Schenley, Hampton and Woodland Hills capture Best Musical Kelly awards

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Luke Halferty of Central Catholic and Kirsten Hoover of North Hills were crowned the best actor and actress winners Saturday night at the Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theatre. Winning the Kellys means their next act is competing for the National High School Musical Theater Awards in New York.

"I think 'oy vey' is the proper phrase," Luke said, accepting the award for his role as Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof."

The 21st annual Kelly Awards ceremony at the Benedum Center gives nominees from 29 Allegheny County high schools the opportunity to showcase their talents and dress in their prom-worthy best.

The awards, named for Hollywood legend and Pittsburgh native Gene Kelly, are presented by Pittsburgh CLO and the University of Pittsburgh on a night filled with glitz and anticipation designed to mirror Broadway's Tony Awards -- along with cheering sections straight out of a Friday-night football game.

Cheers of "Luuuuke" were heard when the Central Catholic senior was onstage. The Kelly judges also gave a top acting honor to Kirsten Hoover, who portrayed the title role in "No, No, Nanette," sending them to compete in New York on June 27.

The Kelly winners for best musicals, which honor productions in three budget categories, were: Pittsburgh Schenley for "Seussical" in Level I, Hampton for "West Side Story" in Level II and Woodland Hills for "Phantom of the Opera" in Level III.

Rights to "Phantom" had been released just in the fall for high schools to perform Andrew Lloyd Webber's demanding rock opera. Woodland Hills also took home Kellys for crew/technical execution and direction, while North Hills' pitch-perfect "No, No, Nanette" won for ensemble and choreography.

E. Clayton Cornelius, a star of Broadway's "Scottboro Boys" and a Woodland Hills graduste, was a presenter who said he learned confidence, integrity and humility performing high school musicals.

Andre Rand-Mathis and TaJaya Thompson, two bundles of energy from Pittsburgh Schenley, won special judges awards in recognition of outstanding work that doesn't fit a specific category. They helped make it a special night for the school in its final Kelly Awards appearance before it becomes the Obama School.

Among the many scholarship recipients of the night, Matt Augustyniak and Kirsten Hoover from North Hills each received a Constance T. Rockwell award from The Pittsburgh CLO Guild and Gene Kelly Cash Scholarship. The guild presented 10 students with scholarships totalling $40,000.

With the Tony Awards as a guide, Pittsburgh CLO created the model for the Kellys and the national competition in New York, now in its third year. Last night's ceremony included live performances by the best actor and actress nominees and production numbers from the nominated musicals. Gene Kelly's widow, Patricia Ward Kelly, was once again on hand to lend her support to the program and present the Kellys to the best musical winners.

The 2011 Gene Kelly Awards winners are:

• Best Scenic Design -- Budget Level I: Our Lady of the Sacred Heart; Budget Level II: Chartiers Valley; Budget Level III: Woodland Hills.

• Best Costume Design -- Budget Level I: St. Joseph; Budget Level II: Central Catholic; Budget Level III: Woodland Hills.

• Best Lighting Design -- Budget Level I: Our Lady of the Sacred Heart; Budget Level II: Chartiers Valley; Budget Level III: Woodland Hills.

• Best All-Student Orchestra -- Pine-Richland.

• Best Actor in a Supporting Role -- Matt Augustyniak of North Hills for "Billy Early" in "No, No, Nanette."

• Best Actress in a Supporting Role --Stephanie Higgins of North Hills for "Lucille Early" in "No, No, Nanette."

• Best Ensemble -- North Hills.

• Best Crew/Technical Execution -- Woodland Hills.

• Best Choreography -- North Hills.

• Best Direction -- Woodland Hills.

• Best Actor -- Luke Halferty of Central Catholic for Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof"

• Best Actress -- Kirsten Hoover of North Hills for Nanette in "No, No, Nanette"

• Best Musical-- Budget Level I: Pittsburgh Schenley for "Seussical"; Budget Level II: Hampton for "West Side Story"; Budget Level III: Woodland Hills for "Phantom of the Opera."

• Kelly Critics Award (a partnership between the Pittsburgh CLO and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) for excellence in writing: Meg Omecene from Hampton

• Judges Award -- Andre Rand-Mathis and TaJaya Thompson for their leadership roles as "Thing 1" and "Thing 2" in Pittsburgh Schenley's production of "Seussical."

• Charles Gray Award for Special Achievement in Arts Education: Propel East School.

Sharon Eberson: or 412-263-1960.


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