A slew of Broadway celebrities will take the virtual stage to honor musical theatre students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic during Paper Mill Playhouse’s Rising Star Honors, including Tony winners Laura Benanti and Nikki M. James and Tony nominee Rob McClure. The event will stream live on the New Jersey venue’s Facebook page June 1 at 7 PM ET.
Joining Benanti, James, and McClure (all three New Jersey natives and Rising Star alums) as performers are Julia Knitel, Jennifer Blood, Natalie Weiss, Matthew Scott, Monette McKay, Constantine Rousouli, Anne Brummel, Meghann Dreyfuss, Mike Schwitter, Matt Ban, Renee Marino, Meghann Zervoulis, and Matt DiCarlo. Olivier nominee Jared Gertner will host the evening, along with cameos by Rising Star alumni from across the nation.
Rising Star Honors will also feature a montage of video submissions of school productions, including those that were in progress or had to be canceled entirely. Schools will share highlights of their performances, rehearsals or new performances created by company members.
At the end of the school year, the company usually presents its Rising Star Awards, but the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the event to move online.
“In the theatre arts, the cast and crew of the musical are a family, and the time they spend together in rehearsals are a safe harbor for many kids, so we understand how they may feel incomplete right now,” said Producing Artistic Director Mark S. Hoebee. “We want them to know we are thinking of them and love their passion. Each year for the past 25 years, [the awards] have raised the bar and created opportunities for student performers, musicians, and theatre technicians to be recognized for their achievements. We can’t wait to return next year.”