Sean Kelly sat nervously at the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle, waiting for the announcement.
It was time to reveal the winner of the Outstanding Performance by a Lead Actor award, and Andrew Henson, a junior at Camas High School, had been nominated for his role at Emcee in “Cabaret,” the spring musical.
Kelly, who heads the drama department, was on pins and needles.
“When the boys nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Leading Actor performed, we were all blown away,” he said. “They were all incredible, but it was clear that Andrew had earned his place. When they announced his name at the presentation, we all erupted with screaming. It was such a victory for him, but the cast and crew are so close in this show that we all shared his victory.”
Henson competed with actors from 103 other productions across the state of Washington. Every June, the 5th Avenue Awards honor the best in high school musical theater. In addition to Henson’s award, CHS also won Outstanding Overall Production and Special Honors: Educational Impact. Junior Bethany Burton, who served as a tech for the show, won a special honors award for student achievement.
“It was good to know that my work paid off and I was appreciated in the program,” she said.
Ethan Chessin, CHS choir director, served as the show’s music director.
“Andrew has always been a person who sets the tone in a room,” he said. “He is incredibly talented and has done so much good for us in the theater program.”
During an interview with the Post-Record, Henson emphasized that the win resulted from the efforts of the entire cast and crew.
“We all had a part in this,” he said. “Doing this show was really ambitious, but it paid off.”
Kelly noted that “Cabaret,” carries quite a reputation due to the subject matter. Set in 1931 Berlin as the Nazis are rising to power, it is based on the nightlife at the seedy Kit Kat Klub, and revolves around the 19-year-old English cabaret performer Sally Bowles and her relationship with the young American writer Cliff Bradshaw.
“However, most of the issues, in particular the heavy-handed sexuality portrayed in the show, are mostly left to interpretation,” Kelly said. “We had a lot of room to take a different approach that would maintain the spirit of the show without exploiting any of our students or choreographing them in such explicit ways. There was other subject matter in the show which met with some resistance, but ultimately what stood out was the heart of the story and the unique style in which it is told.”
Along with the outstanding performance award, Henson will travel to New York City this week to attend the National High School Musical Theater Awards.
“I am really looking forward to working with a lot of diverse talent,” he said.
Senior Elizabeth Gibson portrayed a cigar girl chorus character who unwittingly rats out patrons of the Kit Kat Klub to the Nazis and ends up in a concentration camp.
“We may not have been the most polished show at the awards ceremony, but we were the most elevated in terms of the emotional connection and the maturity with which we rehearsed this musical,” she said. “Andrew was especially amazing. He slipped into his role seamlessly, like he was born to play it, and I have no doubt he will one day reappear as the Emcee in a Broadway revival. I am so honored to have been a part of this.”