With a red carpet, glittering awards, live performances, and actors and actresses dressed in the latest fashions, it could have been the Oscars.
Albeit a few differences: the red carpet was outside the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center, the awards were shaped like golden stars, and the actors and actresses were high school students, some of whom arrived at and departed from the event in yellow school buses.
Welcome to the Greater Philadelphia Cappies’ 2011 Cappies Gala, which honors high school students from 34 schools for their performances and behind-the-scenes work on plays and musicals, as well as for writing pieces as theater critics.
Cappies is a national critics and awards program for high school theater, with programs across the country.
Each high school has a team of three to five student critics that attend and write reviews about high school plays or musicals at schools other than their own, said Matthew Cloran, program director for the Greater Philadelphia Cappies.
At the end of the school year, student critics who have written at least five reviews get to vote to decide the nominees for the Greater Philadelphia Cappies awards, which include 40 awards, such as Undergraduate Male Critic, Senior Female Critic, Comic Actress, Sound, Costumes, Male Vocalist and best Play.
“This year, we had the most ever, 205,” critics who voted on the nominees, said Cloran.
The Upper Darby Performing Arts Center, which seats 1,650 people, sold out for the Greater Philadelphia awards show. Dressed in evening gowns, tuxes and suits, high school students, along with their families, loudly clapped and cheered for the award recipients.
Amongst Sunday night’s winners were several students from public and private high schools on the Main Line, including Lower Merion, Haverford, Newtown and Radnor townships; as well as the Germantown section of Philadelphia.
Harriton High School students performed “Three Canaan Days,” a song from the musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” which was nominated for the Song award. The recipient of the Song award was “The Dance of the Robe,” performed by Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts in the musical “Aida.”
Taking the award for Costumes were Chelsea Katz, Alana Koenig, and Emma Seymour of Harriton High School, for their costume creations for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
Katz also received a Costume award at the 2010 Greater Philadelphia Cappies. “This is the second time, so it’s really exciting,” Katz said.
Koenig said she, too, was excited. “I’m really happy we had this opportunity,” Koenig said.
Seymour declined to be interviewed about the award.
Winning for Choreography were Ella Cohen, Kasie Patlove, and Sofie Seymour of Harriton High School for their work on “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
Rachel Sacks, a student at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr, garnered the award for Comic Actress in a Play, for her performance in “Blithe Spirit.”
Wearing a patterned black and white dress, Sacks accepted the award on stage and said, “Thanks to my friends for having me try out for my first play.”
Alicen Davis, a student at the Agnes Irwin School in the Rosemont section of Bryn Mawr, was overcome with emotion when she was named Supporting Actress in a Play for her performance in “The House of Bernarda Alba”.
“I can’t believe this is happening right now,” Davis said on stage, as she choked back tears.
The Agnes Irwin School was also honored with the Play award for “The House of Bernarda Alba.”
The award for Sound went to Ryan Heebner, Carly Brooke, Ahmad Attia and Adrian Franken of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School, for “Titanic.”
“I’m really shocked, just glad that all my work paid off,” Brooke said, after she accepted the award and returned to her seat, wearing a white dress and clutching her award, which featured a golden star statue attached to a black base.
Winning for Sets were Daniel Gorby, Michael Kyne and James Kurtz of the Delaware County Christian School in Newtown Square for “Beauty and the Beast.”
James Kurtz said the win was “exciting” and he felt proud because many high schools hire professionals to create their sets.
“My major role was designing the set,” Kurtz said. “As a student, doing that was fantastic.”
The awards were interspersed with performances by the nominees.
Students from The Haverford School, which was nominated for Musical for the play “Urinetown,” sang and danced to a swing number, a song called “Snuff That Girl.”
In another Musical nominee performance, Plymouth Whitemarsh High School students donned nautical costumes and performed the song “There She Is” from the musical, “Titanic.”
The award for Musical went to Eastern Regional High Schools’ rendition of “Cats.”
Comic Actress in a Musical was awarded to Danielle Morro, a student at Archbishop John Carroll High School in Radnor Township, for her performance in “Crazy for You.” Another student accepted the award on Morro’s behalf because she was unable to attend the ceremony.
Ethan Mitchell of the Delaware County Christian School was named Comic Actor in a Musical for his performance in “Beauty and the Beast.”
Asked how he felt about receiving the award, Mitchell said. “I don’t really know. It feels good.”
Samantha Ricchiuti, a student at Merion Mercy Academy in Merion Station, won the award for Female Vocalist for her performance in “Phantom of the Opera.”
Jesse Pudles, a student at Friends Central School in Wynnewood, won Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance in “Hello Dolly.”
The Plymouth Whitemarsh High School Shift Crew received the Stage Crew Award for its work on “Titanic.”
Supporting Actress in a Musical went to Julia Hopkins of The Haverford School for her performance in “Urinetown.”
Dressed in a purple gown, Hopkins beamed as she took her seat after accepting the award.
“I’m really, really happy,” Hopkins said.
Cloran ended the ceremony by urging parents to ask their schools not to cut funding for theatrical programs.
“It’s important that we celebrate all of this stuff that we do,” Cloran said. “I know some of you are struggling with budget cuts.”
The following is a complete list of the award winners from the Greater Philadelphia Cappies’ 2011 Cappies Gala:
- Undergraduate Male Critic, James Cella, Springfield High School (Delco)
- Undergraduate Female Critic, Samantha Spoll, Upper Dublin High School
- Senior Male Critic, Elliah Heifetz, Upper Dublin High School
- Senior Female Critic, Devon Gibbs, Lindenwold High School
- Critics Team, Upper Dublin High School
- Sound, Ryan Heebner, Carly Brooke, Ahmad Attia and Adrian Franken of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School, “Titanic.”
- Lighting, Jon Kudzmas, Sarah Lang, Brad Lieber, Michelle Shneyder, Eastern Regional High Schools, “Cats.”
- Sets, Daniel Gorby, Michael Kyne, James Kurtz, Delaware County Christian School, “Beauty and the Beast.”
- Comic Actress, Play, Rachel Sacks, Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, “Blithe Spririt.”
- Comic Actor, Play, James Cella, Springfield High School (delco), “Present Laughter.”
- Comic Actress, Musical, Danielle Morro, Archbishop John Carroll High School , “Crazy for You.”
- Comic Actor, Musical, Ethan Mitchell, Delaware County Christian School, “Beauty and the Beast.”
- Dancer, Myranda Mallenbaum, Upper Dublin High School, “Pipin.”
- Dance Ensemble, Jellicle Ball, Eastern Regional High Schools, “Cats.”
- Female Vocalist, Samantha Ricchiuti, Merion Mercy Academy, Phantom of the Opera
- Male Vocalist, Dominique Travis-Bey, Upper Darby High School, “Once on This Island.”
- Costumes, Chelsea Katz, Alana Koenig, and Emma Seymour of Harriton High School, for their costume creations for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
- Make-up, Sami Adamson, Audrey Williams, Eastern Regional High Schools, “Cats.”
- Props & Effects, Bhavish Malkani, Eastern Regional High Schools, “Cats.”
- Supporting Actress, Play, Alicen Davis, Agnes Irwin School, “The House of Bernarda Alba.”
- Supporting Actor, Play, Gabe Cisneros, Lindenwold High School, “Stand and Deliver.”
- Supporting Actress, Musical, Julia Hopkins, The Haverford School, “Urinetown.”
- Supporting Actor, Musical, Elliah Heifetz, Upper Dublin High School, “Pippin.”
- Stage Crew, The Plymouth Whitemarsh High School Shift Crew, “Titanic.”
- Orchestra, Philadelphia H.S. for the Creative and Performing Arts Orchestra, Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, “Aida.”
- Choreography, Ella Cohen, Kasie Patlove, Sofie Seymour, Harriton High School, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”
- Creativity, Marissa Gibson (Director), Springfield High School (Delco), “Present Laughter.”
- Ensemble, Play, Escalante's Calculus Class, Lindenwold High School, “Stand and Deliver.”
- Ensemble, Musical, Dance of the Robe Ensemble, Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, “Aida.”
- Featured Actress, Play, Cecelia Ziman-DeStefano, Abington Friends School, “The Government Inspector.”
- Featured Actor, Play, Kevin Robinson, Interboro High School, “Noises Off!”
- Featured Actress, Musical, Samantha Martinez, Bordentown Regional High School, “Curtains.”
- Featured Actor, Musical, Jesse Pudles, Friends' Central School, “Hello Dolly.”
- Lead Actress, Play, Megan Fraser, Unionville High School, “The Visit.”
- Lead Actor, Play, Mike Peak, Lindenwold High School, “Stand and Deliver.”
- Lead Actress, Musical, Julia Udine, Eastern Regional High Schools, “Cats.”
- Lead Actor, Musical, Brandon Davis, Eastern Regional High Schools, “Cats.”
- Song, The Dance Of The Robe, Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, “Aida.”
- Play, “The House of Bernarda Alba,” The Agnes Irwin School.
- Musical, “Cats,” Eastern Regional High Schools.