Gene Kelly Awards bring pizazz to Benedum Center

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Glam outfits, high-energy entertainment and loud applause at the Benedum Center last night were right out of the Broadway playbook at the annual Pittsburgh CLO Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater.

Named for Hollywood legend and Pittsburgh native Gene Kelly, the Tonys-inspired awards emphasize arts education and recognize the dedication of high schools to local musical productions each spring.

The Best Musical winners, chosen at three different budget levels from among 28 participating Allegheny County schools, were Pittsburgh Schenley ("Return to the Forbidden Planet"), Chartiers Valley ("The Wedding Singer") and Woodland Hills ("The Wizard of Oz"). Students from each nominated school performed a five-minute selection from their respective shows.

Most everyone was dressed in prom-like finery to support his or her school with the fervor of a Friday-night football crowd. Guest presenters included Gene Kelly's widow, Patricia Ward Kelly, who always adds a glamorous presence to the proceedings.

The 19th Kellys also crowned Kian McCollum of Chartiers Valley and Elizabeth Bailey of Pittsburgh CAPA as best actor and actress for 2009, but for them, the competition goes on. The Kelly honor sends Kian and Elizabeth to New York June 29 for the inaugural National High School Musical Theater Awards, in which two winners will be selected after five days of working with theater professionals.

Doug Rakoczy, of Pittsburgh Allderdice, received the Judges Award for his innovative automation of a teacup in "Beauty and the Beast." The award is given only in years when judges want to recognize a talent that does not fit into a Kelly category.

As part of the Kelly night, Chris Williams of Central Catholic High School was awarded a four-year scholarship to attend Point Park University's Conservatory of Performing Arts as a dance major.

2009 Gene Kelly Awards

The Charles Gray Award for Special Achievement in Arts Education: Propel Montour Charter School.

Scholarships: Pittsburgh CLO Gene Kelly Scholarships: Shannon Knox, Avonworth; Joseph Paulina, Pine-Richland; Sean Thomas, Pittsburgh Schenley; and Andrew Gentilore, Riverview.

Judges' Award: Doug Rakoczy, Pittsburgh Allderdice.

Kelly Critics Award: Nico Satryan, Winchester Thurston.

Best Scenic Design: Woodland Hills.

Best Costume Design: Pittsburgh CAPA.

Best Lighting Design: Woodland Hills.

Best All-Student Orchestra: Pittsburgh Schenley.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Teddy McKenna, Pittsburgh CAPA.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Arielle Katcher, Pine-Richland.

Best Ensemble: Pittsburgh Schenley.

Best Crew/Technical Execution: Woodland Hills.

Best Choreography: Pine-Richland.

Best Direction: Woodland Hills.

Best Actor: Kian McCollum, Chartiers Valley.

Best Actress: Elizabeth Bailey, Pittsburgh CAPA.

Best Musical, Budget Level I: Pittsburgh Schenley.

Best Musical, Budget Level II: Chartiers Valley.

Best Musical, Budget Level III: Woodland Hills.

Pittsburgh CLO's Gene Kelly Awards are co-presented by the University of Pittsburgh with additional support provided by American Eagle Outfitters Foundation, Virginia S. Nicklas and the CLO Ambassadors.

Sharon Eberson can be reached at or 412-263-1960.


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