High School Musical 'Nine' Nominated for 14 Theater Awards
"Nine," directed by John Giresi is up for 12 Metropolitan Awards and two Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards.
Fair Lawn High School's production of the musical "Nine" has been nominated for 12 Metropolitan High School Theater Awards, including Outstanding Overall Production, Oustanding Leading Actor and Outstanding Direction.
A Federico Fellini spin-off that follows an international film director who faces crises of both personal and professional confidence heading into his 40th birthday, "Nine" was selected by director John Giresi this year to challenge his student performers after a three-year run of comedies.
“I wanted to go back to a more dramatic, unconventional piece which the program was really founded on,” he said in March. “I felt it was time to kind of go back in that direction, to challenge the students, to do something a little bit more nuanced, a little bit more sophisticated.”
Giresi said he was extremely pleased with the way his students responded to the challenging, adult material.
"When I cast this show back in June of last year," he said, "if someone said to me, 'Here is a DVD of what your show will look like in the end. Do you want it, yes or no?' I would have signed up for it in a second."
While this year's show lacked any real musical theater studs, Giresi said as a sum of its parts the show was very solid.
"I felt all [of the cast] went above and beyond what I projected they could do with the piece," he said. "They all rose to the occasion with a very difficult, very sophisticated, very adult piece."
Although Giresi expected that “Nine,” would have an excellent chance of picking up hardware in this year’s Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards -- which he said typically favors art house pieces -- the show actually received far more Metropolitan Award nominations.
The Metropolitan Awards, formerly known as the Helen Hayes Awards, bills itself as the high school equivalent of the Tony Awards.
High schools in Bergen County and New York's Rockland and Westchester counties are invited to participate in the competition, which highlights exceptional high school musical theater productions, performers and creative lighting, set and design teams.
The Metropolitan Awards ceremony, at which Broadway stars hand out the hardware and top nominated high schools -- including Fair Lawn -- perform live, will be held June 4 at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Peekskill, N.Y.
Senior Sean Dabney, who played the show's afflicted protagonist Guido Contini, is up for Outstanding Leading Actor.
Giresi said he selected Dabney to play the part both for his strong vocal performance and refined acting ability.
“For that role it had to be a combination of the vocals and the acting because it is a big part,” Giresi said in March. “When you’re playing a difficult adult-type role in a very adult-type piece, the acting has to be believable. If the acting is not strong and believable, the show would fail.”
In addition to Dabney, other individual actors nominated for awards include Celinda Ortega as Lady of the Spa (Outstanding Featured Ensemble Member/Metropolitan Awards), Sabrina Leibowitz as Little Guido (Outstanding Child Actor/Metropolitan Awards) and Ilana Kitaigorodsky as Claudia (Oustanding Supporting Actress, Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards).
See below for a complete list of nominations:
Metropolitan High School Theater Awards
Outstanding Overall Production
Outstanding Leading Actor - Sean Dabney (Guido Contini)
Outstanding Production Number
Outstanding Featured Ensemble Member - Celinda Ortega (Lady of the Spa)
Outstanding Child Actor - Sabrina Leibowitz (Little Guido)
Outstanding Direction - John Giresi
Outstanding Musical Direction - Steven Bell
Oustanding Stage Crew
Outstanding Costume Design - Bradford Harlan
Outstanding Lighting Design - Travis McHale
Outstanding Scenic Design - John Giresi & Daniel Vincent Panessa
Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards
Outstanding Supporting Actress - Ilana Kitaigorodsky (Claudia)