by Bernadette Hopen
WHS students and teachers took home 11 awards from the 16th Annual Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards ceremony on June 7. WHS received 15 nominations and 2 honorable mentions for this year’s spring musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Out of 100 schools statewide, Sweeney Todd received awards for: Outstanding Lighting Achievement (Michael Kimmel and Lisa Weinshrott), Outstanding Scenic Achievement (Mr. Roy Chambers), Outstanding Achievement by a Teacher or Outside Director (Mr. Daniel Devlin), Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role (senior Peter Carmo),Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (junior Rebecca Skowron), Student Achievement Awards for Stage Manager senior Tzvetelina Garneva and Assistant Technical Director senior Jill Salisbury, Outstanding Performance by a Chorus and Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical. Sweeney Todd also received Honorable Mentions for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting role (senior Garrett Verdone) and Outstanding Costume Achievement (Christine Hahn, junior Alison Antonelli and senior Samantha Waldman).
The RSA is a competition for high school musicals modeled after the Tony Awards. The RSA acknowledges students and educators for their achievements in design, performance, direction, technical production, choreography and overall production, according to papermill.org.
For the first time since 1994, WHS won Outstanding Production of a Musical. Senior Peter Surace, nominee for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, said: “Sweeney is unlike any show I have been in at WHS. The professionalism of every aspect of the production was something that... was [rightfully] recognized.”
“I can’t imagine a better way to [leave the WHS theater department],” added Nominee for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role senior Catalina Gaglioti, “We all put so much into this and [winning Best Show] is proof of all of our hard work.”
Skowron, a recipient of one of the Tiffany & Co. crystal award, said: “[Winning] is so surreal. This whole evening was magical and I will never forget it.”
Carmo said: “I am ecstatic [that I won]! Four years of theater... lead to this awesome moment.”
“We always say that we don't put on performances for the awards and though that is still very true, it would be a lie to say that winning isn't an exhilarating experience that we enjoy,” said Garneva.
The RSA also awarded $1,000 scholarships to seniors who plan to study technical or performing theater. Senior Christopher Morrissey, a nominee for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, received The Investors Saving Bank Foundation Rising Star Awards Scholarship. Salisbury received The Scaramouche Technical Theater Scholarship as well as a RSA Student Achievement Award. In her acceptance speech, Salisbury said: “It’s absurd to be awarded for something I love to do, but it means a lot to be recognized for it.” Chambers said: “I am so excited to be able to share this and be recognized. We had an amazing cast and crew that… was able to pull off one of the hardest shows out there. Also, Mr. Devlin's direction and vision was a key element.”
The cast and crew agree that Devlin deserved to win Best Director. Carmo said that Devlin has taught him so much about theater and cast member Amelia Morabito said that Devlin has taught the chorus that every person is important and vital in having a successful production.
During his acceptance speech, an emotional Devlin said: “This is an amazing group of dedicated students. Three years ago [the theater department] was going to go away and look where we are now.”