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Winners Announced for the Roger Rees Awards

Winners Announced for the Roger Rees Awards

The Broadway Education Alliance Inc. presented The Roger Rees Awards for Excellence in Student Performance (formerly the Gershwin Awards) on Sunday, May 19 at Professional Performing Arts School (PPAS) in Manhattan, 328 West 48th Street, in Manhattan. Hosted by NY1's Emmy Award -winning reporter Frank DiLella and 2015 Roger Rees and Jimmy Award-winning Best Actress Marla Louissaint, the annual showcase of student talent included an opening and closing musical number featuring the 50 nominees, solos from the 12 finalists, and a performance from the PPAS cast of Caroline, or Change. Ruthie Fierberg, hosted the live, pre-show.

The 2018-2019 Roger Rees Award judges included Broadway star Jelani Alladin (Disney's Frozen), Tony Award-winning Broadway producer and general manager Nancy Nagel Gibbs (Wicked, Fun Home), Tony Award Winner Bob Martin (The Prom, The Drowsy Chaperone), Patricia Simon (Coordinator of the Musical Theatre Program at Marymount Manhattan College) and casting director Merri Sugarman (Tara Rubin Casting C.S.A./Jersey Boys, Ain't Too Proud and more) who selected two students to represent the Greater New York Metro-area at the 11th annual National High School Musical Theatre Awards, also known as The Jimmy Awards , at the Minskoff Theatre on June 24. Tony Award winner Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, The Cher Show), Roger's husband, was on hand to congratulate the students.

The 2019 Roger Rees Awards Best Actor and Actress are:

Ekele Ukegbu won Best Actress for the role Aida in Aida produced by Elmont Memorial High School in Nassau County.

Jeremy Fuentes won Best Actor for the role of Calogero in A Bronx Tale produced by Archbishop Stepinac High School in Westchester County.

The judges also recognized two students who demonstrated exceptional promise:

Savannah Lee Henry was selected as Best Up and Coming Actress for her role as Caroline in Caroline or Change produced by Professional Performing Arts School in Manhattan.

Vincent Gerardi was named Best Up and Coming Actor for his role of Orsino in Twelfth Night produced by Happauge High School in Suffolk County.

Nominee Sarabeth Schiff of Paul D. Schreiber High School was awarded a scholarship to Studio School by faculty member Kyra Selman. Additionally, three special awards were given out for non-performers. They included:

Playbillder Award for Marketing awarded to Mamaroneck High School. The award recognizes comprehensive and engaging marketing plans that include the production of a Broadway-quality program created with PLAYBILLder and included a $500 gift to the school's theater department.

You Will Be Found College Essay Writing Challenge presented to Katherine Hui, Great Neck South High School. Sponsored by Dear Evan Hansen producer Stacey Mindich, the award recognizes excellence in storytelling and includes a $1,500 college scholarship prize.

The first annual Excellence in Student Journalism Award presented to Allison Siegel, Lawrence Woodmere Academy. Producers of Broadway's The Prom sponsored the award recognizing student journalists for creativity, curiosity and courage in telling stories that promote kindness, acceptance and inclusiveness in their school and community. This year's theme was Courage in Leadership . Siegel will represent The Roger Rees Awards at The National High School Musical Theatre Awards' National Student Reporter Contest.

Fifty (50) students, (25 men and 25 women) represented 40 high schools located throughout the Greater New York area that have presented an officially licensed production of a Broadway musical during the 2018-2019 academic year. This year, 152 students who performed a qualifying role in an eligible musical were adjudicated by a team of three educational and theatre industry professionals who attended each school production. For a complete list of students nominated for the title of Best Actor and Best Actress by their schools CLICK HERE.

The Roger Rees Award nominees participate in a pre-award training intensive on Saturday, May 18 that included master classes in solo and group performance and rehearsals for the award showcase lead by a group of Broadway professionals who selected the 12 award finalists. The Acting Coaches included Tina Maria Casamento (Actress/Faculty Rider University Musical Theatre and Acting), Michelle Millard (CW Post/Long Island University), Sean McKnight (The Hybrid Agency), and Cynthia Thole (Fairleigh Dickinson University). Music Directors included Andy Einhorn (Carousel and Hello Dolly!), Isaac Harlan (Broadway Inspirational Voices), David Libby (Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz) and Christine Riley (Marymount Manhattan College).

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."

Throughout his life, Roger Rees was a committed educator and generous mentor to young artists. He spent countless hours in rehearsals and classrooms coaching aspiring writers, actors and directors on character development, craft, collaboration and the vast cannon of theatrical works. Rees received the Olivier and Tony Awards for his performance in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, and Tony nominations for Indiscretions and as co-director of Peter and the Starcatcher. Rees passed away in July 2015 after a year-long battle with brain cancer. He was posthumously inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in November 2015.

The Broadway Education Alliance is the fiscal sponsor for The Roger Rees Awards for Excellence in Student Performance which are supported by Disney Theatricals, Camp Broadway LLC, Concord Theatricals, Music Theatre International, Nancy Nagel Gibbs, Theatrical Rights Worldwide, and many other industry leaders working in/around Broadway.

For more information on the awards, please visit

Photo: Vincent Gerardi (Up & Coming), Jeremy Fuentes (Best Actor), Ekele Ukegbu (Best Actress), Savannah Lee Henry (Up & Coming)

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