Cary-Grove High School knows how to put on a show.
The school’s spring production of “Cinderella” is one of only three nominees for “Best Production” in the Illinois High School Musical Theatre Awards hosted by Broadway in Chicago. Not only was Cary-Grove’s production nominated, three members of the show’s cast also are finalists in the awards competition.
This is the first year the fifth annual competition has included nominations for productions along with cast members.
“One of the things I’m really proud of is that it honors the entire production, the group effort it takes to put on a musical” said Rob Boncosky, who directed the show, which was based on a 2013 Broadway adaptation of “Cinderella.”
“The band, tech crew, makeup crew, costume crew and then, obviously, the cast itself, it’s kind celebrating all of those separate entities coming together and creating something special.”
Cary-Grove’s “Cinderella” was chosen from among more than 70 participating high school productions in Illinois, and cast members Haley Gustafson, Corey Barlow and Kelsey Krigas were named finalists. They will participate in a full day of workshops and an awards program June 6 at Water Tower Place in Chicago, where they will audition for a panel of casting agents and theater professionals.
The top two Illinois performers – an actor and an actress from among the 12 actors and 12 actresses nominated – will be invited to the National High School Musical Theatre Awards in New York City. They also will receive tickets to “The Sound of Music” in Chicago. The awards, also known as The Jimmy Awards for Broadway star James M. Nederlander, have inspired $1 million in scholarships.
“We just started immediately screaming,” said Gustafson of learning about the nominations. She was in the car with Krigas when the news came.
A 17-year-old junior from Cary who played Marie in Cary-Grove’s “Cinderella,” Gustafson said she hopes to pursue a career in theater. Same goes for Barlow, a 17-year-old junior from Cary who played Prince Topher, and Krigas, an 18-year-old senior from Fox River Grove who played Cinderella.
“Working so hard for all of it this year, it was pure joy not only to succeed myself, but to watch two of my costars and friends get to enjoy the same success,” said Krigas, who is headed to Ball State University to study musical theater in the fall.
Other Cary-Grove students have been nominated in the past, but never three at once, Boncosky said.
“This was remarkable in itself,” he said. “They’re three of the best of my career, and I’ve been here 23 years.”
Also on June 6, the award for “Best Production” will be presented. Other nominees include York Community High School’s production of “Les Miserables” and Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire for “Miss Saigon.”
Having started the program to recognize quality high school cultural and arts programs, Broadway in Chicago hadn’t honored entire productions before because of the enormity of the effort, said Eileen LaCairo, vice president of Broadway in Chicago.
“This year, while we were frightened by the daunting task of it, we found it to be really rewarding,” she said.
As for Cary-Grove’s production, she said, “The caliber of the show was extremely high.”
“I can’t remember when we’ve had three [nominees from one school] before,” she said.
Individual winners in Chicago go on to take part in a week-long theater workshop in New York and a Broadway showcase, while the “Best Production” title is more of an acknowledgement with an award being presented to the entire cast, she said.
Most involved with Broadway in Chicago came up through high school theater themselves, a point made clear to students at the June 6 awards program as both organizers and the students introduce themselves by name and the production they starred in at their school. (LaCairo was Dolly in “Hello, Dolly!”)
“What we’ve found, the day-long program itself is so exciting to them and what they learn and what they get out of the program is so impactful that no one leaves disappointed,” she said. “All in all, it’s like one of those magical days.”