Red carpet bound

PCHS and BBHS Drama Clubs receive 10 Metro Award nominations
May 30, 2019 at 7:56 a.m.
Red carpet bound
Red carpet bound

By By Sarah Wolpoff- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Joined by most of the other “Mamma Mia!” leads, Port Chester High School senior Olivia Perrone was at her friend Marcella Zanetti’s house on May 14. With eyes fixated on a screen, they were together for a viewing party to watch the livestream announcements of the 2019 Metro Award nominations.

Perrone remembers having her fingers crossed and repeatedly whispering “oh, my God!” when the big-name categories were announced. Her whispers turned to shouts when she heard her name, as she started jumping up and down and hugging her friends. Perrone, who starred as Donna in the High School Drama Club’s musical showcase in early April, was nominated for Outstanding Female Acting Performance.

“I’m still in disbelief, I can’t believe this is happening,” Perrone said a week after the announcement. “I loved my performance, I really gave it my all, but I didn’t expect anything like that. It’s out of 55 other schools, and there’s a bigger pool of competition when it comes to those lead categories. I’ve seen a lot of those people perform, they’re amazing.”

Perrone is just one of dozens of students from Port Chester High School and Blind Brook High School gearing up for the red carpet. The Metro Awards, which are highly regarded as the high school equivalent of the Tony Awards, honor theatrical performances in schools across Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties in New York and Bergen County in New Jersey. With 31 awards on the docket, Blind Brook High School secured six nominations while Port Chester High School received four, and most of the students from both schools are celebrating the prestige for the first time.

A short distance away, Blind Brook High School junior Wyatt Steinthal was at a nomination viewing party of his own. With a few fellow cast members of the Blind Brook Drama Club production of “The Wedding Singer,” which premiered in mid-March, Steinthal sat on a couch eating pizza, which didn’t stay in his hands for long.

“They got to the Outstanding Comedic Performance (category), and I thought that could maybe be the only one I could get,” Steinthal described. “They ended up saying my name and we all freaked out. We had no idea it would happen. They said my name, we threw our pizza on the floor and started freaking out.”

Playing George in the “The Wedding Singer,” Steinthal said he never thought he would be recognized by the Metro Award judges. At first he had a difficult time wrapping his head around the character, who is directly based on the ultra-flamboyant ‘80s icon Boy George. And though Steinthal put in a lot of effort to overcome those struggles, he was never fully confident in the performance.

“Just trying to be flamboyant and expressing myself like that was difficult because I had never really experienced that, and this was my first lead in one of the shows. As time went on, I did get better at it when I realized I can be confident around everyone else. I did my best, but it was difficult,” Steinthal said. “So, I’m really just honored this is happening. Winning would be amazing, but just getting nominated is an unbelievable experience. It’s amazing.”

This is Steinthal’s first individual Metro Award nomination. Though he was one of the fairytale creatures in “Shrek the Musical,” a group that collectively won Best Featured Ensemble Group last year.

Perrone, who’s headed to SUNY Purchase in the fall to study theater, is excited to attend the ceremony as a first-time nominee. As a performer with more familiarity in singing, she’s particularly proud to be up for an acting award. “Mamma Mia!” was the first show in which she felt like she was truly acting, Perrone explained, which she attributes to the deep emotional dive she was able to take thanks to their director Pat Rinello.

“Pat brought everything out of me, she’s like magic,” Perrone laughed. “Donna’s a mom, a single mom on top of that, and I’ve never had to deal with anything close to that. So, how do you channel all that emotion? I thought about my own mom, my boyfriend’s mom, every mom that had an influence on my life. I tried to imagine what their experiences would have been like. It took a lot to channel all of those emotions, but it was very emotional.”

Production value noticed

The Blind Brook production’s direction clearly also made waves. “The Wedding Singer” Director Christina Colangelo, the longtime drama club director and producer, was also recognized for her work. This was Colangelo’s 25th Blind Brook show and fourth nomination, though she’s never taken home the Outstanding Director trophy, at least not yet.

“I was extremely surprised because compared to a lot of other show’s I’ve done, this was one of the easier to direct,” Colangelo said. “I’m honored, nonetheless. It’s nice to be recognized for hard work, and working with these kids is always the best part of my day.”

But it wasn’t just Colangelo’s directing. Blind Brook senior Mackenzie Drangel was nominated for the Technical Merit Award for her role as “The Wedding Singer” student director, a first-time achievement. A Technical Merit nomination is considered based on teacher recommendation, and Colangelo said she endorsed two students who were critical behind the scenes but don’t necessarily get worthy recognition.

“Mackenzie was my right hand during the production. She handled communication with the cast, she was at every rehearsal,” Colangelo said. “It was a lot of work. Because the show was double cast, she’d work with one group while I worked with the other. I thought it was important she be recognized.”

For similar reasoning, Blind Brook High School senior Jack Wells, the show’s sound engineer, was also nominated for the Technical Merit Award. Colangelo said he has been leading the auditory charge on their sound board since he was a freshman, but this is his first nomination.

The Port Chester theater crew has a hat in the Technical Merit Award category, too, with junior Lyndsay Rosenfeld, the “Mamma Mia!” stage manager.

Stephanie Darrow, the Port Chester High School Drama Club advisor, said she nominated Rosenfeld because while she was technically the stage manager, she pretty much did everything. From lighting to mediation between the director and actors, Rosenfeld had her hands on most production aspects of the show.

“I’ve never seen a technical or crew-related nomination at this school, it’s always been related to the cast, so I was just really surprised,” Rosenfeld said. “It’s exciting, and this was one of the most fun times I’ve had in a production. I love working crew. I’ve thought about auditioning for shows before, but I end up wanting to stay where I am because crew is just an overwhelming sense of family.”

When Darrow was watching the nomination announcements from the comfort of her own home, she already knew the Port Chester theater team would receive some sort of acknowledgement for their singing and dancing capabilities. Aside from the students who were constantly “working their butts off,” Darrow said they had an exceptional choreographer and musical director, Ashley Smith-Wallace and Stephen Ferri.

So, receiving nominations in Outstanding Choreography and Outstanding Chorus was no surprise. Both facets of “Mamma Mia!” were more intricate than they’ve attempted before, Darrow said, and it paid off.

The choreographer, Darrow continued, was a new addition to the Port Chester theater community and brought a “big-show” element they’ve never had.

“She was also really good at changing things around when they needed to. If something wasn’t working, or she’d get an idea, she would change it as we were going,” Darrow said. “Then she’d really rely on the kids to memorize that, which was challenging, but it worked really well in the end.”

Musically, Darrow said, Ferri worked with every student individually and involved nearly the whole cast in every number—which meant vocals were coming from off stage. Perrone laughed that many audience members thought they pre-recorded their sets because of the illusion.

Similarly, “The Wedding Singer” is also up for an Outstanding Choreography Metro Award, which Colangelo attributed to Tracy and T.J. O’Sullivan’s vision and ability to work with individual students’ talent.

Lastly, as an ensemble actor in the show with a few speaking lines here and there, Blind Brook High School sophomore Sam Knee took on a second role in the drama club to exhibit his graphic design abilities—which was recognized by the judges.

Roughly two weeks before “The Wedding Singer” premiered, Knee was tasked to design the playbill cover—a job he’s never done before. The novelty and short notice of the project made it even more surprising when his creative innovation ultimately earned him an Outstanding Graphic Design nomination, his first Metro Award honor.

The playbill features a wedding cake with a hovering microphone above. Dangling off the side of the illustration is a silhouette of Robbie, the main character, trying to hold on by the microphone cord.

“I really wanted to have it be simplistic. Nothing that people would have to really look at hard, but something you can look at from afar and understand,” Knee said. “The play revolves around Robbie and him falling out of his own control. I tried to embrace that by having him fall off the cake.”

The local teens will take to the red carpet for the Metro Awards at the Purchase College Performing Arts Center on Monday, June 10. Though the ceremony begins at 7 p.m., if things go well, their celebrations might continue throughout the rest of the night.


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