Cast and crew members from Allegheny County high school musicals packed the Benedum Center Saturday night for the 23rd annual Pittsburgh CLO Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater. Decked out in everything from prom finery to raggedy little orphan Annie costumes, they performed and cheered their peers at the ceremony patterned after the Tony Awards.
More than $82,000 in scholarships were awarded, and Angelo Ragghianti of Pittsburgh CAPA and Rachael Houser of Quaker Valley were chosen as best actor and actress. Along with their trophies, the pair earned the opportunity to represent the Kellys in the fifth annual National High School Musical Theater Awards -- known as the Jimmys, for theater impresario James Nederlander -- in New York City on July 1.
Angelo portrayed the hopeful narrator Usnavi in "In the Heights," a best musical winner for Pittsburgh CAPA, and Rachael was feisty Reno Sweeney in "Anything Goes." They were part of the traditional live performances by the actor and actress nominees, while each of the best musical nominees in three budget categories performed a five-minute selection from their respective shows. Avonworth ("The Phantom of the Opera") and Baldwin ("Hairspray") were the other best musical winners.
The awards, named for Hollywood musical legend and Pittsburgh native Gene Kelly, are produced by Pittsburgh CLO and the University of Pittsburgh to honor the students for their efforts and emphasize the importance of arts education. Absent this year was Patricia Ward Kelly, widow of Gene Kelly, who sent her regrets because of a prior commitment. Announcing the three best musicals was Joey Fatone, the N'Sync band member and "Dancing With the Stars" runner-up who will star in "42nd Street," the first show of Pittsburgh CLO's 2013 season.
Participating schools this year were Avonworth, Baldwin, Bishop Canevin, Central Catholic, Chartiers Valley, Deer Lakes, Elizabeth Forward, Hampton, Keystone Oaks, McKeesport, North Catholic, 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, St. Joseph, West Allegheny, West Mifflin, Winchester Thurston and Woodland Hills.
The process of picking nominees and winners includes three dozen theater and business professionals observing shows, deliberating and voting. Their votes are tallied by the firm of Deloitte LLP and revealed at the Kellys ceremony.
Among the scholarships awarded Saturday, Joe McGoldrick, representing Point Park University, presented Katherine Rogers of Penn Hills and Dylan Baker of West Mifflin with a $5,000 per year, four-year scholarship to attend Point Park's Conservatory of Performing Arts for Musical Theater. Pittsburgh CLO awarded Gene Kelly Cash Scholarships totaling $8,000 to Jason Cohen, Rehima Jordan and Alexander Simakas, high school seniors who have been accepted to a school for the performing or technical arts.
2013 Kelly Awards winners
• Scenic Design -- Budget Level I: Pittsburgh CAPA ("In the Heights"); Budget Level II: West Mifflin ("Willy Wonka"); Budget Level III: Woodland Hills ("Young Frankenstein").
• Costume Design -- Budget Level I: St. Joseph ("Seussical"); Budget Level II: Keystone Oaks ("The Drowsy Chaperone"); Budget Level III: Plum ("Seussical").
• Lighting Design -- Budget Level I: Pittsburgh Obama ("Once on This Island"); Budget Level II: Chartiers Valley ("9 to 5 the Musical"); Budget Level III -- Woodland Hills.
• All-Student Orchestra -- Pittsburgh CAPA.
• Actor in a Supporting Role -- Justin McCord, Woodland Hills (Igor in "Young Frankenstein").
• Actress in a Supporting Role -- Michala Williams, Pittsburgh CAPA (Abuela Claudia in "In the Heights").
• Ensemble -- Pittsburgh CAPA.
• Crew/Technical Execution -- Woodland Hills.
• Choreography -- Penn Hills ("All Shook Up").
Kelly Critic Award (in collaboration with the Post-Gazette) -- Luke Dowker, Baldwin.
• Direction -- Pittsburgh CAPA.
• Actor -- Angelo Ragghianti, Pittsburgh CAPA (Usnavi in "In the Heights").
• Actress -- Rachael Houser, Quaker Valley (Reno Sweeney in "Anything Goes").
• Musical -- Budget Level I: Pittsburgh CAPA ("In the Heights"); Budget Level II: Avonworth ("The Phantom of the Opera"); Budget Level III: Baldwin ("Hairspray").
• Distinguished Alumni Awards -- musical theater veteran and author Tim Federle and director of government relations for the Penguins, Abass B. Kamara.
• Charles Gray Award for Special Achievement in Arts Education -- Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy.
Sharon Eberson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1960. First Published May 26, 2013 3:00 AM