Life, it turns out, is a cabaret.
Fair Lawn High School’s production of “Cabaret” won three honors — including the coveted outstanding overall production award — at the 2014 Metropolitan High School Theater Awards at Archbishop Stepinac High School on Monday. (Pictured is the cast of Rye Neck’s “Shrek,” photographed by lohud.com’s Carucha L. Meuse.)
The Bergen County school was one of 36 entrants in the program that honors high school musicals from Rockland, Westchester and Bergen counties. In addition to overall production, Fair Lawn won for featured ensemble group and lighting design.
No single school dominated this year’s Metro Awards, which judged productions in 29 categories from lobby display and child actor to outstanding direction and overall production. The leading-actor awards went to Pleasantville’s James McCarthy as Emile de Becque in “South Pacific,” and Christine Turturro, who played the practically perfect nanny in Stepinac’s production of “Mary Poppins.”
Stepinac’s production was part of a Disney Theatricals pilot program to try out the Broadway musical in high school settings and was one of just a handful of schools permitted to try their hand at the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious musical.
The all-boys Catholic high school in White Plains recruits actresses from across the Lower Hudson Valley to take part in its musicals: Turturro is from Croton-on-Hudson and is a junior at Croton-Harmon High School.
Stepinac also won Metros for director Frank Portanova and musical director Chloe Sasson.
This is the first year the awards were held at one of the participating high schools.
Producer Danielle Rudess, whose Helen Hayes Youth Theater sponsors the awards, said she moved the show from the Paramount Hudson Valley in Peekskill to make it more centrally located, and because the 1,100-seat Major Bowes Theater was larger than the Paramount and the rental fee was lower. The Journal News Media Group is the event’s media sponsor.
Buses began pulling in to Stepinac in the late afternoon heat of an 82-degree day, delivering fidgeting thespians eager to perform their musicals again. For some, it was a chance to revisit a show they had finished in early March.
The emcee was John Treacy Egan, a Larchmont native who has appeared on Broadway, in “The Producers,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It” and “Bye Bye Birdie” kept the proceedings going with a light touch.
“Welcome to the Metros!” Egan shouted. “Or as it’s known, the 16th annual musical theater hunger games.”
He kicked off the show by announcing that the shows ranged from “South Pacific” to “In the Heights” and “Shrek.”
The seven schools nominated for best overall production each performed musical numbers, demonstrating a wide array of styles on high school stages this year: “Mary Poppins” at Stepinac, Harrison’s “A Chorus Line,” Pleasantville’s “South Pacific,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Don Bosco, Fair Lawn’s “Cabaret” and contemporary shows such as Rye Neck’s “Shrek the Musical” and Spring Valley’s “In the Heights.”
Adding to the live-performance nature of the show were the nominees for leading actor and actress, each of whom performed short excerpts of their songs.
Pleasantville’s “South Pacific” also earned three Metros, for leading actor McCarthy, featured dancer Sophie Dora Tulchin, and costume design.
Two characters who fall in love in “Shrek” went home to Rye Neck happy: Justin Sturgis, as Donkey, was named outstanding actor in a supporting role and Elena Ruigomez, as the voice of the Dragon, won for outstanding vocal performance.
When Sturgis picked up his award, he was in full costume and makeup as the Donkey.
“Thank you for this amazing award,” he said, clutching the award in his hooved hands. “And thanks to the cast. You guys are amazing.”
North Rockland High School’s production of “Cats” was honored twice: for its production number, “Jellicle Cats,” and for James Huppert’s set design.
North Rockland’s director Sol Bloch and choreographer Justin Boccitto accepted the award for outstanding production number for “Jellicle Cats” in “Cats.”
“I wanted to say how lucky we are to get to do what we love every day,” Boccitto said. “You are all so lucky to live where you live and don’t ever forget that. Thank you very much.”
Spring Valley’s production of “In the Heights” took home Metros for its stage crew and for the choreography of director-choreographer Stacy Tirro. Spring Valley shared a pit orchestra with its crosstown rival Ramapo in productions of the same Lin-Manuel Miranda musicals on consecutive weekends. It was nominated for a dozen Metro Awards, including overall production.
The ceremony was lively, with schools sitting in clusters. A nomination for Harrison made the Harrison section erupt; a Stepinac mentioned garnered a similarly thunderous ovation.
One of the evening’s most charming moments came when little Ceili Fitzpatrick picked up her award for child actor, for playing Brigitta in “The Sound of Music” at Pearl River High School.
She spoke haltingly at first, but then caught her speed, buoyed by the crowd, which hung on her every word.
“I want to thank my mom and my brother for supporting me. And everyone in ‘Sound of Music’ who was supporting me for being nominated,” she said.
It captured the mood of the room: excitement, gratitude and belonging. Kids from schools in Rockland cheered kids from schools in Bergen. And vice versa.
Here are winners of 2014 Metropolitan High School Theater Awards, handed out at Archbishop Stepinac High School on Monday, June 2, 2014:
Outstanding Overall Production
Fair Lawn H.S. – Cabaret
Actor in a Leading Role
Pleasantville H.S. – South Pacific – James McCarthy (Emile de Becque)
Actress in a Leading Role
Archbishop Stepinac H.S. – Mary Poppins – Christine Turturro (Mary Poppins)
Actor in a Supporting Role
Rye Neck H.S. – Shrek the Musical – Justin Sturgis (Donkey)
Actress in a Supporting Role
Tappan Zee H.S. – The Music Man – Siobhan Noonan (Mrs. Paroo)
Don Bosco Prep – Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Featured Ensemble Group
Fair Lawn H.S. – Cabaret – (Kit Kat Girls)
Kayleigh Barbarulo, Arianna Lerner, Zoe Trischka, Julia Funcheon, Lexi Rosenblum, Rebecca Aversa, Meg Baldwin, Anastasia Bohajian, Cassandra Fenton, Ariana Mosley, Marcella Salazar
Featured Ensemble Member
Bergen County Academies – Bat Boy: The Musical – Elka Chowdhury (Ruthie Taylor)
Outstanding Production Number
North Rockland H.S. – Cats – “Jellicle Cats”
Harrison H.S. – A Chorus Line – “Sing”
Sarah Crozier (Kristine) & Alex Tosto (Al)
Outstanding Vocal Performance
Rye Neck H.S. – Shrek the Musical – Elena Ruigomez (Dragon)
Outstanding Female Acting Performance
Emerson H.S. – Once Upon a Mattress – Alyssa Fox (Winnifred)
Outstanding Male Acting Performance
Bergen County Academies – Bat Boy: The Musical – Bennett Kosma (Bat Boy)
Outstanding Female Comic Performance
Port Chester H.S. – Urinetown – Elizabeth Montemurro (Little Sally)
Outstanding Male Comic Performance
Blind Brook H.S. – Guys and Dolls – Cole Bauer (Nicely-Nicely Johnson)
Outstanding Featured Dancer
Pleasantville H.S. – South Pacific – Sophie Dora Tulchin (Liat)
Outstanding Student Orchestra
Sleepy Hollow H.S. – Bye Bye Birdie
St. Joseph Reg. H.S. – Fiddler on the Roof – Paul Koonaporn (Violin)
Outstanding Child Actor
Pearl River H.S. – The Sound of Music – Ceili Fitzpatrick (Brigitta)
Outstanding Graphic Design
Emerson H.S. – Once Upon a Mattress – Autumn Jaeger
Outstanding Lobby Display
Port Chester H.S. – Urinetown – Ruth Goldberg, Josh Tenzer, Patrick O’Connor
Outstanding Stage Crew
Spring Valley H.S. – In the Heights
Spring Valley H.S. – In the Heights – Stacey Tirro
Outstanding Costume Design
Pleasantville H.S. – South Pacific – Jane Paraszczak, Jeannine Tocco
Outstanding Lighting Design
Fair Lawn H.S. – Cabaret – Andrew Scharwath
Outstanding Scenic Design
North Rockland H.S. – Cats – James Huppert
Archbishop Stepinac H.S. – Mary Poppins – Frank Portanova
Outstanding Musical Direction
Archbishop Stepinac H.S. – Mary Poppins – Chloe Sasson
Briarcliff H.S. – The Hired Man – Sydney Agona (Stage Manager)
Lakeland H.S. – Singin’ in the Rain – Declan Moore (Lighting Design)