Riverhead School District

Blue Masques shine as Riverhead hosts 20th annual Teeny Awards

To summarize the Riverhead Blue Masques’ spring performance of “The SpongeBob Musical,” director Laura Nitti used a single word: “Epic.”

In the week prior to showtime, known as tech week, Ms. Nitti said she could see how prepared everyone was and how they just needed an audience in front of them.

“I knew they were going to blow the roof off the place,” she said. “It was pretty awesome.”

On Sunday afternoon, the Blue Masques got to celebrate that performance as part of the 20th annual Teeny Awards, which was held on their home turf at Riverhead High School. The Blue Masques already knew they had won the coveted Judges’ Choice Award for “SpongeBob” and several more recognitions soon followed.

Riverhead’s Jacob Schiavone won Lead Male in a Musical for the role of SpongeBob SquarePants. Avery Rubino and Joseph Podlas won for Outstanding Choreography for Tap Dance from the same production. And Joseph also won for Supporting Male in a Musical for the role of Squidward.

Ms. Nitti said “Spongebob” was a “true, collaborative effort” that allowed it to stand out to the judges.

“It was such an ensemble show with so many characters,” she said. “It was really a spectacle.”

Photos by Bill Landon

See all the nominees and winners here

She added that the Blue Masques got to use new technology that they hadn’t used before from new lighting to a video wall.

The set featured a 500-balloon arch across the stage spanning 30 feet. Even the snacks sold in the lobby followed the show’s theme.

“I really think it was because of the collaboration of tech and music and crew and obviously the people on the stage, it was the whole package,” Ms. Nitti said.

She added that an “amazing” group of parents all contributed to make the production come together.

This year, the Blue Masques had a bigger group of male performers than normal, which is why Ms. Nitti picked “SpongeBob” this year and it allowed them all to shine. Nine senior boys from the show will graduate.

The wins for the Blue Masques weren’t just for “SpongeBob.” For Outstanding Performer in a Play or Musical, Riverhead freshman Cheyanne Metzger won for the role of Frieda in “A Bronx Tale,” which was their fall show. The win was a tie along with Anika Petruccelli for the role of Wendy Jo in “Footloose” from East Hampton High School.

Ms. Nitti said that category combines males and females and goes to someone who doesn’t fit a specific category elsewhere, such as lead or supporting actor or actress.

“What’s kind of cool about [Cheyanne] is she’s very new to this,” Ms. Nitti said. “I think that was her first show ever and she didn’t really have a big part. So for [the judges] to notice her is impressive. She’s someone to watch going forward.”

Riverhead hosting the Teeny Awards made it an extra special night for the Blue Masques.

“Especially with winning that Judges’ Choice, it was nice that they were able to have Riverhead represented,” Ms. Nitti said.

Ms. Nitti said all but three kids were at the Teeny Awards from the “SpongeBob” show. And the only kids who couldn’t make it was because of work obligations.

The Blue Masques closed out the night with a performance from “SpongeBob” called “Bikini Bottom Day.” As the winners of the Judges’ Choice, Riverhead had the choice of where to perform at Teeny Awards. The cast chose to close out the show.

“It kind of rounded off their year and put the stamp on it,” Ms. Nitti said. “It was pretty nice for them.”

The show began Sunday with a mesmerizing collaborative performance that featured students from about 17 schools. Host Anita Boyer, a former Teeny Awards coordinator and professional dancer and choreographer, created the opening number and wrote the medley. There were over 100 kids on stage at one point.

It was more impressive considering the entire group only rehearsed all together for the first time on the morning of the show.

The crew from Riverhead was also responsible for all the technical aspects related to sound and lighting for the show. Ms. Nitti credited Morgan Stromski for handling much of the lighting and design work.

For the 20th anniversary, the show featured a wide range of presenters, including Ms. Nitti herself, Toni Munna, the founding Teeny Awards coordinator, and several recent Teeny Award winners. The event is coordinated each year by East End Arts.

“While music, movies, and the price of gas might be unrecognizable from when we started the Teeny Awards, the enthusiasm and devotion of the theatre directors, high school actors, stage managers, musicians, artists, Teeny Awards judges, parents, sponsors, school administrators and volunteers has remained steadfast,” said Diane Burke, the executive director for East End Arts, in the event’s program.