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High school’s spring musical recognized at rising star awards

CHRISTINE HARKINSON/The Sun: Moorestown High’s spring musical, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, was recognized with several nominations at the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards earlier this year. Here, students rehearse for the ceremony.

Moorestown High School’s (MHS) 2023 spring musical, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, earned several nominations at this year’s Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards.

“We want to put our best foot forward, and we want them (award ceremony attendees) to see how fabulous our kids are, because we think the world of them,” said Erica Harr, the production’s director and choreographer, who was nominated for Outstanding Achievement by a Teacher or Outside Director.

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The high school competes in the Rising Star Awards each year – 115 schools participated in 2023 – a statewide competition of high-school musical productions. Three evaluators attended Cinderella, which was staged earlier this year, and assigned scores, while a video of the production was reviewed by other theater professionals. 

Final award nominations were announced on May 1, and the school musical was recognized with the following awards: Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical, Outstanding Leading Performer in a Female-Identified Role (Sofia Giannetto: as Cinderella), Outstanding Leading Performer in a Male-Identified Role (Lucas Kirmsse as Prince Christopher), Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction  (Amanda Wise-Harris), Outstanding Scenic Achievement (Andrew Robinson, Jessica Rottkamp), Outstanding Lighting Achievement (Dee Dugan, Chris Miller), Outstanding Costuming Achievement (Erin Cramer) and Rising Star “Theatre for Everyone” Inclusion and Access Award.

Honorable mentions included: Outstanding Performance by a Featured Ensemble Group (Audrey Barr, Angela Cucinotta, Lily Ferner, Ava Manfredi, Sierra Milone, Ellie Nikolic: The Animals); and Outstanding Performance by a Chorus.

“You get to go to something like Paper Mill and be around other directors who are like, ‘I get it, I understand,’ and who love their students and love giving their students an experience in the arts like you,” Harr noted, “and that’s really neat to be a part of that community of other high-school theater directors.”

Nominations for Cinderella placed Moorestown High among the top seven high- school musical productions in the state, along with Columbia, Delaware Valley Regional, Gloucester County Institute of Technology, Haddonfield, Ridge and Summit. 

An awards ceremony was held earlier this month at Paper Mill, in Millburn, – MHS received the Rising Star “Theatre for Everyone” Inclusion and Access Award – and as a nominee for Outstanding Overall Production, the musical’s cast performed an excerpt from the show at the ceremony.

“These students deserve to be praised and acknowledged, and they really have done such a phenomenal job of putting a beautiful show together,” Harr said. “ … I’m most excited for that feeling of maternal pride that I feel for each of them when I get to watch them up there (at the award ceremony). It’s a big deal.”

Kirmsse and Giannetto each performed solos alongside other nominees in their individual categories.

“ … I’ve never performed for that big of an audience before,” Giannetto said of the  awards ceremony. “I think that might be scary, but it’ll probably be a really cool experience.”

“I think I’m really excited for the overall show nomination,” Kirmsse said. “I think we did a phenomenal job … The set was amazing, the orchestra was amazing, the choreography was amazing … 

“I want to see the recognition for everything.”


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