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No big wins for regional theater students in NYC

| Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 12:09 p.m.
John Doucette Photography
Rachael Houser
Submitted
Zach Malinak
Submitted
Francesca Nardone
Richard Sean McIntyre
Angelo Ragghianti

None of the four area students took home an award from the National High School Musical Theater Awards competition and showcase held July 1.

Rachael Houser, 18, of Sewickley; Angelo Ragghianti, 18, of the North Side; Francesca Nardone, 18, of Ellwood City; and Zach Malinak, 18, of Conway were among the 62 performers from across the nation who earned a spot in the national program by winning top honors this year at one of 31 regional high-school musical-awards competitions

Houser, a graduate of Quaker Valley High School, and Ragghianti, a graduate of Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School, represented the Gene Kelly Awards.

Nardone, a graduate of Lincoln Junior-Senior High School, and Malinak, a graduate of Freedom Area High School, represented the Henry Mancini Awards.

They took part in an intensive program that brings together prize-winning performers for five days of rehearsals, private coaching sessions and workshops with theater professionals. The program concluded with a showcase at the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway that featured performances by all 62 participants and solos by select finalists.

Winners of the 2013 Jimmy Awards were Sarah Lynn Marion, representing the John Raitt Awards for Youth in Fullerton, Calif., and Taylor Varga, representing Connecticut High School Musical Theater Awards.

Each received $10,000 from the Nederlander Organization to further their education and will be eligible for four-year merit and need-based scholarship assistance to attend the New Studio on Broadway, NYU Tisch School of the Arts Department of Drama, contingent upon acceptance into the program.

Five runners-up each received a $2,500 scholarship toward their future education from the Barry and Fran Weissler Foundation. These winners were Michael Burrell, Mission Viejo, Calif.; Jillian Caillouette, Norwich, Conn.; Austin Crute, Atlanta; Martha Hellerman, Madison, Wis.; and Eva Maria Noblezada, Charlotte, N.C.

Three additional awards were presented to Billy Krager, Madison, Wis. (best performance in an ensemble), Jillian Caillouette, Norwich, Conn. (most improved), and Brian Baylor, East Lansing, Mich. (Spirit of the Jimmy Awards). Another student, McKenzie Kurtz, Atlanta, was selected to attend Carnegie Mellon University's six-week pre-college drama program.

Reached by phone after the winners had been announced, Ragghianti said he would have liked to win. But he was elated by the experience of performing on the Minskoff stage. “It was amazing — the whole thing — the energy of the audience and all the little girls from (the Broadway revival of ‘Annie') were in the front row cheering for us.”

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or acarter@tribweb.com.

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