North Hills sophomore nominated for Best Supporting Actress in Gene Kelly Awards
Jane Fusco, a sophomore at North Hills High School, has earned a nomination for Best Supporting Actress in the 28th annual Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater. The accolade comes following her role as “Joan” in the school's spring musical, “Dames at Sea.”
“I feel like I'm floating in a cloud. It's insane,” said Fusco, 16, of Ross.
Glen Richey, director of the North Hills' musical, said he was very pleased with Fusco's nomination, but not really surprised.
“She did an excellent job with her role from the very beginning. She did her research on the role before we even started rehearsing,” he said.
“When talking about the Kelly Awards, they're looking for someone who can do everything — sing, dance, and act. Jane can do all three very well. She is very talented. She's a very good actress and nice person who works easily with others. She has great future ahead of her.”
A total of 29 Allegheny County high schools are competing for Gene Kelly Awards this year, which also include categories like “Best Musical,” “Best Crew/Technical Execution,” “Best All-Student Orchestra,” “Best Costume Design,” and “Best Scenic Design.”
Nominees were judged by a panel comprised of performing arts educators, arts administrators, entertainment professionals and performers who attended a live performance of each school's spring production. The schools also sent a three-minute production video of its musical, plus a one-minute video for each nominee, which highlighted the strengths and talents of the candidates.
“Jane presented a dynamic performance that captured and held the attention of the audience,” said Kiesha Lalama, Pittsburgh CLO education director and director of the Gene Kelly Awards.
“My character, Joan, had a five-minute song at the end of Act One. It was a belty song that got higher and higher as I performed all these dance moves. At the end, my character runs up a ladder and finishes on a B natural, which is really high in music,” Fusco explained.
“When I saw the music and choreography for the first time, I wondered how I'd ever be able to do that. I worked really hard. I'd go to the gym then come home and run around the house, singing to get into shape. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do.”
Fusco began dancing when she was 3, acting when she was 6, and singing when she was 10. She has studied at Wexford Acting Studio, Act One Theater School, Tammy's School of Dance, North Star Kids, and Pittsburgh CLO Academy.
“Dames at Sea” was her 12th production.
“Musical theater means everything to me. It's my whole life,” she said.
Her dream after graduation in 2020 is to attend a top school for the performing arts, “then go audition for shows and be a part of the whole Broadway thing,” she said.
North Hills High School has been involved with the Gene Kelly Awards since the program began in 1991.
“I grew up watching the North Hills shows,” Fusco said. “When I was 8, I saw North Hills' production of ‘Beauty and the Beast.' We went to the Kelly Awards for that show and I went to all the shows to see who won. I can't believe I'm now part of the tradition of North Hills and the Kelly Awards. It's the most insane thing ever. It'll be really hard to top this.”
Patterned after Broadway's Tony Awards, the Pittsburgh CLO's 28th annual Gene Kelly Awards will be held May 26, at 7:30 p.m. at the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, downtown. Fusco will participate in the ceremony's opening production number, alongside with the other 11 nominees for Best Supporting Actors and Actresses.
The Gene Kelly Awards — named after the internationally famous dancer, actor, singer, film director, producer and choreographer from Pittsburgh — were launched in 1991 as a means to recognize and encourage student achievement and to focus the attention of the community and school districts on the importance of musical theater and arts education.
Laurie Rees is a Tribune-Review contributor.