MILLBURN, NJ — Paper Mill Playhouse's "Rising Star Honors," presented by The Investors Foundation, drew more than 10,000 views on Facebook and YouTube as it premiered on Monday night. 

The virtual show celebrated the nearly 100 New Jersey high schools participating in the annual Rising Star Awards, which was canceled due to the current health crisis. Although many of the school musicals never made it to opening night, more than 60 New Jersey high schools shared highlights of their performances, rehearsals and some newly created videos to highlight their school’s theater programs.

The virtual event, which premiered June 1 on Paper Mill Playhouse’s Facebook page and YouTube channel, was hosted by 1996 Rising Star winner, Broadway performer and Olivier nominee, Jared Gertner. The show included a montage of the submitted performances, appearances by additional Rising Star alumni including Tony Award winners Laura Benanti ("Gypsy") and Nikki M. James ("The Book of Mormon") and Tony nominee Rob McClure ("Chaplin") and ended with a surprise finale to provide hope and inspiration to the 2020 honorees.

Sign Up for Livingston Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

“2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Rising Star Awards, and while our plans changed, we still wanted to honor and celebrate the talent and dedication of New Jersey’s high school theater students and programs,” said Producing Artistic Director, Mark S. Hoebee. “With so many of our Rising Star alumni, who have gone onto great success in the theater industry, enthusiastically getting involved to encourage and cheer on these students, we will remember it as a very special moment in Paper Mill’s history.”

Above is the cideo performance of “A Million Dreams” from the motion picture "The Greatest Showman," featuring Matt Ban, Jennifer Blood, Anne Brummel, Joshua Dela Cruz, Meghann Dreyfuss, Jered Gertner, Nikki M. James, Julia Knitel, Renee Marino, Rob McClure, Monette McKay, Jelani Remy, Constantine Rousouli, Mike Schwitter, Matthew Scott and Natalie Weiss.

Paper Mill Playhouse Education & Outreach are sponsored by The Goren Family & the Harmony Helper App.

“Rising Star Honors” is supported in part by Stages Online, a partnership with New Jersey Theatre Alliance to bring theatre content into homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stages Online is made possible through funding from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, Bank of America, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, OceanFirst Foundation; the George A. Ohl, Jr. Trust; New Jersey Historical Commission; and Fund for the New Jersey Blind.

The not-for-profit arts organization, under the direction of Hoebee and Managing Director Michael Stotts, is a recipient of the 2016 Regional Theatre Tony Award and one of the country's leading regional theaters. Its programs are made possible, in part, by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

Paper Mill Playhouse is grateful for generous contributions from numerous corporations, foundations and individuals.

CLICK HERE to support the Paper Mill Playhouse.