5th Avenue Theatre honors teen actors

It may have been a world away from Sunday's Tony Awards for Broadway excellence. But last night, some 1,500 teen drama students (and 500 friends and relations) were expected to attend the 5th Avenue Theatre's first award ceremony for outstanding achievement in high-school musical theater.

"This is our way of saying, 'You deserve a lot of recognition and encouragement for what you've done,' " said 5th Avenue artistic head David Armstrong, who is basing the awards on school honors programs already in place at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey and other major musical theater companies.

"We feel it's very important that high-school theater receives the kind of acknowledgement that goes to high-school sports," Armstrong emphasized.

The 5th Avenue's awards are based on a competitive process, with all Washington state high schools invited to submit an application to participate.

Thirty-four schools applied for consideration this year. Judges (theater and arts professionals from the Pacific Northwest) were sent out to evaluate more than 30 student productions in contention.

After seeing the shows, and taking into account school size, budget and other criteria, the judges nominated individuals, productions and schools as candidates for 20 different awards.

Shorecrest High School in Shoreline won the prize for best musical production, for its version of "Oliver!" The show also earned honors for its direction (Brad Reed), and lead male performance (Brian Earp, who played Fagin). Newport High School's Sarah Davis (who played Cathy in "The Last 5 Years") was named outstanding female actor in a leading role.

Seattle's Garfield High took home the largest number of prizes (four). Other multiple award winners include: Newport High School, Overlake High School, Hanford High School, Roosevelt High School, Kentlake High School and Holy Names Academy.

A complete list of winners is posted on the 5th Avenue's Web site at: www.5thavenuetheatre.org.