Kelly Awards: Big Night for Quaker Valley

Quaker Valley High School takes top honor at the Gene Kelly Awards for "Guys and Dolls."

Quaker Valley High School took home four Gene Kelly Awards including "Best Musical, Budget Level I" for its production of the classical musical "Guys and Dolls."

Pittsburgh CLO and the University of Pittsburgh presented the 22nd annual Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater Saturday night. The event, held at the Benedum Center in downtown Pittsburgh, selected performers from 32 participating high schools that produced a spring musical.

In addition to "Best Musical,"  of Quaker Valley won "Best Actor in a Supporting Role" for his performance as Nathan Detroit in "Guys and Dolls." The also won "Best Lighting Design" and "Best Scenic Design."

The award, named for iconic Hollywood movie star and Pittsburgh native Gene Kelly, was given to promote excellence in high school musical theatre. Kelly is most notably remembered for “Singin' in the Rain,” the titular song in the classic musical comedy, “Singing in the Rain.”

, Pine-Richland, Woodland Hills, North Hills, Moon, Chartiers Valley, Plum, St. Joseph, Brashear and  were a few of the schools that were nominated. 

In addition to the honors, Quaker Valley's Rachael Houser garnered a Best Actress nomination for her role as Sarah. Other nominations included "Best Costume Design," "Best Ensemble," "Best Choreography," and "Best Direction." 

Winning a Kelly Award in high school musical theater is akin to winning a Tony Award on Broadway. Quaker Valley director Lou Valenzi reminded the students at the sold-out event, "This is our play off game."

Like many televised award shows, such as the Emmys, Oscars and Tonys, one big musical number from each of the school’s nominated for Best Musical perform a signature song from the show.

The cast of Bishop Canevin opened the show with “Lot of Livin’ to Do” from “Bye Bye Birdie.”

Baldwin High School performed “Show People,” a popular ditty from “Curtains.” The same song was later reprised by the Woodland Hills cast’s interpretation.  The song extols the virtues of performing, declaring that people from all walks of life dream of becoming actors, dancers, singers and other performers:

“We're a special kind of people known as show people. We live in a world of our own; our days are tied to curtains. They rise and they fall. We're born every night, at half-hour call.”

Truer words were never sung. The audience, mostly cast and crew from participating high school musicals around western Pennsylvania, was energized by the evening’s events.

Other musical numbers included Quaker Valley' cast performance of “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” from “,” North Hills cast of “My Fair Lady” performing “Get Me to the Church on Time,” Our Lady of Sacred Heart’s rendition of “Brotherhood of Man” from “How to Succeed in Business,” Pittsburgh Barack Obama Academy's rendition of “Footloose” from the eponymous musical, and Avonworth's performance of the “Finale” from “Sweeney Todd.”

There was also a grand finale number, “Eyes on the Goal,” which was comprised of performers from each of the participating schools.

Ryan Lubin, formerly of Bethel Park, a non-competing school, attended the event to cheer on his friend, Connor Doran from Baldwin’s "Curtains."

“We met doing shows at South Park’s Children’s Theatre and we’ve been friends ever since. It’s really exciting.”

Patricia Ward Kelly, widow of Gene Kelly, was a presenter at the event. She spoke fondly of her husband and his talents. This year award ceremony marks Kelly's 100th birthday. Ward Kelly discussed her his humble beginnings.

"He and his brother Fred performed dance routines in local talent contests around Pittsburgh. He never took his fame for granted and he believed that the pursuit of excellence is a good thing … a very good thing. Don’t just be good, be the best. I can’t think of a better birthday present for him.”

The recipients of the 2012 Gene Kelly Awards are:

Best Scenic Design

Budget Level I: Quaker Valley

Budget Level II: Avonworth

Budget Level III: Woodland Hills

Best Costume Design

Budget Level I: St. Joseph

Budget Level II: Hampton

Budget Level III: Winchester Thurston

Best Lighting Design

Budget Level I: Quaker Valley

Budget Level II: Avonworth

Budget Level III: Woodland Hills

Best All-Student Orchestra


Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Benjamin Torisky of Quaker Valley won for his performance as Nathan Detroit in "Guys and Dolls."

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Emma Baker of Avonworth took the award for her portrayal of Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd

Best Ensemble


Best Crew/Technical Execution

Woodland Hills

Best Choreography


Best Direction


Best Actor

Nathan Pool of Avonworth won for his depiction of Sweeney Todd in "Sweeney Todd."

Best Actress

Brooke Tate of Avonworth won for her rendition of Mrs. Lovett in "Sweeney Todd"

Best Musical

Budget Level I: Quaker Valley took home a prize for their production of "Guys and Dolls."

Budget Level II: Avonworth won for their "Sweeney Todd."

Budget Level III: Baldwin won for their production of the musical mystery comedy, "Curtains."

Other awards and scholarships were doled out during the evening. West Allegheny Middle School won the Charles Gray Award for Special Achievement in Arts Education in recognition of its enduring commitment to arts education.

Pittsburgh CLO awarded more than $87,000 in scholarships to several college-bound seniors at the ceremony.

Point Park University’s Musical Theater Department, presented Adrianne Knapp and Brandon Martin with a $5,000 per year, four-year scholarship to attend Point Park University’s Conservatory of Performing Arts for musical theater.

Pittsburgh CLO awarded Gene Kelly Cash Scholarships totaling $10,000 were presented to two high school seniors who have applied and been accepted to a school for the performing or technical arts. This year’s recipients are Elizabeth Faux and Zander Lyons.

The Pittsburgh CLO Ambassadors awarded $5,000 in scholarships to two college-bound students who will be pursuing a major outside of the arts. The 2012 Ambassadors’ Scholarship winners were Hannah Devlin and David Kline.

The Pittsburgh CLO Guild also awarded $4,000 scholarships to eight students who are pursuing a college education in the theater arts. The Guild presented scholarships to Tyler Harper, Alyssa Abraham, Gabrielle Bricker, Zander Lyons, Olivia Meyer, Savannah Spratt, Alexa Anderson and Rebecca Love.

The winners for Best Actor and Best Actress, Pool and Tate, will be competing for the opportunity to represent Pittsburgh CLO’s Gene Kelly Awards in the third-annual National High School Musical Theater Awards in New York City on Monday, June 25.

For more information on the National High School Musical Theater Awards, please visit www.nhsmta.com.

The Voice of Reason May 28, 2012 at 04:45 PM
I definitely agree that QV has has a remarkable year in both the arts and athletics! I just don't like when one tries to pit one group against another. Congratulations to all and we are proud of the Class of 2012!
hepen May 29, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Maybe it is not just a matter of funding, somehow I am sure the sports budgets are higher, but a matter of recognition. I was looking at the new school year book and there is not one picture from the musical. Every sport endeavor including bowling had a page but no musical. The sports groups all wear jackets and sweats with the event they participate in; perhaps there should be those types of recognition for performing arts too. QV did Little House of Horrors just a few years ago, it was very well done! I have enjoyed the classic musicals of the last two years. Guys and Dolls and Crazy for You are such fun shows with terrific music. The good news is QV has proved they can turn out an exceptional product even with a small budget!
Mary Madick Morrow May 29, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Hepen, I agree. I think the deletion from the yearbook was a matter of print scheduling and it will hopefully be included in the supplement, but you are right that the lack of coverage did hurt some feelings. My earlier point was not to "dis" any other activities--I know that each activity is important to those who participate in it--but to suggest that an overall review of limited budget should be conducted to ensure that activities that are really producing results (not just awards, but participation and involvement) be recognized. QV turns out an exceptional product with a small budget is right--what could they do with a slightly larger one?
Maureen valenzu May 29, 2012 at 06:06 PM
a big thank you to the community for supporting the cast of "Guys and Dolls" . . . I am the wife of the Director...and he is mighty proud of his Quaker Valley kids. Always, and forever, the community has packed the high school auditorium for each and every musical. I speak for Lou - and again, we say THANK YOU ! ~ maureen Valenzi
Lou Valenzi May 29, 2012 at 07:57 PM
As the director of Quaker Valley musicals, it is difficult to balance what show selections I feel are right for our community and what may be more representative of shows that today's Broadway offers. There are many fabulous shows that I would love to direct, however, because of their edgy nature, language, or story lines, many of them have to be rewritten for a high school cast and local community. As an actor, I believe that a show show should be produced as it was originally written. As an educator, I believe it is my duty is to give our high school casts an accurate Broadway experience in terms of production values and rigor, not necessarily by producing the latest (albeit rewritten), and oftentimes controversial offerings, but wholesome, traditional, family oriented shows that have withstood the test of time. Call me "old fashioned," but, as much of our audience is comprised of young people, I prefer to stay with the more age-appropriate, fun shows, that do not have to be adjusted to fit a high school cast and community. May I add that this year's cast of "Guys and Dolls" is an exceptional group of dedicated young people who truly understood what dedication is. I am more proud of these fine young men and women than anyone could imagine. Thanks, too, to our administration and school board for their support of the arts AND our athletics. We are a small community and should be proud of all of the accomplishments of our kids!...Lou Valenzi


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