MILLBURN, NJ — Since their inception in 1996, the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater have ignited the careers of many notable performers, all of whom attended high school in New Jersey. Among the early nominees and winners are Anne Hathaway, Laura Benanti, Nikki M. James and more. The 2018 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards ceremony, presented by the Investors Foundation, will take place at Paper Mill Playhouse, 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, on Monday, June 4, at 7:30 p.m., 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.
Among the top nominated high schools, Union High School has 12 nominations; Columbia High School has nine nominations; Delaware Valley Regional High School and West Morris Central High School each have eight nominations; Moorestown High School has seven nominations; Eastern Regional High School, Ridge High School and Toms River High School North each have six nominations; Morristown High School has five nominations; and Fair Lawn High School, Gloucester County Institute of Technology, Wallkill Valley Regional High School and Westfield High School each have four nominations. These totals do not account for Student Achievement Award nominations.
“We are very excited to celebrate excellence in high school musical theater with the students of New Jersey,” Paper Mill Playhouse Producing Artistic Director Mark Hoebee said. “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.”
“What’s happening in high school musical productions here in New Jersey and around the country is remarkable,” Paper Mill Education Director Lisa Cooney said. “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.”
Paper Mill Playhouse also awards $5,000 in scholarships at the event; 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 awards a prize of $500 to a school receiving the 2018 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 “Theater 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 in the season finale concert, “New Voices of 2018: From Sea to Shining Sea,” on July 27 and 28 at Montclair State University.
2018 Rising Star Awards nominations and honorable mentions from Essex County are:
- Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical: nomination for Columbia High School for “Hairspray”;
- Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: nominations for Ellie Kallay as the Baker’s Wife in Montclair Kimberley Academy’s “Into the Woods,” and for Gabrielle Florendo as Nina Rosario in West Orange High School’s “In the Heights”;
- Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: nomination for Eric Sebek as Pippin in Nutley High School’s “Pippin”;
- Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: honorable mentions for Naomi Fisch as Amber Von Tussle and Madie Reilly as Velma Von Tussle in Columbia High School’s “Hairspray”;
- Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: nominations for Hunter Kovacs as Corny Collins in Columbia High School’s “Hairspray,” and for Wesley Gardner as Charlemagne in Nutley High School’s “Pippin”;
- Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role: honorable mentions for Ben Blais as Wilbur Turnblad in Columbia High School’s “Hairspray,” and for Jordan Scott-Young as Daniela in West Orange High School’s “In the Heights”;
- Outstanding Performance by a Featured Ensemble Member: nominations for Halle Lipton as the “Seasons of Love” soloist in Millburn High School’s “Rent: School Edition,” and for Madelyn Machado as Carla in West Orange High School’s “In the Heights”;
- Outstanding Performance by a Chorus: nomination for Columbia High School’s “Hairspray,” and honorable mention for West Orange High School’s “In the Heights”;
- Outstanding Performance by an Orchestra: nomination for Columbia High School’s “Hairspray”;
- Outstanding Achievement by a Teacher or Outside Director: nomination for Tricia Benn and Bethany Pettigrew for Columbia High School’s “Hairspray”;
- Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction: nomination for Jamie Bunce and Peter F. Bauer for Columbia High School’s “Hairspray”;
- Outstanding Achievement in Choreography and Staging: nomination for Tricia Benn and Bethany Pettigrew for Columbia High School’s “Hairspray”;
- Outstanding Costuming Achievement: nomination for Barbara Canace, Carol Rutledge and Suzanna Roghanchi for Columbia High School’s “Hairspray”; and
- Outstanding Hair and Makeup Achievement: nomination for Suzanne Roghanchi, Tricia Benn and Bethany Pettigrew for Columbia High School’s “Hairspray.”
There are 20 finalists for the Student Achievement Awards; 10 recipients will be announced. The four Essex County finalists include, from Nutley High School’s “Pippin,” graphic designer Patricia Patalinjug; and, from Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts’ “Into the Woods,” stage manager Anthony Crutcher Jr., lighting designer Kaila Lewis and costume designer Jennika Villard.
One Essex County school was nominated for the Educational Impact Award: Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts for “Into the Woods.”