High school musicals honored at Totem Pole Awards
Students from Adams County's Bermudian Springs High School and Franklin County's Mercersburg Academy collectively took home more than half of the awards given at the 2015 Totem Pole Playhouse Awards.
The ceremony, held Sunday at Gettysburg's Majestic Theater, honored 10 high school musicals performed in Adams, Franklin and Fulton counties. The event, which is in its second year, is modeled after Broadway's Tony Awards.
Bermudian Springs' performance of "Seussical" took home the night's biggest honor, the Carl Schurr Award for Outstanding Production of a Musical. Actors from the piece, which is based off of several of Dr. Seuss's children's books, also received three other honors Sunday, including outstanding performance by a featured male ensemble member, best male solo performance and best musical chorus.
"It's the result of the hard work they put in all year," Matt Carlson, one of the performance's directors, said of the awards. "It just validates our hard work."
Mercersburg's production of "Urinetown," a comedy that satirizes capitalism and politics, also fared well with the judges. Cast members claimed five of the 15 awards given Sunday, including best supporting actor and actress, best actor, top female solo and outstanding production number.
"I could not have asked for a better way to spend my senior year," cast member Nikki DeParis said of the production. DeParis won outstanding supporting actress for her portrayal of Little Sally.
The night, though, was about more than the winners; it was meant to showcase all of the work students across the three counties put into their spring musicals this year, said Rowan Joseph, producing artistic director at Totem Pole Playhouse.
Like athletes or musicians, the casts and crews of the school's musicals work year-round to perfect their crafts. Unlike their peers, though, they only have a few nights to show off the product of their work, Joseph said. As a result, they are often under-recognized.
Sunday's gala worked to bridge that gap, with hundreds of students packing into the historic Gettysburg theater to receive their awards and show off encore performances of their schools' musicals.
Residents of "Seussical"'s Whoville flaunted bright feathered costumes as they flitted past the likes of Sweeney Todd and "Beauty and the Beast"'s Gaston in the lobby. "The Wiz"'s silver-painted Tin Man and his cohorts from Oz stood side-by-side with the disheveled townspeople from "Urinetown."
With each nominee announced, students let out cheers loud enough to make some audience members cover their ears.
The night concluded with a few words from "C.S.I." actor Eric Szmanda, who encouraged the area's young actors to apply their love of performance to whatever they decide to pursue next in life.
"If you approach it with the same enthusiasm you did on the stage tonight, you'll do just fine," he said.
Actress in a leading role: Maggie Dennis (Audrey), "Little Shop of Horrors," Waynesboro Area Senior High School
Actor in a leading role: Zach McDonald (Bobby Strong), "Urinetown," Mercersburg Academy
Actress in a supporting role: Nikki DeParis (Little Sally), "Urinetown," Mercersburg Academy
Actor in a supporting role: Alex Jackson (Officer Lockstock), "Urinetown," Mercersburg Academy
Featured female ensemble member: Bailey Nordin (Beggar Woman), "Sweeney Todd," Chambersburg Area Senior High School
Featured male ensemble member: Connor Zahm (General Genghis Kahn Schmitz), "Seussical," Bermudian Springs High School
Female solo vocal performance: Kate Kistler, "It's a Privilege to Pee" from "Urinetown," Mercersburg Academy; Lucy Pratt, "Home" from "The Wiz," Gettysburg Area High School
Male solo vocal performance: Matt Meckley, "How Lucky You Are" from "Seussical," Bermudian Springs High School
Featured dancer: Abbie Smuda, "The Wiz," Gettysburg Area High School
Vocal duet: Andrea Crawford and Caleb Schelander, "Tonight" from "West Side Story," Shippensburg Area Senior High School
Small ensemble performance: "Prologue" from "Little Shop of Horrors," Waynesboro Area Senior High School
Musical chorus: "Seussical," Bermudian Springs High School
Musical production number: "Run Freedom Run" from "Urinetown," Mercersburg Academy
Stage crew: "Beauty and the Beast," New Oxford High School
Production of a musical: "Seussical," Bermudian Springs High School