The waving wheat can sure smell sweet, but so can four Shuler Hensley Awards for the cast of “Oklahoma.”
West Forsyth High’s production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic earned the students more awards than any other school in the competition, which honors excellence in prep musical theater.
Mitchell Jones received the best leading actor honor for the role of Curly, while students playing non-leading roles were honored as best ensemble.
The overall production claimed two awards, one for direction and the other for overall production.
West Forsyth fine arts teacher Eric Gray, who directed the musical, recalled how last year the school brought home one technical award, despite being nominated in 12 categories.
“This year, the gods smiled on us,” he said. “I knew the show was strong, but the show last year was real strong too.
“It was just very strong and all the leads were strong and all the dancing was phenomenal.”
The school competed with “Beauty and the Beast” last year, a show Gray said “people are still talking about.”
While Gray said he usually does more modern musicals, “I think educationally, it’s good for the kids to do what I call a warhorse occasionally, one of the good traditional musicals.”
He said he also had the right cast for “Oklahoma” which, including technical roles, involved nearly 50 students.
In total, 41 high schools from 12 counties participated in this year's competition.
A team of more than 30 Atlanta-based arts professionals evaluated the productions. Winners were announced recently in a Tony Awards-style ceremony at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.
Jones and the winner for best leading actress from the Lovett School in Atlanta will advance to the third annual National High School Musical Theater Awards.
They will vie for the best actor and actress awards, as well as the opportunity for merit scholarships and professional opportunities this summer at the Marquis Theatre on Broadway.