Recognizing that love of theatre begins early, Millburn, NJ's Paper Mill Playhouse held its second annual Rising Star Awards for excellence in musical theatre in area high schools, May 20. Eighty schools from across the state were entered, with 49 nominated in 20 categories. Each show considered was attended by at least four judges.
North Valley Regional High School of Old Tappan took the most awards -- four -- for West Side Story. Union High's Mack & Mabel and Westfield High's Cabaret, each had 10 nominations. NJ Secretary of State Lonna Hooks and performer Eddie Bracken appeared at the ceremony at the theatre. Entertainment that night was be provided by scenes from the five nominated Overall Productions, and by the Leading Actor and Actress nominees.
Winning for Overall Production was Old Tappan's Northern Valley Regional HS for West Side Story. The other nominees: Bishop Ahr HS (Edison) for Bye Bye Birdie; Clearview Regional HS (Mullica Hill) for The Secret Garden; Sacred Heart HS (Vineland) for Carousel and Westfield HS for Cabaret.
Other winners included Betty Cavanagh (Mame, Bayonne HS) for Child Actor; Christian Eastburn (The Secret Garden, Clearview Regional HS, Mullica Hill) for Leading Actor; Nicole Martone (Mack & Mabel, Union HS) for Leading Actress; and the Kit Kat Girls of Westfield HS' Cabaret for Ensemble Group.
Rebecca Dolan, musical director of Nunsense II at Mount St. Mary's Academy in Watchung; and Kari Ann Sweeney, choreographer of The Boyfriend at Rumson/Fair Haven HS, were both singled out for "Outstanding Achievement By A Student." For a full list of winners and other information about the Rising Star Awards, call the Paper Mill Playhouse at (201) 379-3636.
--By David Lefkowitz