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‘West Side Story’ Wins Rising Star Nod for Staging, Choreography

Paper Mill Playhouse nominates Tricia Benn and Bethany Pettigrew for honorable mention for this year’s high school musical.

The choreographers who helped the Sharks and Jets step out in West Side Story have been signaled out by the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards for outstanding high school musical theater.

The Paper Mill nominated Tricia Benn and Bethany Pettigrew for honorable mention for choreography and staging. The awards, modeled after Broadway’s Tony Awards, serve the entire state of New Jersey with nearly 100 entered productions from public, private and parochial high schools.

“We're always proud of the CHS kids and the work they do but never more proud than this year,” Pettigrew said. “West Side Story is a thrilling show to produce mainly because of the amazing Jerome Robbins choreography. It was an honor for them to be exposed to his work and an honor for us to stage it. “

Pettigrew and Benn put dozens of young actors through the paces of the iconic production. “Learning all the original Robbins choreography and adapting it for the CHS students was a dream come true,” Benn said.

The actors also won accolades from a special guest during this spring’s performances -- , whose father Leonard Bernstein composed the music for the popular musical.

“I think it is so important to expose the students to such genius's as Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein,” Benn said. “The whole production team did such a good job. Rob Cohen, the director, devoted his heart and soul to the production.”

Some of Broadway’s biggest stars began as Rising Stars, including 2011 Tony Award winner, who grew up in Livingston and won for Book of Mormon.

On the , “the technical crew worked over time making sure lights and set changes were perfect,” Benn said. “The students rose to the occasion, doing a dance warm up before every rehearsal, led by students Anne Dordai and Lena Ledesma.”

This year, the top nominated high schools for Rising Star Awards are Summit High School with 18 nominations, followed by Westfield High School with 12.

Presented by the Investors Foundation, the 2012 is set for Tuesday, June 5 at the Millburn theater. Schools nominated for Outstanding Overall Musical and Leading Actor/Actress nominees perform at the event and award recipients are presented with an engraved crystal award from Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards partner, Tiffany & Co.  

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