NORDONIA HILLS Nordonia High School's Sam Fujikawa has been nominated for Best Actor, and the orchestra was nominated for Best Orchestra for their work in this Spring's production of Les MisrableS by Cleveland Playhouse Square's Dazzle Awards.

The Dazzle Awards were designed to "recognize the importance of musical theater and arts education within the Northeast Ohio community," according to Playhouse Square's website. "This regional program culminates at the Connor Palace with the Dazzle Awards, modeled after the Tony Awards to recognize outstanding musical theater productions and students."

Nordonia Hills Drama Director Chris Simmons said he was thrilled for the nominations.

"I am so very proud of the show and all the students involved," Simmons said. "They worked so hard and I am so happy for them to be recognized this way."

While 23 schools applied to participate only six spots are available for nominations. Nominations follow a four-judge panel attending one performance who award points based on a set rubric. As a bonus learning tool for the drama students, the school is sent a copy of the critique written by the judges so they can lean what the production's strengths and weaknesses are. Additionally students were invited to audition for the awards in April at Playhouse Square, according to Daniel Hahn, vice president of community engagement and education for the program. Participants were required to perform a ballad and an uptempo song and scored followed by a dance component. Hahn said an outside company tallies the scores and the winners will be announced during the awards ceremony at Playhouse Square May 20.

Hahn said "Best Actor" nominees are judged on the emotion in their performance, articulation, relationship to other actors and their comprehension of their acting objectives. Meanwhile best orchestra nominees are judged and scored on being in tune, the quality they add to the performance, how smoothly they exit and enter from a scene just to name a few areas of scoring.

Simmons, who has known Fujikawa since he was in second grade, said he's worked with him on nine shows, and "could not be more proud of him."

"He has worked so hard on all of his shows over the last decade, and I am just so happy for him," Simmons said. "It is bittersweet he is graduating, but I am sure he has big things in his future."

Students who participate in the Dazzle Awards will also be performing during the awards ceremony opening and closing numbers, something Fujikawa said is the penultimate for him.

"Being nominated for a Dazzle is probably the best way to end my senior year," he said. "The fact that I will perform on the Connor Palace stage is so insane and awesome. It is truly such an honor."

A sentiment echoed by Gabrielle Fee, the student manger for the orchestra.

"I wanted to be nominated for the Dazzles Awards from the first time I heard about them," Fee said. "Working at Playhouse Square has been a dream of mine, so getting this nomination is a honor."

Simmons said he while he is proud of the entire production, he feels the orchestra is often a group that does not always get the recognition they deserve for all their hard work.

"Our orchestra this year was 100 percents students, no professionals, and they sounded absolutely fantastic," Simmons said.

Other categories in the Dazzle awards include: Best Technical Execution, Best Choreography, Best Costume Design and Best Scenic Design. There are 13 categories in all.

Winners in the Best Actor and Best Actress category will have the opportunity to participate in the National High School Musical Theatre Awards in New York City in June to compete nationally.

Briana Barker: 330-541-9432