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Center Stage: A winning evening at the Barbara Mann

By Staff | Jun 2, 2011

What a night it was on the Barbara Mann Hall stage last week, during the 2011 High School Music Awards. There was enough youthful energy in the hall to send a rocket to the stars, and starring the students of our various local high schools.

The evening opened with a welcoming speech by Edison State College Theatre Professor Stuart Brown, followed by the interim Superintendent of Lee County Schools Dr Larry Tihen. Scott Saxon, general manager of Barbara B. Mann Hall, elaborated on the reason Saxon started the awards show in 2008.

“The Musical Awards champion local high school actors, orchestras and productions and they celebrate the hard work those students do every year from hammering sets to endlessly rehearsing songs,” said Saxton.

This year six schools competed at this fourth annual awards show: They included:

o Cypress Lake Center for the Arts, in south Fort Myers, performed their productions of “Nine” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”

o Cape Coral High “Anne of Green Gables”

o Ida S. Baker High, Cape Coral “Footloose”

o North Ft Myers High “Hairspray”

o Lehigh Senior High “Thoroughly Modern Millie”

o Island Coast High (a new school in the Awards show) Cape Coral “Seussical”

Robert Van Winkle, NBC meterologist and no stranger to performing in high school musicals, hosted the show. Van Winkle humorously kicked of the proceedings by elaborating the format for the evening each school featured had a behind-the- scenes video, followed by a musical number from their featured production.

Jason Loete Cypress Lake’s Director started the evening by introducing the video for Cypress Lake’s production of “Nine” immediately followed by the full cast performing an Oooo La La, mile-high-kicking version of “Folie Bergere” from that show.

Andrew Claassen, Cape Coral Director for Fort Myers High, presented the rehearsal video of “Anne of Green Gables,” where the students spoke on the importance of the arts in the school, and the positive difference it made in their lives.

After explaining that this musical chosen for its classic literary value, what followed was a charmingly executed number performed by Fort Myers High. They conveyed in music and song, the trials and tribulations of student “Anne,” on her first day in a new school.

Janelle Turco, Lehigh High School’s director, set up the rehearsal video of Lehigh’s production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” followed by Lehigh’s students performing a thoroughly delightful, thoroughly well-performed Charleston with a “23 skidoo,” flash finish.

Loete returned for Cypress Lake’s second musical offering of the evening. The rehearsal video and exceptional performance of the high-powered, energetic song-and-dance-number from the recently performed “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

Ida S Baker High, which rocked the hall, by burning the floor with their production of “Footloose,” which was launched by their director Laura Licata. “Suessical,” the captivating, whimsical musical performed to thunderous applause by Island Coast High’s talented students was set up by their director Angel McNeeley.

Last, but in no way least, was the stupendous performance by that powerfully energetic, remarkably talented cast from North Fort Myers High School giving their all in “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from “Hairspray.” Their remarkably gifted teacher and mentor Michele Whitener directed the performance.

The surprise of the evening followed the 15-minute intermission, when the directors of each school took the Hall’s stage. They performed a comic take on preparing these challenging high school musicals with, “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” from the show “Annie.” It was followed by a loud and long-standing ovation from both students and audience.

The Awards that followed were:

Special Recognition Award – Cypress Lake student Raphael Ruiz

Outstanding Technical Award – Cypress Lake (Sound, Scenic Design, Costumes) “Nine”

Orchestra/Music Award–North Ft Myers “Hairspray”

Outstanding Ensemble Cast–North Ft Myers “Hairspray”

Runner Up Supporting Actor–Trey Hughes, “Footloose” Ida Baker High

Outstanding Supporting Actor — Eli Baldwin “Spelling Bee” Cypress Lake

Runner Up Supporting Actress–Thalia Stansberry “Thoroughly Modern Millie” Lehigh High

Outstanding Supporting Actress–Michaela Slamka “Spelling Bee” Cypress Lake

Runner Up Leading Actor–Dallas Stabb “Nine” Cypress Lake

Outstanding Leading Actor–Kent Miller “Hairspray” North Ft Myers High

Runner Up Leading Actress – Haley Fishl “Anne of Green Gables” Cape Coral High

Outstanding Leading Actress–Haley Ondryka “Hairspray” North Ft Myers High

And drum roll please for the following, outstanding achievement by a high school:

Most Improved– Island Coast High, Cape Coral for “Suessical”

With North Ft. Myers High taking the Best High School Musical Award for their production of “Hairspray”

In addition to trophies and cash prize awards, each school received a $250 for just participating in the event. All I can possibly add to this grand evening of our local kids and their teachers giving it their all, and getting the appreciative audience’s well deserved standing ovation is: Bravo! Get out there guys, the showbiz world is yours for the taking. Razzle, dazzle them as you did all of us with your talent and “Break a leg” for luck.