NEW YORK CITY: The Broadway Education Alliance has announced the Roger Rees Awards for Excellence in Student Performance. The honors for high school performers in the Greater New York City area, named after the late stage and screen actor (and formerly called the Gershwin Awards), were presented May 19 at Professional Performing Arts School (PPAS) in Manhattan, hosted by NY1’s Frank DiLella and 2015 Roger Rees best actress award winner Marla Louissaint.
The 2019 Roger Rees Award for best actress went to Ekele Ukegbu, for her portrayal of the title character in Aida at Elmont Memorial High School in Nassau County. Jeremy Fuentes received the prize for best actor for playing Calogero in A Bronx Tale at Archbishop Stepinac High School in Westchester.
Also recognized were Savannah Lee Henry as Best Up and Coming Actress, for her performance in the title role of Caroline, or Change at PPAS, and Vincent Gerardi as Best Up and Coming Actor, for Orsino in Twelfth Night at Happauge High School in Suffolk County. Nominee Sarabeth Schiff of Paul D. Schreiber High School of Port Washington in Nassau was awarded a scholarship to Studio School.
In addition three special prizes were bestowed upon non-performers. The Playbillder Award for Marketing was given to Mamaroneck High School of Westchester. The award, which, according to the Broadway Education Alliance, “recognizes comprehensive and engaging marketing plans” involving a show program made with PLAYBILLder software, includes a $500 gift to the school’s theatre department.
The winner of the “You Will Be Found” College Essay Writing Challenge was Katherine Hui of Great Neck South High School in Nassau. Sponsored by Dear Evan Hansen producer Stacey Mindich, the award comes with a $1,500 college scholarship prize.
The first annual Excellence in Student Journalism Award was given to Allison Siegel of Nassau’s Lawrence Woodmere Academy. Producers of the Broadway staging ofThe Prom sponsored the award, which, according to press notes, honors “student journalists for creativity, curiosity and courage in telling stories that promote kindness, acceptance, and inclusiveness in their school and community.” Siegel will serve as representative of the Roger Rees Awards at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards’ National Student Reporter Contest.
The Roger Rees Awards, rechristened after Rees’s death in 2015, “recognize the importance of theatre arts education,” according to press notes, “and celebrate the exceptional life and career-long artistic excellence of Broadway’s beloved actor/director Roger Rees.”