Recap of Wednesday Night Halo Awards
Nancy Sasso Janis
OnStage Connecticut Columnist
Waterbury, CT - My recap of the second night of the Halo Awards on Wednesday evening at the magnificent Palace Theater in Waterbury begins with a rant, and it has nothing to do with the awards, or Michelle Gotay, the wonderful host for both Halo galas.
I realize now that I was spoiled by the excellent behavior of the audience on the first evening and I somehow thought that the Wednesday night audience would be as cooperative. Not so much. Despite receiving the same list of “dos and don’t” from Ms. Gotay at the beginning of the proceedings, as well as several reminders, the excited students insisted on cheering for every single nominee and screaming their approval for the winner in each category at the sound of the first syllable of the winning high school. It made it next to impossible for me to hear the winner’s name so that I could report it correctly, but I suppose that is an issue that only really applies to the press. However, the rest of the audience in many cases had no idea who the winner was in the various categories and only knew the nominees because of the helpful slides projected onstage.
If a presenter strayed from the list that I had printed out from the Seven Angels website, I was lost and even then I was unable to figure out who I should circle as the winner in several cases; God forbid if there was a tie, and there were several. I had only one winner on Tuesday of which I wasn’t 100% sure and when Ms. Gotay sent me a message about who she thought had been named the winner in the category, it turned out I had heard correctly. At the end of Wednesday evening, I had several races that I was afraid to call before I got the official list of winners from Seven Angels.
I want to make it clear that I am not referring to the wonderfully supportive cheers that followed each performance by their peers. The gracious host congratulated both audiences during her opening remarks on the “spirit of support and camaraderie” that permeates every Halo gala and I wholeheartedly concur. There was never any booing or even disappointment expressed aloud; as Ms. Gotay had said, “Slap that smile on your face. You are actors after all.”
Two young men behind me that were not sitting with their school quietly acknowledged every positive aspect of the numerous performances and it was clearly genuine. Ms. Gotay called the Halos a “classy act” and supporting each other is one of the best parts of the awards ceremony.
At the risk of sounding like a teacher, I know that these teen-aged students can do better. Snapping one’s fingers even while the presenter is speaking is just as effective and so much quieter, and was suggested to the Wednesday night students more than once. Granted, some of the presenters did not enforce the rules, and a few even incited the crowd to be even louder. The unrelenting cheering whenever a school was mentioned simply made the proceedings go longer and I began to feel sorry for the Seven Angels staff and the host. As one of the few people in the audience that attended both nights, as I always try to do, I can testify that it can be done as the organizers requested and it is so much more enjoyable for everyone involved.
That said, let’s move on to the wonderful performances.
Awards were passed out in a whopping 45 categories to half of the participation CT high schools, a total of 31 schools. Judges scored an impressive 137 productions involving 6,000 students. Presenters on Wednesday evening included WATR’s Tom Chute, who served as the Halo host for ten years, his colleague Barbara Davitt, actress (and Marissa Perry’s mom) Joyce Jeffrey and CT State Rep Salim Noujaim.
Act One opened with a performance in full costume by Sacred Heart Academy with “America” from ‘West Side Story.
7A Artistic Director Semina De Laurentis, who was greeting with a warm standing ovation, gave her opening remarks and informed the students in the audience that they may bring their ticket from the gala to the Seven Angels box office for a Halo pass for one of their mainstage shows, a fabulous way for the young actors to see a professional production free of charge. She also thanked her tireless staff at Seven Angels and the dedicated Halo judges.
New Britain HS took to the stage to present “Positive” from ‘Legally Blonde’ with some great dancing. Kaynor Tech then presented “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” from their production of ‘Anything Goes,’ followed by St. Joseph HS doing an adorable “Do-Re-Mi” from ‘The Sound of Music.’ New Fairfield HS presented a medley from their production of ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ followed by Trinity Catholic doing the very funny “Song of Love” from ‘Once Upon a Mattress.’
After the special recognition awards, Chase Collegiate wowed the crowd with “Impossible” from their production of ‘Cinderella,’ followed by Notre Dame HS with a great medley by the lead actor from ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ Hamden HS sent the young actress who played Wednesday in their production of ‘The Addams Family’ to perform “Pulled.” I think Hopkins School substituted for The Gilbert School to present “We’re All in This Together” in full costume.
Suffield Academy performed a medley in beautiful harmony from ‘Spring Awakening’ and Kennedy/Sacred Heart High Schools performed “You’re The Top” from ‘Anything Goes’ followed by Woodland Regional’s “My Favorite Things” from their ‘The Sound of Music’ complete with nuns. The first act closed with Cheshire High School’s “Step in Time” with lots of tapping from their production of ‘Mary Poppins.’
Act Two opened with Hopkins School performing “What You Want” from their ‘Legally Blonde’ in pink and black, but unfortunately many did not make it back in time to enjoy it. Special recognition of the theater teachers was impossible to hear, but well-deserved nonetheless. Westover School showed off their production of ‘Rent’ with the duet “Take Me Or Leave Me.”
Oxford HS came to the stage in their always impressive costumes to perform “Bloody Mary” from their ‘South Pacific’ followed by Fairfield Prep with “Blow High, Blow Low” from ‘Carousel.’
Thomaston HS took to the stage with a slew of puppets to perform “I Wish I Could Go Back to College” from ‘Avenue Q,’ followed by Wilbur Cross HS with “The Big Dollhouse” from ‘Hairspray’ complete with the jailhouse doors.
Bristol Central HS did “Shakin’ at the High School Hop” from ‘Grease’ and the WAMS enchanted the audience with a reprise of “We’ll Raise a Glass Together” from their production of ‘Grand Hotel.’ Nolan Cummings as the Baron and Christian ‘CJ’ Janis as Otto led the tappers in the comic number.
Crosby HS donned their beautiful costumes to impress the audience with “One Day More” from their production of ‘Les Miserable,’ and the final act was New Canaan HS with a visually beautiful “Ever After” from ‘Into the Woods.’
photos by Gary Rosengrant