Kentridge steals the show at 5th Avenue Awards

The number six – particularly June 6 – has special meaning to Jennifer Grajewski.

Kentridge came up big at the 5th Avenue Awards with its production of 'Hairspray'.

Kentridge came up big at the 5th Avenue Awards with its production of 'Hairspray'.

The number six – particularly June 6 – has special meaning to Jennifer Grajewski.

On that date 10 years ago, Grajewkski and her Kentridge High School students’ rendition of “Footloose” won for best overall production at the 5th Avenue High School Musical Theatre Awards.

Ten years later, on the same day, Grajewski’s cast did it again, winning outstanding overall musical production for the school’s spring performance of “Hairspray”.

“I guess we’re due again on 6-6-26,” said Grajewski, who has been teaching and directing for 35 years, the past 13 years as the artistic and drama instructor at Kentridge.

Kentridge attracted a state-leading 15 nominations for “Hairspray” and for its fall production of “The Addams Family” at the 14th annual, Tony-style awards ceremony. It was the most nominations for the school since “Evita”, which won for outstanding music direction, and “Godspell” were up for 12 awards three years ago.

As a top-eight finalist, the “Hairspray” cast earned the privilege to perform the musical’s final number, “You Can’t Stop The Beat”, on awards night at Seattle’s McCaw Hall.

“It’s very exciting, wonderful. It’s always a goal just to get nominated. There’s 95 schools, 116 productions and more than 11,000 kids in the (statewide) program,” Grajewski said. “To be nominated in the top eight and to be able to perform in front of 3,000 people on the big stage is an honor.

“It’s so hard to do because you have to be so strong in every area to get the best overall,” she said. “When they called our name, it was just like icing on the cake because I was already so proud of the kids.”

Team Kentridge involved 73 cast members, 25 crew and 94 technical theater class students for the musical.

“Hairspray” was nominated for outstanding direction; outstanding music direction; outstanding choreography; outstanding costume design; and outstanding performance by a chorus. Francesca Jagod, who played Tracy Turnblad, was nominated for outstanding performance by an actress in a leading role.

Eia Waltzer handled the choreography and Julia Thornton was in charge of musical direction for “Hairspray”.

The latest award is special to Grajewski and her program. Travis Britt was a performer on “Footloose”, the cast that won the overall prize in ’06. Britt, a 2006 graduate, was devoted to his work in theater at the school before he lost his fight with bone cancer in 2007.

As Grajewski and her students received their latest honor, the director’s thoughts turned to Britt.

“It made it all the better because (of him),” she said. “Ten years ago it was so important for him. It was a high point of his life, to be a part of it before he passed away.”

Grajewski directs a community theater production for all ages each summer, proceeds of which go to a drama student scholarship in Britt’s name. Kentridge’s “Sweeney Todd” is set to run July 28-Aug. 13.

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