Who Is Not Throwing Away Their Shot? Predicting the 2022 Apollo Award Musical Nominees

Recapping Central Pennsylvania’s high school musical season and predicting the 2022 Hershey Theatre Apollo Award nominees.

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Caleb Steindel, News Editor/Staff Writer

Spring is a season of warmth, joy, and new life. The weather is changing, the school semester is nearing its conclusion, and flowers and animals alike are waking up from their many dormant months. But for the young student thespians of 16 Pennsylvanian schools, it is also a season of eager anticipation as they await the Hershey Theatre’s announcement of their Tony Award-style nominations for Central Pennsylvania.

On Tuesday, April 26, the Hershey Theatre – Pennsylvania’s 90-year-old, 2,000-seat architectural wonder – will set the stage for the Apollo Awards when they announce 2022 musical nominees. The ceremony itself, which will place in May, is an annual celebration of the area’s best in high school theatre, styled after Broadway’s Tony Awards. It was canceled each of the past two years due to COVID-19, but with the announcement of musical nominees quickly approaching, the Apollo Awards’ organizers are preparing to return to normal in a post-pandemic world.

I have traveled across Central Pennsylvania to see the performances from schools registered for the Apollo Awards and have reviewed many of the predictions. Below, I will attempt to compile a complete list of my nominee predictions ahead of next week’s announcement.

A FEW COMMENTS ABOUT MY PREDICTIONS: My thoughts will be a combination of what I believe SHOULD happen and what I believe WILL happen. Furthermore, I do not know with certainty which category each actor’s character will be included in – for example, I may predict a certain actress in the featured performer category when in reality she is considered a supporting actress. Much of that will be up to my own interpretation. In terms of my predictions, I will provide three categories. “Almost A Lock” includes those I believe should be almost guaranteed a nomination, “Strong Contender” indicates that I foresee a high likelihood of a nomination, and “Has Potential/Honorable Mention” means that, while they might not be quite at the level of the strongest competitors, they have a chance to be nominated. I have seen OR had an attending representative at all of this year’s Apollo-registered musicals except for three: Ghost at Dauphin County Technical School, Beauty and the Beast at Greenwood High School, and Aida at Milton Hershey School. Because of this, these three schools will not be included in my predictions. Finally, please note that there were dozens of high schools that staged musicals across Central Pennsylvania this year, but not all of them are registered to compete at the Apollo Awards. I will only be looking at Apollo-registered productions in my predictions. A complete list of this year’s competing high school musicals can be found here, on the Apollo Award Facebook page.

OUTSTANDING FEATURED PERFORMER IN A MUSICAL
Featured performer is by far the most difficult category to predict. It’s a combination of both actors and actresses, and it is often not easy to tell if a performer is considered featured or supporting. There’s a lot of talent in this category, and each one deserves a lot of love since they often get overlooked by the casual audience member.

ALMOST A LOCK
Haylee Myers as Erma – Anything Goes at Camp Hill High School

STRONG CONTENDER
Caroline Buell as Evangeline Harcourt – Anything Goes at Camp Hill High School

Rachel Pronesti as Enid Hoops – Legally Blonde at Central Dauphin East High School
Emma Riethmiller as Chef Louis – The Little Mermaid at Encore! Home School Productions

HAS POTENTIAL/HONORABLE MENTION
Elizabeth Allen as Bird Woman – Mary Poppins at Donegal High School
Megan Harlacher as Miss Lark/Miss Andrew – Mary Poppins at Donegal High School
Addison Reed as Race – Newsies at Harrisburg Christian School
Timothy Fausnight as Nicely-Nicely Johnson – Guys and Dolls at Lower Dauphin High School

Haylee Myers gave such an outstanding portrayal of Erma that she’s in a category of her own. This also starts a string of Camp Hill High School being near the top of each category. Her castmate Buell is also a strong contender, as is Encore’s Chef Louis. Pronesti stands out in CD East’s show, and Donegal has a couple of potential candidates as well.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Just as important as the lead, but without the recognition. This year, I discovered that the Outstanding Supporting Actress category is probably the deepest of them all, making it difficult to analyze. Furthermore, it is often difficult to determine whether an actress is indeed supporting or technically categorized as a lead. Please excuse any categorical error within this section. I may not know which category to put people in, but I do know that there is a LOT of talent amongst supporting actresses.

ALMOST A LOCK
Lei Bowser as Wednesday Addams – The Addams Family at Capital Area School for the Arts
Morghan Norcott as Ursula – The Little Mermaid at Encore! Home School Productions

Cadence Kanode as Miss Adelaide – Guys and Dolls at Lower Dauphin High School

STRONG CONTENDER
Laney Dixon as Hope Harcourt – Anything Goes at Camp Hill High School

Elyse Hayden as Little Red Riding Hood – Into the Woods at Elizabethtown Area High School
Madelyn Manning as Sandy Cheeks – The SpongeBob Musical at Palmyra Area High School
Elizabeth Lentz as Ursula – The Little Mermaid at West Perry High School

HAS POTENTIAL/HONORABLE MENTION
Sarah Roland as Alice Beineke – The Addams Family at Capital Area School for the Arts
Emmalee Shirley as The Baker’s Wife – Into the Woods at Central Dauphin High School

Adria McGarry as Paulette – Legally Blonde at Central Dauphin East High School
Jordan Sondaval as Squidward Q. Tentacles – The SpongeBob Musical at Palmyra Area High School

There were two incredibly strong Ursulas this year, and Lei Bowser’s voice as Wednesday Addams is one of the best I’ve ever heard. Kanode also delivers an excellent performance as Adelaide at Lower Dauphin. This category is pretty even – nine nominees, nine schools.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Often the unsung heroes of the show, the supporting actors don’t get the recognition of the leads, but they’re just as important to the show’s progression. As with the supporting actresses, there are typically multiple supporting actors in each show, making it reasonably competetive.

ALMOST A LOCK
Elliott Stabler as Moonface Martin – Anything Goes at Camp Hill High School
Sam Wilkins as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh – Anything Goes at Camp Hill High School

STRONG CONTENDER
Fletcher Smith as Fester – The Addams Family at Capital Area School for the Arts

Callaghan Petrosky as Scuttle – The Little Mermaid at Encore! Home School Productions
Sebastian Willard as Joseph Pulitzer – Newsies at Harrisburg Christian School

HAS POTENTIAL/HONORABLE MENTION
Kyle Hallam as Professor Callahan – Legally Blonde at Central Dauphin East High School

Austin Shaeffer as Gaston – Beauty and the Beast at Mount Calvary Christian School
Weston Buchovich as Patrick Star – The SpongeBob Musical at Palmyra Area High School
Bryant Rohrer as Harry Bright – Mamma Mia at Susquenita High School

It seems unfair to give so much credit to Camp Hill, but their musical’s primary supporting actors were undoubtedly the cream of the crop. CASA, Encore!, and Harrisburg Christian all had shows with excellent supporting men, too, and even schools like CD East and Mount Calvary, that might be lower on the Outstanding Musical list, have supporting actors that could compete.

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Perhaps the most competitive category of them all, the leading lady is quite often the primary protagonist of the show Such characters often have vocally demanding solos and complex dances. Suffice it to say, a nomination in this category is something to be proud of.

ALMOST A LOCK
Elsie Spitzer as Reno Sweeney – Anything Goes at Camp Hill High School
Kayleigh Jarkowsky as Katherine Plummer – Newsies at Harrisburg Christian Performing Arts Center

STRONG CONTENDER
Amani Weary as Gomez Addams – The Addams Family at Capital Area School for the Arts
Keli Georges as The Witch – Into the Woods at Elizabethtown Area High School
Lily Patota as Ariel – The Little Mermaid at Encore! Home School Productions
Audrey Meyers as Sarah Brown – Guys and Dolls at Lower Dauphin High School

HAS POTENTIAL/HONORABLE MENTION
Rayne Houser as Morticia Addams –  The Addams Family at Capital Area School for the Arts
Karlee Maroncelli as SpongeBob Squarepants – The SpongeBob Musical at Palmyra Area High School

Elsie Spitzer continues Camp Hill’s list of strong candidates, and with her 2021 win in the Outstanding Supporting Actress category, she has an excellent chance to make it two victories in a row. Jarkowsky’s brilliant rendition of Katherine is perhaps the only other girl who rose to her level in this category. Encore!, Lower Dauphin, and Elizabethtown all have strong candidates for Outstanding Lead Actress, but only CASA has two potential nominees (both Gomez and Morticia Addams were portrayed by women).

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
The leading man – a category that requires charisma, charm, and confidence. Lead actors often anchor the show and require great vocal stamina.

ALMOST A LOCK
Jack Baron as Billy Crocker – Anything Goes at Camp Hill High School
Josiah Evans as Sebastian – The Little Mermaid at Encore! Home School Productions
Donovan McDonald as Nathan Detroit – Guys and Dolls at Lower Dauphin High School

STRONG CONTENDER
Bryan Murray as The Baker – Into the Woods at Elizabethtown Area High School
Landon Hunsicker as Prince Eric – The Little Mermaid at Encore! Home School Productions
Tony Moreno as Jack Kelly – Newsies at Harrisburg Christian School

HAS POTENTIAL/HONORABLE MENTION
Ryan Bedi as Bert – Mary Poppins at Donegal High School
Samuel Dougherty as The Beast – Beauty and the Beast at Mount Calvary Christian School
Tyler Keller-Stepp as Sam Carmichael – Mama Mia at Susquenita High School

This award went to a Camp Hill student last year, and Jack Baron certainly made an excellent case for the school to repeat in this category. Interestingly enough, some of the other strongest contenders (Sebastian and Nathan Detroit) are in fact co-leading actors in their respective shows. That didn’t stop Evans and McDonald from delivering excellent performances. Encore! could have two nominations in this category, and Outstanding Lead Actor could have a wide variety of characters, from the suave orphan newsboy Jack Kelly to the emotional Baker of Into the Woods.

OUTSTANDING DANCE NUMBER IN A MUSICAL
Dances are the heart and soul of every musical. From tap numbers to tangos, this year should feature a wide variety of upbeat numbers.

ALMOST A LOCK
Anything Goes OR Blow, Gabriel, Blow – Anything Goes at Camp Hill High School
Positoovity – The Little Mermaid at Encore! Home School Productions
The Crapshooters’ Dance OR Havana – Guys and Dolls at Lower Dauphin High School

STRONG CONTENDER
Tango de Amor – The Addams Family at Capital Area School for the Arts
Step in Time – Mary Poppins at Donegal High School

HAS POTENTIAL/HONORABLE MENTION
Seize the Day – Newsies at Harrisburg Christian School
I’m Not a Loser – The SpongeBob Musical at Palmyra Area High School
Voulez Vous – Mamma Mia at Susquenita High School

Encore! is no stranger to the Outstanding Dance category, having won the award three straight years from 2016-2018. They should be just as competitive this year with a crisp, fun tap number. Camp Hill’s and Lower Dauphin’s dances were just as good, if not better, and they both have multiple dances that could receive a nomination (including a tap number apiece). Classics like Step in Time, Seize the Day, and Voulez Vous could make appearances, and there could be a few lesser known numbers sprinkled in, too.

OUTSTANDING MUSICAL
Last, but most certainly not least, is the white whale of the Apollo Awards. Outstanding musical nominations take everything into account, from individual acting performances to group harmonies. Only the cream of the crop receives a nomination in this category and a high school show must be truly excellent to be honored as one of the year’s outstanding musicals.

ALMOST A LOCK
Anything Goes – Camp Hill High School
The Addams Family – Capital Area School for the Arts
The Little Mermaid –  Encore! Home School Productions

STRONG CONTENDER
Newsies – Harrisburg Christian School
Guys and Dolls – Lower Dauphin High School

HAS POTENTIAL/HONORABLE MENTION
Into the Woods – Elizabethtown Area High School
The SpongeBob Musical – Palmyra Area High School

This season features plenty of strong contenders as many schools worked especially hard to stage their first show since COVID-19 arrived. Encore! is a usual contender, having been nominated for Outstanding Musical each year from 2016 to 2019, and this year should be no different with their strong collection of leads and energetic ensemble. Camp Hill is the defending champion, nearly sweeping the awards in 2021 and winning this category for their performance of Urinetown. Most of their talent is returning, and they should see a return to their success in 2022. CASA might be the new powerhouse this year. Despite their focus on performing arts, they typically receive few nominations, due largely to the fact that they often make bold, risky choices in their spring musical selections. But The Addams Family is a classic, and their talent should elevate them this time around. Harrisburg Christian and Lower Dauphin selected fun, ensemble-heavy productions, and their talent shouldn’t go unnoticed either. While Elizabethtown and Palmyra are usually top contenders, there’s a chance they are usurped by other up-and-coming schools this year. That being said, their musicals were still excellent in their own right. The SpongeBob Musical might be new and Into the Woods might lack dynamic dances, but expect them to be competitive.

This year’s Hershey Theatre Apollo Awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, May 22 at 7:00 pm. More information can be found at the Hershey Theatre Apollo Award website: https://www.hersheyentertainment.com/hershey-theatre/apollo-awards/