By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Both high schools in the Twin Cities have been chosen as finalists for the prestigious Kenny Awards, which recognize local schools for excellence in producing and performing musicals.
North Tonawanda High School was chosen for its upcoming performance of “9 to 5: The Musical,” while Tonawanda High School was selected for its 2014 musical, “Grease.” The 21st annual awards will be presented by Shea’s Performing Arts Center and The Lipke Foundation in May.
Dean Vallas of the North Tonawanda High School’s music department said that this is only the second time the school has applied for the honor.
“We are very excited. We attempted it once before, around 2007, but did not become a finalist then,” he said. “We hadn’t applied since, until this year. So, of course, now we’re knee-deep in the hoopla getting ready for it.”
The NTHS musical will be presented Nov. 14, 15 and 16, a good four months or so sooner than most Western New York high-school musicals. Vallas, show director Sydney Forster and Marisa Zakes, president of the school drama club, took part in an interview with a panel from the Lipke Foundation and Shea’s earlier this month.
At Tonawanda High School, three Kenny trophies stand in the glass cases outside the auditorium. The school has consistently applied for the awards during their history and has been a finalist three or four times, said Daniel Lynch, who is producer of this year’s musical.
“Grease” will be presented May 6, 7 and 8. Lynch, director Maura Nolan and vocal director Kelly DiStefano took part in the nomination interview earlier this month. Tonawanda’s prior three Kenny awards were for classical interpretation of “Oliver” in 2009, costuming for “Anything Goes” in 2008 and choreography for “Grease” in 1998. The school has not won the main award, “The Kenny” -- yet, Lynch and Nolan pointed out.
“We’re bringing back a classic,” said Nolan, performed in “Grease” when she was a student at Tonawanda High School. “It’ll be good.”
According to Shea’s, over the past 20 years, more than 100 musical productions by local high schools have been recognized and honored by the Kenny Awards. Other finalists for the 2014 awards include Eden Jr./Sr. High School for “The Wedding Singer,” Fredonia High School for “Bye Bye Birdie,” Maple Grove High School for “Grease,” Orchard Park High School for “Les Miserables” and West Seneca West High School for “Godspell.” Once the seven finalists are selected, judging committee members attend the finalists’ musical productions and make their selections.
The 2014 awards presentation will be held at 4 p.m. May 10 at Shea’s Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $8 and may be purchased through one of the finalist schools, at the Shea’s Box Office, 650 Main St., Buffalo, or by calling 847-0850.
The main award, “The Kenny,” is awarded to one of the finalist schools for outstanding musical production and includes a $5,000 grant to the school’s theater department from the Lipke Foundation. Other awards include categories for performances in leading and supporting roles, dance performance, choral performance, technical design, orchestral performance and costume design.
The Kenny Awards were created in 1993 in honor of the late Ken Lipke, the founder of Gibraltar Steel. Schools from Erie, Niagara and Chautauqua counties are eligible to compete for them; about 16 to 30 schools apply each year.