Theater Department Up For Kenny Award

ELLERY – Students at Maple Grove Jr.-Sr. High School could have an opportunity to win $5,000 for their theater department.

This is because the school has been selected as one of seven finalists for the Kenny Awards, a Buffalo-based endeavor that recognizes the talent, dedication and effort of area high school youth.

The awards are given as recognition to cast members of high school musicals, and are judged based on their school performances. Applications are accepted from schools throughout Niagara, Erie and Chautauqua counties.

This year’s musical at Maple Grove is Arthur Laurents’ “West Side Story,” and is being presented at the school Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. According to Julie Cotter, chorus teacher and director of the musical, the fact that Maple Grove is a finalist is quite an accomplishment.

“It’s cool because usually it’s not a Chautauqua County school (that is selected),” said Cotter. “I’d say they probably have at least 30 schools that apply.”

Cotter, who applied Maple Grove for the awards program, said that the seven finalists are selected through an interview process.

“(We were selected) based off of an interview, but I can’t really tell exactly what they look for,” she said. “You talk about your school’s needs and past shows, and things like that.”

After Maple Grove’s judging takes place next weekend, the school cast will take a trip to Buffalo’s Shea’s Performing Arts Center for the annual Kenny Awards ceremony next month. There, the casts of the seven finalist schools will perform onstage with Shea’s in-house pit orchestra for a five- to seven-minute song medley from their shows. After the performances, the winner will be announced.

The top choice for the Kenny Awards will receive “The Kenny” award for Outstanding Musical Production, as well as a $5,000 monetary award to be put toward the school’s theater department. According to Cotter, the other finalists won’t be leaving the ceremony empty-handed.

“Each school goes home with an award. (They can) get awards in categories like ‘Best Choreography,’ and ‘Best Set.'” she said.

Other award categories include: Outstanding Leading and Supporting Actor and Actress, Orchestral Performance and Technical Elements.

Other finalists and their musicals include: Barker Central School, presenting “Curtains”; Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart, presenting “Nunsense: The Mega Musical”; Cardinal O’Hara High School, presenting “Little Shop of Horrors”; Clarence High School, presenting “Chicago”; Frontier High School, presenting “Legally Blonde”; and West Seneca West High School, presenting “All Shook Up.”

The Kenny Awards is put on every year through a partnership between Shea’s and the Lipke Foundation, and is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary. Since 1993, more than 100 outstanding musical productions have been recognized and honored by the Kenny Awards.

The awards ceremony will be held at Shea’s Performing Arts Center on Saturday, April 20 at 4 p.m.