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BOS '18: Arts, Culture & Music

BOS '18: Arts, Culture & Music


Eric Tinsley

A longtime member of the local music scene, Eric has played in more bands than you can shake a Chapman Stick at (inside bass player reference!) and made them all sound good. It only takes four strings (or sometimes five) to lay down the low sounds that anchor a musical combo into a groove that grooves and Mr. Tinsley uses any and all to great purpose. Currently, and for several years now, the topnotch bassman holds down the bottom end for area cover rock band After Sunset, and their Facebook and website proudly displays the news that Eric also won this award in 2016. Between ET and Jeff Cunningham, our 2017 winner, this lowdown category may be locked in like a bass guitar thump into a drummer’s bass drum for years to come.
Finalists: Jeff Cunningham, Trey Tholen, Keith Voegele, Bruce Williams

Old Capitol Art Fair

Ever since 1961, when the first Old State Capitol Art Fair was held on the grounds of the historic Old State Capitol building, this popular yearly confluence of artisans and art-lovers has remained the premier chance to both display and buy art from central Illinois and across the country. More than 30,000 visitors patronize over 100 artists each year. The free, two-day, juried exhibition attracts visitors from all over, with budding young collectors encouraged to patronize the special children’s tent. All of this combines with live music and a food court to make this our readers’ favorite opportunity to buy art in the city.

Finalists: Distrist 23 Boutique, The Pharmacy Gallery & Art Studio, The Roost, Urban Sassafras


4124 Camp Cilca Road, Cantrall, 487-7497

Nestled between the town of Cantrall and the Sangamon River, the 220-acre Camp CILCA has served generations of families in the central Illinois area for more than 65 years. The nonprofit Christian camp is affordable and offers a wide variety of programs for children in grades 1-12, with emphasis placed on traditional summer camp activities including swimming, hiking, creek walking, sports, arts and crafts, music, drama, campfire activities, religion and more. Children’s camps are grouped by age in themed camps with titles such as bold spirits, aqua lovers, night owls, intrepid souls and more. Additionally, Camp CILCA offers “generations” camps so that parents and children may share a unique bonding experience, taking in the joys of camp together.

Finalists: Camp Care-a-Lot, Camp Widjiwagan Girl Scouts, Lake Springfield Christian Assembly, PAVE

Festival of Trees

Finalists: Crime Stoppers Trivia Night, Fat Ass 5K and Street Party, Land of Lincoln Honor Flight, Paint the Street

Glenwood Show Choir

When you have the best and everyone seems to know it, why wouldn’t our readers concur? This multi-award-winning show choir known as Titan Fever has over 50 members in 2018, rehearses year-round and hosts a highly spirited annual competition named The Event, where high school and middle school show choirs participate from all over the Midwest. You get what you give, and director Jeff Gemar (along with choreographer Heath Gemar and costume designer Mary Gemar) gave a lot to get this program going and keep on giving to move it forward. The community of Chatham always backs the fundraisers and programs that continue to make this singing group the most exceptional show choir in our area. But above all, it’s the dedication of the students taking time to make Titan Fever a healthy, contagious attraction year after year.

Finalists: Hoogland Education, Rochester Madrigals, Springfield Choral Society, Williamsville High School Vocal Jazz

After Sunset

After Sunset, with Rod Grant (lead vocals), Eric Tinsley (bass, vocals), Dave Coonrod (keys, vocals), Jeff Loftus (drums, vocals) and Mike Williams (guitar, vocals), are obviously a hit when they do all the hits at local nightclub hotspots and at an assortment of homecomings, festivals, fairs and lake clubs. Plus, they’ve even ventured south to the famed Fast Eddie’s Bon Air in Alton (road trip and bus ride!) a time or two. The versatility of Rod’s voice, joined by four backing vocals, uncovers the secret to the success of this musically talented quintet. There’s a real knack to picking songs by other bands and covering them like the original versions. These guys, shall we say, got their covers covered.

Finalists: Captain Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters,  Fun DMC, Off the Wall, The Shenanigans

Eric Austin

The drummer is a band’s driving force, creating the foundation for all the other musicians in the group, and this guy is certainly that force and foundation. Eric started young (it takes a while to develop proper timing), counting some 20 years of kit experience at the ripe old age of 27, and his consistent and conscientious work behind the skins has won him the admiration of our music community. His skills shine on classic rock tunes with Rockhouse and the other bands that Eric sits in with from time to time, but now he mostly concentrates on his latest group, Jukerox, featuring some of Springfield’s finest players doing dance-rock-pop from the 70s to now. When you’re the best, you’re usually in demand, and according to our readers, this drummer can’t be beat.

Finalists: Dion Doss, Patrick Miller, Mike Newberry, Danny Wilson


Knight’s Action Park and Route 66 Drive-In

1700 Knights Recreation Drive, 546-8881

Be honest. Is there really any better way to spend a hot summer day than slithering down water slides in between relaxing in a giant wave pool once arms grow weary from splashing everyone in sight? Oh, you can’t swim? No worries. How about a round of miniature golf, or perhaps a taste of the real thing on a driving range? You say you hate golf? Well, there’s always batting cages. Or go-karts. Or amusement rides for all ages and sizes. If you can’t find something fun to do at Knight’s Action Park, you aren’t trying, and at the end of the day, everyone can relax while watching a genuine drive-in movie, complete with a concession stand that offers pizza, popcorn and other traditional favorites.

Finalists: Best Family Attraction: Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Kidzeum of Health and Science, Springfield Sliders, The  Muni
Finalists: Best Family Fun Spot: Kidzeum of Health and Science, Sky Zone Trampoline Park, Southwind Park, Washginton Park


Old Capitol Blues & BBQ

What can we say? This festival seems to always crop up as an overall favorite, and now we know why, since our readers voted it best for both food and music. There’s something especially enticing about a combination of the sound of the blues and the smell of BBQs that gets the juices flowing in many ways. Held downtown in the heat of summer at the end of August, it can get mighty hot and sticky, but that’s the way folks seem to like their favorite festival. With the Alamo and its owner, Barry Friedman, setting the tone as promoter and keeper of the blues flame (they also host the long-running, weekly Illinois Central Blues Club Blue Monday series), the fest just keeps getting bigger and better with no end in sight to the good times, good music and good food, and that’s a good thing.

Finalists: Best Food Festival: Amaranth Apple Festival, Bites on the Boulevard, Chatham Jaycees Sweet Corn Festival, Springfield Oyster & Beer Festival
Finalists: Best Music Festival: Clayville Music Festival, Downhome Music Festival, Dumbfest, Legacy of Giving

BOS '18: Arts, Culture & Music
Photo by Ridge Photography


Downtown Farmers Market

It’s not just for zucchini anymore. It’s about doggie costume contests and cooking demonstrations and yoga classes and talking with neighbors and mingling with politicians and enjoying the nearby Kidzeum and people watching and dog walking and food trucks and face painting and listening to music and group workouts and buying goat meat and watching people buy goat meat and sampling cheese and doing most anything else that one would expect in Springfield’s de facto downtown public square, which is open for business every Saturday from May through the end of October. Oh, yes – you can also buy tomatoes, corn, cantaloupe and all kinds of other produce, fresh and in season. It’s amazing, really, to think that the market struggled and even shut down briefly before reincarnating itself nearly two decades ago and becoming what it is today. We can’t imagine Springfield without it.

Finalists: Carillon Festival at Washington Park, Curve Inn, Scheels, Southwind Park


Dave Littrell

Whether strumming at solo acoustic gigs; fronting his long-running original, progressive rock band, The Station; playing his part as a member of pop show band, The Shenanigans; or being a third of Americana mainstays and nationally progressing trio, The Deep Hollow, Dave Littrell brings his best to every project and folks took notice. His guitar work runs the gamut, on acoustic and electric, from folk to rock and everything in between. His horn of choice, the saxophone, fits into the genre of each band however needed, demonstrating an incredibly tenacious sense of versatility and a monstrously stellar craft of musicianship. Besides all that, he plays a few other instruments as well, plus sings and writes his own songs, making his best even better than the rest.

Finalists: Best Guitarist: Wes Ingram, Robert Reynolds, Jeff Wheaton, Tom Woolsey
Finalists: Best Horn Player: Aaron Duncan, Shayla Logan, Brian Moore, Frank Parker

Damien Kaplan

The keyboard covers the organ, synthesizer, piano and typically any instrument with keys to be played, and Damien can cover them all. He prefers, and is known best for his piano work, especially on a sweet-sounding Steinway grand. Among his many musical maneuverings, he pairs with keyboardist Mark Gifford for their improvisational and strategically comedic Dual Pianos duo, teaches and directs vocal music and the musicals at SHG, conducts and performs music in Muni productions and also finds time to occasionally sing and act in local musicals, plus be a husband and a dad. Damien is known for being good at many things (he’s also a rocking drummer), but for now we will call him the best keyboardist in town, as decided by our perceptive and listening readers.

Finalists: Jayson Craig, Rory “Big Baby” Davis, Steve Emmons, Perry Zubeck

BOS Center

When folks say you’ve come a long way, they could be referring to what we now call the BOS Center, formerly the PCCC or PC3 or Prairie Capital Convention Center, or something like that. Ever since the Bank of Springfield claimed naming rights on the old convention center, the transformation of the aging edifice went from OK to better to, well… best. The addition of the aesthetically interesting outdoor BOS plaza, as well as several modernization modifications in the lobby space and throughout the building, now allows for the presentation of concerts not possible in downtown Springfield before the expansion. Of course, the space also hosts many other activities including the circus, basketball tournaments, graduations and conventions, but it looks like it’s best at being a large, live music venue.

Finalists: Boondocks Pub, Hoogland Center for the Arts, Sangamon Auditorium, State Fair Grandstand


The Curve Inn

Perennial winners in certain categories reveal a great deal about what folks like, and The Curve Inn continues to take a piece of the cake every year in our BoS, telling us proprietors Ami Merchant, Ray Merchant and Don Thompson are doing things up right in their 16 years of ownership. The music sound stage, operated and designed by sound man guru Ric Major (former BoS winner), is simply the best in the area and beyond, compelling the bands to sound their best and making the Curve such a desirable live music venue. The exceptional stage area adds to the success of open mic night, but hosts Kortney Leatherwood and Sam Draper (former BoS winners) make it inviting and supportive, giving the uninitiated and the experienced musician equal time and attention. Varying karaoke hosts have inhabited the friendly confines of the Curve and no matter who mans (or womans) the mic and screen, our readers say this is the best place to get your karaoke on, no matter who dials it in.

Finalists: Best Live Venue - Small: Bar None, Black Sheep Cafe, Blue Grouch Pub, Danenberger Family Vineyards
Finalists: Best Place for Karaoke: Blue Grouch Pub, Burger Bar, Weebles Bar & Grill
Finalists: Best Open Mic Night: Bar None, Blue Grouch Pub, Donnie B’s, Weebles Bar & Grill

Zoey Zara, Legally Blonde, Springfield Muni Opera

Omigod, you guys! In its journey from the hit 2001movie to its adaptation into a massively popular Broadway musical and eventual various regional touring productions in the years since, the success of Legally Blonde has, like, always centered around its lead character, Elle Woods, and her voyage of self-discovery. Originally embodied by Reese Witherspoon in the film, the character of Elle is, like, a true dynamo and our readers clearly fell in love with Riverton native Zoey Zara’s portrayal of the unlikely law school success.

Finalists: Emily Brandt, Mamma Mia; Caroline Dahlquist, Annie; Jasmine French, Sister Act; Lori Ann McCabe, Mamma Mia

Anna Bussing Maisenbacher, Legally Blonde

Anna Bussing Maisenbacher is a familiar presence at the Springfield Muni, having been involved in shows there for close to 25 years. Whether in the role of performer, director or choreographer, Anna has left an indelible impression in shows such as West Side Story, All Shook Up, Hairspray, High School Musical and White Christmas. Her work this summer as director of Legally Blonde left our readers cheering for more!

Finalists: Scott Richardson, Carly Shank, Leigh Steiner, Craig Williams III


Gus Gordon, Annie, Springfield Muni Opera; Hoogland Center for the Arts

Daddy Warbucks is the beloved fictional benefactor of the little orphan heroine of Annie. It’s not too much of a stretch to see Gus Gordon – who portrayed Warbucks in this summer’s Muni production of the popular musical – as a major behind-the-scenes benefactor of the arts in Springfield, as well as one of the city’s most well-loved performers. Gordon became executive director of the Hoogland Center for the Arts in 2013 and under his leadership, the once-struggling performing arts center has thrived like never before, paying off its mortgage in 2015 and continuing to provide a home for many different performing arts organizations, along with visual art in the form of the SAA Collective gallery. In addition to his administrative prowess, Gordon is never far from the spotlight, and his turn as the kindly war profiteer at the Muni this summer was the clear favorite among our theater-going readers.

Finalists: Best Live Theater Performance – Male Lead: Will Barnhart, 1776; Jeremiah Brown, Mamma Mia; Anthony Glover, Sister Act; Kevin Hart, Little Shop of Horrors
Finalists: Best Unsung Hero: Nick Bond, The Phoenix Center; Jonna Cooley, The Phoenix Center; Scott Richardson, The Legacy Theatre; Rachel Thompson, Kidzeum

Courtney Westlake

Since Living a Different Beautiful was published in 2016, central Illinois author Courtney Westlake has become a presence on such major media outlets as the “Today” show on NBC and Huffington Post. Her book tells the compelling and inspirational story of how her family not only coped, but thrived, after her daughter Brenna’s diagnosis at birth with the rare, incurable genetic skin disorder Harlequin Ichthyosis. Providing insight into the resilience of family and faith while promoting empathy with those who may look unusual, the book makes an impact on all who read it.

Finalists: Ken Bradbury, Dana Goodrum, Cindy Ladage, Ian Winterbauer

BOS '18: Arts, Culture & Music
BEST LIVE THEATER PERFORMANCE Zoey Zara, Legally Blonde, Springfield Muni Opera


Rochester High School football

It is almost unfair how the Rochester Rockets dominate the gridiron. Since 2009, they’ve gone 118-11, posting two undefeated seasons during that stretch and winning state championships seven out of the past eight years. We are told by numerous high-level sources that the Rockets are in serious discussions with the National Football League, which has invited them to join the pro ranks and suggested that they change their name to Steamrollers to more accurately reflect just what they do to opponents. But athletic excellence is just part of the equation. Perhaps the team’s most memorable game in recent years came in September, when the Rockets were pummeled, 45-6, by the Sacred Heart-Griffin Cyclones. The game was historic, with Ken Leonard, the Cyclones coach and father of Rockets coach Derek Leonard, notching win number 375 to become the most winning high school football coach in Illinois history. As if that wasn’t enough, fans waved pink towels and players on both teams wore pink socks in tribute to Liz Leonard, matriarch of the Leonard football dynasty who succumbed to cancer in December. There were plenty of tears on the field that night, but there was even more class as the two most winning programs in the area showed what a real community looks like. Disney could not have written a more perfect script.

Finalists: Glenwood High School Titans football, Sacred Heart-Griffin Cyclones football, Springfield Junior Blues, Springfield Sliders

Dave and Dina, WLFZ-FM

We live in confusing and divisive times. Who wants to think anymore, really? Especially early in the morning, when we’re in a hurry to get to work and still somewhat on autopilot. That’s where Dave and Dina come in, with light banter and trivia questions and tales of high school reunions and stories about drunken folks accidentally buying hotels, all squeezed between the finest modern country music imaginable. An easy, fun way to start your day.

Finalists: Lynch and Lara, WYMG-FM; National Public Radio, WUIS-FM; Ray Lytle, WMAY-AM. Sam Madonia, WFMB-AM


Lick Creek Country Band

It’s quite an accomplishment to be number one in either one of these categories, but even more of a big deal for Lick Creek Country Band to nab top spots in both areas. Our readers chose Lick Creek back in 2014 as the Best New Band, then readers of another newspaper in town (imagine that) chose them as their 2015 top country band. The accolades continued when in 2017, the spunky group consisting of Wesley Ingram (lead guitar), Ryan King (lead guitar, banjo, mandolin), Steve Gragert (bass), Maddie Brown (acoustic guitar, lead vocals), Bob Bryant (drums) and Lance Stone (lead vocals) won Nash Next, a Nashville, Tennessee-based talent search contest and performed a showcase in Music City USA along with other national finalists. The deep and diverse lineup of the group propels and perpetuates the power and precision of the band and that attitude of being a rebel on the winning side makes them the best at what they do overall and in original music.

Finalists: Best Original Band: NIL8, The Deep Hollow, The Station, Wolf Crick Boys
Finalists: Best Overall Band & Their Genre: Big Daddy Jasper, Fun DMC, Off the Wall, Smashtag, The Deep Hollow

Paint Nite Springfield

The national company known as Paint Nite is, to the social trend of evenings out spent in organized groups sipping wine and applying brush to canvas, what Kleenex is to facial tissues, so it is no wonder that the moveable feast known as Paint Nite Springfield took the prize among our discerning readers. With upcoming events scheduled at La Fiesta Grande, Arlington’s and Springfield Motor Boat Club, Paint Nite Springfield is your best choice for what their Facebook page describes as an evening of “mixing paint and cocktails for a picture perfect nite on the town, and inspiring individuals to #DrinkCreatively.” Now that’s colorful!

Finalists: Christy!Studios, Hang Ups by Jan Bergmann, Painted Love, Springfield Art Association’s Canvas and Cocktails

New Salem

Finalists: Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Lincoln Home, Old State Capitol

Springfield Muni Opera

815 E. Lake Shore Dr., 793-6864

Founded in 1950, our readers’ favorite theater-going destination has been providing Springfield with a steady summer diet of theatrical confections since 1965. The outdoor amphitheatre situated near Lake Springfield seats around 800 audience members and is largely funded by private donors. The Muni has recently completed a major upgrade of its sound system, among other improvements. If this past summer’s very popular program – featuring Little Shop of Horrors and Sister Act, along with Best of Springfield voter favorites Legally Blonde (best director and lead actress) and Annie (best lead actor) – is any indication, they won’t be giving up their championship status any time soon.

Finalists: UIS Performing Arts Center, Theatre in the Park, The Hoogland Center for the Arts, The Legacy Theatre

Julie and DJ Blake, WDBR-FM

Pick a subject, almost any subject, and Julie and DJ Blake can run with it, and both readers and listeners love them for it. Topics range from most memorable mooning stories to cheesiest pickup lines you’ve ever used, or had used on you, and what closed stores should be brought back to life. Callers make the show as much as the hosts, and so tune in. And join in.

Finalists: Bondsy, WXAJ-FM; Jim Leach, WMAY-AM; Ray Lytle, WMAY-AM; Sam Madonia, WFMB-AM

Tom Irwin

To call Tom Irwin a fixture on the Springfield music scene would be something of an understatement. Following years in the trenches of the local rock scene, our voters’ favorite troubadour has been performing his original songs – alternately sweet and prickly, wistful and humorous – at weekly shows since the 1980s at a series of different venues, with an ongoing Friday night residency at George Rank’s (1800 S. Sixth St.). After years of recording independently and performing both in town and on the road, Irwin, who writes the “Now Playing” music roundup each week in Illinois Times, released All That Love in 2017. Easily the most commercial album of his career, it was produced by John Stirrat of the internationally renowned (and Belleville, Illinois-bred) band Wilco. The beautifully recorded album, which features musical support from an ace group of heavy-hitting studio musicians, acts as a sort of summation of his career and an enticing hint at what might still lie in store from the ever-inventive and soulful Irwin. Stream or download All That Love at

Finalists: Elizabeth Eckert, Kate Laine, Dave Littrell, Micah Walk

Old Capitol Farmers Market

Not so long ago, downtown Springfield suffered from a case of the drabs. Too much brick. Too much grey. That’s gotten fixed with a plethora of murals that have sprung up in recent years, with readers picking a true pioneer, the mural celebrating the downtown farmers market on the 400 block of Adams Street, as the city’s best. Not so long ago, the mural that shows corn, tomatoes and other produce mingling with the Capitol, the Wyndham, and other things unmistakably Springfield, was mired in municipal bureaucracy, with the city balking at spending TIF funds for such public art and questioning whether a depiction of one of the city’s most beloved public gathering spots constituted advertising under the city’s sign code and so necessitated a variance. The city has wasted TIF money on worse things, and arguing that a celebration of the farmers market equated to advertising was an argument only a bureaucrat could love. Thankfully, the silliness ended under Mayor Jim Langfelder, who was in charge when the mural was unveiled three years ago, and more keep coming, making the best mural contest both possible and competitive while making our city a more beautiful place to live.

Finalists: Frank Lloyd Wright mural, Grab-A-Java, The Alamo

BOS '18: Arts, Culture & Music
Photo by


Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

212 N. Sixth St., 558-8844

Finalists: African American History Museum, Illinois State Museum, Illinois State Military Museum, Kidzeum of Health and Science

Mamma Mia, Legacy Theatre

The Super Troupers over at the Legacy Theater staged a true crowd-pleaser this past summer when they took a chance on the Greece-set musical comedy Mamma Mia and its ABBA-centric song selections. Our voters said “Gimme Gimme Gimme” to the production, which follows bride-to-be Sophie (portrayed by Emily Brandt) in her quest to have her long-lost father walk her down the aisle. Knowing me, knowing you (uh-huh), high-spirited high jinks ensue, giving a talented regional cast the opportunity to access their inner dancing queens. Thank you for the music, Legacy!

Finalists: Annie, Legally Blonde, Rocky Horror Show, Sister Act

Felicia Olin

For years, Springfield artist Felicia Olin has delighted local art fans with her often macabre but colorful paintings. No matter the subject matter, Olin’s work has a palpable sense of fun, as if the various demons, anthropomorphic beasts and dark-eyed goth girls are winking at you from the depths of whatever depravity they are depicted getting up to. Beyond her work’s frequent appearances at The Pharmacy Gallery and Art Space (where she is a long-standing member) and various other venues and fairs, Olin has been extending her reach into illustration work in recent years, including the 2015 book A Net to Snare the Moonlight and Other Poems for Children by Vachel Lindsay. Most recently, her poster art for the 2018 British film Pin Cushion was nominated for poster design of the year by Screen International magazine. Locally, her work can be seen next in “Of Dreams and Nightmares,” a collaborative exhibit with kindred spirit artist Mehr Tumulty, with an opening reception on Friday, Oct. 26, at The Pharmacy, 711 S. Fifth St.

Finalists: SonnyD Artistry, Stanley Bly, Kate Turasky Ridge, Dave Shaw

Elizabeth Eckert

Since she was just a wee one, Elizabeth sang rather than talked, first taking the stage at the incredibly young age of five years old. Her talents as a vocalist once took her to the Hollywood level of “American Idol,” where she nearly made it into the nationally televised portion of the crazy popular show. She’s now a part of the up-and-coming Americana trio, The Deep Hollow, blending her voice with fellow Hollows Micah Walk (2018 Best Male Vocalist) and Dave Littrell (2018 Best Guitarist and Horn Player) live and on Weary Traveler, a new CD of TDH original songs. She also fronts The Shenanigans, a popular local cover band that showcases her talents in singing modern pop music and just about anything else she cares to vocalize.

Finalists: Maddie Brown, Betsy Buttell, Brandy Kristin, Brooke Thomas

Joe Crain, WICS

Finalists: Dee Dee Gatton, WICS; Cheryl Lemke, WICS; Thomas Patrick, WICS; Stacey Skrysak, WICS

Micah Walk

The esteemed Mr. Walk has won about every BoS accolade available to him in the last several years and can now add “VOCALIST” to the many plaques hanging upon his wall of fame. His reedy and resonant tenor brings a soothing sense of familiarity to songs, while adding just enough urgency to be compelling. Many of the tunes he vocalizes are self-penned compositions from his extensive catalog, but he can do a sweet version of “Here Comes the Sun” or knock out a raucous “Fortunate Son” just as well. Nowadays he stays busy singing with The Deep Hollow (accompanied by fellow 2018 BoS winners Elizabeth Eckert and Dave Littrell), performing as the second part of the Tater Tots, an acoustic duo doing family-oriented kids’ shows, and performing with local pop cover band, The Shenanigans.

Finalists: Ben Bedford, Albert Capati, Josh Catalano, Kortney Leatherwood

CeCe Donathan as Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Sacred Heart-Griffin

SHG’s spring production of Ms. Millie’s experiences set in New York City during the flapper-jazz age of the so-called Roaring Twenties, presented CeCe Donathan (a junior at showtime and now in her senior year) an opportunity for a part that she thoroughly enjoyed. Her experience was so moving, it induced her to consider pursuing more active theater work with an eye toward a future professional career in show biz. Directed by Morgan Kaplan and Zoey Zara with Damien Kaplan as musical director, the piece came to fruition with some of the most respected and experienced theater folks in town, but CeCe’s spirited performance propelled the popular, Tony-award-winning tale of the unflappable flapper to another level and for that our readers responded in kind.

Finalists: Annie Fulgenzi - Fiona, Shrek the Musical, Williamsville High School; Sydney Geyston - Adelaide, Guys and Dolls, Rochester High School; Hannah Wright - Grandma Addams, The Addams Family, Riverton High School

Tommy Sagins as Donkey in Shrek the Musical

Williamsville High School

You try wearing a donkey costume while singing your heart out, knowing your best friend is an ogre, with a princess in the middle of it all and see how well things work out for you. For Tommy Sagins, it turned out pretty swell in the Williamsville High School spring production of the musical spinoff from the popular film series. There’s a tight and special bond in the music department at WHS, as Tommy also played drums in band while participating in Madrigal and the solidly spectacular Vocal Jazz singing group at the school. Now a freshman at DePaul University in Chicago, young Mr. Sagins did the donkey part justice and our readers let him know how much they appreciated his fine work singing and slinging the donkey deeds, portraying one of the most beloved characters in the Shrek canon with aplomb.

Finalists: Ryan Canny - Jimmy, Thoroughly Modern Millie, SHG; Isaac Headman - Sky Masterson, Guys and Dolls, Rochester High School; Zeke Kern - Shrek the Musical, Williamsville High School

Guys and Dolls

Rochester High School

When performing a well-loved and often-produced musical of American theater like Guys and Dolls, that familiarity can become a liability, but the Bill Bauser direction of this standard piece pleased the public to the point of proclaiming this show the best of the many fine, local high school productions so far in 2018. Bauser, a well-known figure in the area theater scene for many years, surely applied his extensive experience to help inspire the Rochester students to a higher level of engagement, but it all still comes down to personal performances to make stage magic happen. Combining that effort with all the behind-the-scenes dedication helped launch a production well enough to achieve the attention required to become a number one attraction in the eyes of our readers.

Finalists: Riverton High School, The Addams Family; SHG, Thoroughly Modern Millie; Springfield High School, The Pink Panther Strikes Again;  Williamsville High School, Shrek the Musical

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