Pittsburgh CLO’s 2021 Gene Kelly Award Winners announced

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Pittsburgh CLO honored Allegheny County’s finest high school performers at the 30th Annual Pittsburgh CLO Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater, presented in partnership with HRH Foundation and The Michael J. Kara Family, on Saturday, May 29, 2021.

Named for legendary performer and Pittsburgh native Gene Kelly, the celebration emphasizes the importance of arts education and rewards the time, energy and dedication that local high schools devote to their musical productions each spring.

The event featured performances from the 2021 nominees and students from the participating schools as well as a special message from guest of honor, Patricia Ward Kelly, the wife of the late actor for whom the awards are named.

About the 2021 Gene Kelly Awards

As many high schools were unable to produce their annual spring musicals and are still struggling with the implications of the pandemic, Pittsburgh CLO made a shift from the traditional in-person Gene Kelly Awards Ceremony to a virtual one. After holding several town hall meetings and conversations with previous participants and area teachers, the need to resume this unique and beloved event became more pressing. As we continued to adapt to the ever-changing new normal, staff, volunteers, and school representatives have been worked diligently behind the scenes to put together this first-ever online Gene Kelly Awards ceremony. One of the most exciting aspects of this year’s online format was that all high school students living in Allegheny County were able to participate.

“Since its beginning in 1991, the Kelly Awards has recognized the incredible talent of students across Allegheny County,” said Executive Producer, Mark Fleischer. “While we can’t be together in person at the Benedum, gathering virtually will allow us to applaud the ingenuity and perseverance of students, teachers, and school communities. In a time when we need the arts the most, they have found new ways, despite seemly insurmountable obstacles, to ensure musical theater remained a part of their school year.”

In 2009, CEO Van Kaplan brought Pittsburgh CLO’s Gene Kelly Awards into the national spotlight by co-founding The Jimmy Awards® / The National High School Musical Theatre Awards®, based on its own revered program. Originally, 16 existing regional awards programs participated. Due to the growth in popularity of high school musicals, 36 programs will participate in this year’s event and culminating performance on Broadway.

Pittsburgh CLO congratulates the 2021 Gene Kelly Awards winners, nominees and the following 31 participating Allegheny County high schools: Avonworth High School, Baldwin High School, Bishop Canevin High School, Central/Oakland Catholic, Chartiers Valley High School, Deer Lakes High School, Elizabeth Forward High School, Hampton High School, Keystone Oaks, McKeesport Area High School, Montour High School, Moon Area High School, North Hills Senior High School, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School, Penn Hills High School, Pine-Richland High School, Pittsburgh Allderdice, Pittsburgh CAPA, Plum Borough Senior High, Quaker Valley High School, Redeemer Lutheran School, Riverview, Serra Catholic High School, Sewickley Academy, Shady Side Academy, South Fayette, Springdale Jr-Sr High School, Thomas Jefferson High School, West Allegheny, Westinghouse Arts Academy Charter School, Woodland Hills.

The Recipients of the 2021 Gene Kelly Awards are:

Best Supporting Actor
Desmon Jackson of Woodland Hills

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Best Supporting Actress
Ellie Tongel of Plum Borough Senior High

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Best Actor
Tyler Guinto-Brody of Elizabeth Forward High School

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Best Actress
Audrey Logan of South Fayette High School

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The winners for Best Actor and Best Actress will represent Pittsburgh CLO’s Gene Kelly Awards in the 12th Jimmy Awards® / The National High School Musical Theatre Awards® which will be presented virtually on July 15. The Jimmy Awards® /NHSMTA®, otherwise known as The National High School Musical Theatre Awards®, was established in 2009 by Pittsburgh CLO and Nederlander Alliances, a division of The Nederlander Organization, to elevate the importance of theatre arts education in schools and reward excellence in student performance. The program impacts over 140,000 students annually who participate in high school musical theatre competitions sponsored by over forty professional theatres throughout the US.

Since its inception, NHSMTA has been the catalyst for more than $4,000,000 in educational scholarships awarded to deserving young performers. Also known as The Jimmy Awards®, named for Broadway impresario James M. Nederlander, this year-round program is administered by  The Broadway League Foundation Inc.

Pittsburgh CLO’s 2021 Gene Kelly Awards are co-sponsored by the HRH Foundation and The Michael J. Kara Family with additional support provided by The Gismondi Family Foundation, Deloitte, PNC, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the CLO Ambassadors. Deloitte Consulting, LLP is the official auditor for the Gene Kelly Awards.

Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Theater

The Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater were launched in 1991 as a means to recognize and encourage student achievement and to focus the attention of the community and school districts on the importance of musical theater and arts education. Patterned after Broadway’s Tony® Awards, this event celebrates the power of the Arts to significantly improve all areas of education! High school theater programs are the real winners as show business veterans and community celebrities help to spread the word about the achievements of high school students and their school’s musical theater programs. Over the past 30 years, Gene Kelly Award winners have gone on to Broadway and Hollywood careers. 

Pittsburgh CLO has been a driving force behind the preservation, creation and promotion of live musical theater since 1946. As one of the largest regional musical theater organizations in the country, it is fortunate for the yearly support of nearly 200,000 audience members. In addition to producing fresh new productions of Broadway classics, the not-for-profit’s mission is to develop new works and showcase emerging talent, and has been credited with launching the careers of numerous artists such as Billy Porter, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Rob Marshall, Kathleen Marshall, Rob Ashford, Bernadette Peters and Shirley Jones. The organization’s dedication to musical theater extends beyond its six-show Summer Season at the Benedum Center to year-round programming at the 250-seat Cabaret Theater, which saw the world premieres of Up and Away and Game On in 2018 and The Double-Threat Trio in 2019. Its extensive education efforts include the Pittsburgh CLO Academy of Musical Theater; a university internship program; New Horizons, and in-school programs Gallery of Heroes and Creative Vision. Other ongoing initiatives include the Construction Center for the Arts, the Richard Rodgers Award, the Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater and SPARK, a festival for new small-cast musicals launched in 2018. The organization also founded the National High School Musical Theatre Awards/ Jimmy Awards®. To further its mission to grow the art form, Pittsburgh CLO has been involved with 29 Broadway shows (32 Tony Awards®), and in 2014 produced the world premiere of An American in Paris in Paris, then on Broadway, where it won 4 Tony Awards®, and in London, Tokyo, Pittsburgh and throughout the U.S. and Europe. Pittsburgh CLO is the subject of a film starring Jeff Goldblum titled “Pittsburgh.” pittsburghCLO.org. 


Pittsburgh CLO

The Benedum Center ■ 719 Liberty Avenue ■ Pittsburgh, PA 15222 ■ 412-281-3973 ■ Fax 412-281-5339

CLO Cabaret Theater ■ 655 Penn Avenue ■ Pittsburgh, PA 15222 ■ CLOCabaret.com

Academy of Musical Theater ■ Penn Avenue Place ■ 130 CLO Academy Way ■ Pittsburgh, PA 15222

412-281-2234 ■ Fax 412-281-5339

The Construction Center for the Arts ■ 997 Sherosky Way ■ Springdale, PA 15144 ■ 724-558-1016 ■ Fax 724-558-1022