(updated) The First Annual Sondheim Awards — And The Winners Are:

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Jun 052018

The First Annual Stephen Sondheim Awards Show took place at the Schubert Theater in New Haven on Monday night.

The show was run more like the National “Jimmy” High School Musical Awards rather than the old CT High School Musical Theater Awards show. Instead of having each Best Actor and Best Actress nominee sing a full 3-4 minute solo of one of the songs from the show. Early in the show, ALL of the Best Actor nominees came onstage together, and one by one shared a portion of their song for about 1 minute, then joined the rest as background singers. Later the Best Actress nominees did the same.

Last weekend, the 14 Actors and Actresses were treated to a three-day intense workshop, during which they worked with professional choreographers, actors and singers and went over every aspect of stage performance. The boys’ and girls’ group routines were developed at this workshop. And, as the Best Actor winner stated in his acceptance speech, they all became friends. There was no rivalry whatsoever and they were cheering for their peers.

Amity High School’s production of “The Addams Family” was up for 8 nominations.

Our wonderful Marty Gnidula was quite the standout as Uncle Fester performing onstage with 6 other Best Actor nominees. He stayed in character and made everyone laugh with the brilliantly executed choreography.

Alaina Dwyer and Lilli Querker joined 5 other Best Actress nominees and both were just fabulous.

The cast of the Addams Family, in my opinion, was the most together ensemble of all the Best Musical Nominees. They nailed it.

So, as you go down the list you will notice that of the 8 nominations, Amity only brought home 1 (one) award. Were they disappointed? Upset? Keep reading until you see just what they won.

Best Scenic Design

Isabel Adolphe – Heathers – Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School

Justin Mossa – Footloose – Darien High School

Bobby Marcinauskis – Legally Blonde – Shelton High School

Todd Perrin, Dan Reilly and Nina Soriano – Les Miserables – Newtown High School

Best Costume Design

Sophie Howard – Footloose – Darien High School

Kira Turlington – Heathers – Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School

Marissa Proto – The Addams Family – Amity Regional High School

Best Lighting Design

Alicia Foster – Heathers – Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School

Emily Marcinauskis – Legally Blonde – Shelton High School

Oak Chaisathaporn – Hairspray – Suffield Academy

James Gallo – Curtains – Trumbull High School

Dean Jones – Footloose – Nonnewaug High School

Bobby Gaffney- Les Miserables – Newtown High School

Best Supporting Actor

Michael Hoadley – Shrek – Pinocchio – Branford High School

Antonio Mantero – Into the Woods – Mysterious Man – Notre Dame

Callum Zak – Legally Blonde – Kyle/Chad/Dewey – Shelton High School

Thomas Leonard – Curtains – Christopher Belling – Trumbull High School

Ryan Kennedy – Addams Family – Lucas – Amity High School

Best Supporting Actress

Alex Hernandez – Shrek – Dragon – Branford High School

Marina Kolistas – Grease – Patty Simcox – Immaculate HS

Molly Schalenghe – Legally Blonde – Brooke – Shelton

Madison LaPlante – Shrek – Dragon – West Warwick

Ainsley Lugal – Legally Blonde – Serena – Shelton High School

Best Choreography

Andrea Kennedy – The Addams Family – Amity Regional High School

Emily Frangipane – Footloose – Darien High School

Matthew Farina – Grease – Immaculate High School

Katherine Sedlock – Legally Blonde – Shelton High School

Mia White – Hairspray – Suffield Academy

John Carter – Merrily We Roll Along – Cheshire High School

Best Direction

Rob and Andrea Kennedy – The Addams Family – Amity Regional High School

Tim Sorenson – Footloose – Darien High School

Matthew Farina – Grease – Immaculate High School

Fiona Bryson, Katherine Sedlock, Justin Zenchuk – Legally Blonde – Shelton High School

Thomas Dugan – Hairspray – Suffield Academy

Richard Marchetti – Shrek – West Warwick High School

Best Actor

Marty Gnidula – Addams Family – Uncle Fester – Amity High School

Grady Allen – Footloose – Willard – Darien High School

Joshua Cocuzzo – Footloose – Ren – Nonnewaug

Cooper Cardone – Beauty and the Beast – Beast – North Kingstown

Connor Wall – Legally Blonde – Emmett Forrest – Shelton

Max Weiner – Hairspray – Edna Turnblad – Suffield Academy

Matt Sullivan – Legally Blonde – Professor Callahan – Shelton High School

Best Actress

Alaina Dwyer – Addams Family – Alice Beineke – Amity High School

Lexi Staubi – Footloose – Ariel – Darien High School

Teah Renzi – Les Miserables – Eponine – Newtown High School

Kyla Hackett – Legally Blonde – Elle Woods – Shelton High School

Jacqueline Mate – Curtains – Georgia – Trumbull High School

Mia White – Hairspray – Velma Von Tussel – Suffield Academy

Lilli Querker – Addams Family – Pugsley Addams – Amity High School

Best Musical

Hairspray – Suffield Academy

Shrek – West Warwick High School

Footloose – Darien High School

The Addams Family – Amity Regional High School

Legally Blonde – Shelton High School

Grease – Immaculate High School

Yes, that’s right, folks, we are thrilled to announce that Amity earned its SECOND “BEST MUSICAL AWARD” (one for the CT High School Musical Theater Awards and one for the inaugural Stephen Sondheim Awards). That’s the big Kahoona, the prize of all prizes, the most coveted award of all. And Everyone from the parents to Principal Anna Mahon, to the actors and directors, were beaming with pride at the end of the show.

Darien High School, appears to have been the big winner of the night with multiple awards, followed by Shelton High School, but the BIG ONE belongs to Amity.

Aside from going to the National Competition in New York City later this month, Best Actor winner Cooper Cardone and Best Actress Winner Teah Renzi each received a scholarship to the BMA Summer Camp — It will be a very exciting summer for both of these wonderfully talented students. We wish them the best in the future.

This was a very good night, indeed. Thank you again to Orange Native, Amity Alum Connor Deane and his Broadway Method Academy for bringing a High School Musical Awards Night back to Connecticut.

Tonight’s The Night, Amity Talent Shoots For The Moon

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Jun 042018

The first Annual Stephen Sondheim Awards will take place at the Shubert Theater, 247 College Street, New Haven tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Amity Has THREE of its fine actors vying for the Best Actor/Actress title and an opportunity to compete in the National High School Musical Awards.

Best of Luck to Marty Gnidula – Uncle Fester for best actor, Alaina Dwyer – Alice Beineke and Lilli Querker in the best actress category for The Addams Family. We can’t wait to see you perform tonight.

The Addams Family is up for the Outstanding Musical Award.

In addition, Ryan Kennedy is nominated for his supporting actor role of Lucas. Best choreography – Andrea Kennedy. Best Directors – Rob and Andrea Kennedy. Best Costume Design – Marissa Proto.

I will give a full update after the show. Until then, Everyone send out Positive thoughts to our extended “Addams Family” group. We MUST have someone go to the Nationals again this year!!!

And once again, thank you Connor Deane and your business for giving our kids this amazing opportunity to shine! As Always, Judy Primavera and the Jamie Hulley Arts Fund for your participation.




Audiences Give The Addams Family Two Snaps Up

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Apr 082018

Addams Family, The Musical opened at Amity this week and so far, audiences are loving it – at least from comments posted on Facebook and what I observed last night.

Just about everyone was talking about the most lovable character, “Uncle Fester” played by Sophomore Martin Gnidula.

“I can’t believe he’s just a sophomore,” one man said.

“That means he’ll be around for two more years,” someone responded.

“I think this is his first play,” said another as she flipped through the program book.

Lilli Querker, “Pugsley” also got some attention, not only for her voice and performance, but one young girl turned to her mom and said, “I KNEW he was a girl!”

Out in the lobby, a man said, “I can’t imagine what they look like without their stage makeup.”

I wanted to say, go to Orange Live, they did a feature with side by side photos of the lead actors. But I didn’t.

During the show, there were audible gasps when Emily Kilian, “Wednesday” sang. “Wow, she’s so good!”

Ben Kemp, “Lurch” got a lot of laughs with his low growls, moans – whatever you want to call them. He must have practiced endlessly, because, if you watched Orange Live’s meet the Addams Family video, you’ll notice that his speaking voice is not terribly low.

Harrison Paek “Gomez” and Ali Ashworth “Morticia” received equal raves for their performances. Paek being compared to Raul Julia and Ashworth to Angelica Houston.

And Maren Westgard’s “Grammama” was so weird and much more popular with this audience than the television character ever was with all of us baby boomers back in the day.

The conversations were all over the place as we exited the theater.

“So, the boyfriend was the director’s son?”

“Ya, he was the little kid in Tarzan, too, remember?”

Even the lighting left people in awe. “Did the students do the lighting too?”

“Some older guy does it every year and the kids work with him I think.”

“Well, it was amazing. They did a great job.”

“They always do. It’s like Broadway.”

Orange Live will have MORE on this play and audience reaction next week. 


Becoming An Addams — The Kennedys Always Have A Vision

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Apr 062018

When I first met the cast of the Amity Spring Musical “The Addams Family” I was charmed by the primary characters sunny personalities, but to be honest I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how they would make little Lilli Querker look like a believable chubby Pugsley Addams.


Move forward to the dress rehearsal. If I hadn’t met her ahead of time, I never would have known that Pugsley was the same petite little girl who portrayed Little Red Riding Hood in “Into The Woods” a couple of years ago. Why? Well, the magic of Andrea Kennedy’s makeup brushes, a well-fitted wig, a great costume team, oh, and of course, Querker’s acting ability.

If You Would Like To Meet the Addams Family and their Butler Lurch, Watch this Video  (Martin Gnidula is incorrectly identified as Morgan in the video)



You will absolutely fall in love with the sweet and quirky Uncle Fester. Martin Gnidula was willing to shave his head for the role but Kennedy told him they would work around it. His songs are just precious and don’t be surprised if you leave the theater singing “La la la la la la etc.”

He may have the most physical part of the entire cast always moving around, very high energy.

He’s the perfect combination of Jackie Coogan from the tv series and Christopher Lloyd from the movies. So good!





Type cast as yet another Gramma, Maren Westgard is just good at it, after all this is the third time she’s portrayed a grandmother in an Amity play.

In this role she is creepy and she’s kooky, mysterious and spooky.

Her hair is a bit out of control, but Grammama Addams is always there for her family.





Remember Ted Cassidy from the original Addams Family tv show? Well, Ben Kemp doesn’t — when he was cast as Lurch he’d never seen the iconic television series, so he was told to go home and do his homework — Watch old episodes of the Addams Family and pick up on some of the little things that made Lurch recognizable to the masses.

I guess he studied because, during the dress rehearsal, I heard him give a loud growl-moan.  Fun stuff.





The bubbly Emily Kilian can play just about anyone. In this musical, she is Wednesday Addams.

Unlike the quiet Lisa Loring from the original tv show, Kilian is more like the big screen Wednesday, played by Christina Ricci.





We’ve seen Harrison Paek in a few Amity plays and musicals.

He embraces the role of Gomez, the kind family man who only wants everyone to be happy.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Paek brings a sense of fun that the late great John Astin and the late Raul Julia, did before him. He adds a funky little accent that may make you giggle – or swoon.





Funloving Ali Ashworth can turn the bubbly off in the snap-snap of two fingers.

Her expressionless Morticia is spot on. But under that serious shell, she has a heart of gold. she loves her family and wants only the best for everyone.



So there they are Amity’s Addams Family in and out of costume and makeup. Who would you walk by at an after party without recognizing them?

The makeup room is a flurry of organized chaos before the show, but Andrea Kennedy’s talented makeup artists get the job done, one character at a time. Great Job!

If you have tickets to the Addams Family, enjoy the show! If you were there on opening night, what did you think?