Avonworth performers win big at Kelly Awards

Avonworth students William Davis and Andrea Weinzierl were acknowledged as being among the best of the best in high school musical performances. Both received honors at the Kelly Awards, with Andrea getting a full college scholarship to continue her study of music theater. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

Named for the legendary Pittsburgh performer, Gene Kelly, the Kelly Awards brings a taste of Broadway’s Tony Awards to the city as they celebrate the best performances and achievements in high school musical productions for the current school year.

Last Saturday’s 20th annual ceremony highlighted the talents of hundreds of actors, actresses and production workers as “the best of the best” gathered at the Benedum Theater to offer samples of individual and full-cast production numbers.

By the end of the night, one name emerged as the big winner. Avonworth senior Andrea Weinzierl, who starred in her school’s production of “Mame,” walked off with the best actress award, along with the $20,000 Point Park University Scholarship, given over four years to a student attending Point Park for musical theater.

Avonworth’s musical director Deborah Frauenholz described the “drama” of Andrea’s scholarship audition and interview.

“She had to interview and audition the afternoon of prom. Because she is senior class president, she wanted to try to be at promenade at the school as well as at the auditions, so she first went to promenade and then rushed out the door to her audition -- in her gown and all.”

As a highlight at the Kellys, Andrea and five other actresses competing for top honors performed excerpts of song from their school musicals, with Andrea delivering a show-stopper rendition of “If He Walked into My Life Today.”

The win means that Andrea will travel to New York City with the student from Central Catholic who was named best actor, to represent Pittsburgh in the National High School Musical Theater Awards competition.

“She will spend June 24-28 working with Broadway directors, producers and choreographers, engaging in master classes, workshops, and private coaching [followed by] a professional judging process to select a national best actor and actress, with all the work culminating in a performance on a Broadway stage. Winners will receive a full scholarship to New York University and a $10,000 cash prize,” Frauenholz said.

The daughter of Sue and Mike Weinzierl of Ohio Township, Andrea has studied voice, dance and acting since age 4 and has appeared in 17 musical productions. “I’ve worked hard at this for so many years, and it was so gratifying to earn this award, especially with all of the talented actresses who had been nominated.”

Another “Mame” cast member, sixth grader William Davis, age 11, also took the spotlight at the ceremony, receiving the Special Judges’ Award for his performance as the young Patrick Dennis in the show.

Frauenholz explained, “This award is not given each year, but rather presented only when a student does something extraordinary but does not fall into any judging category. The judges were unanimous in deciding that Will's performance -- given his youth and exceptionally mature acting -- merited the award. This award has always been given to a crew or technical worker or to a musician. Giving it to an actor makes it doubly special.”

“I was totally shocked when I was called up to the stage to receive the award,” William said. “It was such a wonderful surprise, but even more spectacular was to be able to recognize my fellow cast members when I accepted the award.”

William is the son of Charlotte and Ian Davis of Ohio Township.

Chelsea Stewart, an Avonworth junior nominated for the second consecutive year for a Kelly as best supporting actress, spoke of her pride in being a part of this year’s talented cast.

“I found motivation by watching the rest of the cast and the crew work exceedingly hard to make an amazing show, and I am so proud of the outcome.”

Chelsea is the daughter of Sue and Patrick Stewart of Ohio Township.

“Working with Andrea has been one of the great joys of my professional career,” Frauenholz said. “She, like William and Chelsea, are indicative of the power of the performing arts to shape students into confident, capable and incredible young men and women.”

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