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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

RHS' Lightning Thief Receives Seven Metro Award Nominations

By Jennifer Ersalesi


The RHS Theater program has performed amazing theatrical productions for audiences of all ages for many years. In recognition of their achievements, they have often received Metro Award nominations for the actors, directors, musicians, and crew who work tirelessly on these shows. This year RHS' Lightning Thief received seven Metro nominations, the most ever in their program history. They are listed below:


Outstanding Cameo by a Female Identifying Performer-Liz Dunlop as Clarisse

Student Pit Musician-Evan Statile

Outstanding Direction-Courtney McManus and Matthew Vaccaro

Outstanding Small Group Number-"Drive"

Outstanding Acting Performance by a Male Identifying Performer-Nick Scaglione as Grover

Student Critic-Jeannille Ettinoffe

Student Technical Achievement-Rebecca Mathews as Stage Manager


This is Rutherford interviewed all of these nominees to learn more about them and how they feel about this recognition.

Jeanille Ettinofe, Danny Fencik, and Nicholas Scaglione

TIR: Congratulations on your Metro nomination.  Tell us more about your role in the show and what you enjoyed about playing that character.


Jeannille Ettinofe: Playing the role of Annabeth Chase in the spring 2024 musical, Lightning Thief, was exhilarating! I loved her tough exterior and enjoyed portraying her strength alongside her hidden vulnerabilities. Performing "My Grand Plan" was a highlight, allowing me to show Annabeth's internal struggles and desires. Balancing her resilience with her emotions made the role deeply rewarding considering the complexity of it all!


Danny Fencik: In The Lightning Thief Musical, I played Percy Jackson, the story's main protagonist. Throughout the show, Percy encounters obstacles like the god of war, countless monsters, and troubled relationships, all while discovering his identity and strengths. What I enjoyed most about playing Percy Jackson was his resilience and growth throughout the story. He’s a character who starts off feeling like an outsider but gradually learns to embrace his unique abilities and heritage. Percy’s journey is filled with humor, heart, and heroism, making it a gratifying role to dive into. Additionally, the energy and enthusiasm from the audience, especially younger fans familiar with the books, made the experience even more special. 


Nicholas Scaglione: The character I played, Grover Underwood, delved into the mechanics of having a split-level character. Grover, while on stage, is a humorous and laughable character, however deep down his sorrow and regret for his mistakes define who he is. What I enjoyed about playing Grover is the challenge of making a character act both ways. I liked how I could show both sides of him throughout the show, and I even enjoyed performing his funny lines.


Liz Dunlop: Thank you! I played Clarisse, the daughter of the god of war. I loved being able to play a bully, and it was fun to portray her on stage. I also loved hitting the high notes in my song ("Put You in Your Place") and l loved being able to learn stage combat!


TIR: To what do you attribute the success of this year’s musical?


JE:  I attribute the success of this year's musical to the impeccable dedication and talent of everyone involved. The cast and crew worked incredibly hard, and our director had an amazing vision. Plus, the enthusiastic support from our audience really made it all come together.


DF: The success of this year’s musical can be attributed to the incredible teamwork and dedication of the cast and crew, who brought the story to life with passion and precision. Many of the actors, including myself, worked diligently to figure out their characters, delving into motivations, complex relationships, and different actions, which helped convey the depth and complexity of each role. Additionally, the engaging storyline and relatable characters resonated deeply with audiences, making each performance both memorable and impactful. 


NS: My overall dedication to the show is attributed to the success of this year's musical. While other attributes, like singing, dancing, or acting are important to the character and show, the overall time you spend making sure every detail is correct is key. Even diving into what your character is and their story plot is important.


LD: I think that it is only fair to attribute the success of the musical to the cast. Our directors did a lot of work in putting the show together, of course, but it was the hard work of the cast and the ensemble that brought the show together. Our directors put in so much work for this show, and for that I am always grateful, but the cast put in so much hard work to put on the show and make the show as good as it was, and to earn all of these nominations. 

Liz Dunlop (in center)

TIR: How do you feel about receiving this nomination?


JE: After the nomination of Student Critic and Small Group Number - Drive, it is such an incredible feeling to be recognized after all the hard work that was put in. It's a validation of all the passion I/we put into the performance. I am so excited for what comes next, whether or not I/we win the award(s).


DF: I’m incredibly honored and thrilled after receiving this nomination, especially knowing that our production received a total of seven nominations, the most in Rutherford High School history. This achievement highlights not only our collective efforts but also the importance and incredible talent of those involved in the arts at Rutherford High School, showcasing the enduring creative spirit within our school community. It’s a testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in the show, and I’m so proud to be part of such a talented and passionate group. 


NS: After receiving this nomination, I felt flabbergasted. Many people have told me my acting was superior but I never really thought I would win a nomination for our theatre program. There are so many other talented actors all over, so it's an honor to receive this nomination. 


LD: I'm feeling a combination of shock and excitement. I didn't expect to get nominated for anything, as I played such a small role. When I heard the news, I sat there for a good 10 minutes in shock, hardly believing they had called my name as a nominee. I then kind of went around the rest of the night trying to wrap my head around the news. I had a lot of fun playing the role, and that's really what matters to me. I would love to win a metro, so I really hope I do win! I'm just excited that I was nominated in the first place, and we'll see what happens on June 10th. 


TIR: Congratulations on your Metro nomination.  Which instrument did you play in the pit band?


Evan Statile: I played Electric and Acoustic Guitar.


TIR: What did you enjoy most about playing the rock-inspired music for this show?


ES: I loved being able to improvise some of my parts while soloing and I also enjoyed many of the softer acoustic songs.


TIR: To what do you attribute the success of this year’s musical?


ES: I think that I drove the music with a rocking feel, and I also think that my work on the acoustic guitar made the softer songs beautiful.


TIR: Congratulations on your Metro nomination.  Tell us more about why you selected this particular musical this year.


Courtney McManus: Thank you! Each year when we select a show, we think about 1. How to showcase our students’ talent and 2. How to push the program to the next level. The Lightning Thief was one of those shows that we immediately fell in love with and kept in our back pocket for the perfect cast to come along. It also has an amazingly catchy rock score that showcases our musicians’ strengths.  This year, we challenged ourselves to grow in the technical aspects of our production.  We had the perfect storm of talent to bring Lightning Thief to life!


TIR: To what do you attribute the success of this year’s musical?


CM:  Because the Lightning Thief musical is not well-known, we had some creative license with technical aspects.  Some of the elements that were not in the original off-Broadway production included the trident lighting cue when Percy finds out he’s the son of Poseidon, the centaur puppet that was worn by the actor who played Chiron (Braedon McQuade), and the tidal wave created by the color guard flags.  We had the chance to challenge ourselves in that way, and it paid off.


TIR: The show received so many Metro nominations this year, you must feel very proud.  How are you feeling after receiving the nomination for “Outstanding Direction”?


CM:  I’m still in awe over the recognition our production of Lightning Thief received.  The nomination for Outstanding Direction is truly a reflection of the program as a whole.  This nomination is a tribute to the electrifying performances of the band, the seamless work of our crew, and our actors’ boundless dedication.  We are lucky to have a production team—Joe Cavezza, Patricia Blanchard, Morgan Sherlock— that understands the importance of teamwork.  Matt Vaccaro and I could not have brought our vision for this show to life if it weren’t for everyone involved.  It truly takes a village.


TIR: The small group number, “Drive” was also nominated for a Metro Award.  Why do you think this number was an “outstanding group number”?


CM: “Drive” not only was an audience favorite during the performance run, but it is our most viral reel on the Rutherford Theatre Instagram (@rutherfordtheatrenj)!  The number features the three leads (Danny Fencik, Jeannille Ettinoffe, and Nick Scaglione) doing what they do best—harmonizing!  Not only do they sound incredible, but they look like they are enjoying every minute on stage.  There are many cameo moments for our stronger actors to shine as well (Marley Santana, Bella Claveria, Erin Ahearn, Angelina Gargiulo, Mia Febbo, Audrey Segedin). This was also a moment for us as directors where we wanted to pay homage to the original production while putting our spin on it.  For example, we used a cart to move the actors around the stage rather than using a stand-still structure.  This number was prop-heavy and required a lot of tone shifts since it was meant to show their cross-country journey.  This number was a lot of fun to direct, and the cast did an amazing job of infusing joy into the moment.


TIR: Congratulations on your Metro nomination.  Tell us more about what it was like to be the stage manager for this year’s musical.


Rebecca Mathews: My role as a stage manager involved leadership, management, and a good work ethic. I was responsible for making sure that all aspects of the show, performance and technical, came together perfectly. 


TIR: To what do you attribute the success of this year’s musical?


RM: The success of this year's musical was reliant on the dedication of the directors, cast, and crew to the show. The people involved were willing to put in the time and effort needed to put on a fantastic show that showcased our talents.


TIR: What did you enjoy most about working on this show?


RM: I truly enjoyed seeing all of our hard work pay off in the final shows. It is hard to truly appreciate what we accomplished until we hear the laughs and applause from the audience.

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