Ocean County High School Production Nominated For Awards

Pinelands Sophomore Kali Tucker nominated as Outstanding Lead Actress. (Photo by Pinelands Regional)

  LITTLE EGG HARBOR – Under the Sea and on the stage, Pinelands Regional High School continues to make waves. Their production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” has garnered a whopping three nominations at the prestigious Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards.

  Considered the Tony Awards of New Jersey high school musicals, the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards celebrate excellence in student productions for the 29th year running. This year, Pinelands dove headfirst into the competition against 116 schools with a chance to shine under the spotlight.

  Pinelands’ nominations showcase the dedication and talent pouring out of their theater program. Here’s a breakdown of their achievements:

  Outstanding Lead Actress in a Female-Identified Leading Role: Sophomore Kali Tucker for her portrayal of Ariel.

  Honorable Mention for Outstanding Performer in a Female-Identified Supporting Role: Summer Hudak’s villainous turn as Ursula.

  Honorable Mention for Outstanding Hair and Makeup Achievements: The creative team brought the characters to life.

  Chuck Miller, the school’s drama director for nearly two decades, expressed his excitement about the nominations. Although Pinelands has received recognition from the Paper Mill in the past, this year comes with three awards at once.

  “This is our first lead actress nomination,” Miller said. “We’ve had nominations for a feature actor, a supporting actress, and costuming, along with a few other nods along the way. Our supporting actress got an honorable mention, which was so close as well. Summer as Ursula was also fantastic.”

  Miller emphasized that the goal of the show is to please audiences. He also sees the critique from Paper Mill as an additional learning tool. He said that notes are given in the spirit of helping students as they have fun on stage.

  For example, the judges remarked on how well Kali fulfilled her role as Ariel and a Disney princess.

  “They noted how well she did with flying and staying in character,” Miller said. “We had her up in the air a lot because of the swimming. Kali was actually singing a song, did a backflip while she sang, and then stayed on the note without a waver.”

  Kali, 16, of West Creek, acknowledged that the judges identified one of the most challenging parts of her time on stage. During multiple scenes, she was suspended from wires – and invoked her inner mermaid to sing as she did a backflip.

  A self-proclaimed Ariel enthusiast since childhood, Kali embraced the role with dedication. Even a temporary voice loss during rehearsals couldn’t dampen her spirit. Kali’s relationship with her character might explain her positive attitude.

  “I’ve always related to Ariel,” Kali said. “She just has a very playful spirit and is very sweet and bubbly. I feel like my personality is built the same.”

  One of Kali’s favorite parts of the show actually came after the curtain call. Audience members had the chance to take pictures with cast members. Kali loved seeing the awe in their eyes and understood the joy in their eyes as they met their favorite Disney princess.

  Kali has taken private voice lessons with Katie Sherman in Toms River. She credits her drama teacher and cast for putting together a great show.

  “Mr. Miller is very well trained and smart about theater,” shared Kali. “Our cast was one like a big family.”

Pinelands students Kali Tucker as Ariel and Summer Hudak as Ursula both were recognized by the Paper Mill Playhouse. (Photo by Pinelands Regional)

Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards

  Only five Ocean County schools participated in this year’s Rising Star Awards, including:

  OCVTS Grunin Performing Arts Academy – “The Prom”

  Pinelands Regional High School – “The Little Mermaid”

  Southern Regional High School – “Mamma Mia!”

  Toms River High School East – “Catch Me If You Can”

  Toms River High School North – “Mamma Mia!”

  Two of the Outstanding Performers in a Female Identified Role are from Ocean County, including Kali Tucker as “Ariel” and Kelly Clark as “Dee Dee Allen.” They are two of the eight listed in the final nominations.

  Both Kali and Kelly will have the exciting opportunity to attend the Paper Mill Playhouse’s prestigious Summer Musical Theater Conservatory, free of charge. This five-week program provides aspiring performers with invaluable training and the chance to showcase their talents on the renowned Paper Mill Playhouse stage in late July.

  The Live Rising Star Award Ceremony will be held on Tuesday, June 11.

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Stephanie A. Faughnan is an award-winning journalist associated with Micromedia Publications/Jersey Shore Online and the director of Writefully Inspired. Recognized with two Excellence in Journalism awards by the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists, Stephanie's passion lies in using the power of words to effect positive change. Her achievements include a first-place award in the Best News Series Print category for the impactful piece, "The Plight Of Residents Displaced By Government Land Purchase," and a second-place honor for the Best Arts and Entertainment Coverage category, specifically for "Albert Music Hall Delivers Exciting Line-Up For 25th Anniversary Show." Stephanie can be contacted by email at stephanienjreporter@gmail.com.