Shanice Williams is among Paper Mill Playhouse's previous Rising Star Award winners.
Shanice Williams is among Paper Mill Playhouse's previous Rising Star Award winners.
(© David Gordon)

Paper Mill Playhouse, which was the recipient of the Regional Theatre Tony Award last year, has announced its 2017 Rising Star Award nominations. Presented by the Investors Foundation, the awards were created in 1996 to give schools the opportunity to showcase their musical arts programs on a statewide level. The ceremony will take place at Paper Mill Playhouse on June 6 at 7:30pm and will feature presenters from Broadway and beyond.

Among the top nominated high schools, Summit High School has 14 nominations, Columbia High School has 12 nominations, Eastern Regional High School has 10 nominations, Union High School has 10 nominations, Delaware Valley Regional High School has nine nominations, Gloucester Institute of Technology has six nominations, Rahway High School has six nominations, and West Morris Central High School has six nominations.

Paper Mill Playhouse's program serves the entire state of New Jersey, with nearly 100 entered productions from public, private, and parochial high schools.The musicals are adjudicated by Paper Mill Playhouse throughout the spring by a group of 70 evaluators, with each school receiving four independent evaluations. 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 Tiffany & Co. This year's ceremony will be broadcast live on television and online through Paper Mill Playhouse video partner, Hometowne Television, of Summit, New Jersey.

Since their inception in 1996, the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theatre have ignited the careers of many notable performers, all of whom attended high school in New Jersey. Among the early nominees and winners are Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables, Grounded), Tony Award winners Laura Benanti (She Loves Me) and Nikki M. James (Les Misérables), Tony nominee Rob McClure (Noises Off), Shanice Williams (The Wiz Live!), and Olivier Award nominee Jared Gertner (The Book of Mormon).