2020 Rising Star Awards canceled, replaced with virtual celebration

MILLBURN, NJ — Paper Mill Playhouse has announced the cancellation of the 2020 Rising Star Awards. Paper Mill will instead host a virtual celebration honoring the passion and talent of New Jersey high school students, many of whom were unable to perform their high school musicals due to the current COVID-19 health crisis.

In response to the coronavirus national emergency and statewide school, business and institution closures, dozens of New Jersey high schools participating in the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards were forced to cancel their spring musical. Of the 94 schools on the roster, more than two-thirds canceled their shows. In the face of this, the theater has canceled the awards program and ceremony, which would have been the milestone 25th annual gathering.

Nevertheless, to acknowledge the passion that New Jersey students have for musical theater, Paper Mill will present a virtual celebration of the 2020 participating schools with Rising Star Honors, presented by the Investors Foundation. This event will feature a montage of school video submissions of their shows, whether they were ultimately performed in front of an audience or not. Schools will share highlights of their performances, rehearsals or create new performances by company members. Rising Star Honors will premiere Monday, June 1, at 7 p.m. on Paper Mill Playhouse’s Facebook page. 

Rising Star winner, Broadway performer and Olivier nominee Jared Gertner will host, along with Rising Star alumni from across the nation.  

“We want the students of New Jersey to know our hearts are with them and we understand and acknowledge the deep disappointment they feel, especially the seniors,” said Mark Hoebee, Paper Mill Playhouse’s producing artistic director. “In the theater arts, the cast and crew of the musical become a family, and the time they spend together in rehearsals creates a safe harbor for many kids, so we understand how they may feel incomplete right now. We want them to know we are thinking of them and love their passion. Each year for the past 25 years, the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards have raised the bar and created opportunities for student performers, musicians and theater technicians to be recognized for their achievements. We can’t wait to return next year.”