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Town of Huntington teen theater stars seek 'Hunting-Tony'

Huntington High School students Katherine Gerdes and Chelsea

Huntington High School students Katherine Gerdes and Chelsea Holmes perform "My Favorite Things" from "The Sound of Music" at the 2013 Hunting-Tony Awards ceremony. Credit: Town of Huntington

Huntington drama students, dressed in tuxes and gowns, will walk the red carpet into Northport’s John W. Engeman Theater Monday night in hopes of bringing home a “Tony.”

Fifty-three drama students from the nine public schools in the township are nominated in the Town of Huntington’s fourth annual Hunting-Tony Awards, on Monday at 7 p.m.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson got the idea for the Hunting-Tony Awards from the Town of Babylon and decided his town needed a night to appreciate theater students.

“It’s their night to shine and get recognized for all the hard work they do on theater productions throughout the school year,” Cuthbertson said. “You hear about athletes getting acknowledged, but rarely do you hear about drama students who are just as talented. This is their night.”

Sean McPhillips, a senior at Half Hollow Hills High School West in Dix Hills, was nominated for best featured actor in a musical for his roles as the knight of the round table Sir Bedevere, haggard Lady Galahad and Kevin in his school’s production of Spamalot, a musical comedy adapted from the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

“I’m so excited to be nominated,” said McPhillips, 17, of Deer Park. “The roles I played were so unconventional and new to me. I still can’t believe our school was brave enough to take on ‘Spamalot.’ It’s such a different kind of production that’s not easy to put on.”

The night will combine awards presentations with student performances of popular scenes from past school productions. Students will announce nominees and winners for categories including best play and musical, musical ensemble, best lead, supporting and featured actor and actress, dance performance, stage crew and technical production.

Tim Sherlock, a sophomore at Cold Spring Harbor High School, was nominated for best male vocalist for his role as jester in the school’s musical “Once Upon a Mattress,” a comical take on the well-known fairytale “The Princess and the Pea.”

“The role taught me to loosen up more and have fun,” said Sherlock, 16, of Lloyd Harbor. “I think it’s incredible to be nominated. There’s a lot of talent and it’s just great to be recognized for how hard we all worked on these shows.”

Alissa Liebler, a senior at John Glenn High School in Elwood, was nominated for best supporting actress in a musical for her role as Rusty in her school’s adaptation of “Footloose.”

“I played Ariel’s best friend,” said Liebler, 17, of Elwood. “And I sang ‘Let’s Hear it for the Boys,’ which was one of the most challenging vocals I’ve ever tackled.”  

Liebler, who plans to study theater at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in the fall, dreams of one day making it to the Broadway stage and continuing songwriting.

“I would love to win a Hunting-Tony,” she said. “It’s something I really wanted before I graduated. I knew the judges were watching me perform in ‘Footloose,’ so I gave it my all. I feel very much myself on stage. I feel at home. To do this the rest of my life would be a dream.”


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