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Paper Mill Playhouse announces 2023 Rising Star student winners and outstanding educator awards

Princeton High teachers received outstanding educator award

awards ceremony photo of winner Juliana
Juliana Krawiecki

The Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, a recipient of the Regional Theatre Tony Award, has announced the winners of the 2023 Rising Star Awards for excellence in high school musical theater.

Since its establishment in 1996, the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards have played a significant role in launching the careers of numerous notable performers who attended high schools in New Jersey. Among the past nominees and winners are artists such as Academy Award-winner Anne Hathaway, Tony Award-winners Laura Benanti, Nikki M. James, and Rob McClure, Olivier Award-nominee Jared Gertner, and Jelani Remy and Shanice Williams, stars of NBC’s The Wiz Live!.

The outstanding educator award honored teachers Julianna Krawiecki of Princeton High School, Alan Van Antwerp of The Pingry School, and Tim Lynch of Ridge High School. These teachers were nominated by their home school districts and awarded a Rising Star Award and $1,000 cash prize for their schools’ theater programs.  

This year, Ridge High School in Basking Ridge secured the top honor, winning the outstanding overall production award for the school’s rendition of Newsies.

Winning the leading role categories were Leah Rose Crossan from Clearview Regional High School for her role as Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia! and Dakota Krouse for his role as Gomez Addams in The Addams Family at Delaware Valley Regional High School.  

Among the top nominated high schools are Columbia High School (Essex County) with 13 nominations, Delaware Valley Regional High School (Hunterdon County) with 12 nominations, Haddonfield Memorial High School (Camden County) with 10 nominations, Summit High School (Union County) with 9 nominations, and Moorestown High School (Burlington County) with 8 nominations. 

The Rising Star Awards, modeled after the Tony Awards, includes a review of more than 100 productions from public, private, and parochial high schools across the state. Throughout the spring, Paper Mill Playhouse judged the musicals with a group of 70 evaluators who provided each school with three independent evaluations. The schools nominated for outstanding overall musical and leading performers were given the opportunity to perform on stage during the event.

In addition to recognizing outstanding performances, the Paper Mill Playhouse awarded $7,000 in scholarships at the ceremony. Seven students who demonstrated exceptional talent and expressed their intention to pursue further studies in theater performance, technical theater, or education, received $1,000 cash scholarships. Recipients included Tasneem Abdelsayed, Eddie Coen, Najm Muhammad, Libby Schmitt, Eva Luna Taveras, Grace Velazquez, and Ian Wilson.

Cedar Grove High School and Jonathan Dayton High School were given the 2023 Educational Impact Award and $500 each in acknowledgment of the schools’ work to connect their musical productions to the district’s curriculum, utilizing the performances as educational tools for both students and the local community.

The Theater for Everyone Inclusion and Access Award, which recognizes excellence in the inclusion of students and adults with disabilities in various roles within the productions, was presented to Eastern Regional High School and Moorestown High School. These schools also took measures to ensure accessibility for audiences with disabilities. The award included a cash prize of $1,000 for each winning school.

Students receiving final nominations in the lead and supporting acting categories received a scholarship to the Paper Mill Playhouse‘s Summer Musical Theater Conservatory.

Rising Star Awards are made possible, in part, by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, A Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.  Rising Star scholarships are made possible by Ruth Bedford in memory of Jane Burgio, Walt Santner in honor of Janet Sovey, in memory of late father and husband James K. Mosser, and the Douglas Michael Krueger Scholarship Fund Trust. The Theater for Everyone Inclusion and Access Award is supported by the New Jersey Theatre Alliance.

2023 Rising Star Award Winners

Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical  – Ridge High School, Newsies

Outstanding Performance in a Female-Identified Leading Role  – Leah Rose Crossan as Donna Sheridan, Mamma Mia!, Clearview Regional High School 

Outstanding Performance in a Male-Identified Leading Role – Dakota Krouse as Gomez Addams, The Addams Family, Delaware Valley Regional High School 

Outstanding Performance in a Female-Identified Supporting Role – Ryan Yuhas as Ursula, The Little Mermaid, Sayreville War Memorial High School 

Outstanding Performance in a Male-Identified Supporting Role – Zach Siegel as Nigel Bottom, Something Rotten!, Summit High School 

Outstanding Performer in a Featured Role – Mac Silverstein as Brother Jeremiah, Something Rotten!, Columbia High School; Elijah Dor as George, The Drowsy Chaperone, Morris Knolls High School; Amanda Muldowney as Annie Reilly, 42nd Street, Southern Regional High School 

Outstanding Performance by a Featured Ensemble Member – Jaidyn Riley as Mush, Newsies, Ridge High School 

Outstanding Performance by a Featured Ensemble Group – The Troupe, Something Rotten!, Summit High School 

Outstanding Performance by a Chorus – Ridge High School, Newsies

Outstanding Performance by an Orchestra – Ridge High School, Newsies

Outstanding Achievement by a Teacher or Outside Director – Clinton Ambs, The Addams Family, Delaware Valley Regional High School 

Outstanding Achievement in Choreography and Staging – Rachel Miranda and Jennifer DiGiuseppe, Newsies, Ridge High School 

Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction  – John Brzozowski, Sunday in the Park with George, Westfield High School 

Outstanding Scenic Achievement  – Anthony Freitas, Little Women, Madison High School 

Outstanding Lighting Achievement  – Michael Kimmel and Lisa Weinshrott, The Wizard of Oz, Wallkill Valley Regional High School 

Outstanding Costuming Achievement – Sabrina Windt, Head Over Heels, Haddonfield Memorial High School 

Outstanding Hair and Make-Up Achievement  – Carrie Snodgrass, The Addams Family, Delaware Valley Regional High School 

Student Achievement Award Recipients 

Lilly Resnick, Stage Mgr. Chicago: Teen Edition Acad. for Perf. Arts at UCVTS 

Sofia Merie Maravillas, Stage Mgr. Fiddler on the Roof Bergen County Academies 

Nia Serrano, Dance Captain Pippin Carteret High School 

Mazie O’Keefe, Costume Head Frozen, Eastern Regional High School 

Skye Coen, Stage Mgr. Little Women Madison High School 

Azlyn Haley, Head Carpenter Newsies Princeton High School 

Sasha Stepanova, Lighting Design Newsies Princeton High School 

Costume Crew Something Rotten! Summit High School 

Ryan Karlin, Stage Mgr. Sunday in the Park… Westfield High School 

Sophie Havens, Music Director Sunday in the Park… Westfield High School 

Educational Impact Award 

Cedar Grove High School, The Prom 

Jonathan Dayton High School, Heathers: School Edition 

Rising Star Theater for Everyone Inclusion and Access Award 

Eastern Regional High School, Frozen

Moorestown High School, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella 

Outstanding Educator Award 

Alan Van Antwerp, The Pingry School 

Julianna Krawiecki, Princeton High School 

Tim Lynch, Ridge High School