‘Grease’ Is The Word

BEMUS POINT – Maple Grove High School’s theatre performance of “Grease” has earned the cast and crew two Kenny Awards.

Shea’s Performing Arts Center in Buffalo and the Lipke Foundation held the 21st annual Kenny Awards earlier this month. The awards are focused on recognizing high school talent and excellence in the production and performing of musicals.

According to Julie Cotter, director, Maple Grove was nominated for seven of the 13 awards categories this year, including: Best Technical Design, Best Choral Performance, Best Dramatic Performance, Best Dance Performance, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Paige Cummings’ role as Marty, Best Actor in Supporting Role for Frank Zuroski’s role as Doody and the Blossom Cohan Award, which honors a performer who “blossoms” in a role, for Alex Scalise’s role as Jan.

The school took home awards for Best Technical Design and Best Dramatic Performance.

Cotter, who has been directing the school performances for six years, said that the awards are a great way to receive feedback about performances.

“We were up against really large schools,” Cotter said. “Being nominated for seven is an honor and lets us know what we’re doing is on the right track.”

To take part in the awards ceremony, schools from Niagara, Erie and Chautauqua counties applied in October and were reviewed by a panel of judges. Seven schools were then selected to participate as finalists.

This year, Maple Grove competed against Eden Jr./Sr. High School, which performed “The Wedding Singer;” Fredonia High School, which performed “Bye Bye Birdie;” North Tonawanda High School, which performed “9 to 5: The Musical;” Orchard Park High School, which performed “Les Miserables;” Tonawanda High School, which performed “Grease;” and West Seneca West High School, which performed “Godspell.”

Cotter said that this year was different in that schools were able to win multiple awards or no award – previously, each of the finalists would win a single award for their performance’s biggest strength.

“The kids love going and it motivates them to do the best that they can,” Cotter said of the awards ceremony.

During the ceremony, each school is given seven minutes to perform on the Shea’s stage without props.

According to Cotter, she chose to have the “Grease” cast perform short clips of different musical numbers so that each lead performer could have a solo, with “Summer Nights” being the main number.

The winner of the overall Kenny Award for outstanding production receives a $5,000 grant from the Lipke Foundation to support their theatre department. The 2014 winner was Orchard Park High School.

Cotter said that because Maple Grove sold out both of its shows this year, next year three shows are planned. She expects to apply for the Kenny Awards again next year.

The “Kenny Award” was created in 1993 in honor of the late Dr. Ken Lipke, founder of Gibraltar Steel, as a testament to his passion and dedication to the arts.

To date, more than 100 musical productions at local high schools have been recognized.