Delaware Valley Regional HS, 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL

Franklin HS, SISTER ACT

Mount Olive HS, ALL SHOOK UP

Newark Academy, ON THE TOWN

Ridge HS, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF

Summit HS, HOW TO SUCCEED...

Union HS, CINDERELLA

Honorable Mentions

Madison HS, OKLAHOMA!

Moorestown HS, CURTAINS

Nutley HS, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN

Outstanding Achievement by a Teacher or Outside Director

Final Nominations

Columbia HS, HOW TO SUCCEED, Tricia Benn, Bethany Pettigrew

Delaware Valley Regional HS, 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL, Clinton B. Ambs

Eastern Regional HS, LES MISÉRABLES: SCHOOL EDITION, Dr. Gregg Molotsky

Rahway HS, BIG FISH, Alison Dooley

Summit HS, HOW TO SUCCEED, Anne Poyner

Union HS, CINDERELLA, James Mosser

West Morris Central HS, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Jeff Hogan

Honorable Mentions

Academy of the Holy Angels, THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD, Katie McSherry

Madison HS, OKLAHOMA! Caryn Elefante

Moorestown HS, CURTAINS, Erica Scanlon Harr

Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction

Final Nominations

Columbia HS, HOW TO SUCCEED, Jamie Bunce, Peter F. Bauer

Delaware Valley Regional HS, 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL, James Schnyderite, Brittany Nailos

Eastern Regional HS, LES MISÉRABLES: SCHOOL EDITION, Katy Akinskis, Jon Stanz

Moorestown HS, CURTAINS, Sergey Tkachenko, Greg Connlain

St. Joseph Regional HS, WEST SIDE STORY, John Zupan

Summit HS, HOW TO SUCCEED, Steve Rapp, Wayne Mallette

Union HS, CINDERELLA, James Mosser, Laura Muller

Honorable Mentions

Academy of the Holy Angels, THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD, George Croom

Princeton Day School, THE 25TH ANNUAL...SPELLING BEE, Marc Beja

Rahway HS, BIG FISH, Robert Van Wyk

Outstanding Achievement in Choreography and Staging

Final Nominations

Columbia HS, HOW TO SUCCEED, Tricia Benn, Bethany Pettigrew

Delaware Valley Regional HS, 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL, Heather Fleiscan

Mount Olive HS, ALL SHOOK UP, Janine Byrnes

Mount Saint Dominic Academy, 42ND STREET, Jensyn Modero, Emily Arney

Northern Valley Regional HS at Old Tappan, TARZAN, Alison Owusu, Kaelin McElduff

Summit HS, HOW TO SUCCEED, Kelly Mott-Sacks

Union HS, CINDERELLA, Jennifer Williams

Honorable Mentions

Pascack Valley HS, PIPPIN, Francesca Silvano, Kelsey McGrail

Rahway HS, BIG FISH, Alison Dooley

West Morris Central HS, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Dana Harrington

Outstanding Scenic Achievement

Final Nominations

Columbia HS, HOW TO SUCCEED, Marc Matalon

Gloucester County Institute of Technology, URINETOWN, Kris Clayton

Madison HS, OKLAHOMA! Brian Toscano

Ridge HS, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, Jason M. Stewart

Summit HS, HOW TO SUCCEED, Travis McHale

Union HS, CINDERELLA, Diane Esquivel, James Mosser

West Morris Central HS, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Ron Kadri

Honorable Mentions

Delaware Valley Regional HS, 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL, Josh Paul

Eastern Regional HS, LES MISÉRABLES: SCHOOL EDITION, Chris Childs, Aaron Forsman, Cyrena Kokolis, Dr. Gregg Molotsky

Rahway HS, BIG FISH, Al Angrisani, Jeff Drylewicz

Outstanding Lighting Achievement

Final Nominations

Columbia HS, HOW TO SUCCEED, Tara Marie Abbondante

Eastern Regional HS, LES MISÉRABLES: SCHOOL EDITION, Danielle Fleming, Dr. Gregg Molotsky

Fair Lawn HS, BLOODY BLOODY Andrew Jackson, Andrew Scharwath

Madison HS, OKLAHOMA! Brian Lynch

Summit HS, HOW TO SUCCEED, Leonardo Hidalgo



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