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Area students win big at Kelly awards

| Sunday, June 4, 2006

North Catholic High School's "The Wiz," The Winchester Thurston School's "Hot Mikado" and Pine-Richland High School's "The Pirates of Penzance" each took home awards for Best Musical at Saturday's 16th annual Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater at the Benedum Center, Downtown.

With "Guys and Dolls," North Allegheny High School joined Pine-Richland and The Winchester Thurston School in taking home the most trophies -- three awards each.

Pirates, Dickensian urchins, nuns, gamblers and baseball players swarmed through the Benedum's backstage hallways and into the spotlight in the annual celebration of musical theater performances in 31 participating Allegheny County high schools.

The Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera and University of Pittsburgh sponsor the program to highlight the importance of arts education and celebrate the time, energy and dedication that high schools invest in their spring musicals.

Patterned after the Tony Awards, it's named for legendary film performer and Pittsburgh native Gene Kelly.

Each of the nine Best Musical nominees, as well as the six individuals nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress, performed live for the sold-out audience.

This year's process was streamlined over previous years when best musical, set, costumes and lighting design had been awarded in three budget categories.

Yesterday, recognition for best musical was awarded in three budget categories, with category one productions having the lowest budgets and category three having the highest.

The remaining 12 awards were conveyed irrespective of category.

New to the ceremony were Gene Kelly Scholarships that award $2,750 to four seniors who have been accepted to a school for the performing or technical arts. Recipients were Benjamin Clark from Pine-Richland, Anne Leonard from Deer Lakes, Sarah College from Baldwin and Stephanie Bezeck from McKeesport.

South Fayette Elementary School received The Charles Gray Award for Special Achievement in Arts Education. It honors the school's development of a program that involves its students, faculty and community in a curriculum-based arts program that combines theory and performance opportunities. The school will receive $3,000 and a free performance of Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera's 2007 Gallery of Heroes production, "Steel." South Fayette Middle School was last year's recipient of the Charles Gray Award.

The ceremony was broadcast simultaneously on the Light Board at Theater Square in the Cultural District. Beginning Wednesday, the show will be available for viewing on Comcast's On Demand cable service in the Our Town section.

Recipients of the 2006 Gene Kelly Awards are:

Best Scenic Design: Pine-Richland for "The Pirates of Penzance"

Best Costume Design: Winchester Thurston for "Hot Mikado"

Best Lighting Design: Woodland Hills for "Pippin"

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Jeff Hahn Jr., North Allegheny, for Nicely Nicely Johnson in "Guys and Dolls"

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Christina Bordini, Chartiers Valley, for Meg Boyd in "Damn Yankees"

Best All-Student Orchestra: Pine-Richland for "The Pirates of Penzance"

Best Choreography: Schenley for "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"

Best Crew/Technical Design: South Park for "Pippin"

Best Ensemble: North Allegheny for "Guys and Dolls"

Best Direction: Winchester Thurston for "Hot Mikado"

Best Actor: Billy Hepfinger, North Allegheny, for Sky Masterson in "Guys and Dolls"

Best Actress: Mallory Praskovich, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, for Gertrude in "Seussical the Musical"

Best Musical Budget Level I: Winchester Thurston for "Hot Mikado"

Best Musical Budget Level II: North Catholic for "The Wiz"

Best Musical Budget Level III: Pine-Richland for "The Pirates of Penzance"

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