MILLBURN, NJ – Columbia High School is among the top nominated high schools at the 2014 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards, which will take place Tuesday evening.  The CHS production of CATS received nine nominations overall.

“There is great energy and level of excitement in high school musical theater right now,” said Mark S. HoebeePaper Mill Playhouse’s Producing Artistic Director. “For many New Jersey high schools, the prestigious honor of a Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star nomination is the culmination of their hard work in a high school musical. Many of Paper Mill Playhouse's Rising Star nominees and winners are now working professionally and have won prestigious industry awards while working in theater and film.” 

Past Rising Star nominees and recipients are currently appearing on Broadway in ALADDIN (Josh Dela Cruz, Jonathan Schwartz, Daisy Hobbs), LES MISÉRABLES (Tony® winner Nikki James), JERSEY BOYS (Russell Fisher), ROCK OF AGES (Matt Ban), THE BOOK OF MORMON (Jared Gertner - West End); and in the National Tours of THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (Adam Bashian, Ben Jacoby, Julia Udine) and Disney’s THE LION KING (Jelani Remy). Among the early nominees and winners are Academy Award® winner Anne Hathaway (“Les Misérables”), Tony Award winners Laura Benanti (GYPSY) and Nikki M. James (THE BOOK OF MORMON), Tony nominee, Rob McClure (CHAPLIN), and UK Olivier Award nominee Jared Gertner (THE BOOK OF MORMON - West End).

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Paper Mill Director of Education Lisa Cooney explains, "What's happening in high school musical productions here in New Jersey and around the country is remarkable. Programs like the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards raise the bar and create opportunities for student performers and theater technicians to be recognized for their achievements, while giving them access to thousands of dollars in scholarship money.  We consistently hear from top tier colleges and casting directors that the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award is a significant accolade for an aspiring theater artist.”

The Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards Presented by Investors Foundation are modeled after the Tony Awards and Paper Mill Playhouse's program serves the entire state of New Jersey with nearly 100 entered productions from public, private and parochial high schools. Paper Mill Playhouse conceived and created the awards in 1996 to give schools the opportunity to showcase their musical arts programs on a statewide level.

"We are pleased to mark our eighth year supporting Paper Mill Playhouse's important Rising Star Awards program," said Investors Bank President and CEO Kevin Cummings, who also serves on the board of Investors Foundation. "We continue to applaud the Playhouse's efforts to nurture and acknowledge the outstanding talents of young people and educators throughout the state."

19th Annual Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards 2014 Nominations for Columbia High School’s CATS:

Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical  

Outstanding Performance by a Chorus

The Educational Impact Award

Outstanding Achievement by a Teacher or Outside Director

-          Columbia HS, CATS, Tricia Benn, Bethany Pettigrew

Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction

-          Columbia HS, CATS, Jamie Bunce Arraial, Peter Bauer

 Outstanding Scenic Achievement

-          Columbia HS, CATS, Mark Halliday, Jon Zaccone

 Outstanding Costuming Achievement

-          Columbia HS, CATS, Theatrix Costume House, Barbara Canace, Carol Rutledge

Outstanding Hair & Make-up Achievement

-          Columbia HS, CATS, Tricia Benn, Bethany Pettigrew, Nikki Reininga, Kathy Nye