Teen talent hailed with Kelly Awards

West Allegheny, Hampton and Pittsburgh Obama 6-12 walked away winners for best musical in Saturday night’s presentation of the 24th annual Pittsburgh CLO Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater.

Talented teen-aged students and technical crew members who performed in their high school musicals this spring filled the Benedum Center dressed in everything from glittering evening gowns to summer dresses. They performed with enough energy to power a major metropolitan city while cheering their peers during a ceremony modeled after the Tony Awards.

Winning for best musical in their respective budget levels were: Pittsburgh Obama, for “The Wiz”; Hampton for “Young Frankenstein”; and West Allegheny for “Catch Me If You Can.”

Named for the legendary performer and Pittsburgh native, Gene Kelly, the annual awards ceremony emphasizes the value of arts education and recognizes the time, energy and dedication that local high schools devote to their spring musicals. Patricia Ward Kelly, the late performer’s wife, presented the awards for best musical.

The evening included live performances by the best musical nominees and contenders for the best actor and best actress awards. Each nominated school performed a five-minute selection from their respective shows.

The Charles Gray Award for Special Achievement in Arts Education was presented to Northside Catholic, in recognition of its arts-infused school curriculum. The students are exposed to the arts inside and outside of school.

Earlier in the evening, Pittsburgh CLO presented Distinguished Alumni Awards to three former participants in the Gene Kelly Awards. Alumni awards were presented to Dustin Giffin, theater technical designer and president of Giffin Interior and Fixture; Andrew Giffin, lighting designer, who worked on Justin Bieber’s “Believe” tour, the NAACP Image Awards and ESPN; and Sarrah Strimel, Broadway veteran whose credits include “The Producers,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Catch Me If You Can” and “Big Fish.” The awards were presented at a special reception prior to the ceremony.

At the ceremony, Pittsburgh CLO awarded $117,000 in scholarships to several college-bound seniors. Joe McGoldrick and Teresa Gregory, representing Point Park University, presented Alexis Loiselle, Thomas Kovach and Kevin Malesic with a $5,000 scholarship per year, renewable for four years, to attend Point Park’s Conservatory of Performing Arts for Musical Theater.

Pittsburgh CLO awarded Gene Kelly cash scholarships totaling $10,000 to two high school seniors, Benjamin King and Saige Smith, who have applied and been accepted to a school for the performing or technical arts. The merit-based scholarships are made possible through donations by Donald Arnheim, Paul E. Block, Virginia S. Nicklas and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.

The Pittsburgh CLO Ambassadors awarded $5,000 in scholarships to two college-bound students who will be pursuing a major outside of the arts. The 2014 Ambassadors’ Scholarship winners are Joshua Scherrer and Sarah Waters.

The Pittsburgh CLO Guild awarded $42,000 in scholarships to 11 students who are pursuing a college education in theater arts. The CLO Guild awarded $2,000 to Jenna Scannelli; $4,000 to Neal Bechamn, Ryan Borgo, Areo Kelley, Kyley Klass, Sarah Krempasky, Hannah Lane, Amy Russell, Annastassia Stewart and Zane Travis; and a $4,000 scholarship in the name of Constance T. Rockwell and the Charity Randall Foundation to Michael Zak.


• Musical: Budget Level I: Pittsburgh Obama (“The Wiz”); Budget Level II: Hampton (“Young Frankenstein”); Budget Level III: West Allegheny (“Catch Me If You Can”).

• Actor: Ryan Borgo, West Allegheny (Frank Abignale Jr. in “Catch Me If You Can”).

• Actress: Marnie Quick of Pittsburgh Obama (Tinman in “The Wiz”).

• Direction: Hampton (“Young Frankenstein”).

• Choreography: Hampton (“Young Frankenstein”).

• Scenic Design: Budget Level I: Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (“The Wiz”); Budget Level II: Hampton (“Young Frankenstein”); Budget Level III: Woodland Hills (“Sweeney Todd”).

• Costume Design: Budget Level I: St. Joseph (“Shrek, The Musical); Budget Level II: Central Catholic (“Monty Python’s Spamalot”); Budget Level III: Baldwin (“Shrek, the Musical”).

• Lighting Design: Budget Level I: Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (“The Wiz”); Budget Level II: Riverview (“Fiddler on the Roof”); Budget Level III: Woodland Hills (“Sweeney Todd”).

• All-Student Orchestra: Hampton (“Young Frankenstein”).

• Actor in a Supporting Role: Michael Zak of Central Catholic (Patsy in “Spamalot”).

• Actress in a Supporting Role: Brook Taylor of Woodland Hills (Beggar Woman/Lucy Barker in “Sweeney Todd”).

• Ensemble: Hampton (“Young Frankenstein”).

• Crew/Technical Execution: Pine-Richland (“Thoroughly Modern Millie”).

The winner of this year's Kelly Critics Award is David Shoemaker from Whitehall, who won for excellence in writing theatrical critiques. Now in its 11th year, the Kelly Critics program is a unique partnership between the Pittsburgh CLO and Christopher Rawson, senior theater critic for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Mr. Rawson presented the award.

Winners of the best actor and best actress awards will represent Pittsburgh at the fifth annual National High School Musical Theater Awards in New York City on June 30. The national awards involve more than 50,000 students annually who participate in high school musical theater competitions sponsored by top professional theaters throughout the U.S.

Best actress and best actor winners from each of these competitions is sent to New York for a weeklong theater intensive of coaching and rehearsals with industry professionals in preparation for a one-night-only showcase at The Jimmy Awards on Broadway, where a panel of judges crowns the nation’s top performers. Since its inception in 2009, the program has been the catalyst for more than $750,000 in educational scholarships awarded to its participants. For more information, visit www.nhsmta.com.

Students from the following list of 29 schools participated in this year’s Gene Kelly Awards: Avonworth, Baldwin, Bishop Canevin, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, Central Catholic, Chartiers Valley, Elizabeth Forward, Hampton, Keystone Oaks, McKeesport, North Hills, Northgate, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Penn Hills, Pine-Richland, Pittsburgh Obama, Pittsburgh Brashear, Pittsburgh CAPA, Pittsburgh Perry, Plum, Quaker Valley, Riverview, Shady Side Academy, Springdale, St. Joseph, West Allegheny, West Mifflin, Winchester Thurston and Woodland Hills.

Please note: An earlier version of the story omitted the Kelly Critics Award.

Marylynne Pitz: mpitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1648.

First Published May 25, 2014 1:06 AM

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