Now we know who’s Who.
Northern Highlands High School’s production of “Seussical: The Musical” was named outstanding overall production, and its Horton the Elephant was named outstanding leading actor, at the 13th annual Metropolitan High School Theater Awards at Peekskill’s Paramount Center for the Arts last night.
The Metros — presented by Nyack’s Helen Hayes Youth Theater — honor achievements in participating high-school musicals from Rockland, Westchester and Bergen counties. Northern Highlands is in Allendale, N.J.
White Plains High School senior Emily Schlotman won the leading-actress award, but not for a performance at her school. Schlotman played Belle in “Beauty and the Beast” at Archbishop Stepinac High School, an all-boys Catholic high school in White Plains that recruits actresses from across the region.
When her name was announced, Schlotman made her way down the side aisle, mouth agape, fanning herself.
“This was not planned,” she said, obviously stunned. “First of all I’d like to thank the Metros. I loved coming here three years in a row.”
She went on to thank Stepinac’s creative team and “Mom and Dad and Peter. You taught me everything I know.”
The leading-actor award went to Alex Perrin, who played Horton the steadfast pachyderm in Northern Highlands’ production of the Stephen Flaherty-Lynn Ahrens musical.
Last night’s sold-out awards ceremony filled the cavernous 1,025-seat Paramount, with scores of people on the waiting list hoping to get a ticket to the loudest, proudest night on the high-school-theater calendar.
(Watch pre-show backstage interviews, and the entire ceremony on demand at www.lohud.com/inthewingslive.)
Some of the winners had to hustle down to the stage from the balcony.
When Mary Costa, a winner for comic performance playing Little Red Riding Hood in New Milford High School’s “Into the Woods” made it to the stage, the tiny actress was dwarfed by the podium, but she spoke loud and clear.
“I have to thank Alex Diaz, you’re fierce!” she started, going on to thank other “fierce” colleagues. She closed with the line, addressed to the crowd: “I really want to let you know, you’re all fabulous. Pursue your dreams! You’re fabulous! I love you!”
Bus after bus pulled up to the front of Peekskill’s rejuvenated moviehouse, depositing scores of dressed-to-the-nines teens eager to hear a name they recognize announced by host Tom Deckman, a Broadway veteran of “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” who kept the kids laughing, suggesting roles he might have played in the nominated best-overall-productions, like “Elphaba” in “The Wizard of Oz” and Adelaide and Big Jule in “Guys and Dolls.”
Northern Highlands victory was the first time the Allendale, N.J., school had taken the top honor.
Other nominees for outstanding overall production were: Stepinac’s “Beauty and the Beast,” Bergen Academies’ “42nd Street,” Don Bosco Prep’s “Jekyll and Hyde,” Hastings’ “Oklahoma!,” Pleasantville’s “The Wizard of Oz,” and Rockland Country Day’s “Guys and Dolls.”
The evening included performances by each of the overall-production nominees, and by the leading-actor and leading-actress nominees.
Thirty-eight schools — five from Rockland, 20 from Westchester and 13 from Bergen — put themselves in the running for the awards this year, which are given in 27 artistic (performance) and production (technical) categories and decided by paid judges.
In terms of trophies won, Bergen County Academies, a magnet school in Hackensack, N.J., took home the most, with five honors: actor in a supporting role (a tie with St. Joseph Regional, of Montvale, N.J.); dance performance; costume design; choreography; and technical merit.
Stepinac also won for actress in a supporting role (Samantha Kenny as Mrs. Potts) and for its chorus.
Rockland Country Day School took home three honors, for child actor (Colin McCalla as Nicely-Nicely Johnson in “Guys & Dolls”), stage crew and lighting designers Nathan Paul and Adam Kapilow.
When Pleasantville’s Kathleen Donovan-Warren was named best director, her students leapt to their feet.
She shushed the crowd, thanks Metros producer Danielle Rudess, her parents and her cast. Then she got serious.
“We are the lucky ones. We all have theater in our schools. And it could be in danger. And it is so important. Go home and tomorrow, tell your principals and your board of ed members to keep theater in our schools,” she said.
The awards began life at the now-defunct Helen Hayes Theater Company, as a tribute to Hayes, the first lady of the American stage. For years, they were nicknamed “The Helens.”
When the theater company went under, the awards continued, under the youth theater, run by producer Danielle Rudess.
The name was changed in 2009, after the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., balked that the high-school honors caused confusion with its Helen?Hayes awards.
Last year, the overall-production award went to St. Joseph Regional High School in Montvale, N.J., and its production of “Curtains.”